When my information, Kelly Kimzey, went silent, I knew the fish wasn’t simply an above-average brown trout. It was mid-September, and I used to be a few hours right into a three-day journey on the Large Gap River in Southwest Montana. Shortly earlier than I hooked the fish, Kimzey had tied on a measurement 14 Parachute Adams. I used to be skeptical of the fly selection, as I hadn’t seen a single trout rise in additional than an hour. However I additionally know higher than to query my information—particularly one who’s spent his complete life fishing the Large Gap. So I began casting.
My fly landed on the high of the pool, and I watched it slowly drift by the outlet. “I wouldn’t be shocked…” Kimzey stated, letting the thought go unfinished. Proper on cue, a nostril emerged from the water, and the fly disappeared. I set the hook, and it felt like I’d snagged the underside.
Kimzey coached me by the preliminary minutes of the combat earlier than he caught the primary glimpse of the trout. Then he went quiet. From then on, our communication consisted of only some phrases right here and there.
“Don’t horse him in.”
“Let him run.”
“Is he massive?”
Earlier this spring, I used to be invited to the Full Fly Fisher Lodge (CFF) in Sensible River, Montana. Though there was some availability throughout Might—when big browns are crushing streamers—I needed to be there once I may throw small dry flies to massive trout. So I locked in three days of fishing in mid-September.
Once I lastly changed into the Large Gap Valley, I used to be greeted by lush fields, lovely ranches, and that small-town Montana feeling. All of which was on par for Sensible River, with a inhabitants of beneath 50 folks. The rolling hills and mountains within the distance led all the way down to the river that the highway follows. After gazing on the surroundings, I turned down the driveway of CFF.
The primary constructing sits simply yards away from the banks of the Large Gap, and the eating room overlooks the river. The property consists of six stand-alone cabins and three suites in the primary lodge that may accommodate as much as 20 visitors. I used to be fortunate sufficient to remain in one of many riverside cabins that gives exceptional views of the river, valley, and Montana’s iconic massive sky.
Make no mistake: The Full Fly Fisher provides five-star lodging; all the pieces is first-class. Nonetheless, what I preferred most about their setup was that it felt extra like trout camp than staying at a flowery lodge. The riverside rooms resemble small log cabins—every with its personal porch. They overlook the large garden the place there’s a large fireplace pit for anglers to get pleasure from and share tales after a day of fishing. There’s additionally a fly store on website with waders, boots, and rods for visitors who don’t have gear.
The meals served at CFF rivals the swank lodging. The cooks ready among the greatest dinners I’ve had in current reminiscence. They served scrumptious appetizers, two-course meals, and desserts every evening. Considered one of my favorites was the wagyu filet mignon with sauteed asparagus, mashed potatoes, crispy onions, and a huckleberry pink wine discount. The Tuscan bisque and pistachio crusted lamb chops weren’t unhealthy, both. And every morning, visitors are served a full breakfast. Lunch orders are taken the evening earlier than after which given to your information within the morning. My riverside meals included a sandwich, chips, fruit, soup, and dessert.
On the primary night, I used to be greeted by Matt and Sara Cornette, the co-managers of Full Fly Fisher. (The lodge is owned by John Barrett, Paul Moseley, Charley Moore, and Edwin Lewis.) I had the pleasure of sharing camp with Moore, who was a part of the group-purchase shortly after Covid. Since their buy of CFF, they made renovations to the cabins, purchased new drift boats, and employed a brand new kitchen workers. All of which was noticeable.
A number of the guides and different visitors joined us for drinks and appetizers earlier than dinner, the place we mentioned the fishery, strategies, and the dimensions of the fish we’d doubtlessly catch. Because the evening went on, I now not felt like I used to be in a room with a bunch of strangers. I felt like I used to be at trout camp.
The Large Gap River is dwelling to brown, rainbow, brook, and cutthroat trout. Additionally it is the one river within the Decrease 48 with a naturally reproducing inhabitants of Arctic grayling. This broad number of species and wild trout has made it one of the crucial well-known fly-fishing locations within the nation. As with every different river, the snowpack, water ranges, fishing strain, and water temp play an enormous function within the high quality of the fishing—so I wasn’t positive what to anticipate.
On my first morning, I hopped right into a truck with my information for the subsequent three days, Kelly Kimzey. He’s a Southwest Montana native and has been guiding on the Large Gap River for over 20 years. Kimzey was additionally the information who helped land a 32-inch brown trout caught earlier this 12 months by a CFF consumer.
Proper from the beginning, I knew I’d get together with Kimzey. He’s old-fashioned—two rods, a river hat, leather-based wading boots, a internet, a backpack, and a plastic container filled with an assortment of flies. No fancy waders. No sling pack. No limitless fly containers. He carried solely the necessities.
We began with a hopper dropper—a Chubby Chernobyl and a Black Perdigon. My first fish of the day was a decent brown trout. Then after weeding by some whitefish, I hooked right into a nicer brown—a feminine that measured 20 inches.
It wasn’t an hour later that I hooked into a good larger fish. After it made a number of runs, Kimzey netted the 21-inch brown trout that was simply beginning to get its fall colours. Then the Tricos began to pop off, and the fishing received higher. I weeded by extra whitefish (that are a ton of enjoyable to catch) to land just a few extra trout on high, together with a cutthroat and a number of rainbows. By lunchtime, I had caught 4 species and two fish over 20 inches. The Large Gap was residing as much as its identify.
However the spotlight of the afternoon, no query, was once I hooked into the fish that almost left Kimzey and I speechless. After a 10-minute combat, Kimzey scooped the wild brown—all 23 inches of it—into the online. I hollered and high-fived Kimzey. We each admired the gorgeous fish earlier than sending it again on its manner. It was the most important freestone-river trout I’d ever caught.
That first day of fishing was the most effective I’ve ever skilled, so the remainder of the journey was simply gravy so far as I used to be involved. On day two, we floated the river—and although one other 20-incher wasn’t in my playing cards, I nonetheless caught over 40 trout, plus my first-ever Arctic grayling. In some sections of the river, I received a strike on each solid. Many of the trout have been within the 8- to 12-inch vary—a positive signal of a wholesome fishery.
The final day introduced extra of the identical: Trout on dry flies. Trout on nymphs. Trout on hoppers. And loads of whitefish. I caught extra fish within the 12- to 15-inch vary on day three and walked away from the river completely gobsmacked. Whereas I’ve heard the fishing strain could be loopy throughout the Salmon Fly hatch and peak-summer days, I solely noticed two different anglers all through my three days of fishing.
So think about what you need out of your Large Gap fishing expertise. If it’s to throw massive, articulated streamers for monster browns, then are available in early spring. If you wish to fish the well-known salmon fly hatch and don’t thoughts crowds, are available in June. You’ll be able to’t go incorrect throwing dry flies in July, both. However I might advocate visiting CFF and the Large Gap in September. The fishing strain is just about non-existent, the fish are beginning to get their fall colours, and you’ll catch trophy trout with a wide range of strategies.