River: The Smith River in Montana – remote backcountry fly fishing

If your idea of a great fishing trip is a remote river full of unpressured fish in gorgeous Big Sky scenery, you’ve struck gold. While access is difficult due to private land ownership, float fishing has managed to prevail. If you think the 9-boats-per-day permit limit is strict, think about it this way: that means less fishing pressure and a more enjoyable trip for you! Alternately surrounded by high rock walls and open rolling Montana meadows you can’t ask for more beauty.

 

Location/Geography

Slowly starting its journey near White Sulphur Springs, Montana, the Smith picks up speed as it gurgles through meadows towards the sheer cliffs further downstream. Over the course of its flow, this river meanders 100 lazy miles to eventually join the Missouri River.

Much of the upstream land is difficult to access due to private ownership considerations but wading is recommended where available. Most anglers will concede that the Camp Baker Fishing Access Site makes the best put-in location where 4-5 day float trips are popular and by permit only.

Downstream, the Smith slices through canyons for several miles with mostly flat, gentle water. Eventually, the scenery transitions to prairie land, at which point the fishing noticeably declines until the river reluctantly slips into the Missouri.

 

Aquatic Species

  • Brown Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Brook Trout

 

Food by Season:

Bug – Dave’s Hopper
Season – July through August
Sizes – 8 – 12

Bug – Elk Hair Caddis
Season – April through September
Sizes – 10 – 14

Bug – Prince Nymph
Season – April through May
Sizes – 10 – 14

Bug – Stimulator
Season – May through June
Sizes – 8 – 10

Bug – Kaufmann’s Stone
Season – May through June
Sizes – 8

Bug – Bitch Creek Nymph
Season – May through June
Sizes – 6 – 8

Bug – X-Caddis
Season – June through September
Sizes – 8 – 10

Bug – Woolly Bugger
Season – May through September
Sizes – 4 – 10

 

Fishing Techniques

Wading: Unlike some waters, heading out early in the spring can be a great way to take advantage of the few wading stretches on the Smith. Use the stonefly hatch in spring to your advantage with some of the bugs on our list. Both dry bug and subsurface bugs will produce if you’re patient and willing to handle the temperamental weather.

Salmonfly Hatch: During early summer you can most likely land fish on the salmonfly imitations like the Kaufmann’s Stone we mentioned above. These, of course, are bugs best fished dry and usually in larger sizes.

Caddis Hatches: Once the season matures into summer and early Fall, you’ll be leaning on caddisfly bugs. These hatches are easy to predict as most early mornings and late evenings will be productive so just get out there and use your bug of choice.

Fishing Deep: If it’s time to change things up you can sink a bug into the deeper recesses and pools of the Smith and wait for a surprise! Down below is where you’ll find the larger Browns.

Pro Tip: Fish mid to late Fall to take advantage of increased feeding patterns and cooler water temps bringing out the bigger trout!

Gear: It’s time to take some midweight gear on this trip. Rods in the 6-8 wt range are probably best. Be prepared to throw surface and subsurface bugs so you may want a sinking fly line in your arsenal just to change things up if the bite gets tough.

 

Summary

Before you start daydreaming too hard, you’ll want to check into booking a trip. This river is a destination sought after for its five-day float trips which are highly competitive. You may need to plan ahead a year or two in order to get the logistics lined up!

Once you’re out there, the Smith River offers 50 miles of remote wilderness fishing. Whether you want to tackle the trip yourself (eight private permits are issued per day) or join a guide (only one commercial permit is issued per day) there is solitude awaiting.

Maybe the best time of year to hit this river is mid-Fall when temperatures begin to decline. Not only are the leaves changing color, some say the biggest trout get hungry right before the winter…

Sign up for a FREE bonus starter kit box from BugClub and get a jump start on planning your Smith River trip! We’ll also send you four seasonal boxes with a little bit of everything you could possibly need to entice those lurking Montana trout. Click here to learn more.

 

River: The Upper Colorado River offers scenery to rival the fishing

Packed with trout of all varieties – from cutthroat to rainbows, browns, brook and others – the Upper Colorado River is an angler’s paradise, offering nearly 200 miles of prime fishing in some of the most pristine country in the United States. Framed by “cathedral mountains” and “silver clouds,” this river calls to mind the lyrics of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High,” a timeless ode to the Centennial State. Although packed at peak times, this river offers plenty of solitude for those looking to cast some line in search of prize-winning trout.

Location/Geography

Although the entire Colorado River stretches nearly 1,500 miles from the Rockies to the U.S. border with Mexico, most anglers set their sights on the portion contained within the state of Colorado, better known as the Upper Colorado River. Beginning in Rocky Mountain National Park at La Poudre Pass Lake, the Upper Colorado flows through scenic mountain passes and canyons down to Dotsero along Interstate 70 in Western Colorado. In all, the Upper Colorado stretches nearly 200 miles through some of the most breathtaking vistas the nation offers.

Aquatic Species

  • Brown trout
  • Brook trout
  • Rainbow trout
  • Cutthroats
  • Rainbow/cutthroat hybrids

Food by Season:

Bug – Blue-winged olive

Season – Summer

Sizes – 18-22

Bug – Pheasant tailed nymph

Season – Spring-Fall

Sizes – 18-22

Bug – Adams Parachute

Season – Summer

Sizes – 18-22

Bug – Z-winged Caddisflies

Season – Summer

Sizes – 16-20

Fishing Techniques

Gear: Shoot for a 9’ fly rod around five- to six-weight. A seven-weight is also not unheard of in the pockets. A nine-foot leader and 3- to 6x leader seems to work well year-round.

