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.
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.
Salmonflies are starting to show up around Ennis a water temps are now consistently hitting 60 degrees. After last week's rain, the flows are finally decreasing out of Hebgan dam. Clarity is good throughout the entire river now, and fishing is hot. With the Yellowstone still high, there are a lot of people out on the Upper right now, so start thinking outside the box as far as tactics and techniques go. Hitting the boat launch an hour earlier than normal will pay off big. Fishing the "harder to get to" banks and spots will also keep you into less pressured fish. Look for the stonefly hatches to progress upstream over the next couple of weeks. Also, don't forget about caddis, yellow sallies, and pmds as they will be plentiful out there as well if the fish start to get shy on the big bug.
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 nymphing has been much more consistent. The Salmonflys are getting ready to pop on the Lower, so a black stonefly nymph is a good choice. Crayfish patterns along with worms are also a good option, per usual. Smaller nymphs like Lightning Bug’s, Prince’s, and Yellow Sally’s will become more important as the water continues to drop and clear.
The Yellowstone is still a bit high to float, but on the drop and we should be over here soon outside of a big rain event. By mid-July we should be over here on a regular basis. The salmonfly hatch will be interesting over here this year with the high water. A few random adults have been spotted, indicating that the nymphs are definitely on the move. The hatch will go off, the challenge will be finding water clarity to fish it. It is improving every day though, and if you get out there and wade fish one of the boat launches right now, you will catch fish on big black stoneflies in the slow edge water. Stay tuned, as things are changing quickly over here right now.
The Gallatin is on the drop right now, and a few people have been starting to fish it already. Salmonflies will start to show up this week with the warmer weather, but still maybe a bit later than the past couple of years. There is still a lot of water coming through the canyon, so use caution, and focus on the slow protected water, as that is where most of the fish will still be.
The Boulder is also on the tail end of runoff, and should be fishable here soon.
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 still a little ways away, but if you are of the mindset to swing for the fences then the Jefferson should be on your radar.
The East is still high, but on the drop, and the clarity should continue to improve day by day, outside of a rain storm causing temporary mud again. Look for caddis and pale morning duns to be out in force, especially the in the evenings.
The Ruby is dropping quickly currently approaching the 300 cfs level. This is prime over here. Look for pmds, caddis and maybe some yellow sallies to be out and about. Bring along a few smaller streamers for swinging through some of the deeper cut banks over here. Definitely worth the drive on the Ruby right now.
The Missouri near Craig is a great option during June as we wait for some of the other rivers to clear up. That being said, the flows are still high, and nymphing has still been the most productive way to get in to fish. Lead flies of worms, crayfish and big scuds, followed by a pmd or caddis nymph has been doing the trick. A bit tough to wade fish until the water comes down some more, but targeting soft edge water from the boat has been good. Look for more dry fly activity in the coming weeks.|
Stillwaters are really on fire right now. We have been targeting some of the private ranch fisheries lately and our guides have been racking up some banner days with lots of trophy trout. Water temps are on the rise and fish are becoming very active. Sight fishing has been very good.
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, and WD-40’s. Make sure to have a full complement of PMD patterns, as this hatch will start any day now and the fish will become extremely active and keyed in on these bugs.|
All of the smaller waters are now open. Many of them are high at the moment but there are a few favorites of ours that we don’t like to advertise online that are really, really good this time of year. Smaller waters can be a lot of fun if you pay your dues and do some exploring.