Montana’s O’Dell Spring Creek

Cool fall days on some hot private water.

Some days I feel fortunate to be alive and Friday was one of those. That’s because Jeff Laszlo invited me to fish on O’Dell Creek, which flows through the O’Dell Creek Ranch in the heart of the Madison Valley, just south of Ennis, Montana.

Cranking on a good one.


The area is highly private and the Laszlo’s have held the ranch in the family for sixty-some years. Over that time the creek was diverted significantly and it wasn’t nearly as productive as a fishery or general wildlife habitat as it could have been. That’s where Jeff Laszlo comes into play; he’s made it his job and passion to rehabilitate the creek through personal efforts and by teaming up with numerous conservation organizations. Ultimately, the plan is to rehab the creek all the way to its entry into the Madison River. That would be a 9,000-acre project making it one of the largest, if not the largest, wetlands project in the nation.

Now that is classic flat-surfaced spring creek water. Total challenge on with small dry flies.

I fished with Laszlo last fall and inspected the creek. When returning on Friday I was amazed at how natural the entire creek looked and how the vegetation had filled in where big machinery had worked the land lat year. And I was amazed at the aquatic vegetation and bug life contained in the creek. But what caught my eye, of course, were scads of nice brown trout rising to Baetis mayflies, a few caddis, and any hopper that landed on the water. They weren’t giants; most went 12-to 15 inches. But Laszlo assures there are trout that range to 25 inches in the creek and I don’t doubt him a bit.

A good look at all of Laszlo's hard work.

Really, I didn’t have a chance to fish the creek, but I watches some cool guys who had bought a day on the creek through a Bozeman Youth Empowerment auction this past spring. The guys, who are from Dallas, New York and San Francisco, were great to be around and they really appreciated the expanse of the ranch and the amount of water to fish, which ranged from tiny sloughs and sidechannels, to the main flow. They threw hoppers and Baetis all day and rose fish on each bend. The hopper brought some bigger fish from cut banks, but none of those made it to the hand, instead burying themselves in the weeds, or winding their bodies into log jams. Great fun, though. Until fall blew in on the wind. We were all sniffling and nearly freezing by the time we got off the water, but satisfied nonetheless. I’ve provided a few photos of the creek here and I plan to write a lengthy article on the Laszlo family’s dedication to their property and the Madison Valley in general. And this: Laszlo said he’d like to fish the creek again, soon, with me. I’m holding him to that. More on O’Dell later. For now, enjoy the pics.


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2 Responses to Montana’s O’Dell Spring Creek

  1. Steve Rudolf says:

    Great restoration project! The Lazlo family deserves a lot of credit for making such dynamic changes on their property. Hopefully this sets an example for other large landholders who can create a positive environment on their properties.

  2. john barnes says:

    Is it possible to fish on O’Dell Creek? Thank you

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