It’s only been a few days since I returned from chasing trout out west. Since 1995 I have traveled to Montana and Idaho for an annual trout fix. This year my good friends, Tom McDowell and George Bardaglio joined me for the first week of my two week tour. Unfortunately, the late summer forest fires raging through Idaho and Montana made it necessary, or so it seemed, to modify our fishing plans. A week before our departure date, the Forest Service closed the National Forest, home to our two favorite rivers; the Lochsa and the North Fork of the Clearwater. Consequently, this year we began our trip on the Missouri River and after three days of moderate success tossing nymphs to rainbows in a river full of suspended weeds, we headed for the Gallatin River. Sadly, the rain they so desperately needed, showed up and turned the Gallatin into a river of muddy water. Relatively undeterred, we continued onto the Madison River. I can’t say the Madison treated us a whole lot better than the Missouri, but this time we all caught fish. We fished several sections of the Madison, including a section in Yellowstone National Park. The reports of large rainbows and browns in the Yellowstone section persuaded us to give that a try. Turns out many of the productive pools and runs in Yellowstone are fished in rotation. The idea of waiting my turn to fish in a short run didn’t really appeal to me. Tom, not surprisingly, was willing to throw his hat into the rotation and was rewarded with two very large rainbows in just three trips through the rotation. The largest topped 24″! I opted for the relative solitude of a cut bank run about a half mile downriver from the “Rotation Pool.” I too was rewarded with a couple of nice rainbows although admittedly they didn’t break the 20″ mark!
After one week on western waters, Tom and George boarded flights homes and I continued to my home water, the Lochsa. On account of the recent rains, the Lochsa and North Fork were now options as the Forest Service had lifted the access restrictions. With a smile on my face, I gathered my gear and headed for the Lochsa. It was an absolute delight to find myself once more wet wading the Lochsa in pursuit of my favorite native western trout: the westslope cutthroat. The weather was fabulous and the cutts were looking up. For the next five days I enjoyed life on the Lochsa. Most days I managed to fool a respectable number of cutts while fishing a handful of my favorite dry flies. One doesn’t expect to land monster cutts on these rivers, but each day a persistent fishermen will be (should be) pleasantly surprised with a handful of trout in the 14″ to 16″ range. The bright sunny days often reach the mid 70s with cool evenings dipping down to the low 40s. These conditions are perfect for wet wading and a river side nap. I honestly couldn’t ask for more.