As winter begins to wind down the desire to hit our local rivers and streams hits with full force. Water temperatures are still cold and many of the larger rivers are still in their winter time patterns. One of the best options for fishing at this time of the year is to target spring creeks. Several Montana spring creeks such as DePuys, Armstrong, Nelson and the McCoy spring creeks feed larger rivers such as the Yellowstone and Beaverhead. Rainbows spawn in the spring and move into the creeks out of the larger rivers in late March and April adding to the resident fish to produce very high fish counts.
The trout in the spring creeks have also had less pressure during the winter and are as "dumb" as spring creek trout can get. The high density of trout and warmer water temperatures of the spring creeks result in outstanding early spring fishing. A nice perk fishing this time of year is that the creeks near Livingston offer off season rates of $40 per angler. When fly fishing Montana at the end of March and into April you can readily spot large rainbows in the riffles. If you look closely you will also notice large circular patterns where the gravel is lighter in color. These features are trout nests called redds and it is important to leave fish that are on their nests in peace. Furthermore it is very important that you avoid wading in these spawning areas to avoid crushing freshly laid trout eggs that are in the gravel. The good news is that there are plenty of trout that aren't on the redds in the deeper runs and slicks that are fair game.
Fishing techniques vary in the early spring and can include nymphing, slow twitching streamers and dry fly fishing. Midge hatches in the late morning can produce decent dry fly activity depending on the wind and weather conditions. Nymphing is always productive with the pattern selection fairly straight forward compared to later in the season. You can generally get away with san juan worms, egg patters, sow bug imitations and midge larva patterns. It might not be as glamorous as dry fly fishing but it is definitely productive. Spring creeks are known for tough fishing conditions and low catch rates. Early spring is often an exception to this. A decent angler can often hook up on 20-50 fish in a day when the stars align and conditions are just right....this is unheard of later in the season!