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Montana Fishing Reports

Bozeman, Montana, weather forecast
Upper Madison - Good
The Upper continues to be a good option. Trout are avoiding the fast water that makes up a lot of this section of the river so if you can find some slower runs they will be filled with trout. The water near Ennis is a little more diverse than the "50 mile riffle" upstream and has some great holding water. The water from Quake Lake to MacAtee bridge is closed until May 18th along with the Channels section downstream of Ennis. Nymphing stoneflies trailed by smaller baetis nymphs has been effective. Eggs and some of the larger midge larva patterns such as 3 dollar dips are also a good option.

Lower Madison - Very Good
The Lower has been outstanding on good days and good enough on slow days. This is always a good early spring choice as long as the wind isn't blowing too hard. There are often a lot of bugs on the water, both midges and baetis, but they often don't bring fish to the surface. When you do find a pod of fish they are generally smaller rainbows on the surface.

Yellowstone River - Good
The Yellowstone has been fishing very well. Most anglers are still wade fishing but floating is an option too - just slow it down and work a lot of water. Nymph fishing has been the dominate source of action but the fishing has been quite good dead drifting wooley buggers and small stonefly patterns, hares ears and big princes. The streamer fishing has also been consistently good for hitting some nice browns if you are willing to put in the time. Make sure you are fishing the right kind of water that hold trout in the early spring. Once you find a good holding run you can get a lot of action in the after lunch hours.

Gallatin - Very Good
The fish are stacked up in the slower slicks and runs with some depth and slow to medium speed currents. Nymphing has been most productive most of the day with smaller baetis patterns offering the most productivity. Egg patterns are also producing with rainbows just a few weeks from spawning. On mild days we have observed some decent midge hatches that are bring a few trout to the surface so bring some small midge dries just in case. The baetis are just getting started and should become much better in the next few weeks.

Boulder - Fair
The Boulder is ultra low and very clear right now. Fishing is still good but requires a stealthier approach and a decent cast to get to fish before they see you. Nymphing smaller patterns can be productive. The Boulder is mostly a north facing drainage and the water is always very cold in the spring and it takes longer to wake up than other fisheries.

Jefferson - Good
The Jefferson can be an interesting option in the spring. It is best to stop at just one or two productive early season runs and spend some time nymphing slow seams that hold a lot of trout. The standard spring patterns that work on the Lower Madison also work on the Jeff. Baetis mayflies can also bring some fish to the surface and pulling big streamers can result in some large trout if you are lucky.

East Gallatin - Good
The East fishes more like a spring creek than a freestone stream in the early spring. The numerous spring creeks and springs that feed the river in the lower valley elevate water temps. Definitely focus on the bigger and deeper runs that will be holding all of the fish. Nymphing is usually the best option but slow stripping a streamer can sometimes produce as well. On warmer days the East will run high with snowmelt.

Ruby River - Good
The Ruby is a fun option in the spring. The water below the reservoirs stays open all year and can produce some decent dry fly fishing over midge hatches in the late morning followed by baetis after lunch on a mild day. Nymphing or slow stripping dark streamers can also produce.

Missouri - Very Good
The upper river receives some rainbows coming up from the lake but it is very cold, The water near Craig is always a good bet. Nymphing the normal Missouri standards of scuds, sow bugs and smaller midge larva or baetis nymphs will produce. Just make sure you find the fish. Some dry fly action over midge hatches can also be a lot of fun in the late morning followed by the spring baetis. Many of the rainbows move out of the main river into the spawning tributaries but the big browns are always there.

Lakes - Good
This time of year most of us are still focusing on moving waters but for the stillwater crowd lakes are always a great option as the ice releases and retreats. Ice-out is anywhere from early April until late May depending on the elevation of the lake.

Spring Creeks - Very Good
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 fisheries - Closed
Most small streams in Montana are closed until the third saturday of May.

Yellowstone Park - Closed
Yellowstone Park opens Memorial Day weekend

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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
Fishing is definitely on the upswing around Southwest, Montana. Good hatches of midges are often bringing trout to the surface on the right days. The spring baetis hatches are just around the corner and will become much more important in the weeks to come. The streamer fishing has also been very good - not always a lot of action but for those willing to stay with the big bunny patterns some big browns are coming to the net. Small streams are still closed until May 18th but most larger and medium sized rivers are open (with the exception of some parts of the Madison) along with the Livingston spring creeks of DePuy, Armstrong and Nelson. Rainbows are in spawning mode and are filling up some tributaries and the spring creeks so be careful to stay away from fish on their redds in the spawning gravel.

