Big Spring Creek originates six miles south of Lewistown where it bubbles out of the ground near the state fish hatchery and runs almost twenty-six miles to where it joins the Judith River. It is a stream of extraordinary beauty and is a superb fishery. Lewistown is one of the few towns of some size (population approximately 6,500) that you can often catch fish within the city limits. There are nine state fish and game public access sites within ten miles of town and very generous private access.
Big Spring Creek is a wade and walk stream; it is not a float and fish stream. It is open to year round fishing and is fishable when many other streams are blown out from runoff. It is easily wadable, but chest waders are recommended. If you wade wet, shorts are not recommended due to brush, thorns and sun reflection.
Big Spring Creek is a great nymph and dry fly stream, but wet flies also work well. Locally, Dr. Patrick Schelle ties and sells flies that are very effective and available at both Don’s Store and the Sport Center. His line is called “Flatlanders”, and you won't want to be without some of his little LBF bead heads. This is a great line of flies tailored to Big Spring Creek.
Besides Big Spring Creek, there many other streams, ponds, reservoirs, and rivers close-by.
Tips on fishing Big Spring Creek
Since it is a spring-fed creek, with gin clear water much of the time, you need to be very careful in your approach. Stand back and use polarized sun glasses to look things over. Do not wear clothes that reflect a lot of light. This is not a long cast stream - watch your drift and do the appropriate mending.
Tips on Releasing Trout
Be kind to the trout. Use barbless hooks or bend the barbs down. For catch and release to work it must be done properly. To reduce stress for a fish keep fight time to a minimum and return the fish to the water as quickly as possible. I recommend only using a net when it is absolutely necessary.
The ideal situation is to never to touch the trout, but to keep it in the water and gently remove the hook with forceps, needle nose pliers or the Ketchum Release tool. If you must handle a trout, wet your hands first before handling the trout. A trout’s protective slime covering is easily damaged by dry hands or a net.
Proper handling of fish also is important. Don’t hold its head up; gently cradle it in the hands, taking care not to squeeze throat or body cavity areas which can damage vital organs. Keep fingers away from gills. To minimize wiggling, hold the trout upside down. It usually will remain still enough for an angler to remove a hook.
Sometimes, the most careful angler will hook a trout deep in the throat or deep in its flesh. If it’s apparent the hook can’t be removed easily , the best procedure is to snip the line close to the hook and release the trout, rather than risk further injury by trying to remove the imbedded hook. If the hook is left in the trout, it’s sort of like having a splinter in your hand. It’ll eventually work its way out.
When you’re ready to return the fish to the water, grasp it gently, point its head into the current, make sure the gills are working properly, and let the fish swim out of your hands. If the fish is exhausted after a prolonged fight, you may have to move it to still water to revive it.
Occasionally, though, no matter how hard you try not to, you might kill or severely injure a trout. If you’re at a stream that allows harvest, this would be a good time to keep a fish. If you are at a catch-and-release stream, leave the trout in the water.
Protect the stream
Montana streams and rivers have a host of unwanted organisms - mainly whirling disease - but there are others.Unfortunately, Big Spring Creek has been contaminated with whirling disease, so anglers need to be careful about unintentionally transmitting the harmful organisms when they move from one body of water to another. They should take precautions to avoid this.
Felt-soled wading boots have been the standard for many years because they provide excellent traction on wet rocks. But felt soles harbor mud, grit and vegetation and are slow to dry, so they are potential carriers of unwanted organisms. Some wading boot manufacturers have introduced newly designed rubber-soled wading boots that provide traction and are an alternative to felt soles. Regardless of the type of boots or wading shoes you take, it is recommended that you clean, rinse and allow boots to thoroughly dry before moving from one body of water to another. You can also use a 50/50 solution of chlorine bleach to kill the spores, just be sure to rinse off your equipment with clean water after treatment.