Fly Fishing,    Planning,    Perfect Fishing Days,    Montana Fly Fishing

Four Simple Streamer Tricks That Catch More Fish

By John Holman 2/20/2017 5 minutes

We spend a lot of our time wearing waders up in Alaska, but we absolutely appreciate the drift boat experience too. Here in Montana, we enjoy fly fishing the Madison without fighting currents or losing the river bottom. The backcountry is incredible, and the angling is always an adventure.

Between our drift boat fishing up north and here around Bozeman, we've developed some pretty reliable strategies for catching trout. We've come up with a few tricks that always up our production when we're throwing streamers in the spring, and they work really well in the fall too. We offer these four simple streamer tips for catching more fish.

1. Be Willing to Experiment
We all cast our streamers within a couple of inches of the riverbank with a fast strip, but it's too easy to fall into a routine. If fish were predictable, we wouldn't have much of a sport, so mix things up. As you strip back to the boat, go for a slow, even retrieve, and then follow that with a steady, fast strip. Change your angle, try a couple of retrieves with generous pauses, and tempt those trout with something different.

2. Get Real Off the Back
You want the best possible streamer presentation, but that doesn't always happen then you cast down and across. The technique definitely catches fish especially with a fast rip, but more realism results in more hits. Up your chances for hooking up with that trout swimming down stream with a throw off the back of the boat. Try putting some belly in the line with a good down mend and a little extra tension.

3. Make It Easier to Manage
Try coupling a stiff 6 or 7 weight rod with a fast sink tip and a short, stout leader. We find this setup easier to finesse than a combo with a full sink line. A 6-foot leader that tapers down to 2X is a pretty good choice, and we sometimes go with 0X. Managing the big flies calls out the big fish. Turn on their aggression with a presentation that finds the strike zone fast.

4. Bang the Banks, Not the Boat
You want to get it out there where they're holding just on the edge. You don't want to waste time reloading with false casts. Make your throw, mend, and then give it four or five strips. Cast back to the bank, and nail your next target. Don't strip all the way back to the boat. This puts the fly deep in the water and makes it hard to retrieve. If you can't pull it out into a back cast, roll cast your line forward to pull the fly to the surface.

You can't go wrong fly fishing from a drift boat that covers more miles in a day than you can cover with waders in a week. We admit that those side channels sure tempt us into the water, but we join you in the pleasure of scouting the rise from a boat. You're invited to join us up here at No See Um Lodge the next time you're headed north. Just look for us on the banks of the Kvichak River.
This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.

Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.

Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
Fishing Waters
Given its association with transport, commerce and business development, it’s easy to forget that there remain parts of the Missouri set aside for fishing, boating and enjoying nature’s ... morebounty. From source to mouth, it is the longest river in North America, over 2, 341 miles. The river’s watershed consists of over a million square miles and includes parts of 10 American states and 2 Canadian provinces. When combined with the lower Mississippi, it is the 4th longest river in the world. Whew! That’s a lot to take in. But, if you’re a fly fisher in Montana, the only section of the Missouri you really need to know about is a tiny, 40 mile, stretch downstream of Holter Dam, near the towns of Wolf Creek, Craig and Cascade and not far from the city of Helena. This is the “Blue Ribbon” trout section of the Missouri.

Water released from Holter Dam keep this section the river at a fairly consistent level, helping to maintain cool temperatures year round. Some guides describe the river here as a gigantic spring creek surrounded by weed beds with long riffles, great banks and undercuts that provide ideal habitat for the river’s substantial trout population. By substantial, we’re talking 3,500 to 5,500 fish per mile on a yearly basis – and many of these exceed 16 inches! The first ten miles of the river from Holter Dam to Craig tend to have the largest number of hatches resulting in the highest concentration of fish.

