For the second straight year I headed north to Montana Creek on a solo outing the same day as the popular Russian River opener. Last year I saw just one other angler and I expected about the same this year. The weather was partly cloudy heading out of Wasilla with dark skies father north over Talkeetna. Anglers fishing Willow, Little Willow, and Kashwitna were dry but anyone fishing further north was getting wet.
Considering it is still early in the season, I focused my attention on the lower section of Montana Creek. The water is low for this time of year and made for easing wading. The first hole of the day produced grayling, sometimes a trout, every time I’ve fished it the past four years so I was surprised, even a little concerned, when I didn’t get a hit. I moved up river about hundred yards to another dependable hole and quickly fooled a nice rainbow with a beadhead nymph under an indicator.
Moving back down river, much has changed since last year. What was a series of bends in the creek was now a long run about 200 yards long. At the top of the run was new pool created by a downed cottonwood tree. The pool was deep and dark – a perfect spot to find big fish. I dead drifted nymphs and smolt patterns through the pool without a hit so I switched to a black and white streamer. Experience on Valley streams has taught me to swing the streamer uncomfortably close to the cottonwood tree, risking getting snagged, but knowing it may pay off with a big fish darting out to attack the fly. The first cast drew a hard grab from a large leopard rainbow trout at the top of the pool. This fighter wanted to get back under the tree but my 6-weight rod was plenty stout enough to keep him out. Later casts drew strikes from smaller trout hanging in the tailout. Fish started to rise to bugs on the surface as the sun begun to peak through the clouds. While casting dry flies was tempting, I had spent enough time at this pool and decided to move down river.
The next run was short and fast with medium size boulders. This heavily pressured stretch has produced some of the largest rainbows I’ve seen caught on Montana Creek. I tied on a nymph pattern and quickly hooked into two small grayling. The skies opened up and I made a quick run back to my car to grab my rain jacket. When I returned to the water the fishing seemed to slow down. Another 15-minutes passed before the next strike. This time is was a 14-inch Dolly Varden caught holding behind the largest boulder in the run.
Dinner time was approaching so I called it a day. I’m looking forward to returning to explore the new runs and pools as salmon move upstream and trout follow close behind.