Find the top spots: The portion of the river between Windy Gap near Granby, Colo. and the town of Kremmling is always a popular one. With a Gold Metal rating, this stretch offer easy access any time of year. For those seeking a less crowded spot, try Gore Canyon, a popular area for kayakers during spring runoff, but otherwise quiet for anglers. You can float the area between Pumphouse and Radium or continue on down to Rancho where you’re likely to land some large Rainbows in the pocket waters.

Rule of thumb for bugs: If you stick to midges when it’s cold, olives and stoneflies when it’s hot and caddisflies in the shoulder seasons, you’ll do well.

Avoid the crowds: The Upper Colorado can be a busy place on the weekends, with anglers flocking form all over the West. Best to stick to weekdays if you value your space.

Take in the scenery: Certain stretches of this river will take your breath away. Wildlife is abundant here, with deer, elk and the occasional bald eagle sighting possible. A particularly inspiring region is Glenwood Canyon near the resort town of Glenwood Springs, which also serves as a leaping off point for ski resorts such as Aspen and Vail. For those looking for luxury accommodations, check out the hot springs and first-class service at the historic Glenwood Hot Springs lodge. Budget accommodations are also available, but vary with the season.

How to get here: Whether you start in Granby or Kremmling, it’s just under two hours by car from Denver via I-70. To start from near La Poudre Pass Lake, you’ll need to head north from Denver up I-25 to Fort Collins, then continue west. In all, it’s about a four hour drive.

Summary

There aren’t many rivers in the nation as equally forgiving and rewarding as the Upper Colorado River. With the potential to catch trout all year long from sunrise to sunset, this is a can’t-miss opportunity. No wonder so many anglers have the Upper C on their bucket list.

If you value quality and convenience in your bugs, we’ve got a deal for you. Sign up for BugClub today to start receiving seasonally-appropriate bugs along with a free bonus starter kit, specially created for Western fisheries. Click here to learn more.

River: The Black River in Arizona – Chasing Brown, Apache and Rainbow Trout

With the main stem flowing with lush trout habitat for dozens of miles and two forks lofted in the White Mountains of Arizona, you’ll want to get your bugs wet in the Black River! Some would say this river is worth spending a day fishing if for nothing more than to enjoy the secluded scenery and peaceful alpine landscape. Make no mistake, however, serious anglers will love landing the various trout species that are highly active from May to July.

Location/Geography

Arizona’s Black River, quite ironically, runs through the White Mountains.

While the river totals over 100 miles the upper 40 or so miles, as well as East and West Forks, are the most loved by anglers. Most will recommend fishing the river upstream from the reservations (which require permits to fish) at which point the Black makes a soft transition to smallmouth territory.

Pro Tip: Avoid the East Fork during popular times – it gets crowded. Instead, look for Apache Cutthroat near the headwaters of the West Fork.

Aquatic Species

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Apache Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Smallmouth Bass

Food by Season:

Bug – Royal Wulffs
Season – May through June
Sizes – 12 – 16

Bug – Humpys
Season – May through June
Sizes – 12 – 16

Bug – Deer Hair Hoppers
Season – June through August
Sizes – 10 – 14

Bug – Parachute Beetles
Season – June through August
Sizes – 12 – 14

Bug – Quick Sight Ant
Season – June through August
Sizes – 14 – 16

Bug – Dave’s Cricket
Season – June through August
Sizes – 10 – 12

Bug – Wooly Bugger
Season – May through September
Sizes – 10 – 12

Fishing Techniques

This mountain stream is an area that is as unpredictable as it is hard to access. While there is hardly a consensus on techniques or bugs, here are a few tips to get started:

Keep them small: On the upper stretches the trout are small and may be reluctant to gobble up bigger bugs. Whatever you throw, start out smaller rather than bigger and work your way up if you feel the need.

Streamers: Streamers may be a good trick to go for when other bugs fail. Streamers can be a good craw imitator in darker colors but, again, keep the size small on upper stretches. On the middle or lower waters streamers may land larger Browns and Smallmouth.

Terrestrials: Because most of the upper water is surrounded by tons of overhanging brush and trees (particularly the brush-crowded West Fork) terrestrial bugs can be a good option. Fish likely snack on bugs falling off these grasses and plants during the summer so trick them with your own bugs!

Gear: Keep it small and light(er) especially if you want to fish the narrow and secluded waters of the West Fork. Go with a 5wt setup and rock some nylon tippet with those terrestrial bugs to keep ‘em floating.

Summary

Tired of crowded trout streams and worrying about snapping other anglers with your back cast? Take a drive up into the White Mountains and escape the crowds if you’re willing to put in the effort.

Keep in mind that access is limited to Forest Service roads and in some locations, 4WD might be necessary. Access through any of the tribal land downstream requires a permit so planning is crucial.

In Arizona, the Black River is waiting for you to try your hand at coaxing the unpredictable and challenging headwater trout into bending your rod. Grab your hiking gear, get ready for an adventure, and stock up on BugClub bugs to show those trout you’ve got what it takes.

Sign up for a FREE bonus starter kit box from BugClub and get a jump start on organizing your gear! We’ll also send you four seasonal boxes with everything you need to match the hatch in Western Region fisheries. You’ll have all the bugs you need to fool these Black River trout into a bite! Click here to learn more.