Montana Fly Fishing
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The Boulder River
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The Boulder River offers excellent fly fishing. The rivers out of the way location, combined with its proximity to other major, better known, rivers, tend to keep fishing pressure in the moderate range - not abnormally heavy, but enough people fish it to be noticeable. Thankfully, many stretches of the Boulder River travel through public lands - helping to spread anglers out.
The upper stretch of the Boulder River, from its origin down to Natural Bridge State Monument, is both an easy river to fish and a difficult river to fish. On this upper stretch, rainbows and cutthroat trout are found in abundant numbers, frequently up to fifteen inches. These fish are not picky. They will take about any dry fly or colorful attractor that is presented in at least a halfway decent manner. Spin fisherman will also have success using small spinners in the deep holes found along the Boulder River.
What makes this stretch difficult to fish is the frequent narrow width of the river, heavily forested riverbanks, slippery boulders and very fast current. The Boulder River lives up to its name on the upper stretch with boulders of every size everywhere. And they are slick, even in good wading shoes. Combine that with a very fast current and some deep pools, and you have some recipes for good wading disaster stories. Fishing from the bank often isn't an option as the bank is just too heavily forested and bushy for most of its length.
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The trick to wade fishing in this upper stretch is to be patient and not to hesitate to walk downstream or upstream to find a flatter stretch of water to safely wade fish from. While the walks can be difficult at times, it is generally worth it, especially since the angler willing to walk just short distances is likely to have the water all to themselves for the entire day. Also, a wading staff is not a bad idea on this stretch of river, either. If you don't have a staff or feel like buying one, a large and heavy stick can greatly suffice in assisting anglers across the more suspect looking areas of the Boulder River.
Below Natural Bridge State Monument, the size of the fish greatly increases. Rainbow trout and brown trout predominate, with fish stretching up to twenty-four inches occasionally taken.
The trick on the lower section is to get to the fish. Access isn't the greatest, and no access at all exists for the first ten miles below Natural Bridge State Monument. Similar to fishing the upper Boulder River, the wade fisherman who is willing to walk along the bank away from the scattered access points is likely to find prime fishing waters and relative solitude along the Boulder River. Just stay below the high water mark so none of the local landowners have any legitimate complaints.
Fishing on the lower stretch is excellent for dry fly fisherman and streamer fisherman alike. Using large streamers in the many deep holes and along the undercut banks is a wonderful way to catch the rivers large brown trout. For the dry fly angler, the Boulder River has excellent caddisfly hatches throughout the summer. Due to the relatively low fishing pressure, standard dry flies like the Parachute Adams and Elk Hair Caddis work very well.
And, of course, as the Boulder River flows through ranch country with lots of hay fields, it is also prime hopper fishing water come late July. Just use a large hopper, floating it right along the banks, picking up brown trout and rainbow trout as you go. As always, a person on a Montana fly fishing trip in July should always have lots and lots of hoppers.
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