Picabo Angler

Pee-Ka-Boo is a Native American word meaning "Shining Waters."

Picabo Angler is a destination: A full-service fly shop & outfitter located on the banks of world-renowned Silver Creek

June 16, 2015

June 16, 2015:


I don’t have a comprehensive fishing report for you Double R Fishing Club Members today as I was away Friday and Saturday in Oregon attending my oldest son’s college graduation ceremony and on the way back my pickup died and I had to have it towed to the repair shop in Bellevue. The truck is still in the shop so I have not even been able to drive the Ranch road to make observations about the bug situation. I have not received any reports from members, either. I did not personally observe whether the daily Callibaetis hatch on The Pond is still going on but I assume it still is given the weather.

I did get to fish yesterday, compliments of Member Phil Lynch who was kind enough to take me out on the field water. We fished from Beat #6 down to boardwalk at Beat #3.  We entered the water at 9:30 a.m. and should have started an hour earlier as the trout were already rising. We encountered Callibaetis spinners and later a few Duns, and there were clouds of White Miller Caddis hovering over the water. I have written many times about the difficulty I’ve had hooking trout on dry caddis patterns when the White Millers are hovering. Since there were Callibaetis on the water I opted to tie on my #16 Callibaetis “Hatch Matcher” dry pattern and it worked pretty well. I can’t say whether its success was because it is a great imitation of the Callibaetis spinners/duns or whether it also functioned as a good White Miller imitation, but the Hatch Matcher was responsible for 3 or 4 of the half dozen trout I landed. When the Hatch Matcher cooled off and the White Miller event started to subside, I switched to the #14 Pheasant Tail soft hackle and ran it in front of the swirling trout and I also blasted the bank and let the soft hackle swim across towards the center of the creek, picking up another 2 or 3 trout.  The largest Rainbow ran about 17 inches and I had a really nice Brown snap the 3X leader I was using for the soft hackle.  Yikes!


Starting from 1980, the year I got serious with a Montana girl who became my wife a year later, I fished the little known Thompson River in the extreme northwest corner of Montana on every trip to her family’s log cabin on 12 acres along the western shore of Flathead Lake. The fly fishing on Flathead Lake was marginal at best, thus my father-in-law and I would make the 90 minute drive to The Thompson several times a year for some male bonding. Translated, that involved a half gallon of Cutty Sark, two pound T-Bone steaks and corn on the cob cooked on an open fire. We’d make the trip in his renovated Union Pacific mustard yellow Jeep Grand Waggoner whose two gas tanks made it unnecessary to stop for gas.

We’d turn of Highway 200 late afternoon and would stop in the “Thompson River Ranch” bar and grill to find out when the grill closed so that we could be sure to be on time on the way back to the lake for yet another steak dinner. We’d always have a drink before heading up river. I remember one time when the honking of horns outside the bar interrupted the waitress from taking our order. She walked to the doorway, faced us, pulled her drawers down and “mooned” the locals who were driving by. When she returned to our table and asked my father-in-law what he wanted, he responded, “I’ll have what he just had.”

The Thompson is a wonderful river for beginning fly fishermen, including kids. We regard it as the family river, having fished it for decades. Everyone from my three sons to their mother’s grandfather has made the pilgrimage. It is 40 miles long and runs from the Thompson chain of lakes up by Route 2 to its confluence with the Clark’s Fork on Hwy 200. In August the Thompson runs low and clear, about 400 cfs.  You can navigate it in hip boots or wade wet for relief from the baking heat of the canyon. Riffles, runs and pools alternate. The best fishing can be found in pools fed by in-stream springs but you have to know where they are; I once spent the better part of a weekend taking temperature readings above and below the major pools.

The trout are far from sophisticated; they love classic flies such as Joe’s, Hopper, Royal Wulff, Humpy, Hare’s Ear, Adams Parachute, Picket Pin, Prince Nymph and the like. The lack of specificity always amazed me given the variety of bugs found in the Thompson:  Brown Drakes; Salmon Flies; Blue Winged Olives; Pale Morning Duns; Gray Drakes; Tricos; October Caddis; Spruce Moths, to name just a few.  Each August there are Grasshoppers and a reliable evening caddis emergence.

I only achieved what we called the “Thompson River Hat Trick” once, in a single day catching:  Rainbow, Brown, Cutthroat; Brook; Bull trout and Whitefish.  But there are other things to experience. You are likely to run into bears and wild sheep. The average trout is not particularly large so it is a great stream to fish your 3 weight rod.  I’ve landed Rainbows up to 19 inches, large Browns escaping from the warm water of the Clark’s Fork, and pretty big Bull trout on their way to spawn in tributaries of the Thompson River.  It is a great river on which to introduce kids or new anglers to the sport of fly fishing. There are nice campsites offering privacy all along the river. While I wouldn’t characterize the Thompson as being a “destination” river, if you are in the general vicinity and pass on the Thompson, you’ll be poorer for it.     

But, back to the point of this diatribe. 

So, I had fished the Tricos and Gray Drakes one August morning and headed back to camp for lunch and an afternoon nap. Since it was brutally hot that August morning I decided to return to the campsite by walking down the stream bed.  I came upon a deep pool surrounded by cliffs which made it necessary to bush whack through the woods. Suddenly, I smelled something awful. When I exited the woods onto a beach the stench was overpowering. It turned out that along the shore there was a rotting carcass of a beaver. My attention was immediately grabbed by a dozen large trout slashing at some insect in the six inch shallows along the beach. Yellow Jackets were working the carcass and becoming inebriated. The bees were falling on the water surface, to the delight of both the trout and Yours Truly. I looked through my vest and found my only bee pattern at the time, a cheap store bought McGinty. That heritage dry fly pattern has a red tail, a body of alternating wraps of yellow and black fine chenille, duck quill wings and furnace hackle. It turned out to be just the ticket, as I landed a half dozen trout over 16 inches which makes for an exceptional day on the Thompson River. 

The morale of the story is “Never Leave Home Without It” . . . IT being a bee pattern or, for that matter, beetles, ants, flying ants, lions, tigers and bears.

Doug Andres

Stream Keeper