We began July 1st with plans to fish a lesser-known river that produced well for me last year in the low water of August. Although the scenery was great, we found the river high and off-color due to an unknown combination of snowmelt runoff and rainfall from recent thunderstorms. We still plied the known good water with streamers for an hour or so, but gave up after I had no strikes and my friend missed one.
Wanting to make the most of the drive out there, we drove to try a new spring-fed tributary. Some PMDs and green "yellow sallies" (Chloroperlid stoneflies) were emerging sporadically, but nothing to really get fish rising. However, the water was so clear we could spot the fish anyway -- brook trout on the large side (mostly nine to twelve inches), huddled mostly in small schools in the bottoms of pools. They were skittish and mostly unwilling to rise for dry flies under the bright midday sun, but well-place nymphs brought several fish to hand as we worked our way upstream to the end of the good-looking water.
With much of the day still remaining after that, we drove to the Madison, bought some flies at the Slide Inn, and headed down to the Eight Mile Ford access near Ennis to try our luck. We hoped, on a tip, to find some salmonflies in the area, but there was no sign of them except one solitary shuck on a rock. Instead, there were caddisflies by the thousands in clouds swarming around every tree, truck, and other prominent object up and down the banks. There was a good mix of mayflies, too--mostly Ephemerella
. I collected a box full of bugs to photograph for the website before we even set foot in the water.
Maybe all those caddisflies filled the fish up when they were emerging, or maybe we just didn't have imitation dialed in, but we were unable to catch anything that evening. Nothing was rising, and nothing we did with nymphs, streamers, or soft-hackles drew more than the occasional bump of a maybe-strike. It was hard not to have a good time, however, based on the scenery alone as warm evening light painted the Madison Range and scattered storm clouds added great drama to the view.