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Brown trout photos document beauty of catch and release fishing

FISHING — Here's a tip of the hat to catch-and-release trout fishing regulations on the upper Spokane River  — and elsewhere for that matter.

The value of the rules is documented in this report and photo comparison just received from Sean Visintainer, guide and owner of Silver Bow Fly Shop.

My buddy Bob McConkey and I were out on the upper last night and caught a couple really nice browns on dries. Bob's brown however looked awfully similar to a fish that one of my guides caught when we were floating TWO February's ago.

I matched up the pics… same brown!

We had fished through this area numerous times since but had not caught him again until last night, he was a little farther downstream but pretty much in the same area. We caught another brown later last night (inset photo) — couldn't believe we picked them both up on dries! 

Visintainer has more photos and details on his Silver Bow blog.


Popularity hasn’t dampened Missouri River brown trout numbers

FLY FISHING — A friend of mine taunted me while I was at elk camp in October with text messages raving about the fly fishing fun he was having for bigger-than-average brown trout in the Missouri River near Craig, Mont.

Surveys recently released by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks support his delight.

Fish surveys this year indicate rainbow and brown trout numbers remain above the long-term average in the Missouri River between Holter Dam and the town of Cascade, says a Montana fisheries biologist.

            State fish survey crews this fall estimated 5,194 rainbow trout greater than 10 inches long per mile near the town of Craig on the Missouri. Not only is that above the long-term average of 3,174 rainbows per mile, but continues a trend of above average numbers over the past three years: 6,034 per mile in 2011 and 7,312 in 2012.

            This year’s population was bigger in size and slightly lower in abundance than the past two years, says Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist Grant Grisak, which is typical as the current population reaches its maximum size.

            “This year,” Grisak says, “87 percent of the rainbow trout in the Craig section were 15 inches long or greater, and 35 percent of the population was 18 inches long or longer.”

            Next year, the population should return to normal levels, unless an unusually high water event occurs in the spawning tributaries, Grisak says. High water in the Missouri River tributaries typically results in high rainbow trout production.

Brown trout in the Craig section at 10 inches long and greater were estimated at 745 per mile. The long-term average is 578.

In the Cascade section, near the town of Cascade, the estimate for rainbow trout 10 inches long and greater was 2.260. The long term average is 1,551 per mile.

Brown trout in the Cascade section 10 inches long and greater were estimated at 447 per mile. The long term average is 387.

Brown trout populations are sampled in the spring and rainbow populations are sampled in the fall.

Fly fisher hooks brown trout of your dreams

FLY FISHING — When everyone else hit the Missouri to “catch fish”, Ben Hahn floated upper Rock Creek east of Missoula and dredged a streamer.  It paid off with the brown trout of a lifetime, according to the MoldyChum “served fresh daily” blog.

Brown or bull trout? Who cares if the beer is cold

FLY FISHING — A story in the Sunday S-R Travel Section might have caught your attention, with a headline that combined fly fishing with beer tasting.

But look closer in the print edition at the photo of the fish that's labeled a brown trout and you may conclude that it's a bull trout. If you do, I agree. Note the lack of black spots in the dorsal fin. 

Brown trout have black spots in the dorsal; bull trout do not.

The cream-colored leading edge of the pectoral fins also indicates a difference between bull trout and brown trout, too… but what other fish have those fin highlights?

Check out this poster from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for tips on distinguishing bull trout, brown trout, brook trout and lake trout.  

Good information to know, especially since bull trout (formerly called Dolly Varden) are a protected species in most waters.