There is a lot to love about the Big Hole. It's undammed. It flows through some of the most beautiful country in southwestern Montana. It holds the last remaining population of native FLUVIAL arctic grayling in the contiguous United States. It has a vast array of prolific insect hatches. It has a healthy populations of rainbow trout, as well as some brook trout and cutthroat. And it has some extraordinary and strikingly beautiful brown trout.
|One of the Big Hole's treasures - Fluvial Arctic Grayling - photo courtesy of Evolution Anglers|
I have had my best days of fishing on the Big Hole. Alternatively, I have had some of my worst days of fishing on the Big Hole. It is an undammed freestone after all. In an article in the Chronicle Outdoors, Frank Stanchfield of the Troutfitters Fly Shop said,
"The Big Hole is a unique river. It is not dam controlled, it is not temperature controlled and you have got to go out and ask the fish how he wants to eat. I have never been able to tell him, he will tell me. It is a great river, but you have to pay your dues."
Even with seemingly perfect conditions on the Big Hole, one can get shut out. That's why I love it. I have never felt like I quite have it figured out, but it's fish and the environs that the Big Hole flows through bring me back.
From it's headwaters to it's confluence with the Beaverhead to form the Jefferson, the Big Hole snakes through meadows, cuts through two canyons, and winds and braids through the valley around Melrose. 155-miles....all undammed. To me, it is the perfect trout stream.
Side note: This day happened on the Big Hole
Like many of our great natural resources, the Big Hole is threatened. Drought, overuse, and the associated low water are the bane of a healthy Big Hole's existence. In response to these issues and concern about the sustainability of the river, a group of ranchers, conservationists, guides, business owners, government representatives, and concerned citizens came together to form the Big Hole Watershed Committee (BHWC) in 1995.
The BHWC is a unique and forward thinking group. With the understanding that the Big Hole is a shared resource, the BHWC has one goal: keeping water in the Big Hole. The Committee achieves this through a variety of conservation techniques, including land use planning, watershed restoration, irrigation infrastructure improvements, and drought management plans.
The BHWC has several sources of funding including public donations. In this season of giving, consider protecting our beloved Big Hole River by donating to the BHWC here. Keep yourself updated on new and ongoing BHWC projects and initiatives by liking the BHWC on facebook. Protect what you love.