Fishing the Thompson River in May:
• Spectacular scenery. Honestly, on a sunny day, I don’t think there’s a stream in Montana that can match the beauty of the Thompson River in May.
• Early runoff. Due to limited watershed, water levels are dropping and water is fly-fishing clear by mid-May. The river Little Thompson Creek is open year-round. The section above traditionally opens the third Saturday in May
• Wildlife. It’s not unusual to see whitetail and mule deer, elk and wild turkeys. And, if you’re really lucky, maybe a bear or mountain lion.
• Salmonfly hatch. Giant stonefly nymphs migrate at night along the bottom of the river, then crawl on streamside vegetation to dry and change into adults. Early season fly fishing doesn’t get any better than trying to fool trout by floating large foam imitations.
• Waders not needed. There are plenty of deep pools and runs, but plenty fishing is done by standing near the road and floating flies along undercut grass banks
• The roads. From U.S. Highway 2 to Montana 200, there are roads for 45 miles on both sides of the river so access is easy. Some roads are public; some are owned by private timber companies that allow public traffic. Some roads are smooth dirt and smooth gravel. Some will make your shock absorbers scream.
• Wildlife. Stay alert for critters on the road!
• Angler numbers. Lots of out-of-state angler traffic. Last week while eating lunch, I saw plates from Washington, Idaho, Utah, Minnesota, Michigan and Texas. How’d they find out about the Thompson River?
• Backcasts. Roll up your window and pay attention when you drive by an angler on the side of the road casting. YOU might get hooked in the lips with that big fly!
Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.