The Kootenai River
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the Kootenai River : Page 2
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A fourth area to concentrate on is around the various braids and channels on the Kootenai River, particularly on the tail water section downstream from the islands. The current in these tail water sections is much slower than found out in the main flows, creating some excellent seams in the water. Flies that are floated down the river right on the edge of the seam of the fast and slow current should successfully draw up the rainbows. Additionally, many of these braids and channels are not nearly as deep as out in the main current. As a result, it is easier to locate shore and submerged structure that provide holding waters for trout. For any angler who will be fishing the Kootenai River for the first time, concentrating their efforts around these braids and channels (although a boat will generally be needed to float down to them), will be time well spent.
A fifth area to look for, particularly when flows are very high in July, is around the submerged structure on the shoreline. During July the Kootenai River usually runs very high, flooding much of the shoreline vegetation, often to a depth of several feet. The rainbow trout frequently move into these flooded waters in search of terrestrial insects, such as grasshoppers and ants. If there is ever a good time to wade fish the Kootenai River, this is it. While wade fishing can still be deadly in these high currents, wade anglers can generally stick right along the shoreline in the slower water, wading up or down the river, casting to the trout that will be found in the flooded vegetation. A stealthy approach to these trout, though, will be required, as they can be quite skittish in the shallow water along the shoreline. The trout will not be impressed by lots of movement or awful presentations.
Successful fishing can begin on the Kootenai River as early as March for those willing to tolerate the elements. Northwest Montana has long, cold, cloudy winters, and a March fishing trip in this part of the state is quite unlikely to be a warm one. However, for those who choose to brave the elements, the best fishing for large rainbow trout (other than the trophies found just below Libby Dam) can be had during this time. Streamer and nymph patterns, weighted on a sink tip line, are used for this early spring fishing, bouncing them right along the bottom. The popular Wolly Bugger, in sizes ranging from 4 - 2/0, is an excellent fly to use at this time. Crayfish imitations, especially those that are designed to dive deep, also can work very well. When chasing the larger trout of the Kootenai River it is worth remembering that a large trout feeds heavily on other fish, unlike the smaller trout that get most of their diet from aquatic insects.
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During July and lasting through August, in addition to using the dry flies described above, terrestrial patterns can be successfully used, particularly if the summer is a hot and dry one. Hopper imitations (sizes 4-8) can be very effective when fished in the flooded shoreline vegetation that is frequently found on the Kootenai River in July.
Fall on this section of the Kootenai River continues to offer excellent dry fly fishing. The Kootenai River continues to provide solid mayfly hatches through the fall. Small flies on light tackle continues to be the rule when dry fly fishing during this time, with popular imitations being the trusted Parachute Adams, along with the Sparkle Dun and Blue Quill (sizes ranging from18-24).
This section of the Kootenai River runs for thirty-three miles. The best fishing on this section of the Kootenai River will be found above Kootenai Falls. The Kootenai, like further upstream, runs big, broad and fast. This section of the Kootenai River, though, also has some riffles and rocks found in it, providing some nice habitat for the trout. Additionally, the China Rapids, just upstream from Kootenai Falls, provides excellent fishing in the deep holes found around the rocks and boulders.
Access is quite a bit more difficult on this section of the Kootenai River, as it flows primarily through private property. The best access on this section will be found around Kootenai Falls which has a natural area that provides easy shore line access, and even a bridge that crosses the river, although the bridge is not for the faint of heart.
The town of Libby also provides itself. A campground at the Yaak River confluence also provides a good access site, along with a boat ramp, making for a handy take out point for floaters coming down from further upstream. Access to the Kootenai is also found just upstream from China Rapids, which serves primarily as a take out point for floaters who want to avoid the trip down the China Rapids and over Kootenai Falls.
Other than these changes in the character of the river, fishing between Libby and Kootenai Falls is not much different than found further upstream. In addition to using the flies and tactics described earlier, fishing in the holes found behind the rocks can be very productive for catching nice rainbow trout. Fishing pressure on this section of the Kootenai River is also less than found further upstream.
Below Kootenai Falls, the fishing in the Kootenai River is still good, but fish populations drop off somewhat. Recent fishing regulations changes should help in getting fish populations and sizes up, as all rainbow trout between 13-18 inches must be released.
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