Montana Fishing Reports
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. 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 winter choice as long
as the wind isn't blowing too hard. Severe cold snaps can also cause the river to slush up but the weather has still been mild
enough to produce good fishing and even a few rising fish over midge hatches.
Yellowstone River - Fair
The Yellowstone is fishing OK but there are already large ice shelves forming. Float fishing isn't as productive and can be
dangerousas. Nymphing the slower deeper runs with stoneflies, small attractor nymphs and egg patterns will produce trout as
long as you find where they are holding. As soon as more severe cold snaps arrive the ice shelves will form fast.
Gallatin - Very Good
The Gallatin is low and gin clear right now. The fish are starting to stack 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 in wake of the whitefish spawn and before the brown trout spawn. 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.
Boulder - Poor
The Boulder is 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. Ice is forming and making the river difficult to fish in many places. Nymphing smaller patterns has
been productive and there are afternoon risers over the baetis hatch.
Jefferson - Poor
The Jefferson gets significant ice shelves in the winter but these still haven't developed and the Jeff should be still producing
some nice options. We haven't been over there recently but I bet it is pretty decent right now. This will be off the market as
soon as some colder nights make ice more of a problem.
East Gallatin - Good
The East fishes more like a spring creek than a freestone stream in the winter months. The numerous spring creeks and
springs that feed the river in the lower valley keep ice shelves at bay and this is a decent winter 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.
Ruby River - Good
The Ruby is a fun option in the winter. The water below the reservoirs stays open all year and can produce some decent dry
fly fishing over midge hatches on a mild day. Nymphing or slow stripping dark streamers can also produce.
Missouri - Very Good
The upper river is tough with ice forming but the tail water section around Craig is a good winter bet. Floating is an option even
in the winter but plan a very slow float and try to find some slower seems that will hold fish. 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 afternoon.
Lakes - Poor
Spring Creeks - Very Good
The Livingston creeks (Armstrong, Depuy and Nelson) are a great option in the winter. 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. Winter rates are just $40 a
day which is still cheaper than a ski ticket.
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
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
Montana Fishing Report Overview
Fishing is starting to settle into a very predictable winter pattern. The fall
spawn is largely over or coming to an end soon depending on the fishery
and water temperatures are falling quickly with long nights and short days.
The hard cold snaps of mid winter have not yet arrived and most of the big
fisheries are still ice free and providing good access. Small streams will
be closed for the winter but most larger and medium sized rivers stay
open along with the Livingston spring creeks of DePuy, Armstrong and
Trout are now in the mode of a maintenance diet and their metabolism is
directly tied to the water temperature which means it is slow. Most of the
fish in our local waters have already moved into their winter runs. 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 no longer be found in
the fast riffles or bustling pocket water that was so productive in the
warmer months. The good news is that once you find some of these
winter time honey holes they will be packed with trout. Fish densities in
the best winter runs can be staggering with dozens upon dozens of trout
Nymphing is hands down the most effective technique in the cold weather
months (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.
On a mild winter day you might be lucky enough to run into some rising
trout feeding on midges. 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 Griffiths gnat that imitate these "rafts" of
insects can out produce single insect patterns.
Time of day is also important this time of year. Early mornings can be
very tough fishing. The magic window in the winter is from around 1pm
until 4:30 or so each day when water temperatures are peaking.
As we progress farther into the winter months it will pay to seek out
waters that have some thermal protection from frigid air temperatures.
Waters that are great producers even during cold snaps include the spring
creeks, tail waters and certain freestone waters that have significant
spring fed influences. Big freestone waters like the Yellowstone River will
develop large ice shelves resulting in dangerous wading conditions.
Winter time water levels are always on the low side and there is a lot of
definition to the water. The key to winter fishing is finding slower holding
water and fishing in the afternoon when water temperatures are at their
Midge hatches can be strong in some locations in the late morning and
early afternoon when warmer mild weather settles in. Otherwise the fishing
is a nymphing game.
Fly selection is simple in the colder months. If there is a midge hatch
choose your favorite midge dry or cluster pattern. Palamino midges and
Griffith's gnats are good enough. For sub surface try a rubber legs, egg or
worm pattern on top and a smaller midge larva or baetis nymph on
Water temps are cooler and trout have moved out of the heavy water and
riffles in favor of softer holding water. Trout will be very heavily
concentrated in large, slow runs and nearly absent everywhere else. It
pays to skip a lot of water and only focus on these slower runs. Fish slow
and deep in the peak afternoon hours.