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> > Montana: Nelson's Spring Creek

Martinlf has attached these 4 pictures to this report. The message is below.
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Nelson's Brown.
Nelson's Brown.
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A Nelson's cabin: home away from home.
A Nelson's cabin: home away from home.
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The PMD pool.
The PMD pool.
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Mountains in the background.
Mountains in the background.
MartinlfJuly 30th, 2021, 9:29 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3157
Nelson’s Spring Creek is famous, and with good reason. It offers anglers comfortable lodging near the stream, a well-stocked fly shop, excellent breakfasts, and world class fishing. I caught more big fish there in a few days than I’d caught in the previous two years of fishing at home. But more than that, Roger and Mary Nelson made me feel welcome and comfortable in a setting that could have been intimidating to a newcomer. Roger introduced me to guests he’d known for years, and Mary, along with her daughter Trish, quickly learned breakfast preferences and made sure I had exactly what I liked. Along with them, other guests were friendly and helpful. Mike and his wife Susan joined me for my first breakfast, and regaled me with tales of their life and schooling at Notre Dame. Allen and Linda, with whom I shared a duplex cabin, became friends quickly, and Allen told me about his long history with Nelson’s, sharing an article about fishing spring creeks that he said he read each year to prepare. Greg, one of the most accomplished fishermen there, gave me a clinic on sight nymphing and graciously told me he appreciated my company as we waded along in the stream.

The most successful summertime fishers on Nelson’s sight nymph, using a dry fly to suspend the nymph and keep it drag free. The dry fly is not an indicator, as the fish will eat and spit the nymph before the dry fly moves. An angler must watch the fish and time the strike, anticipating, but not striking too soon—or too late. It’s not easy. Sunny weather, which was almost guaranteed, helps anglers watch the fish. With help, I was able to catch some nice fish this way, but my best day came when it clouded up and began to drizzle, a very rare event. Allen had taken his family to Yellowstone Park that day, leaving the stream almost deserted. I found a pool alive with hatching Pale Morning Duns and rising fish. They weren’t easy, by any means. These fish see anglers daily in the summer. But they could be caught.

Roger and Mary’s son-in-law Tucker, Jacquie Nelson’s husband, who along with her runs the fly shop, had sent me patterns to tie over the winter. My first fish that day, a big rainbow, came on a CDC wing spinner I’d actually tied for the Missouri. But other fish wanted a different fly, and one of Tucker’s patterns, a small CDC comparadun with a yellow-olive biot body, hooked the rest of the fish that morning. Despite my 6X tippet, and plentiful weeds, I didn’t break off any of these large fish. Several, though, threw the fly, including a jumping rainbow that may have been one of the biggest I hooked that day. I also remember a big cutthroat that fed directly across from me. It took many casts to get the right drift, but it ended up in my net. I don’t generally attempt fish photos when I’m alone; it’s not worth it to me to risk the fish’s health, and I’d never lay one on the bank, etc. But, as Roger told me, the stream was loaded with big fish that had come up from the Yellowstone that spring to feast on the prolific hatches. I saw this for myself.

As I learned from other guests, it’s not easy to get prime season dates on Nelson’s. I did so by pure luck. If you manage to, PM me, and I can give you some more tips to make your trip successful and enjoyable. Finally, thanks to Matt Hainst, who told me about Nelson’s Spring Creek. Without his recommendation, I’d never have fished it.

More Montana fishing reports above and below; scroll up or down.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
WiflyfisherJuly 30th, 2021, 12:30 pm

Posts: 644
Louis, excellent!

I fished Nelson's back in the mid-1980's in September. We had snow squalls, rain, sun, and clouds. BWO's had the trout's attention and made for a wonderful day. I can remember to this day watching my size #20 BWO nymph bouncing along the bottom and watching a nice rainbow trout pick up my nymph right in front of me.

That is a Spring creek I want to return too someday.

Thanks for posting.
John S.
MartinlfJuly 30th, 2021, 1:14 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3157
John, give Mary a call; it appears that cancellations due to Covid somewhat scrambled their schedule, and now is one of the best times to secure a good date. After this year many of the best dates will likely be booked.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
WiflyfisherJuly 30th, 2021, 2:32 pm

Posts: 644
Louis, thanks. I might do that.

I was out in MT & ID for 2-1/2 weeks in June and had a fantastic time. I need to go back out soon to see a dear friend in Idaho.

John S.
PartsmanJuly 30th, 2021, 4:34 pm
bancroft michigan

Posts: 386
Louis, that’s a awesome brown! Sounds like the fish god’s were with you, I’m really enjoying your reports.
Thanks, Mike.
MartinlfJuly 30th, 2021, 5:42 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3157
Thanks, Mike!
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
TroutnutJuly 31st, 2021, 10:47 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2723
The dry fly is not an indicator, as the fish will eat and spit the nymph before the dry fly moves.

If the dry fly is just to suspend the nymph, it still seems like a Dorsey or NZ indicator could serve that purpose, even if you're watching for the fish's reaction. I've been using the NZ indicator for years and just started trying the Dorseys based on the recommendations on Troutbitten and in Devin Olsen's book, but I haven't used it enough yet to form an impression.

The sight nymphing you describe reminds me an afternoon on the Idrijca in Slovenia in 2015, where my friend Tomaz Modic showed me the ropes and I finally caught quite a few fish after embarrassing myself with clumsy casts and rotten tippet at first. They were so spooky we weren't even using indicators, because the commotion of anything including an indicator or a dry landing on the surface would spook the fish more than a small, light nymph punching through and sinking.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
MartinlfAugust 1st, 2021, 6:15 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3157
I think a yarn indicator would probably work at times, and like you have been trying the Dorsey indicator some, based on experiences with Dom (Troutbitten). But the dry fly may be better on Nelson's. Some trout are so wary that experienced nymphers will sometimes wait until a trout turns away even to cast, and the dry fly may look more natural and spook fewer fish. Plus, occasionally, the fish will take the dry. I caught at least one on an emerger when nymphing. Common dries used are either PMD spinners or emergers.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell

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