Smalley on the North Fork

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Jerry Smalley with a nice North Fork cutthroat.

It’s been awhile since I’ve used a photo of me and a nice fish in this space.

Oh, c’mon now, be nice!

While I heard pre-runoff river fishing was pretty good, extended periods of high water on rivers throughout Montana this spring really cut into the usual great trout fishing.

And some rivers continue to run above average flows for this time of year.

On July 4th, the Clark Fork River at Missoula was 8,540 cubic feet per second (normal flow 4,110 cfs) and the Missouri River at Wolf Creek was 12,200 cfs (normal flow 6,330 cfs).

The Flathead North Fork, however, was 3,470 cfs (normal flow 5,350 cfs), making it an attractive destination for rafting.

I ran into Larry Wilson a few days before the 4th and he told me, “It’s already started.” ­— meaning lots of raft traffic on the river.

A couple weeks ago we floated from the Canadian border to Ford station one day, then Polebridge to Coal Creek the next.

I had never float/fished those sections so I was excited about the trip.

The water levels were fine and there were no notable obstructions.

Fishing-wise, I was expecting a catch dominated by 8-inch “blue-backs”, young westslope cutthroat trout.

We pretty much avoided those juvi fish by fishing large dry flies, like Cat Pukes and Swisher’s PMX’s and also swinging a few Sparkle Minnow streamers.

In addition to the 18-incher, we caught several 14-inchers and some smaller fish.

Check the regs, be alert on the river, and be aware of critters that live up the North Fork.

And I don’t mean Larry!

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