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Montana Salmon Fly Hatch Part II

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Location: Blackfoot River, Bonner Montana USA

Event: Father's Day Salmon Fly Hatch

Date: June 16, 2019

Group: Me and Michael

Day two of our Salmon Fly Adventure in Montana - A Father's Day Grand Slam

We arrived back in Missoula around 8:30PM Saturday night from our trip on the Big Hole River. We unhooked the boat, said goodbye to Jed and headed out to dinner at Old Chicago Pizza and Tap Room to review our plan for Sunday. Since the Salmon Fly hatch had started on the lower part of the Blackfoot River a couple of days ago, we decided to fish one section up. We would put in at Bear Creek and float down to Weigh Station.

We saw both Salmon Flies and Golden Stones at the launch!

Once again Michael picked me up at my hotel right on time. We made the short trip up the Blackfoot and were in the water by 9:15. At the launch we noticed lots of Salmon Flies and Golden Stones so it looked like we made the right decision on the location.

It just so happens that this was Fathers Day, so as Michael’s s gift to me he rowed the entire stretch and let me do all the fishing - it turned out to be an incredible gift.

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As a Father's day gift, Michael rowed and guided me the whole day.

We started out the day fishing a double nymph rig with a Wolly Bugger ( tied by Jed ) on top, and a Golden Stone ( tied by Michael ) on the bottom.

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We started off with a double nymph rig

I caught a nice rainbow within the first ten minutes of the float on the golden stone. This day was already starting out good. As we worked down river I caught a few more nice rainbows and cutthroats on both the golden stone and the Wolly bugger, the fish were really biting this morning and they were fat from gorging on Salmon Flies.

We passed another boat with two women anglers and chatted with them for a minute. They were fishing with Salmon flies but had not caught anything yet so we figured we were fishing the right way.

A bit further down the river I cast my nymph rig into a fast moving riffle, and as I was mending my line the thingamabobber shot under the water. I lifted my rod to set the hook and quickly realized it was a big fish. The fish bulldogged me all over the river. With Michael rowing the boat and coaching me I was able to get it close enough to the boat to see what it was. Michael shouted "BULL TROUT!" I have never caught a bull trout in my life and now I had one on the end of my line. It made two or three more big runs and after what seemed like an eternity I was able get it close enough for Michael to net it. What an incredible fish, hooked right in the mouth on Jeds Wolly bugger. If the day would have ended right here I would have been happy, little did I know how much more was in store.

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My first ever Bull Trout

After releasing the Bull Trout I continued to fish the nymph rig and I was consistently catching fish. We noticed that a lot of Salmon Flies and Golden Stones were starting to fly and drop in the river, but we had not seen any get eaten yet. We passed by the ladies in the other boat, and they told us that they were catching fish on the Salmon Fly. That was great news and since that is what we came to do, we figured the time was right to switch over and see if we could get some fish to rise.

I tied on one of Michael’s Salmon Fy Patterns. He modeled it after a fly that his Grandpa Greg used to tie. Greg Schmidt was one of the best fly fishermen I ever met, and the best father-in -law a guy could ever ask for. He guided the rivers of western Montana for many years, and was truly a legendary angler. Greg taught me how to fly fish, and I will never forget the time I spent with him on the water. He was a great teacher, incredible guide and all around great guy. Although he is gone, I know he was watching over us on this day.

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Greg's Salmon Fly on the Left, Michael's on the Right.

On my first cast with the Salmon Fly a greedy cutthroat grabbed it and ran. We landed it and got a really nice Rainbow within a couple more casts - the bite was officially on!

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Nice rainbow on the Salmon Fly!

We came up on a rock wall and Michael said to cast close to wall. I watched my fly drift next to the rocks and clearly saw a big fish come up and eat it. I set he hook and the fish went wild. It was a big strong Cutthroat that shot out into the main river and then ran back towards the shore. It was a wild fight, and we both breathed a sigh of relief when it finally made it into the net. It was a beautiful wild Cutthroat, by far the biggest one I have ever caught. This was definitely shaping up to be a great father's day.

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My Biggest Cutthroat ever - on the Salmon Fly!

This is what we came for, the fish were in a feeding mood for big salmon flies and I had on the perfect fly. I caught at least 7 more nice fish and lost one more really big Cutthroat. Michael let me know that I lost that fish because I was finessing it a little too much, and with the 6lb leader we were using I could put a bit more pressure on them. It was exactly what his Grandpa Greg would have told me. I looked up to the sky and gave a little nod to Greg - knowing he was part of this trip too.

As were were approaching the takeout I took one last cast near a log in the river. As my fly drifted along the log the water exploded and I had another big trout on. It shot right under the boat, and then made a big loop back towards the log. We both saw right away that it was a big Brown Trout. This time I kept the pressure on and worked him back to the boat. We netted the fish and it was definitely one of the biggest Brown Trout I have ever caught. Michael said, “ Thats the Montana Grand Slam - A Bull, A Rainbow, A Cutthroat and a Brown.” I was truly speechless

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A big beautiful Brown - on the exact same fly!

Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would have a day like this - My first Bull trout, My biggest Cutthroat, one of my biggest Browns and a beautiful Rainbow for a Montana Grand Slam. On Father’s Day - With Michael Guiding - using a fly pattern he learned from his Grandpa. I gotta admit I was a little choked up. Another incredible adventure with Michael. There is something abuts us fishing together that is just magical. You can read about some of our other adventures on my blog Here ( Magic Happens)

and Here. ( Two trophies in one day)

Fathers Day Grand Slam!

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Hat and Fly - Officially Retired,

We loaded up the boat and headed back to Missoula. I took off my hat, pinned the fly to the front and threw it on the dashboard of Michaels new Toyota Tacoma truck. I told Michael, " That hat and that Fly are officially retired - they are going on a shelf in my office because we can not do better than that!"

On the way back to town I heard from all my kids, wishing me a happy fathers day . We stopped for a Burger at the Missoula Club and while I was sitting there I realized that I am truly the most blessed Dad in the world. I have four incredible children that are all unique, and all amazing. Jessy is an incredible coach and teacher and is getting married this Summer, Thomas just graduated from LMU and already has an amazing career in banking, Holly is a straight A student at WSU and is going to be a teacher, and Michael is at U of Montana, learning to be a guide and playing football. Most importantly they are all great people, chasing their dreams and making me proud. I am thankful for each and every one of them, and thankful for my own Dad and Greg, for setting such good examples for me.

Michael's Grandpa, Greg Schmidt, was watching over us on this very special Father's Day

Thanks for reading and Happy Fathers Day to all you Dads out there


© 2019 Bill Matthews Outdoors, LLC


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