Ruby River, Montana and Brown Trout

Fall brown hunting on the Ruby River.

If you’re looking for a little solitude in southwest Montana you can often find it on the Ruby River.

The Ruby, which hosts a couple thousand trout a mile, including browns to 20 inches, is often overlooked as anglers set sights on the big-name streams, such as the Madison, Big Hole and Beaverhead rivers. I understand the appeal of those streams because you can launch a drift boat, pack a big cooler full of beverages and snacks, and set out for an all-day assault. On the Ruby, you wade fish and you work through the brush or you pick your way along the slippery banks to access fish. These days, that’s not for everyone. In fact, the wade streams in Montana, including Rock Creek, Big Spring Creek, the Ruby and Red Rock, etc., are often overlooked as anglers favor the larger streams.

I was thinking about that yesterday morning when I said, You’ve wanted to fish the Ruby during fall for eight years and you haven’t done it. Why? That’s when I threw my gear in the rig and steered out of Ennis. I wanted to fish an access that is located just below Ruby Dam, but construction teams are doing work on that structure and the access is closed. So I backtracked downstream and pulled in at the next available access and it wasn’t long before I understood the game—those brown trout were already on their redds and I was two weeks late.

What that meant is very few fish were in the long runs and pools. Instead, they were guarding their territories and some were on actual redds. That made fish easy to locate, but it also meant that most of those fish were off-limits ethically. I probably manged 20 fish yesterday, including a couple browns that stretched to 18 or 19 inches, but I had to work hard for them. Some of those fish were super aggressive and ate the GIE egg and Serendipities. Others wouldn’t touch those offerings, even when I ran them through picture perfect runs and pools. Overall, I had a great day, didn’t see another angler on the stream, and I caught what was left of the pre-spawn browns. I couldn’t, however, keep from thinking, What if I’d been here two weeks ago when the fish were in pre-spawn mode, super aggressive and eager to smack streamers? So I already have my 2011 calendar marked, on October 15 to be precise, with a note saying Ruby River brown trout.

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