Bull trout are nothing like your typical rainbow, cutthroat or brown trout. They are a landlocked version of a Dolly Varden and although they do not visit saltwater, migrations are natural. A bull trout may hold in a deep run for a month then make a sudden 50-mile journey. Don’t count on them being in a single place at any given time. They grow to large sizes by consuming any large calorie source that crosses their path and they aggressively attack big flies.
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area is the only place in the lower 48 where bull trout can be legally targeted! Many anglers have a trip to The Bob on their bucket list. If you’re thinking about a wilderness pack trip to go fly fishing in The Bob Marshall, here are four tips for targeting bull trout on the fly:
Go Big or Go Home
Bull trout are anything but selective. They are pure predators and big flies are the ticket to success. You will catch the occasional bull on a big stonefly nymph but streamers are the ticket. Use streamers in the 4-inch range as a starting point and choose patterns that displace water. Deer hair heads and heavy hackled flies like the Bow River Bugger or Kelly Galloup’s Sex Dungeon are very effective. They wobble and dance in a way that mimics wounded prey and bull trout are suckers for a wounded fish.
Don’t Move When You Find One
You will sometimes find a bull trout and get several aggressive strikes without connecting on the hook set. While many other trout species will retreat after the initial attack, bull trout will return. They also are often found in small groups. Continue fishing the area aggressively until you connect with a solid hookset. We have even hooked a small 20 inch bull only to have it attacked by a large 28 incher while on the line. Persistence pays when you find the right zone.
Articulated streamers have some extra motion and are more productive than standard versions. They also have two hooks and increase your odds of getting a solid hookset. Predatory fish attack from a number of different angles and a single hook will often miss. Use contrasting color combinations like white and black or black and yellow to really stand out in any water conditions. Add some red to your flies as well to imitate blood. This enhances the wounded effect.
Get Deep Fast
You can catch bull trout within a foot of the surface but getting deep makes a big difference. Type III sink tips will get your bug down and make it easier for the bulls to see and travel towards your fly. Bull trout love ice cold water and the warm summer months will drive them deep. They are more active within a few feet of the surface during the spring and fall months. They are also more migratory during these months.
Here at Lazy J Bar O Outfitters, We love taking clients deep into the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and fishing for unpressured cutthroat and bull trout. As the largest wilderness complex in the contiguous U.S., it’s like nowhere else on earth. And fishing for these giant, aggressive bull trout is something that every angler should experience!
For more information on summer pack trips and fly fishing trips with Lazy J Bar O Outfitters, please give us a call at 406-932-5687 or send us a message. We hope to see you on a fishing trip here in Montana soon!