Montana Fishing Reports
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 getting started 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
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 early 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
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
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.
Upper Madison River Fishing Report 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 River Fishing Report 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 Fishing Report Red Hot
The Yellowstone has been fishing very well. Most anglers are still wade fishing and there are still some ice shelves to contend with.
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 River Fishing Report Very Good
The Gallatin is low and gin clear right now. 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 River Fishing Report Good
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 River Fishing Report 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
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 keep ice shelves at bay and this is a decent early spring fishery for locals. 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. The baetis hatch is just getting started.
Ruby River Fishing Report Very 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
Missouri Fishing Report 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.
Ennis, Hebgen and Harrison Lake Fishing Report Fair
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 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
Most of the smaller waters around the state will be closed until the general opener in May.
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