"If you were going to make trout streams, the Big Hole is what you would use for the model.” So says George Grant, a veteran fisherman of the Big Hole for more than fifty years. He may be prejudiced, but thousands of anglers share his opinion. The free-flowing, “blue-ribbon” Big Hole River flows 150 miles through one of Montana’s most scenic valleys to join with the Beaverhead River. Along the way, the rich, diverse waters foster bountiful aquatic life, including river otters, grayling, salmon flies, and trophy trout.
Two controversies cloud an otherwise bright picture of Grant’s ideal trout stream. First, in dry years, irrigation diversions almost completely drain the lower river, resulting in substantial fish mortality. Second, heavy fishing pressure, especially during the salmon fly hatch, may be reducing the population of big rainbow, although populations thus far show no negative signs of fishing pressure. The biggest negative effect of heavy fishing may be reduced quality of fishing experience not reduced quality of fishing. Key species: Rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, arctic grayling, and mountain whitefish.
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