Montana Fishing Reports
Montana Fishing Report Overview
Spring has arrived in Montana and fishing conditions are changing rapidly. This is a very exciting and dynamic time of year to target
Montana waters. Conditions can change by the day and even by the hour so paying close attention to weather and flows is a huge
part of the late spring fishing game. What happened yesterday is not necessarily a good indication of what will happen tomorrow so be
very cautious about running to a fishery because your buddy had a great day there two days ago or because a fishing report talked up
how epic the fishing has been. Remember that by nature fishing reports are 100% stale information. This report will focus on some
generalities about late spring fishing but will also focus on some tools that you can use for predicting when to be at the right time to
catch some windows of mind blowing fishing that often arise this time of year - often in narrow windows. Do not be discouraged by the
fact that some waters are high and muddy, the waters that are fishable are spectacular right now and this is one of our absolute
favorite times to target local waters. There are few out of state anglers and often you can have incredible fishing with light pressure.
The only fisheries that you will see a good number of other anglers on right now are the tailwaters.
As temperatures warm the mountain snowpack melts and brings up water levels on all fisheries except spring creeks and stillwaters.
In general, freestone fisheries are a tough option right now. Freestone rivers and streams are those that rely heavily on overland flow
from rain and snowmelt. These streams and rivers (Think the Gallatin and Yellowstone) become high and dirty with sediment during
late spring run off and are not fishable most of the time (but not all of the time! - see notes below). Spring creeks are fed by
groundwater and are completely unaffected by run off. Some rivers are also fed from reservoirs that trap sediment. These tailwaters
(Bighorn, Missouri, Madison etc) do increase in flows during spring run off but they retain good water clarity and often great fishing.
Stillwater reservoirs, ponds and lakes are also a very good option this time of year.
There are no shortage of insects available to trout on our local waters this time of year. The most important hatches are the spring
baetis mayflies, March Brown mayflies and the Mothers Day caddis. Hatches may or may not bring trout to the surface but it is
important to know that the trout are looking for these bugs, even if they are eating subsurface. Don't go anywhere in the late spring
without imitations of nymphs, emergers and dries of the aforementioned species. There are a variety of different patterns that are
effective and most work just fine. Don't forget about a large size 12 hares ear when you see March Browns - they don't always hatch in
abundance but trout love them. When fish are feeding on the surface, also try hanging an emerger just a foot or so behind your dry.
Watch rise forms carefully. If trout look like the are porpoising they are probably taking emergers and not duns/adults.
The safe bets right now are the waters that are protected by run off. These include tailwaters below reservoirs, spring creeks and still
waters. The good news is that these three categories of fisheries are lights out right now and occur in abundance across Southwest
Montana. Spring creeks have consistent baetis hatches and sometimes caddis on a daily basis and are a very safe bet for dry fly
fishing. The fish are still fresh and haven't seen a lot of artificials yet so catch rates are often high. Tailwaters are also coming alive
right now as water temps rise and the trout put on their feedbags. Dry fly fishing is variable and depends on flows and if they are
bumping the dam releases or not. Nymph fishing is predictably good. If flows are on the rise fishing closer to the dam is often better
because moss can often get dislodged and if you are too far downstream it can foul hooks. Stillwaters are also a great option and
catch rates can be very high slow stripping streamers. Early Callibaetis mayflies can also produce good dry fly action on some
Wild card options
Many anglers completely right off freestone fisheries from mid May until waters clear in early summer. This is huge mistake! Savvy
flyfishers that tune a watchful towards hydrographs and weather patterns are often rewarded with spectacular days without another
angler in sight. What you want to watch for is a cool down in the weather forecast. If a cooler weather pattern that sets in it can
suspend snow melt and rivers can quickly respond. Every fishery is different - some of the larger ones like the Yellowstone take a big
cold snap with a longer duration to produce fishable waters but smaller rivers can clean up and go on the drop even after a single day
of the right weather. Remember that the water does not need to be clear - you just need as little as six inches of visibility to have great
fishing. If the hydrograph shows the river is on the drop and is missing the "yo-yo" pattern of rising water from daytime sun followed by
falling water from the evening then it is a good bet it may be fishable. Don't expect dry flies but streamers and big ugly nymphs can be
deadly. Target the soft water where fish are staked up like inside corners and seams behind large rocks. Sometimes these windows
only last one or two days so you need to respond quickly when the conditions warrant.
