Montana Fishing Report

Montana Fishing Report Overview

We are currently entering early Summer here in Montana and runoff is in full swing.    Do not be discouraged by the fact that some waters are high and muddy, the waters that are fishable are spectacular right now and this is one of our absolute favorite times to target local waters.  There are few out of state anglers and often you can have incredible fishing with light pressure.  The only fisheries that you will see a good number of other anglers on right now are the famous tailwaters like the Missouri or Bighorn.  In a few weeks to a month the freestone rivers will be getting ready to fall out of runoff and we will experience a golden period of casting to trout who have not seen flies in weeks or even months.  The most anticipated hatch of the year on the Spring Creeks, the Pale Morning Duns, will be starting any day now and Salmonfly Fever is slowly building.


Warm weather is currently melting our snowpack and water levels are up on all fisheries except spring creeks and stillwaters.  In general, freestone fisheries are a tough option right now.  Freestone rivers and streams are those that rely heavily on overland flow from rain and snowmelt.  These streams and rivers (think the Gallatin and Yellowstone) become high and dirty with sediment during run off and are not fishable most of the time.  Spring creeks are fed by groundwater and are completely unaffected by run off.  Some rivers are also fed from reservoirs that trap sediment.  These tailwaters (Bighorn, Missouri, Madison etc) do increase in flows during spring run off but they retain good water clarity and often great fishing.  Stillwater reservoirs, ponds and lakes are also a very good option this time of year. 


We are currently in a holding pattern between the spring and summer hatches.  The BWO’s, March Browns, and Caddis (for the most part) of spring have dissipated but summer hatches are right around the corner.  Stonefly nymphs like Salmonflys, Golden Stones, and Yellow Sally’s are extremely active subsurface right now and will begin to hatch soon.  The Pale Morning Dun’s, which are the main event each year on the Spring Creeks, are days away as well.  Some Caddis are still hatching as well and will pick up steam quickly.  This is a time to imitate the subsurface bugs that will soon have the trout rising voraciously to dry flies.

Safe bets

The safe bets right now are the waters that are protected by run off.  These include tailwaters below reservoirs, spring creeks and still waters.  The good news is that these three categories of fisheries are lights out right now and occur in abundance across Southwest Montana.  Spring creeks have some lingering baetis and Caddis hatches and the PMD’s, the best hatch of the year, will soon be starting to get going.  The fish are still fresh and haven’t seen a lot of artificials yet so catch rates are often high.  Tailwaters are also fishing well right now as water temps rise and the trout put on their feedbags.  Dry fly fishing is variable and depends on flows and if they are bumping the dam releases or not.  Nymph fishing is predictably good.  If flows are on the rise fishing closer to the dam is often better because moss can often get dislodged and if you are too far downstream it can foul hooks.  Stillwaters are also a great option and catch rates can be very high slow stripping streamers.  Early Callibaetis mayflies can also produce good dry fly action on some waters.

Wild card options

While most of our freestone rivers are still experiencing heavy runoff, each river system behaves differently and will exit runoff at a different pace.  Generally speaking, the smaller the stream/drainage, the quicker runoff will subside.  The Yellowstone River, which is a large river draining an immense area, is typically the last river in the state to clear up.  However, some smaller tributaries like the Boulder or Stillwater will be fishable up to several weeks earlier than the main river.  Knowing how to read hydrograph data will help you determine when runoff is coming to an end.  During runoff, the hydrograph looks like a series of waves as the water rises and falls each day with snowmelt.  As the melt subsides, the graph will start to flatten out and decline steadily.  You only need a foot or so of visibility to catch fish along the banks as the water is dropping, so don’t be afraid to target these kinds of conditions even though other anglers might consider the river to be unfishable. 

Yellowstone River Fishing Report

- Poor
Current Conditions: The Yellowstone is blown out and will not become fishable for several weeks to a month. The Month Ahead: By the end of June or early July depending on how the snowpack comes out of the high country the Yellowstone will be high but in its zone almost immediately. Water will be...Read more

Upper Madison River Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Current Conditions: The Upper continues to be one of the best options in our area. The entire river is now open and the farther up you go the better the clarity gets. The wade section between Quake Lake and Lyon’s Bridge will be your best bet, as you only need about 6” of visibility to be...Read more

Lower Madison River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Lower has been dropping recently and is fishing very well. While the water is still high enough to push fish onto the banks, the fish are starting to move back into many of the mid-river buckets and weed beds as well. Streamer fishing has been very hit or miss, while...Read more

Gallatin River Fishing Report

- Poor
Current Conditions: Blown out for another couple weeks. The Taylor’s Fork is the major producer of mud in the Gallatin drainage, so the stretch of river above this confluence will clear first. The Month Ahead: The Gallatin will fish very well when it drops out of runoff in late June or early July...Read more

Montana Spring Creeks Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Spring Creeks are currently in between hatches, but offer the most consistent, clear water in the state and the PMD’s will be here any day. Currently, look for stray hatches of baetis mayflies and nymph with generic spring creek patterns like Pheasant Tails, Zebra Midges,...Read more

Stillwater River Fishing Report

- Good
Current Conditions: The Stillwater River 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. The Month Ahead: The Stillwater should produce some great fishing in late June or early July when run...Read more

Boulder River Fishing Report

- Good
Current Conditions: The Boulder is up and off color below the West Boulder which brings in a lot of mud. The upper reaches should be clearing, but the water is still very cold. Nymphing with stoneflies and beadheads will be your best bet until the water sufficiently drops and warms for dry fly...Read more

Jefferson River Fishing Report

- Fair
Current Conditions: The Jefferson should be getting pretty close to being fishable with large streamers and nymphs. The vast majority of the water in the Jefferson comes from the Big Hole, which never gets truly muddy but instead turns a tannic “tea” color. More consistent fishing on the Jeff is...Read more

East Gallatin River Fishing Report

- Poor
Current Conditions: Blown out, but warm weather has the low elevation snow melting quickly, meaning the East should be fishing very soon. Large nymphs and streamers will work best as the river drops and clears, but caddis and PMD’s will take over soon as the East tends to exit runoff rather quickly...Read more

Missouri River Fishing Report

- Good
Current Conditions: The Missouri near Craig and Wolf creek is a great option this time of year. When flows are on the rise it is mostly a nymphing game but if flows are stable good dry fly fishing over the baetis hatch can occur. For nymphing san juan worms and hot bead sow bugs are hard to beat...Read more

Ruby River Fishing Report

- Good
Current Conditions: The Ruby is a nice option once flows stabilize and begin dropping. Flows are still on the high side but are not too far away from fishable levels so keep an eye on the hydrograph and once things drop below 350 cfs wading becomes easier. The Month Ahead: The Ruby should be a nice...Read more

Montana Lakes Fishing Report

- Good
Current Conditions: The smaller private ranch lakes that we target 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 also be productive...Read more

Other Waters Fishing Report

- Poor
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