Beaverhead and Big Hole rivers, Montana

Burma Madnes
It had to happen. Over the past 20 years I’ve driven somewhere in the neighborhood of 500,000 miles, many of them in bad weather over tricky roads and I’d never gone off the side…until Saturday.

That’s when I took the plunge off Burma Road, which parallels some of the lower Big Hole River. The only influences at work were super sloppy roads with no bottom. I remember that moment when it was clear I wasn’t coming out of the turn, that I was really going over the bank, and I said out loud or maybe just in my head, Oh I’m glad I’m wearing a seat belt and the doors are locked. In actuality, things could have been a lot worse. I didn’t get hurt, the truck didn’t roll, the boat didn’t flip and my mother gets me a gift membership to AAA each year. I dialed them up and waited.

Once the tow truck got there it still took a couple hours to get the rigs out, first the truck and then the boat. All my boat wiring was shredded and a wheel and tire harbor a significant inward bend on the truck, but I was able to limp back to Twin Bridges that night and then head to the Beaverhead the next morning with a friend.

A few years ago I took some grief from the Dillon establishment because I wasn’t so gracious when reporting on the river. But I told the truth, direct from Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ research and from the voices of common anglers I know well and trust. The Beav wasn’t the fishery it had been in the 1990s. But I think it’s back. Maybe not to  the place it was 10 years ago, but there are some big rainbows in that river and some hefty browns, too. We found them on Sunday fishing soft hackle sow bugs and Baetis nymphs. And we weren’t alone—everyone was doing well and the sun was shining bright, which wasn’t the case the day prior when we got battered on the Big Hole. Winter all over again.

Following are a few pics from the weekend, some streamer love on the Big Hole and that Baetis and softhackle action on the Beaverhead. If you’re in the area, now would be a good time to fish either river.

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