In this “gigantic spring” part of the river, rainbow trout outnumber browns by a ratio of 6:1. In addition, stable populations of burbot and stonecats live below the dam. As a bonus, the reservoir is surrounded by the Beartooth Wildlife Management Area as well as three other designated nature preserves and wilderness set-asides. Look up and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a bald eagle, various types of falcon, red-tail hawks, osprey and golden eagles – you may even get a chance to see them snatch a fish from the water. Shore side it’s not unusual to sight bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain goats. This may be an area small in size but its large in its grandeur and many offerings.
The Beaverhead is a nearly 70 mile long tributary of the Jefferson River. Its original course has changed due to the construction of the Clark Canyon Dam, as have its headwaters, once ... moreformed by the confluence of the Red Rock River and Horse Prairie Creek. These rivers, along with the first 6 miles of the Beaverhead, are now flooded as a result of the reservoir project. Today, the Beaverhead flows through a wide valley where it meets the Big Hole River and forms the Jefferson River. The river is well known for its clear, blue-green color, narrow, winding turns, willow-lined, undercut banks and thriving insect life that attracts fish.

The origin of its colorful name can be traced back to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, when their indigenous guide, Sacajawea, recognized a large rock formation in the middle of the river known to her as the Beaver’s Head. According to Lewis, this indicated to her that they were close to the summer retreat of her Indian nation. On August 15, 1805 the party reached her tribe, where one of her remaining brothers, Cameahwait, Chief of the Shoshone, provided crude maps, food and horses, making it possible to continue the Expedition through the mountains. On their return trip Lewis gave the river, once full of beavers, the name it now holds.

Fortunately, floating the Beaverhead in today’s world is much easier, more fun and amply rewarding. It is widely considered one of Montana's premier Brown trout fishing rivers, producing more large trout, particularly Brown trout, than any other river in the state. Due to its abundance of large trout, fly fishing the stretch near Dillon, from Clark Canyon Dam to Barrett’s Dam and through to Twin Bridges, tends to be very popular and get can crowded, even although the fish can also be hard to catch. While large fish can be caught with dry flies, it is primarily a nymph fishing river along with a swiftly moving current, so expect to be constantly mending your line.
The Madison River is arguably one of the best trout fishing rivers in all of southwest Montana, if not the entire world! It’s certainly the most talked over, written up and frequented ... morein the state of Montana – which is considered by some the capital of fly fishing. Anglers will find plenty of great access sites to wade or float along the Madison’s banks and reservoirs (including Hebgen Lake and Ennis Lake). Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, and more abound in this majestic fishing stream.

The Madison begins its course almost twenty miles into Yellowstone National Park. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.

Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hebgen Dam releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.

Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintains relatively low water levels and provides wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
Operating since 1975, No See Um is an all-inclusive fly fishing lodge rated #1 on TripAdvisor. Enjoy personal attention from our seasoned guides while you fish for king, silver and ... moresockeye to name a few. Limited to 12 anglers, our De Havilland Beaver fleet fly out each morning with 4 guests and 2 guides per craft covering over 30 isolated fishing destinations. See why our clients return year after year!

While the fly fishing program centers around the rainbow fishery of the greater Iliamna/Katmai region, guests also have ample opportunity to fly fish for arctic char, Dolly Varden, grayling, and all five species of Pacific salmon (though rarely are all species available during any single week). The lodge strives to have one guide for every two anglers and typically a good deal of walking and wading is expected to reach the best spots. Alternatively, jet boats are used for transportation on several systems. At times anglers will fly fish from the boats, but the majority of fishing is done while wading. Some days may require considerable hiking for those who are willing and able.

Several buildings comprise the lodge. The main guest house has a total of four bedrooms, each with two twin beds and a complete bathroom. All bedrooms have an excellent view of the river. A lounge with bar and woodstove enhance the comfortable setting. There are also two private double occupancy cabins. The entire lodge is centrally heated.

Gourmet meals are prepared by their world class chef, and almost any special need, with a little advance notice, can be accommodated. Fresh breads, rolls and desserts are baked daily in the bakery. Select red and white wines are served with dinner.

We are eager for your arrival, thrilled to have you, and we know you will have an amazing experience at No See Um Lodge, Alaska’s finest!


John Holman

John Holman was born in the state of New York and moved with family to the Alaskan bush in 1970 where is father founded No See Um Lodge – a family-owned Alaska fishing lodge. John has been guiding and flying since the age of 19 and is licensed and certified as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, AI (Aircraft Inspector), Coast Guard Captain First Aid and CPR First Responder. When not running the lodge during the Alaska fishing season, he can be found flying, hunting, fishing and scuba diving around the world.


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