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Montana Fishing Reports

Bozeman, Montana, weather forecast
Upper Madison - Red Hot
The Upper has been on fire! The river is at nearly ideal levels and it is fly soup on the water on a daily basis. This is helping to produce some of the best dry fly fishing in years over epic hatches like the salmonfly, golden stones, pmds, caddis and yellow sally. It is fly soup on the entire river. Nymphing is still the best producer day in and day out and it is important to match the hatch on the nymphs too - golden stone nymphs trailed by caddis early, then pmds followed by small attractor nymphs after 2pm is a good bet. The morning fishing has been better than the afternoons most days.

Lower Madison - Very Good
The Lower is warming fast and moss is an issue on the lower sections. The fishing is still good in the morning but water temps rise later in the day and often result in slow afternoons. Higher water temps also stress trout so it is best to hit this for an early morning visit and then call it good. The temps are rising fast so this will most likely be on hold for fishing until we hit September.

Yellowstone River - Very Good
The Yellowstone has been very good lately. Flows are still a pinch on the high side but the floats with lower gradients are producing lots of trout while nymphing. The trout are still in the softer water along banks and inside corners but as flows drop and temps warm they will be slowly moving into faster waters. Aquatic insects are hatching and helping to produce some good dry fly fishing. Often an attractor nymph is just as good or better than an exact imitation. Streamer fishing is also very good early in the morning or if you get lucky enough to find some cloud cover. Attractor dries are just starting to turn some heads.

Gallatin - Red Hot
The Gallatin is dropping and fishing well. Trout are eating both dries and nymphs. Attractor dry flies are just starting to produce and a dropper rig is a nice option. In the deeper runs try running a nymph rig with a stonefly trailed by a smaller bead head attractor nymph. Cover a lot of water but pay attention to where you are finding trout. They are still giving preference to slower flows while the water temps are rising and are not in the fastest riffles yet. The wade fishing can still be challenging with the higher flows.

Boulder - Fair
The Boulder is high but and marginally fishable. Since it has a north facing snowpack the river takes longer to drop. It is very tough to wade right now and the flows are still up in the willows. Float fishing is run and gun and a lot of times you blow right by the trout. Fishing will improve as the water drops

Jefferson - Very Good
The Jefferson was on fire for awhile and the moss drift has been at bay up until now. The river can turn off quickly when free floating moss takes hold so enjoy it while it lasts. The Jeff has lower fish counts so you really need to know the holding water to make a day of it. Focus on seams and riffles. Big meaty flies are better than small stuff right now.

East Gallatin - Fair
The East is dropping and clearing. The fishing has improved but the water is still a bit high for easy wading if you are trying to stay below the high water mark from bridge access. The fish are just starting to rise to hatches.

Ruby River - Very Good
The Ruby is fishing great right now below the dam and at public access sites and bridges. The usual suspects of nymphing worms, small streamers and pmd nymphs is all you need. Stripping streamers in the morning also turns trout and sometimes you can get some dry fly action although it takes a lot to bring them up.

Missouri - Red Hot
The Missouri near Craig is still fishing well although it has seen a lot of pressure during runoff. The pmds and caddis are still thick and bringing big pods of rainbows to the surface

Lakes -Red Hot
Stillwaters are really on fire right now. We have been targeting some of the private ranch fisheries lately and our guides have been racking up some banner days with lots of trophy trout. Water temps are on the rise and fish are becoming very active. Sight fishing has been very good. Early broods of calibaetis are bringing up some sporadic risers but he dry fly fishing will get much better in later July.

Spring Creeks -Red Hot
Spring creeks are peaking right now with daily hatches of thick pmds. This hatch is like crack cocaine to a trout and normally wary spring creek fish suddenly let their guard down. The pmd hatch on a spring creek should be on every anglers bucket list. If you like match the hatch dry fly fishing and don't mind being humbled by more than a few smart spring creek fish then give them a try. Rods are pretty hard to come by but there are always cancellations and a few holes in the schedules at the different ranches.

Other fisheries - Red Hot
All of the smaller waters are now open and this is a great time to fish small private ranch waters or back country streams. Flows are good and the fish are fresh and lively with nice water temperatures. Several of our private leases have been exceptionally productive and spending the day casting big attractor dry flies to lightly pressured dry fly loving trout is sure a nice way to spend the day.

Yellowstone Park - Very Good
The East side of the park is still on the high side but should be fishing soon. The west side is starting to warm up so we are in a bit of a transition time. In just a few days the best fishing will mostly be on the East side of the park and many of the waters like the Firehole, Madison and Gibbon will be too warm.

