Montana Fishing Report Overview
Fall is coming fast and water temperatures on our rivers are coming into shape and offering a lot more options. Most of the rivers around the area are really starting to produce and things should only improve as we advance farther into the fall. Don’t be fooled when the days are still hot – the longer nights and colder temps after dark help drop even the most stubborn water temps into the prime zone. This is a fun time of year with a mixed bag of techniques producing. It is still a bit early for fall streamers and blue winged olive action but the terrestrial fishing and attractor nymph fishing has really been good the last few days.
The Upper Madison continues to fish like a champ with opportunistic trout looking for the occasional terrestrial or flying ant but also chomping streamers on a tight line or the smaller nymph behind it. Don’t be afraid to pull some big streamers nymphing even if the trout are only eating the smaller dropper – the big bug helps move the fish and sometimes you hit a home run. The trout are still in the deeper heavy runs but some fish are sliding into the shallow riffles as temps drop and traffic on the river begins to wane.
The Yellowstone has really improved as of late. The town stretch has been very consistent with its faster water but the water in Paradise Valley and the lower reaches near Big Timber will come back to life with the crisp autumn nights. Often the best hopper fishing of the year is in September and this has been the case so far.
The Gallatin has good temps and has been consistent but the trout are spookier with the clear waters and lower flows. This is still a nice after work option and a beautiful river to spend the day wading. The Boulder is in a similar boat – lots of fun but expect clear and technical waters. Spring creeks have really been good with lots less pressure now that the PMD hatch is over. There are ALWAYS fish eating on the creeks even thought they aren’t the easiest fish to fool. As we move into the fall the blue winged olive will start bringing trout up on a regular basis.
The lower rivers that were too warm all summer are just starting to turn on now and will get better by the day. The lower Madison has already been producing and the Jefferson is starting to show signs of life along with the upper Missouri. The Jeff is low now but look for that to improve as irrigation ends and head gates are closed.
Trout in most of our waters are much more opportunistic now that many of the aquatic hatch cycles have finished. The exceptions are if there is a strong hatch like the trico or callibaetis (lakes) on the water or perhaps a very windy day blowing lots of hoppers in. If you see a lot of stonefly husks on the banks try a girdle bug sub surface or a big chubby just after dawn when the nocturnal stones are still skittering around the water. The reduction of aquatic hatches can be a good thing for the angler because trout are not as willing to move long distances when there is a strong hatch. For surface patterns, nothing beats a hopper if you are on lightly fished waters. If you are on more waters that see a lot of summer anglers then try more subtle patterns like ants and beetles. On the lower Yellowstone and Madison try some stonefly patterns that imitate the nocturnal stones. For nymphing trout will start moving for a lot of sculpins but if nocturnal stones are around a size 6 rubber legs will still produce. There are usually still some caddis popping early in the morning so trailing a bigger fly with a caddis pupa is a good way to start the day and then transition to more of an attractor nymph as the day progresses like a lighting bug, prince or copper john. Smaller droppers and finer flourcarbon tippet sometimes makes a difference but no need to drop to anything below 5x unless you are on a spring creek.
Where the trout are holding will depend greatly on water temps. On the bigger rivers trout are moving into heavy water with more oxygen so skip all of the slower slicks and start focusing on fast water. On cold rivers in the mountains the trout will still be in the slicks and tail outs. Shade will often hold trout in the heat of the summer. Look for overhanging trees, large boulders and even foam eddies can create an umbrella of shade to help hide trout from the sun and predators.