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Brook troutThere are some places that just draw me back time and again.  Whether the draw is from memories I spawned as a child that I can relive, or the simple fact that the area is just beautiful, there are numerous of these places around Montana.  The Beartooth Mountains in general have that appeal, and one specific area that I just cannot get enough of is the West Rosebud Creek.


The creek flows out of the mountains and into the plains joining with East Rosebud creek and eventually dumping into the Stillwater River.  Some of my favorite memories in the mountains are from Mystic Lake in the West Rosebud valley.  But there are plenty of other areas along the creek that capture my heart.  West Rosebud Lake is an amazing spot for summer or winter recreation.  The campground at Emerald Lake is one of the first places I remember tent camping in Montana (it rained the whole weekend).  And the creek itself is home to some very large brook trout that are begging to be caught in the fall.


Of the trout varieties, the brook trout and the brown trout spawn in the fall.  This means they have schooled together and are often quite ravenous.  It also means that each fall I put on my waders and head to West Rosebud creek in order to pull a few of these big fish out during a morning or afternoon of fun filled fishing.

West Rosebud Valley

Shortly before the end of the road, the creek splits and goes through a little marshy area.  Here is where you can gear up, and head out.  Slipping into your waders and threading a worm onto your hook, the next trick is to just find the deeper areas of water with sandy bottoms.  A good pair of polarized sunglasses will help you look deep into the water and see the fish congregating.

Don’t get too close, or they will all scatter.  Brook trout may be easy to catch when they are spawning and hungry, but they are still (relatively) smart creatures.  Stand back as far as you can, and throw your worm up ahead of the school of fish, and let it tumble along the creek bottom.  Reel in as the worm makes its way back toward you, and hopefully before it passes through the school you will have a fish firmly hooked.


Brook troutThis particular area is home to some really nice sized fish.  Brook trout often do not grow excessively large, so when you can catch on that is 8 – 10 inches in length it’s a good fish.  But that is not say you can’t make a decent meal out of a dozen fingerlings.  West Rosebud in the fall months will help you land brookies that are 12+ inches in length, most of which are rather fat in body.


Brook trout are an invasive species.  They are not native to the area, and they outcompete many of the native fishes (especially Cutthroat trout) for food.  As such, they can be aggressively fished.  And nearly all areas have a limit of 20 brook trout per person (daily and in possession).  20 fish is a lot, and your stringer will soon be laden if you manage to catch your limit.  But with the sheer numbers of fish in this part of the creek, it would barely make a dent in the overall population if you did haul that many out of there.


After you have pulled a couple fish out of the school you are working, they will catch wise.  Something about their friends suddenly freaking out and disappearing makes them not want to hang around much longer.  What you do is simply walk up stream until you see another school of fish.  You throw your worm above the school, and pull out as many as you can until they stop biting.


The area around West Rosebud is beautiful.  Mountains grace either side of the valley, looking further up you can see snow capped peaks regardless of the time of year, and the wildlife is abundant (my last trip to the area had a moose walk through the marshy area within a hundred yards from where I stood).  Fishing in the fall can be cold, so when you go, take plenty of warm clothing.  I use a number three sized hook tied directly to the end of my line.  About 18 – 24 inches up I put on two small split shot sinkers.  I thread the worm onto the hook sending the hook through the entire body (or as much as I can) rather than just piercing one side and out the other.  This seems to help the worm stay on the hook and the fish pull the hook into their mouth rather than bite the worm off the end (taking your bait, but not landing in your net).

West Rosebud Creek holds many wonders.  The beauty of the area and the prevalence of the fish draw me back time and again.  Every time I go, I fall more in love with these Montana mountains that are a mere 90 minute drive from Billings.  Here it is easy to see why John Steinbeck once said, “[Montana] mountains are the kind I would create if mountains were put on my agenda.”

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