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Montana Fishing Report

Upper Madison River
Lower Madison River
Yellowstone River
Gallatin River
East Gallatin River
Missouri River
Jefferson River
Boulder River
Ruby River
Stillwater River
Spring Creeks
Other Waters

Montana River Flows

Upper Madison
Lower Madison
East Gallatin
Missouri/ Townsend
Missouri/ Holter Dam
Yellowstone/ Livingston
Yellowstone/ Gardiner
Lamar River
Willow Creek

Snowpack Levels
Montana Fishing Report Overview
Run off is now over on all rivers in Montana. One of our most commonly asked questions is "when is the best time to fish Montana" - well the answer is now! It is pretty hard to go wrong out there right now - every guide is a rock star under these conditions and there are a lot of bent rods and smiling faces on the rivers.

Water levels are slowly dropping on rivers and streams. The snow pack is not completely gone so the flows are still at higher levels and the water temps are still on the cool side. Trout love falling waters and the rising water temperatures are triggering a cascade of aquatic insect hatches. Peak activity this time of year coincides with the emergence of aquatic insects during the hatches. The peak hatch times depend on the fishery, on cold mountain streams, spring creeks, or some rivers that just cleared but still have a lot of snow melt water feeding them the hatches don't begin until late morning and often run from 11am until 3pm. On warmer fisheries that have already been clear for a while, or ones at lower elevations, the emergence is early in the morning, sometimes as early as 8am and things are wrapped up by lunch time. Make sure you are on the water when the bugs are because that always coincides with the best fishing. If you arrive before the hatch try streamer fishing or deep nymphing. Make sure you have imitations of the insects that are hatching. Depending on where you are this could be pmds, yellow sallies, golden stones, salmon flies, caddis, etc. Also play close attention to the insects on the water at a given time, often PMD's hatch before yellows sallies for example. On highly fertile fisheries with thick hatches like spring creeks and tailwaters the trout become very selective during the hatch and you must imitate the correct species as well as life cycle of the insect that the trout are keying in on. On less fertile freestone streams it is more of a potluck and the trout will feed more opportunistically. On spring creeks plan on match the hatch but if you are fishing waters with sporadic hatches try big attractor dry flies on top or large streamers down under to move fish farther than smaller patterns. Expect to fishing to slow down abruptly once the insects are gone but you can often continue to pick fish up later in the day. In the evenings there is often another flurry of activity just before dark.

There are no shortage of insects available to trout on our local waters this time of year. If you aren't paying attention to the insects then you are definitely missing the boat. Aquatic insects are by far the dominate food source right now on most streams and rivers. Expect to see pale morning duns (small size 14 yellow and light grey mayflies), yellow sally stoneflies (size 14-12 yellow), caddis (several species, tan and cream size 16-10 - fast active fliers), golden stoneflies (big size 8 with dark gold body) and even some late salmonflies (giant size 2, three inches long). There are also some different drake species of large mayflies hatching that can excite fish such as brown and eventually green drakes. Make sure to have all stages of the life cycles in your boxes. For mayfly species like the pale morning dun have nymphs, emergers, cripples, duns and spinners. For caddis have larva, pupae and adults. For stoneflies nymphs and adults.

Fly selection
You basically have to determine if you are going to match the hatch or bust the hatch this time of year. When you can see fish actively rising on the surface it is generally best to match the hatch. The same as true before a hatch, nymphing with the imitation of the nymph or emerger that the fish will see later is a good bet. When the hatch starts if fish are on the surface it is best to match the hatch or try a "cripple" or "emerger" pattern behind an adult imitation. If the hatch gets to a blanket stage then try a size or two larger than the natural. If fish are not taking flies off the surface then the nymphing game can be tougher during the peak of the hatch unless you are sight casting. There can be so many naturals underwater that your imitation has beat the odds that are often 100:1 with so many real bugs in the water. If you are nymphing during a strong hatch it is often better to switch to much larger patterns or streamers dead drifted or stripped rather than compete with naturals.

Interestingly when a hatch is sparse we flip flop are strategy. On the surface you can still catch fish with an exact imitation but you can often be even more successful with a large attractor fly that will move fish farther. The trout aren't so keyed in on the natural that they won't switch gears and eat something even bigger like a fat albert or chubby Chernobyl. When nymphing it is nice to continue to have an exact imitation but consider trailing it behind something larger like a big stonefly nymph, crayfish or sculpin.