Montana Fishing Reports

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. 

Generalities
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.

Hatches
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 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.  

Salmonflies tend to get the most buzz on our local rivers.  These huge stoneflies hatch in abundance on the Gallatin, Madison, Yellowstone, Bighole, Smith and a few other rivers across Southwest Montana.  This is notoriously a hit or miss hatch.  When the hatch occurs depends on the river.  The hatch be found on different rivers over a 5-6 week period in late spring and early summer but at any one location it only hatches for a few days.  The hatch moves up river as a general rule but is very spotty and some river sections have much stronger hatches than others.  The best fishing is generally at the head of the hatch or a few days behind the hatch.  Trout can gorge on these huge insects and be reluctant to eat if you are at the tail end of the hatch.

Yellowstone River Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Current Conditions: The Yellowstone is green and fishing very well at the moment. It just recently cleared and the nymph and dry fly fishing has been outstanding. Salmon flies are sporadically hatching on the upper reaches of the river. Try to either be at the head of the hatch or a few days behind...Read more

Upper Madison River Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Current Conditions: The Upper is dropping by the day and fishing has been outstanding. Water temperatures are slowly climbing and fish are beginning to move into some faster water from the inside corners and slicks where they have been for a few weeks. Focus your efforts on slow inside corners,...Read more

Lower Madison River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Lower is starting to warm up and the best fishing is in early in the day. Fishing can extend all day but get an early start. Most of the fishing is subsurface with crayfish trailed by small pmd nymphs a good place to start. Large attractor dries are still bringing a few fish...Read more

Gallatin River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Gallatin is dropping and green. It is fishable now but still very high and tough to wade fish. If you do try the gallatin be very careful and focus on the softer inside corners and bank seams. Large stone fly nymphs with smaller attractor nymphs behind should produce good...Read more

Spring Creeks Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Current Conditions: PMDs are hatching on a daily basis on the Livingston spring creeks and several smaller spring creeks on some of our exclusive leases. This hatch rules them all on spring creeks and trout lower their guard when the hatch gets thick and the largest fish in the creeks will show...Read more

Stillwater River Fishing Report

- Fair
Current Conditions: The Stillwater River is high right now and won’t be a great option until flows begin dropping. This is a swift river and with too much water you are just blasting down the river. With that being said flows are not completely over the top so if we have a cold snap the river will...Read more

Boulder River Fishing Report

- Good
Current Conditions: The Boulder is dropping but is still very high and wade fishing can be dangerous at these levels. Float fishing is possible but tough when moving this fast on the river. This river is only for advanced oarsman in the appropriate rafts. The Month Ahead: The Boulder should produce...Read more

Jefferson River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Jefferson is dropping and is at great flows. Water temps are on the rise but fishing is still very good with large nymphs, san juan worms and a mixed bag of dry flies with several different species of mayflies and caddis hatching throughout the day. Fishing will continue to...Read more

East Gallatin River Fishing Report

- Good
Current Conditions: The water on the East is dropping and getting to flows that are fishable via wade fishing. Even at lower flows crossing the river can be tricky in some of the slower runs without trespassing - most of the land along the East is private. Trout are just beginning to rise to dries...Read more

Missouri River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Missouri near Craig and Wolf creek is a great option this time of year. Flows are dropping and there is good action nymphing. The dry fly action is just starting to heat up on PMD's and caddis and should remain steady for the next few weeks. The Month Ahead: The Mo should...Read more

Ruby River Fishing Report

- Good
Current Conditions: The Ruby is a nice option now that flows have stabilized. There are good hatches of PMD's in the late morning along with some caddis in the evening. Access can be a challenge on the Ruby but there are a few public FAS areas that can produce good fishing. The Month Ahead: The...Read more

Montana Lakes Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Current Conditions: The smaller private ranch lakes that we target like Burns and Sitz are outstanding right now. The bugs aren’t hatching in great abundance yet but trout are cruising and hungry and catch rates have been high and weed growth is minimal. The larger lakes like Hebgen and Ennis can...Read more

Other Waters Fishing Report

- Fair
Current Conditions: The smaller streams around Montana are now open. Some of the freestone fisheries are running high and are tough to fish but others are just right, especially if they drain lower elevation watersheds. This is a great time to explore and fish local smaller waters and discover your...Read more