Upper Madison River Fishing Report Very Good-Red Hot
The Upper continues to be a good option. The entire river is now open and the farther up you go the better the clarity gets. Generally
the upper water is always fishable but as you move down the valley and more tributaries come in the clarity gets more affected. Beaver
and Cabin bring in sediment but are small enough that they don't completely blow the river out. The West Fork at Lyons bridge brings
in a lot more mud during hot weather but the plume stays on the west bank for several miles so usually you can stay on the East
Bank and have decent clarity. Worms and stoneflies are key. The higher you are the better the fishing right now.
Lower Madison River Fishing Report Very Good
The Lower can fluctuate from outstanding to just OK depending on the day. Windy days can bring in extra sediment that gets churned
up in the lake and fluctuating dam releases sometimes put the fish off a bit when the flows bump. When the flows are stable for a day
or so the fishing is usually very good. Nymphing is the main game with worms or crayfish trailed by baetis or caddis emergers. Fly
selection isn't rocket science by the art comes into where you fish. Focus on soft seams and edges in and around weedbeds. Gently
pulling crayfish or buggers over weedbeds also produces.
Yellowstone River Fishing Report Poor
The Yellowstone is high and muddy. It will take a pretty good cold snap to have a chance at fishable conditions until runoff subsides.
Gallatin River Fishing Report Poor-Fair
The Gallatin is up with run off. It can often gain enough clarity with just a short cold snap and produce outstanding nymphing on
stoneflies and worms so don't completely write it off. The clarity above the Taylor Fork is almost always fishable.
Boulder River Fishing Report Fair-Good
The Boulder is up and off color below the West Boulder which brings in a lot of mud. This is a north facing drainage so cold nights can
suspend run off and produce fishable water for short windows.
Jefferson River Fishing Report Fair
The Jefferson can be an interesting option in the late spring. It is affected by run off but usually clears earlier and easier than other
freestone fisheries. If flows are dropping it is worth a try.y.
East Gallatin Poor
The East has a lot of low elevation snow run off and blows out early. It won't be an option until later in the early summer when it drops
to safe wading levels. Most of he East is on private land so you need to wait until the river is low enough to cross back and forth to
avoid trespassing if accessing from a bridge.
Ruby River Fishing Report Fair
The Ruby is up right now with higher flows and fishing is tough. Once it drops below 400cfs the water near the dam is worth a shot and
can be good.
Missouri Fishing Report Red Hot
The Missouri near Craig is a great option during run off. As flows rise scuds, sow bugs and worms are kicked loose and trout really put
on their feedbags. Water remains clear below Wolf Creek but the Prickley Pear and Dearborn can put in mud so fishing downstream of
the tribs just depends on how hot it is. Dry fly fishing is iffy but caddis and baetis can produce pods of rising trout when flows have
Ennis, Hebgen and Harrison Lake Fishing Report Good
Spring creeks are beginning to peak and this is one of the best times of the entire year to target these amazing fisheries. Every spring
creek in the state is fishing really, really well right now. Baetis are the prime target insect and daily hatches have been bringing fish
up, especially with cloud cover. On blue bird days the rises become more sporadic and most feeding is on the emergers. Caddis and
even some lingering march browns on some of the creeks are also turning trout. We have added several more private ranches with
exciting new spring creek fisheries this season. The "creeks" in the Jefferson, Madison, Gallatin and Yellowstone valleys are some of
the best spring fed fisheries in the world and now is the time to go!
Spring Creeks Fishing Report Red Hot
The MZ spring creeks will be closed until May 18th but the Livingston creeks (Armstrong, Depuy and Nelson) are a great option in the
early spring Since these magical fisheries are fed by ground water they have higher than normal water temps in the cold weather
months. Nymphing is the best option with a sow bug and a midge larva a good combination. Fly selection isn't as important as
presentation. Takes will be very delicate so consider a yarn indicator. Mild days can also produce a few rises over midges to the
watchful eye. Rates are $75 per rod after April 15th.
Other local fisheries Poor
All of the smaller waters are now open. Many of them are high at the moment but there are a few favorites of ours that we don't like to
advertise online that are really, really good this time of year. Smaller waters can be a lot of fun if you pay your dues and do some
MADISON RIVER VALLEY ~ YELLOWSTONE RIVER VALLEY ~ GALLATIN RIVER VALLEY ~ BOZEMAN ~ ENNIS ~ LIVINGSTON ~ BIG SKY ~ GARDINER
Montana Angler Fly Fishing, 76 Lucille Lane, Bozeman MT 59718