Trout metabolism is tied to water temperature and as rivers and streams slowly warm they are becoming more and more active but still plan on using some winter tactics. Trout are still in their winter runs and will be there for most of the spring. This time of year you need to be have laser focus on where you fish and target the deeper runs with slow to medium currents. Trout will not move into the fast riffles or bustling pocket water until much later in the spring and early summer. The good news is that once you find some of these cold water honey holes they will be packed with trout. Fish densities in the best winter runs can be staggering with dozens upon dozens of trout packed together. Time of day is also very important. Morning water temperatures are cold and the fish don't start moving in earnest until the late morning. Slow stripping streamers in deeper runs can produce a connection some mornings but usually activity doesn't pick up until midges start hatching around 10am or so. The best fishing is often after lunch when water temperatures peak.

Nymphing is hands down the most effective technique in the early spring months if there are not rising trout (although streamers and even dries can still be an option). The fly selection doesn't have to be fancy but will very from fishery to fishery. On the bigger freestone rivers such as the Yellowstone, Gallatin and Madison it is nice to still fish something larger as the top fly such as a stonefly nymph, crayfish pattern or sculpin trailed by a smaller nymph. For small nymphs think small with hooks in the 18-20 range. Patterns that produce include small baetis emergers, pheasant tails and midge larva. San Juan worms and eggs are also good patterns to try and if you are fishing a tail water or spring creek a sow bug can produce (especially pink). On spring creeks the big/small rule for nymphing can still apply but the "big fly" might be a size 14 sow bug trailed by a size 22 midge larva. Takes in the cold weather months are always very "soft". The fact that trout are not moving much for flies along with the slow water that they are found in produces a very light reaction on a strike indicator. It is important to experiment with weighting to ensure flies are right on the bottom. Many of our guides also prefer a yarn indicator in the winter which makes it easier to see subtle ticks and changes of speed. If your indicator tilts, slows down, speeds up, or looks "funny" set the hook and ask questions later.

The streamer bite has also been pretty good lately. Streamers are never going to produce a lot of trout but if you pull them all day you can expect a few nice browns and sometimes a real monster. This is a good time of year to hit really large fish on bunny fur. A slower retrieve is often better than fast stripping off of the banks. A lead core line can also be nice in deeper runs.

On a mild day you might be lucky enough to run into some rising trout feeding on midges or baetis mayflies. The midge hatches often peak in March and extend into April. Scott Bohr recently reported some epic dry fly fishing on the Upper Madison with hundreds of trout greedily feeding on a strong midge hatch in the late morning hours. Even freestone streams like the Gallatin will produce some sporadic midge hatches. If the hatch isn't too strong dries that imitate single midges are more productive such as a palomino pattern. On tail waters like the Bighorn the midge hatches in the winter can be thick in the late morning and the insects will cluster together so many of the patterns such as the Griffith's gnat that imitate these "rafts" of insects can out produce single insect patterns. We are also seeing some baetis mayflies which will soon become the most important hatching for late April and early May.

Time of day is also important this time of year. Early mornings can be very tough fishing. The midge hatches are a late morning event often beginning around 10-11am and that will sometimes kick the trout into the feeding mode. Baetis begin after lunch and persist to around 4pm.

Rainbow trout are spring spawners and often prefer smaller tributaries over the larger rivers. The Livingston spring creeks (DePuy, Armstrong and Nelson) are all open in the spring. Trout from the Yellowstone river are moving into the spring creeks prior to the spawn and this is one of the few times of the year where you can expect higher catch rates on the "creeks" do the large influx of "river" fish. As we move farther into the spring please try to avoid the shallow gravel riffles where the trout will be spawning. The large "clean" circles in the gravel are the nests or redds. Wading across the redds can crush delicate eggs buried just a few inches below the surface. Trout expend a lot of energy when spawning so please avoid casting to trout that are actively on redds in the spring months.