Spring is fast approaching and everyone is itching to get out and wet a line. Although winter fishing is great...things really begin to get exciting when water temperatures begin rising in the spring. One of the great attractions of fly fishing in Montana is the terrific variety that anglers can experience on the vast array of rivers, spring creeks, ponds and lakes the state has to offer. Fishing technique and aquatic hatches are also diverse and across the state and change from month to month. April is arguably the most diverse month of the fishing season in regards to fishing techniques and hatches. Spring weather in Montana is notoriously fickle and can produce both balmy warm days and blizzard like winter weather. April is a major transition month for weather with a tumultuous blend of cold winter storms and mild spring temperatures. Fishing in early April across Montana often produces winter like fishing conditions with a few exceptions. Water temperatures are still cold and trout are concentrated in slow deep runs in order to conserve energy. Prime feeding times coincide with the warmest part of the day which is generally from about noon until 4pm. The most productive fishing techniques during the early part of the month is generally nymph fishing just off of the bottom. Rainbows are spawning this time of year and egg patterns can often be deadly along with the standard stonefly, small mayfly and midge patterns.
Early April does offer some decent dry fly fishing in some locations. Montana fishing guides from around the state converge on the skwala stonefly that begins hatching in late March and continues into April on many of the larger rivers in Western Montana. The trout see enough of these relatively large insects to be enticed to the surface. Early April also produces some outstanding dry fly fishing over midge hatches. The best midge fishing tends to be on some of the tailwaters below dams such as the Missouri, Ruby and Bighorn. As water temperatures continue to rise the baetis mayflies (aka blue winged olives) begin hatching in earnest by the middle of April on most Montana rivers. This smaller mayfly often produces intense hatches on cloudy days that can entice nearly every trout in the river to the surface some days. Because of the smaller size of this insect trout are not quickly filled up when feeding on baeits resulting in a long and sustained feeding window. Late April produces an explosion of hatches and fish activity across the state. Midges and baetis continue to hatch but are also joined by the large march brown mayflies and prolific brachycentrus caddis (also known as the Mother’s Day hatch). Warming temperatures have also triggered trout to begin migrating out of their winter lies and they begin spreading into more traditional lies across the rivers. Streamer fishing can be very good in April and many of the largest trout of the season succumb to the massive streamers that many obsessed Montana fly fishing guides prefer to throw on their days off.