Located in Montana just north
of the Idaho border and just off Highways 87 and 287 are three
lakes. Three lakes surrounded by the innate beauty of the national
forest and snow peaked mountains. Three lakes that always seem to
be given less than full merit by most fishermen in favor of the
more famous fishing tributaries (Henry's,
Island Park and Yellowstone Lake) in the
Lake neighboring the National Forest and surrounded by a
panoramic vista of mountains and beautiful pines.
There are even some guides that boast that one of those lakes is the finest dry fly lake in North
America. There is little doubt these three lakes
provide some terrific fishing opportunities for the fly fisherman
and non fly fisherman. The
three lakes are Cliff, Wade and Hebgen. These Montana lakes
produce some pretty good sized pigs. What makes these lakes
extraordinary is not the size or quantity, but simply for as consistent
as these lakes fish, it's hard to believe that when your fishing
these lakes many times you may only see six or seven fishing
enthusiasts on the lake the entire day.
Frank Adams of Idaho
Falls sporting a 12oz. beverage. The monster brown just
happened to get in the picture.
The first of the three lakes is Hebgen.
It is located about 20 minutes west of West Yellowstone and is
very accessible. It is also the lake that some guides believe is
the finest dry fly lake in North America. Hebgen has a healthy
population of browns, cutthroats and rainbows. Fly
fishing can be productive whether you use wet or dry flies.
Hebgen offers two distinctive hatches. The first being the
Chironomid hatch with happens early season and continues on
The second hatch gets going in early July
with Trico and Callibaetis mayflies. The hatch continues
through August and at time extends in to September. The
Madison and South fork arms are a favorite amongst fly fisherman.
Both are on the eastern section of Hebgen where the Madison River
feeds into. Fly fishing the Hebgen arms is probably best done
on a skiff or canoe. The fish move often and cover large areas.
Though popular, fisherman using float tubes often find it just a
little too labor intensive to keep up with moving schools of
fish. The fish along the arms range 14 to 18 inches with some
into the 20 inch category. For the non-fly fisherman Hebgen is
just as productive. There are lots of 20 plus inch rainbows
caught from trolling boats. The few boats you will see normally
troll with artificial lures like rapalas, flatfish, blue foxes,
panther martins. Fishermen also have good success using jigs. Hebgen is rather convenient for
boats too. Within 10 -15 minutes you can be launched and ready for
believe someone would abandon a home
with such a magnificent view. This view can be seen on the way
to Cliff and Wade Lake.
The other two lakes are Wade Lake and
Cliff Lake and are located on the Beaverhead National Forest and are
part of the Hidden Lake Chain of lakes. Getting to Wade and
Cliff lake can be very difficult coming from Hebgen. But its not because
the roads, its because the Madison River runs along the highway. Seeing the Madison
River can be quite tempting for any fishing enthusiasts.
Wade Lake and Cliff Lake settings are spectacular. With
aspens, firs and pines trees next to the lakes. In autumn the foliage
changes to vivid reds, orange and yellows. Both Wade Lake and
Cliff Lake are
restricted by "no wake" speed limits.
Trout can be seen cruising in the still water, feasting on various
insects. Fishing the lakes
requires nothing special. Typically you'll see flyfishing,
spincasting and trolling. Fishing from boats, canoes and float tubes
are the most successful methods on the lakes. Wade
lake has earned a reputation for large Rainbows and German
Brown trout. Wade lake still holds the Montana State record
brown trout at 29 pounds.
Montana's Wade Lake.
Since then there have several huge
contenders within Wade Lake itself that have challenged the
states' big pig title. The closest a half of pound shy.
Cliff Lake is no slouch either. Cliff Lake held the Montana record
for a Rainbow at twenty pounds and held it for over thirty years. For the non fisherman, the lakes also provide
a great opportunity to capture wildlife on video or camera. Wildlife such as
moose, deer, elk, eagles, whopping cranes and many other types of water fowl.
Note: In 1992
Montana Fisheries created and artificial spawning channel for
browns and rainbows. It eliminated most fish stocking of Wade
Lake which first started in 1930.
Caddis, Stoneflies, Leadwing Olive, Gray Drake,
Brown Drake, Green Drake, Pale Morning Duns,Chironomid
Tackle & Gear:
most fly fishing an eight to nine foot, four or five-weight rod is a good
Season: Lakes in
Montana are generally opened all year. There are some special restrictions in some
areas. Check your Montana Fishing Regulations for restrictions.