Come fall, local rivers empty and everyone heads for the hills. You’ll surely see your share of hunter’s orange and camo—but what you won’t see are crowded boat ramps and lines of anglers along the banks. Fall may be the best time to pursue big creatures in the mountains, but it’s also a great time to head to the rivers in search of big brown trout—not as likely to bite as during the summer hatch, but at their largest as they beef up for the approaching winter. When the temps start to drop and the crowds on rivers thin, the big boys come out to play. Check out these rivers this fall for big-fish pursuits.
Big Hole River
Probably best known for the summer salmonfly hatch in the stretch from Divide to Melrose, the Big Hole also holds some bruiser brown trout worth chasing in the fall. For the patient and persistent angler, this is a great river to go searching for big fish on streamers—bring your eight-weight and some big, yellow-feathered concoctions.
Once the hopper bite wanes towards the end of September, look for the big boys to start getting restless as fall approaches. The bigger fish will hold in the deep pools below the long runs in the stretch from Emigrant down to the Hwy. 89 bridge. Sink tips are a must and olive and black is my favorite color combo here, especially on overcast days.
A local sleeper, the Jefferson holds some massive kipe-jawed browns—if you can find them. Not as populated with fish or people, this can be a nice place to be on the water by yourself. Just don’t be surprised if you come home smelling like a skunk—it’s easy to return empty-handed from the Jeff. Hunt with articulated patterns in tans, browns, and yellows for your best shot at big fish.