Montana Fishing Report

We are currently entering early Summer here in Montana, due to a good snow pack and a cooler spring the rivers here in Southwest Montana are in different stages of runoff depending on the watershed. It is important this time of year to keep an eye on the water gauges as conditions will change daily. Many of our rivers are peaking right now while others are getting close to dropping into prime shape but are still on the high side. This is one of our absolute favorite times to target local waters as early summer hatches begin to unfold across Southwest Montana. River conditions change rapidly this time of year and one of our best recommendations is to learn to read the USGS hydrographs. While there is still a decent amount of snow in the high country rivers rise and fall based on weather conditions. Hot days will increase snow melt rates and result in rising flows while cooler weather will slow melt and result in dropping flows.

Warm weather is currently melting our snow pack and rivers are cold and flowing strong. In general, freestone fisheries that do not have dam controls can change rapidly from day to day. Freestone rivers and streams are those that rely heavily on overland flow from rain and snow melt. Freestone rivers that drain high elevation snow fields (like the Yellowstone River) are still on the high side, while others like the Jefferson are already in great shape. Spring creeks are fed by groundwater and are completely unaffected by run off and are peaking right now with PMD hatches. Some rivers are also fed from reservoirs that trap sediment. These tailwaters (Bighorn, Missouri, Madison etc) do increase in flows during spring runoff 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 starting to see our summer hatches getting going. Stoneflies such as Salmonflys, Golden Stones, and Yellow Sally’s are becoming very active. The Salmonfly hatch has started on the Upper Madison, and is beginning to progress up stream.  The Pale Morning Dun mayflies are showing up on spring creeks and several rivers. A variety of caddis species are also present on most rivers. 

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 hatches and the PMD’s, the best hatch of the year, are 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 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 earlier than the main river. Knowing how to read hydro-graph data will help you determine when runoff is coming to an end. During runoff, the hydro-graph looks like a series of waves as the water rises and falls each day with snow melt. 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

- Red Hot
Yellowstone River Fishing Report Current Conditions: The river is on the drop and fishing really well. Fishing is as good as it gets, subsurface fishing with nymphs and streamers remains great and the dry fly eat is also improving by the day. Most guides prefer to begin fishing the river somewhere...Read more

Upper Madison River Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Upper Madison Fishing Report Current Conditions: The Upper is fishing very well right now and producing some consistently great fishing. The salmonflies are still lingering but trout will still eat the big bug for a few more days even if the hatch has moved on. The usual suspects of bug are also on...Read more

Lower Madison River Fishing Report

- Good
Lower Madison Fishing Report Current Conditions: The Lower is starting to warm up and the best fishing is in the early morning with good fishing wrapping up around lunch time and then picking up again in the evening from 6 p.m. to dark. Most of the fishing is subsurface with crayfish trailed by...Read more

Gallatin River Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Gallatin River Fishing Report Current Conditions: The Gallatin is fishing great on attractor dry flies with bead droppers. Nymphing the deeper runs with a stonefly on top and a smaller mayfly nymph on point is also very effective. The Gallatin should continue to provide great fishing for the next...Read more

Montana Spring Creeks Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Spring Creeks Fishing Report Current Conditions: PMDs are hatching on a daily basis on the Livingston spring creeks and several smaller spring creeks on some of our exclusive leases. This hatch rules them all on spring creeks and trout lower their guard when the hatch gets thick and the largest...Read more

Stillwater River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Stillwater River Fishing Report Current Conditions: The Stillwater River is a nice option right now and is producing good dry fly opportunities as well as subsurface action. Attractor dries will often out fish smaller match-the-hatch imitations in the faster water. The Month Ahead: The Stillwater...Read more

Boulder River Fishing Report

- Red Hot
Current Conditions: The Boulder is dropping but is still very high and wade fishing can be dangerous at these levels. The Boulder runs a little colder than some other rivers and fishing will be a little slow until it drops some more and warms up a few degrees. Nymph fishing will be the best option...Read more

Jefferson River Fishing Report

- Good
Jefferson River Fishing Report Current Conditions: The Jeff still has good flows and fishing remains very good. This is a low fish count river so anglers shouldn't expect large numbers. Even with higher water levels afternoon water temps can rise and put the fish off the feed. Get out early for the...Read more

East Gallatin River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The East is dropping and fishing very well. As flows drop fish will focus more and more on the surface over the PMD hatch. Action is best in the mornings and tapers off as the hatch winds down. The Month Ahead: As July lingers fishing will transition from PMDs to tricos. Fishing...Read more

Missouri River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Missouri near Craig and Wolf creek is producing good dry fly action with daily hatches of caddis and pale morning duns. Nymphing is also productive on the seams and riffle drops. The Month Ahead: Tricos will become the dominant hatch in the late summer with the best action...Read more

Ruby River Fishing Report

- Very Good
Current Conditions: The Ruby is fishing well and daily hatches of caddis, yellow sallies and pale morning duns are encouraging trout to feed in the morning and early afternoon. After the hatches wrap up the fishing slows down dramatically. The Month Ahead: Hatches will be winding down soon. In mid-...Read more

Montana Lakes Fishing Report

- Good
Current Conditions: The smaller private ranch are still producing some great fishing. Sight casting small nymphs or dries in the morning has been productive along with slow stripping damsel flies. In the afternoons beating the banks with hoppers can produce some explosive takes. The larger lakes...Read more

Other Waters Fishing Report

- Poor
Current Conditions: Most of the small streams in Montana are cold and producing tough fishing. Spring creeks are the exception The Month Ahead: Small stream fishing will be best in the summer months with the exception of spring creeks or smaller tailwaters Long Term Fishing Forecast: Most small...Read more