Smith River, MT - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-10-2019, 11:59 PM Thread Starter
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Smith River, MT

A buddy pulled a permit for the Smith River, so it looks like I’ll be floating it around the 3rd week of June. Anyone float it before? Any tips/patterns for swinging up some fish? I’m guessing it will be off color water....and maybe a lot of it due to the snowpack. I’ll definitely be bringing some SH rods, but I’d like to fish a DH rod as much as possible. Thanks.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 07:57 AM
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Talk to Dave at Charlies Fly Box. He fishes there a lot.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 10:23 AM Thread Starter
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Great- thanks, I’ll swing by Charlie’s.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 11:07 AM
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I have floated the Smith about 12 times- mostly in mid September but have been luck enough to draw a permit in mid/late june 3 times. A lot will be dependent on what flows are doing ( and they have had a ton of snow this year) and how much rain late May and early june bring- it can be clear or chocholate brown in color. Often when its blown out- wooly boogers or san Juan worms near the bank work the best. Spend as much time as you can at the mouth of tenderfoot creek and the creek just above canyon depth( I cant remember name of it). I would call one of the several fly shops in Helena MT for advice on flies- might wait till a week or 2 before you show up so they can better advise. Montana fly goods and cross current fly shop are good
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 12:23 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info. How is the float in Sept? Was thinking about trying to run in one man pontoons in the fall if too low for a raft.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 01:39 PM
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In mid September- its general way to low for a standard size raft. We ( buddy and I ) do it in a canoe- and even then there are places we have to do some dragging. Im guessing a one man raft would work great- just need to really par down what you bring as far as gear, camping stuff, food...... The fishing can be outstanding as most guide services haven't been on the river for 1-2 months because of flows- so the fish haven't been overfished. When you find fish they can really be stacked up. Hopper/dropper or stimulator/dropper is the ticket. River will be extremely wadable. Will probably see no other people the entire week- its best time of the year if you can be a minimalist and deal with a little cooler weather
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 02:56 PM
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Hi CO, My name is Keith McCafferty. You might want to check out my latest novel, "A Death in Eden." it is set on the Smith River and explores the issue of threat from the the proposed copper mine. I write a series of mystery novels for Penguin Books, including the Royal Wulff Murders, Gray Ghost Murders, Dead Man's Fancy, Crazy Mountain Kiss, Buffalo Jump Blues, Cold Hearted River and A Death in Eden. They all include fishing scenes, some with spey casting. Good luck on the Smith. As others have responded, the fishing is dependent on water conditions entirely. Plan for a great float, with fishing as a bonus. Tight Lines, Keith

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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 03:51 PM Thread Starter
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Hi Keith, thanks for the note. I’m always looking for a good book. Yeah, I’m excited to experience the Smith and as you and others have mentioned, the fishing is just a bonus.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 03:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Bigfoot. A September trip sounds awesome.

In a number of videos I’ve seen people talk about the number of crawfish in the water....seems like a pretty abundant food source. Do you nymph/swing crayfish patterns much or find the fish are keyed in on them?
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 04:30 PM
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I guess- at least in September that is not something I had noted. The water is pretty skinny in September- Im not sure I would be messing with a DH rod and swinging at that time. PM me and I will be glad to share what I know, best camp sites in my opinion, shuttles .... and as said - while you are fishing- don't forget to look up and around- its one of the prettiest rivers you will float
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 07:48 PM
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Mid June should be good water conditions.
As others have noted June storms could blow it out and June is one or our wettest months but serious runoff on the Smith should be over by then. Right now the Smith drainage is at 115% of normal which is good but not necessarily enough to push unfishable water into mid June.
We could still have a warm late March and April without a great deal of moisture so great snowpacks aren't guaranteed but they do seem likely at this point.

I would be very optimistic about good water conditions for that time period assuming there are no big storm induced blowouts.

The salmon flies will be done but the golden stones could still be out in force. Depending on how those two hatches play out you could have great top water action on big dries. There should be solid dry fly no matter what with other hatches going on though I don't know exactly what they would be. If you do a little searching around you'll find a list of hatches and times on some website.

You can always get away with nymphing big stone flies and standard nymph patterns. The fish aren't that picky. They love crayfish and they absolutely love size 4 beadhead black buggers. I know it sounds silly but I'm sure I've noticed a difference in the action I get by just increasing bugger size to 2 or 1.
I've run it in April through to September. They have never not been into a well presented black bugger. The bigger fish will definitely eat them and in my experience the bigger you go with streamers on the Smith the less successful you will be. They just aren't as interested in 4-6 inch flies as they are on some of our other freestones though there are definitely some big browns around and it you pounded it out with big flies you will probably get some looks and maybe get lucky.
I've seen a couple monsters but my best is 23"if IIRC.

All that being said if they are looking up it's a blast to fish dries. I've hit the salmonfly hatch a couple of times when it's been good and that is some serious fun.
You could definitely do the trout spey thing. There isn't much need for distance and the fish, which are mostly browns, average I dunno..around 12-14 inches? When I do the bugger thing and they are into it I catch a lot of fish in the 16-19 inch range with a few 20 plus fish for the trip.
I would bring whatever spey gear you want and if the water's relatively clear and not too low you'll find spots to mess around in.

I would suggest if possible that you get to Camp Baker the day before you launch if you want the best campsites. You log in when you get to the launch and the rangers will use log in times the next morning to determine the order of permit holders for obtaining camp sites. So if you are the second permit holder to show up you will be second to claim campsites. It's also nice to be able to launch early and not have to wait for the ranger to go through the process with a whole bunch of groups first.

As others have said you can pm me if you want campsite info. etc.

I actually forgot to apply for a permit this year. For some reason I thought I had till the 15th and I remembered that evening only to discover that the 14th was the last day.
Oh well...
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Last edited by Blackbugger; 03-11-2019 at 11:41 PM.
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 09:56 PM
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I drew a permit for 2nd week of April...early (pre-runoff) can give you good fishing clarity. But, I have been snowed on in April on the Smith.

I've floated the Smith as late as early October. Flows are low and fishing can be very good. I have always solo paddled a canoe at this time, and even then you have to pack light to clear tail-outs.

Have fun...if the fishing is off do some hiking.
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 10:46 PM Thread Starter
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Great stuff- thanks for the comments and pointers. My buddy has done the float a few times before so he has a plan. My inner OCD won’t allow me to kick back and chill for the next few months so I appreciate all the firsthand knowledge.
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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-11-2019, 11:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chumbum View Post
I drew a permit for 2nd week of April...early (pre-runoff) can give you good fishing clarity. But, I have been snowed on in April on the Smith.

I've floated the Smith as late as early October. Flows are low and fishing can be very good. I have always solo paddled a canoe at this time, and even then you have to pack light to clear tail-outs.

Have fun...if the fishing is off do some hiking.
Woke up to this at Syringa in April.

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