Whipping by at Interstate speeds it may be hard to imagine Little Prickly Pear Creek holding anything but a few small trout.
The tributary of the Missouri carves through the towering walls of Wolf Creek Canyon north of Helena to its confluence with the river near Wolf Creek. An access road makes the Little Prickly Pear an easy stream to get to, that is until the wall of willows must be negotiated to find the water’s edge and dance a fly into classic riffles and small pools.
Once there, anglers must take care not to spook fish from the edge of the narrow stream. But when hoppers become an abundant food source, trout may throw caution to the wind for the chance at a sizeable meal. A bitch creek nymph stripping through a pool has tricked many fish in this stretch as well.
Both browns and rainbows call the Little Prickly Pear home, and with its connection to the Missouri, occasionally that means a 3-weight has all it can handle tied into the mouth of a two or three-pound trout.
As a major spawning stream, the window to fish the Little Prickly Pear is a short one. The creek opens the third Saturday in May running through Labor Day, giving wild rainbows and browns a reprieve while they produce the year’s crop of trout.
-- Tom Kuglin