Montana Fishing Report

Montana Fishing Report Overview

Most rivers across Montana are hitting there late summer stride which means many of the aquatic hatches have subsided with a few exceptions (like tricos and callibaetis) and transitioning to terrestrials and other non hatch related food sources. Water levels will continue to drop as what is left of the snowpack trickles out so moving to smaller flies, longer leaders and finer tippet is often a successful tactic. Water temperatures are a huge driving force in late summer. Every fishery has a different temperature profile but it is an important factor to keep in mind. Some fisheries are still too warm for good fishing during the late (like the Jefferson and Lower Madison). Other fisheries are best in the early morning and still others fish great in the afternoon (like rivers closer to the mountains or spring creeks with colder water temps). As nights continue to get longer water temperatures are on a steady decline and some of the lower elevation fisheries will turn on. Already waters like the Lower Madison are beginning to fish well later into the day.

The Yellowstone river below Livingston (89 bridge) and all tributaries except the Shields have reopened from the PKD oubreak that had whitefish and resulted in high mortality rates in the Paradise Valley section of the river. The Shields system has not experience any significant whitefish mortality but biologists are playing it safe since it is an important native cutthroat spawning tributary. Fisheries biologists are continuing to gather data related to the outbreak. PKD has occurred in other fisheries in the west including the Snake River system in Idaho where it also resulted in a die off of white fish although trout populations were not noticeably impacted. Montana FWP has indicated that they will begin opening the tributaries when they gather more data and at some point the main river when they are confident that fish are no longer under stress. The outbreaks are a result of a small micro organism that requires water temperatures in the high 50s or warmer so as we head into fall the outbreak should wind down. In other fisheries the whitefish population began building resistance to the spores that cause the disease and stabilized after the initial infection year. We will keep everyone posted on situation as biologists gather more data. To date the biologists have documented 4000 dead whitefish over about 50 miles of river but only 1 dead trout was found so the trout population seems to be resisting the parasite well. Other rivers in the region remain unaffected and continue to fish well.

Late summer days can still be warm and trout often lay up during the mid afternoon hours on the larger rivers. On big rivers like the Madison and Missouri the morning fishing has been better than the afternoon fishing. As nights continue to cool fish activity should extend longer into the afternoon. On smaller waters or on windy days afternoon hopper and terrestrial fishing can often be outstanding. Trout are becoming more opportunistic as aquatic hatches subside and are looking for a mixed bag and are not as selective as they were in the early summer period. For surface action terrestrials like grasshoppers, beetles and ants can be very effective. For subsurface try big patterns that imitate small bait fish like sculpins along with smaller attractor nymphs that are pretty general. There are still some late caddis hatches in the early mornings and on some fisheries the tiny trico mayflies are thick. Pay very close attention to water temps as this will drive the best fishing. On the big rivers water temps are best in the early morning but on small mountain streams and shaded mountain rivers the early morning can still be pretty cold so just pay attention to the fishery you are on. Some fisheries just get too warm for safe fishing and fighting a fish in 75 degree water can kill the trout so stay away from the lower elevation big river fisheries until they hit their stride again in September. Many of the individual reports on our page also have a temperature profile so you can watch these closely. On days when a cold front pushes in or we have good cloud cover some water temps will be lower than normal and you can fish waters later into the day or visit rivers that are normally spring and fall fisheries. Trout eat every day so just make sure you are on the river during their feeding window - when that is just depends on the fishery.

Summer is the busiest time of the year for fly fishing in Montana so trout on popular public waters have now seen some flies. Fishing pressure is dropping off fast now that kids are heading back to school but trout are still a bit on the sophisticated side at the moment. It pays to try to think outside the box and get off the beaten path. If you can find lightly pressured waters trout will aggressively slam big hopper patterns. If you are fishing waters that see a lot of pressure the hopper bight might only be so so. This is the time of year when we start working extra hard to find trout that have seen fewer flies. Sometimes that means a visit to a private ranch, a long hike or simply fishing water on the big waters that other guides are skipping past like the backside trough of a rock well on the Madison that can only be cast to from the bank and not from the boats float fishing past.

