July fly fishing in Montana produces some of the most diverse angling conditions of the year. July is hand’s down the busiest time of the year for fishing the blue ribbon rivers of the Big Sky state. The popularity is due in part to the fact that July is often when a lot of people like to plan their summer vacation combined with the fact that many anglers target the month for the great fishing that it can produce. The beginning of July produces and entirely different set of fly fishing conditions than the end of July. To complicate matters, water levels and hatch timing in July can very greatly from year to another depending on the snow pack.
Early July: the peak of the hatches Fishing in early July is completely driven by the hatch cycles of the many aquatic insects that make their home Montana rivers. Food supply is completely driven by these hatch cycles and trout become fairly selective during prolific hatches. Fishing can be terrific during these hatches if an angler is dialed into the correct insect cycles and have patterns that match the natural insects. This is often the best time to visit Montana’s legendary spring creeks where the pale morning dun produces prolific daily hatches and actively rising trout. Other important early July hatches include the salmon fly, golden stone, yellow sally and a variety of different caddis species. The timing of these hatches is different from one river to the next and from year to year but the sequence is always the same. Generally the hatch cycles begin with the salmon fly and end with the caddis species. Hatches often produce exciting sight fishing to rising trout but other times they can frustrate anglers when trout have filled up on larger insects like salmon flies or when there are so many naturals hatching that your imitation is a needle in a haystack.
Mid July: attractor dry fly time As the early July hatches begin to wind down trout become more opportunistic. Water levels are also on the drop and trout are more and more interested in looking to the surface. Usually there is some caddis activity in the morning, but later in the day trout will readily snack on a variety of different food sources since there is no single insect or food supply dominating their diet. While a variety of techniques can be productive that include nymphs and streamers, this is a great time to fish attractor dry flies like pmx’s and royal wulffs. The feeding cycle of the trout is often spread over the course of the day and good fishing from morning to late afternoon can often be experienced. This is a great time to target Montana since many fisheries can be targeted.
Late July: terrestrial season Late July marks the beginning of terrestrial season which is eagerly awaited by both locals and visiting anglers alike. Once the hoppers mature and grow their wings the terrestrial fishing begins to take over. By late July many of the aquatic hatches have run their course and trout begin to rely on the insects falling into the river from above. Grasshoppers, beetles and ants become a very important component of a trout’s diet during this time of the summer and great dry fly fishing can often be experienced. Anglers hunting for large trout shouldn’t ignore the subsurface opportunities. With the absence of hatching insects the larger fish are more willing to chase streamers and sculpin patterns from farther away and slow twitched bait imitations produce some of the largest fish of the month.