We are currently entering our mid-summer stride here in Montana, and with a healthy snowpack this past winter, the water conditions are holding steady and the fish are happy. For the most part, water temperatures are staying cool enough for good fishing, maybe with the exception of the Lower Madison, and farther down on the Lower Gallatin and Jefferson Rivers. Here you will definitely want to fish in the morning to ensure the coolest water temperatures. In the afternoon, it is best to fish higher up in the river drainage's where the water stays cold. We are fishing all over right now, from the Upper Madison, to the Yellowstone River, wade fishing inside the Park, to evening hatches in the Gallatin Canyon, there are plenty of options right now.
Fishing is good right now, and both our freestone and tailwater rivers are good options. The fish have been a bit more active in the morning hours, as the hot afternoon sun has them locked down a bit. Dry fly fishing is a possibility, especially in the morning. Trout are moving into the faster water as temperatures heat up, and fishing the head of runs and deeper riffles has been effective.
We are Currently in the later stages of our aquatic summer insect hatches, and just on the leading edge of terrestrial season. Tricos and callibaetis can be found in many of our lakes and tailwaters right now. PMD's have been out in strong numbers still, as well as some left over yellow sallies. A small olive simulator is a great yellow sally dry fly right now, that is buoyant enough to cover the shallow riffles and faster cutbanks where many of the dry fly eaters have been feeding. Small bead head nymphs, such as a size 18 blue spanker is an awesome trico nymph to trail behind your larger dry flies. As the summer progresses, we will start to see more and more grasshoppers bank side. Ants are the sleeper terrestrial that really seems to shine in this part of the state, preferably trailed behind a larger lead dry fly, or fished wet as a dropper nymph.
With the big stonefly hatches mostly over, we are shifting gears towards PMD's, yellow sallies, and early terrestrials such as ants and hoppers. Most of the trout are moving into slightly faster water, seeking more dissolved oxygen as water temperatures rise. Many of the larger trout lately have been in the mid-river shelves or on the faster edges of the seams. Casting up into the shallow riffles just above these shelves and getting the flies just downstream of the structure is a great way to target larger trout. The slide stretch up and around Quake Lake down through $3 Bridge is fishing well, but definitely better in the morning and again right before dark. Cover the banks with a small hopper and ant combination is a great way to fish early in the day through this stretch. As the day progresses, follow the fish down, deeper in the water column and tight to mid-river structure. The Ennis town stretch down to the lake has been good throughout the mid part of the day, but close to the lake has been warming up mid afternoon. Focus on areas of quicker deeper water, where there is a bit of holding water near by. This gives trout shelter, food, and oxygen. Don't hesitate to throw your drift higher up into the faster head of the run to make sure the flies are in the zone early on in the buckets. Anywhere that water turns from shallow brown color, to deeper green color, fish that.
Between the party floaters and the warm water temperatures, it is probably best to steer clear of the Lower Madison right now. The shallow water of Ennis lake really causes the water temperature downstream to climb, and any added stress to the trout caused by angling pressure and be fatal to these cold water creatures.
After a slightly delayed start to the Yellowstone River fishing season, it is now go time over here. The past couple weeks have provided consistent fishing with a wide variety of fly fishing techniques from dry flies to nymphs, and streamers. As water levels continue to drop, we are finding more fish farther off the banks on the secondary shelves and seam lines. Many trout are seeking out areas of faster water, close to structure. Rock gardens, rip rap walls, logs, have all been holding trout. Early and late in the day, you might find some rising fish in the slower water, but concentrate most of your time on the "fast walking pace" type water. Dead drifting streamers can be an effective way to target bigger trout.
The Gallatin is shaping up nicely right now, and our healthy snow season should keep flows steady all summer long. As a true freestone river, in general the flows will continue to drop all summer long. Fishing up in the Canyon is best in the summer, as the water is cooler, there is more shade and stronger oxygen levels in the water up there. A few things to keep in mind fishing the Gallatin in the summer are to start early or fish late, and cover the water. Trout will be spread out, from deeper pools to shallow riffles. A favorite way to fish the canyon is a dry-dropper rig, with a medium sized stimulator or chubby, trailed with a soft hackle bead head nymph. This will allow to you fish the quick riffles and inside bends. Throughout the middle part of the day, try fishing down deeper with a tandem nymph rig to target the deeper water. Spruce moths should be right around the corner, and once that happens, the dry fly fishing can be down right amazing if you can catch it right. Large spruce moth dry flies fished early in the morning and especially late right before dark will be deadly.
Although still a bit on the high side, the Boulder River is a great option right now. Access is limited in the Boulder River Valley, but our guides have been floating down and finding success fishing structure where the water slows down a bit. Stonefly nymphs, attractor dry flies, and small streamers are all producing on the Boulder River.
Although the Jefferson is susceptible to warm low water in the later part of the summer, fishing over here in the morning can still be a good option if we get a couple cooler nights in a row, dropping those water temperatures down again. It is a quality over quantity game over here on the Jefferson, where trout numbers are lower than some of the other neighboring rivers, but typically the trout can be on the larger side, especially the browns. Plan to get over here sooner rather than later and early in the day if you are trying to fish the Jefferson.
Early mornings on the East Gallatin can be quite good this time of year. We are sitting on slightly better flows on the East, compared to this time of year last year, and fishing should stay strong in the mornings for the foreseeable future. Trico hatches will continue to intensify, and staying through mid-morning for the spinner fall can get those trout looking up towards the surface. Small streamers are also a good bet right now on the East, covering a ton of water, and fishing close to structure.
The Ruby is at a great level for fishing right now. Stealth and accuracy become more important over here as the water levels drop. PMD's and yellow sallies, with some early hoppers should be the ticket on the surface, with small cdc emergers and streamers getting it done down below.
After a really big water year on the Mo all Spring, this big tailwater is the spot if you are into large trout sipping dry flies. Just know that they will not come easy. There is so much food in this river, that getting your fly accurately in their lane is key. Slower clear water only increases the technicality of the game. Get there early, or not at all as the trico spinner fall typically happens somewhere around 8-9 AM.
Callibaetis and tricos are the name of the game right now. Get there early and hope for calm water with little to no wind. Stealth is key on the lakes, whether you are wade fishing, on the oars, or have the flippers on, be mindful on how your movements push water ripples toward the fish. If you are seeing rising trout, try to figure out which direction they are moving and lead them with your cast. If they are really reluctant to eat your dry fly, try stripping a callibaetis nymph, damselfly nymph or leech pattern, depending on the situation and specific lake.
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.|
Exploring high mountain lakes and small creeks is a really fun way to spend a mid summer day in Montana. If you are looking to get off the beaten path, grab a map, pick out a blue spot or blue line, and get to it. They almost all hold fish. The harder it is to get to, the better chance at finding low pressured feisty trout. Feel free to swing on into our fly shop if you need a general sense of direction and a few fly patterns to bring along.