Belt Creek begins high up in the Little Belt Mountains, runs down through Logging Creek and into the Sluice Box canyon, and then on down through the town of Belt, MT where it flows its final 20 mile stretch before it meets it's demise and joins the Missouri River. It's a little hidden gem we people of Great Falls and the surrounding areas are lucky to have in our close proximity. This year I have fished higher up below Logging Creek just before the run off with no luck, but was privileged to see its beauty and prestige it holds. Over the past month and later May, I have been fishing the lower stretches pretty heavily. There is a section my friend Nate and I have hit a couple times with no luck, actually I have never had much luck on that stretch and don’t even know why we fish it. There are a few holes and classic runs along this stretch that I have fished quite a bit with no action. It seems as if there should be some bigger fish in these spots, but haven’t seen many fish get past more the 6 inches. But there is a spot I found this year on the lower stretch closer to Belt with a hole that produces fish every time I fish it. The first time I fished it was in mid May during the run off. It was running pretty high, but still clear. A co-worker, Dave and I worked a few stretches. Dave had caught an average size brown in the middle of a run on a size14-16 prince nymph. We worked our way down a little more and found a nice deep hole. I fished it for about 10 minutes as the current was a little high and quick and the back cast was very tight. I recall getting a bite or two, but no fish to reel in. After a slow day, we headed back in to Great Falls.
It wasn’t until about two weeks ago I decided to give it another go. Once again I worked the stretches on the way to the familiar hole with no luck. Once I got to the hole, it was just around 8 pm. I nymphed the same hole for about 15 minutes before I began to see risers near the current seam and back eddy. I looked around for a hatch and saw small brown caddis and even smaller midges. I also saw some pale winged, pale yellow-bodied flies hovering around the banks. They looked to be like a strain of yellow sally or pale morning dun. I decided to tie on a fly I had just bought at the fly shop, a PMD emerger.
This had a brighter yellow body than the natural, but I decided to give it a try. I had to angle myself so I wouldn’t hit the high trees behind me which I had done so often while casting a nymph. My first cast hit perfectly where I had watched only seconds earlier a riser had sipped a top water morsel. One… Two… Three… Bam! It was a perfect take. The little rainbow immediately skipped across the water, made a few moves up then downstream. I kept the rod tip bent upstream and stripped him in. A small 12 inch rainbow, but my first dry fly catch of the season.
I giggled with laughter like a kid in a candy store. A beautiful sight indeed. My next dozen or so casts yielded another 3 fish, two of which had loosened their lips from my fly before landing them, but still average enough to keep me entertained. Countless other strikes without properly setting the hook were lost. I lost the PMD emerger on a branch near the casting spot. A brown elk hair caddis then nurtured a few strikes, but not of which I could hook. I fished the hole for a good hour with lots of action and about a half dozen catches.
As the rising stopped dead at 9:30 pm, I made my way back to the car proud of my work and couldn’t wait to return.
About 4 days later on a Saturday a morning, I decided I would bring Nate down to see if we couldn’t catch some more. As we worked our way downstream we stopped at a nice little spot known to hold fish. I threw out an olive sculpin pattern hoping entice a nice fish from off the bank. Nate had only put out a few casts before catching a small brook trout. He got it close, but was unable to land it. It was an average size fish about 10-11 inches. We moved our way up to the hole which had given up a half a dozen fish only days before. I let Nate work it for a bit, only to see him get a little frustrated with the tight casting area. Mind you, he is a spin caster and still had slight trouble. He decided to sit and relax for a bit, sipping on a beer before moving downstream a bit. I stayed for I had a feeling it had to give up at least one if it had produced so well earlier the other night. A few casts in and a good size rainbow took my purple bead-headed prince nymph. A strange pattern, but I thought I’d give it a try. The fish put up a fight with a few good head shakes and then moved its way into the quicker current. I let out some slack as I was ready to put him on the reel. I could see him shake twice, and with a showy flash of its side, it was gone. I was upset, as this fish was nice. Bigger than any of the others I had caught so far, about 15 inches. I regained my composure and threw out another cast. A few more dead drifts and I had another fish on. This time I would make sure not to lose this one. I kept my line tight as I put him on the reel right away. He put up a fight, but I could tell he was a bit smaller than the one I previously fought. I got him close to the bank and grabbed a hold of him! Victory! Nate was about 75 yards down-stream, I made sure to make a few whoops to let him know I had landed one. I pulled him out of the water to see long red slits under its gills.
A very pretty cutthroat at 14 inches, I was pleased. I snapped a few pics and released him back into the creek.
I decided to work my way down to where Nate had been fishing for a while now. A smaller hole, about 4 feet deep downstream about 50 yards looks to hold fish, but after a dozen casts, I moved to the next hole down another 40 yards. This is a beautiful hole which runs pat a large bank-side boulder and into a 12-15 foot deep pool which back eddies back under a low hanging tree which covers a 15-20 feet in diameter. A good holding place for trout to hide and rise without worry. We both fished this for 20 minutes or so with no luck. It was about 3:00 with a hot sun blazing down. I figured the fish were lying low, and not very energetic. We worked out way back to the first hole, which I now have labeled my “honey hole”. I have had luck every time I fish it. I’ve yet to catch anything big, but I have a feeling it will give up something big at some point. I fished it a bit while Nate struggled with a lure caught in the trees. Not much action occurred for the next hour so we decided to head back to the car. Overall, I caught two fish and had three slip away out of the hole that day. I was so excited that I have now found a hole guaranteed to give up fish every time I fish it.