Eye of the Guide


Satoshi Yamamoto - Jan 28, 2013


Depuy's spring creek
Snow on the ground with Absarokee Mountains in the back.

Either visiting anglers to Montana or local fishermen everyone enjoys fly-fish during the breath-taking Montana summer. So do I and that's why fly-fishing guides are needed and how they make a living in Montana. However there are several rivers in Montana that are open year around. Around Livingston, the Yellowstone River accepts and challenges us all year around. If we drive a bit, we can fish Lower Madison as well. Then, three spring creeks in Livingston WILL NEVER freeze during winter months. Those are within private lands and requiring rod-fees. As in public waters, spring creeks experience highest angler traffic during summer months in spite of higher rod-fee. Indeed it's worth paying to fish on those glorious Montana summer days. Insect hatches are the most prolific of the year and days are long. One can enjoy fishing there from very early to way after dark. On the contrary, during winter months, starting from October 15th, rod-fee is the lowest and so is the fishing pressure. Scenario goes on till April 14th. Though there are days when fishing is physically impossible due to several feet of snow and 50MPH winds, fishing at spring creeks can be fun all through from fall to next spring. Besides, one can experience some of the best fishing of the year. Actually these are the months that one can search for "trophy" of the year or even of life-time. Since I guide visiting anglers during summer months, I don't have much time to fish for my own. Hence I unleash my internal desire to catch "fish of the year" after the peak guide season. It's also time to experiment new methods and flies for next season. Fly fishing will never end in Paradise Valley. In this series of columns I'd like to introduce late and early fishing on Livingston's spring creeks, exclusively about DePuy's. 

Creeks: There are three fabled spring creeks in Paradise Valley; Armstrong's (www.armstrongspringcreek.com), DePuy's (www.depuyspringcreek.com), and Nelson's (www.nelsonsspringcreek.com). These three share similar hatches and fishing conditions most of the time. Fishing techniques and knowledge can also be common. They share the same rod-fee schedule as of writing this. As a Livingston guide, I am asked every now and then "which is the best?" My Answer is "all three!!" These ranching families have been thriving for generations.  Besides rod-fees, you'd better pay some respect for the fact they let us on their land and allow us to fish on their creeks. Each creek has its own character. So, in my opinion, "which is the best?" is not worth arguing. However, there's a huge distinction at DePuy's, and it's nothing but length of the creek. DePuy's is 3-miles long, while Armstrong's is 1.5-mile and Nelson's is 0.5-mile. Relatively fast-paced and aggressive anglers (I become that type once in a while) can cover  Armstrong's and Nelson's in a single day (REMINDER: that does not mean fishing on those two creeks is easier than at DePuy's!!). It's impossible to cover and fish the entire three miles of DePuy's in a single day, which are filled with tremendous diversities.  

Winter Pass on DePuy's: Only DePuy's offers Winter Passes which is effective from October 15th to April 14th. To me, it's more like "Fall to Spring Pass." For local anglers, visiting only in the fall (till sometime in November) and spring (after March) it can still pay off. Then in the middle of winter (December to February), when one develops cabin fevers and a dying desire to go fishing, then the creek is running just right there for you! Besides, considering recent fuel costs, buying the Pass and driving less is very economical and wise. Spending days during the least crowded period is more than money worth. Also this is the time to explore different spots and sections where one has not been able to cover (or afford to cover) while rod-fees are higher. For anglers from other parts of Montana, other states, or even from other countries, it may be recommended to visit Paradise Valley along with other plans such as skiing or hunting during these months. Then choose a certain day or two to fish either one of creeks. Yet another attraction at DePuy's is that they provide "warming huts" with woodstoves. There are three of them along the creek. One can thaw out frost on rod-guides and warm up body and soul!!

Depuy's spring creek

Depuy's spring creek

As the Sun sets among Gallatin Range in the west, "steams" are observed.

Thawing my feet!

As a local angler, I enjoy every time I visit. However, as a guide in probably the most competitive area in Montana, if not in entire US, these months with the Winter Pass are meant for experiments and tune-ups. Some may argue "you are only fishing one piece of water, do you guide only there?" That may hit a point (I do conduct float-trips on Yellowstone River and take clients to other walk/wade destinations) but let me remind you "Spring Creeks are the classroom of fly-fishing". That's my mantra learned from Montana's Master Angler himself, Tom Travis. What I gain from DePuy's during the winter months can be applied to different waters and other seasons.

I'm going to unfold hatches, tactics, flies, months, so forth one by one. Then I will explain applications of this information and knowledge to other situations.

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Sysadmin Note
Part 2 can be found here


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