Thompson's Spring Creek

Anglers who love the challenge of fishing very wary spring creek fish will find themselves in heaven on the MZ Ranch.   The ranch lies in the heart of the Gallatin Valley and encompasses two spring creeks and several miles of the East Gallatin River.  The ranch is a working cattle ranch that is run by the Milesnick family.   Tom and Mary Kay have been  great stewards of their land and adapted to blend cattle with trout.  They are a shinning example of how cow and fish can live side by side.   The two spring creeks carry a nice volume of water that stays cool throughout the heat of the summer.   Shallow flats drop into deep pools that shelter the fish from predators that would swoop down and pick them from the shallows.  The ranch limits the number of rods that can access the creek.  Access to the property does require a $75 rod fee which is used to maintain the facilities and the creeks.

A real working Cattle Ranch

There are three bodies of water on the property that offer anglers the challenge of spring creek fishing as well as the ease of less technical fishing on the free stone East Gallatin.  The combination of the spring creeks and the East give anglers the choice of getting their rod bent if the creeks are just too difficult.   The spring creeks do require skill and they are very challenging for even the most expert angler.  Hatch activity can be good on the creeks but conditions need to be perfect to bring the fish out of the deeper holes to look for the dries.   Bright sunny days keep the fish near the bottom where they feel more comfortable.  The dry fly jewel on the property is really the East Gallatin river which has great hatches that bring pods of rising fish to the surface on a more regular basis.  The combination of spring creeks and freestone make this property a great place to spend the day.

Benhart’s Spring Creek:

Benhart’s is probably the most popular of the two spring creeks on the property.   There are several miles of creek on the ranch with the head of the spring boiling out of the ground just upstream of the MZ ranch.

Favorite spot on Benhart's

There  are numerous deep holes along the creek that hold both brown and rainbow trout.  Some of the holes will hold just a few fish and other holes have dozens of fish lurking near the bottom of the hole.   There is a large range in fish size in the creeks with plenty of fish that will push the 18-20 inch mark.  There are also some true hogs that live in the creek, but they are extremely difficult to hook, much less land.   Good hatches of Caddis, PMD’s, Trico’s and Baetis hatch on the creek.  Terrestrials also produce some surface action but as I mentioned above you need to have low light conditions to get the fish to look to the surface.   Benhart’s is the more popular creek because the fish only have one PHD degree rather than two or three, like the fish on Thompson’s.   The fish will challenge you, but the rewards of finally getting one to eat is the name of the game on the creeks.

Thompson’s Spring Creek:

Thompson’s is the less popular of the two creeks for two reasons.  First and foremost is that the fish in Thompson’s may be some of the toughest fish to fool in all of Southwestern Montana.

Where trout earn their second PHD.

The other factor that makes the creek less popular is that there is less water on the creek than there is on Benhart’s.   Getting a fly to the fish on Thompson’s present many challenges to the angler.  Sneaking up like a commando on the bank does not work all that often on the creek.  I have found that getting yourself in the water downstream of the fish allows you to approach the fish and get within casting distance to them.  I have seen some truely enormous fish in the creek but failed to land many of them.  Thompson’s does not have as many deep holes so the fish that inhabit the creek are a bit more leery of everything around them.   Fooling a large fish from Thompson’s is one heck of an accomplishment.

East Gallatin River:

The East Gallatin is formed when Bridger Creek and Rocky creek meet up within the city limits of Bozeman.   The East meanders it’s way through the Gallatin Valley and provides many of the locals with our home fishery.   The creek picks up a lot of water as it flows through the valley floor.   There are numerous springs that pop up in the Galltin Valley as aquifers  that start high in the Bridger Mountains finally make their way back to the surface.

Trico magic on the East

The East has a small cobble bottom that makes wade fishing a dream.   The large greased bowling balls of the main Gallatin are no where to be found in the East Gallatin.  The MZ ranch’s section of the East has many great holes that hold both rainbows and brown trout.  The fish range in size from small 6 inch fish all the way up to large fish that push the 20 inch mark or better.   With  the development that has taken place in the Gallatin Valley over the past ten years the hatches have suffered a bit due to the additional sediment that has found it’s way into the river.  We still see all the hatches, but they are less consistent and not as prolific as they once were.  The hatch that probably gets my blood boiling the most are the Trico’s that hatch in mid August and into September.   The Trico’s bring the fish to the surface in great numbers.  This is one of the only fisheries in the Gallatin Valley that produces wolf packs or pods of rising fish.   You can run into a group of three or four dozen fish all rising in a symphony if your timing is right.   The east also gets a blizzard caddis hatch in the evenings during June and July which can produce some great fishing as the sun sets in the evening.   Terrestrials produce some good action in the later part of the summer along with Blue Winged Olive hatches on cloudy overcast days.   Nymphs and streamers always produce fish out of the river when fish are not looking up.  The East provides anglers on the MZ ranch to leave their frustration from the spring creek behind and put a bend in their rod.  It offers a great break from the spring creeks.

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