Many of the aquatic hatches have run their course. The main hatches this time of year are the tricorythode mayflies (tricos), a few late caddis, and callibaetis on the lakes. There is also a nocturnal hatch of large stoneflies (most of us call them nocturnal stones) that can get the trout keying in on large stonefly dries at dawn or stonefly nymphs subsurface. Tricos are not thick on all waters but where they occur in abundance they can bring a lot of trout to the surface. The gulper fishing on lakes like Hebgen and Ennis can bring large trout to the surface when the callibaetis mayflies hatch in the late morning.

Terrestrials now are very important across Montana. Hoppers are now mature and flying. The trout are just now beginning to key in on them. On some rivers they aren't quite looking for them and on others the bite is already on. I waded a small stream on a private ranch the other day and the hoppers were all over the place and trout were moving aggressively for them. The quality of the "catching" over hoppers depends on the amount of pressure trout receive. They get pretty smart after they see a dozen foam hoppers a day so look for waters that see less anglers for the best hopper fishing. If you are targeting more popular fisheries you may have more luck with more technical terrestrials like small beetles and ants. In the mountains hoppers are less important but keep an eye out for spruce moths - they are flying in the mornings and trout love them.

Yellowstone River Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Current Conditions: The Yellowstone River between Gardiner and the 89 bridge remain closed. The river from 89 bridge and down has been reopened. Current Conditions: The Lower Yellowstone downstream of 89 bridge has really picked up as water temps have dropped. There are still some fish in the...Read more

Upper Madison River Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Current Conditions: The Upper is producing consistent fishing and is a good bet on a hot day as long as you get an early start. The morning fishing has been very good and then tapers off as the day progresses with afternoon fishing pretty somewhat slower than the morning. The dry fly bite is just...Read more

Lower Madison River Fishing Report

- Fair
Current Conditions: The Lower is beginning to cool with the longer nights and fishing is improving by the day. The best fishing is still in the morning and afternoon water temperatures are still elevated but on cooler days it can fish well after lunch. The Month Ahead: September and October are...Read more

Gallatin River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Gallatin is a solid producer right now. The entire river is productive right now. In the canyon stretches smaller nymph patterns on 5x flourcarbon are very good. On cloudy days some baetis can bring up a few risers. On the lower river try dead drifting some streamers or...Read more

Montana Spring Creeks Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Current Conditions: The spring creeks are still a bit tough right now but are improving by the day and are always a great way to challenge yourself. Summer weed growth is dying back and the fall baetis are starting to show up so fishing conditions are definitely improving. Some trout are still...Read more

Stillwater River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Stillwater River is a nice option right now and is producing some very good action on nymphs. The pressure has really dropped off and the water temperatures are terrific. The river is low and bony and best wade fished in most locations. Although smaller dries will still take...Read more

Boulder River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Boulder is low and clear with the exception of some thunderstorms that can put a bit if sediment into the lower water below the West Boulder for a short duration from time to time. There is still a bit of hopper action down low but smaller dries that imitate larger mayflies...Read more

Jefferson River Fishing Report

- Fair
Current Conditions: The river is currently closed due to warm summer water temperatures. The Jefferson is low and mossy. This is traditionally a spring and fall fishery so better to wait until the algae drift subsides and water temps fall in September. The Month Ahead: As we move into September...Read more

East Gallatin River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The East is a fun option in the early fall with a few tricos still around and a mixed bag of baetis and mahogany duns. The hopper fishing can also produce a few rises. The “river” is more like a spring creek with very low flows and very spooky trout. Catch rates are low right...Read more

Missouri River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Missouri near Craig and Wolf creek is producing some daily morning trico action and rising trout. Terrestrials are more important after lunch and nymphing the seams and riffles also can produce with small technical patterns. The Month Ahead: The Mo won't change too much in...Read more

Ruby River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Ruby is a nice option in the mid summer months. The water is low right now so the fish are packed into the buckets. Below the dam the nymph fishing is best with smaller technical spring creek style patterns on lighter flouro carbon tippet. The Month Ahead: The Ruby will be...Read more

Montana Lakes Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The smaller private ranch lakes are still producing some great fishing over hoppers in the morning and damsel nymphs in the afternoon. Sight casting small nymphs or dries in the morning has been productive along with slow stripping damsel flies. In the afternoons beating the...Read more

Other Waters Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Current Conditions: The smaller streams around Montana are a great option to get away from it all and find some off the beaten path fishing. The hopper fishing has been epic on some of our smaller stream ranch leases. These fish see few flies and motor boat several feet to inhale foam! The Month...Read more