June Fishing on the Montana Spring Creeks

June weather, stream flows, and summary

June on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks is about being patient. Anglers must wait for the calendar to tick away to mid-June and then be a patient angler when fishing the famous Pale Morning Dun (PMDs) hatch on Nelson’s, DePuy’s, and Armstrong’s spring creeks. 

The spring creeks in June have to two personalities—early June is best suited for sight-fishing with shallow water nymph rigs and late June is the stuff tailor made for dry fly anglers who desire the penultimate fly fishing experience. For anglers who enjoy targeting trout that are rising to small dry flies, the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks in late June cannot be overstated. These few weeks truly are legendary compared many other fishing experiences throughout the world…as long as anglers enjoy the process more than the result. 

Because the spring creeks have consistent flow throughout all of June, stream flows, water clarity, and temperature are non-factors. Additionally, weather conditions in June mirror the fishing. Early June will feature weather that is more unsettled with overcast, rain, and possibly some snow, while late June often means long days of sunshine and pleasant temperatures in the mid 70 degrees F. 

Wind can also dictate the fishing on the spring creeks. If winds exceed 15 MPH many of the hatching dry flies are unable to stay on the water as they get blown off before a trout can consume them. Plus, long leaders that are essential for success are a little more difficult to cast. On windy days, knowledge of the creeks is essential, as plenty of sections exist that may be tucked away or out of the prevailing wind. 

In early June when many of the fisheries in southwest Montana may be in the throws of snowmelt runoff, the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks will serve up consistent nymphing action. But as late June comes and other rivers become fishable again, few fisheries in the world provide the angling aesthetic that occurs while fishing PMDs on Nelson’s, DePuy’s, or Armstrong’s spring creeks. 

June fishing: what to expect

As spring fades into summer, June is the month many Paradise Valley Spring Creek veterans look forward to each year. Similar to many rivers in southwest Montana, the fishing in June on the spring creeks gets better as the month progresses. Early June on Nelson’s, DePuy’s, and Armstrong’s is going to feature very consistent sight-fishing opportunities with shallow water nymph rigs. Plenty of fish can be caught on the spring creeks in early June but it isn’t until mid-June when Pale Morning Dun (PMDs) mayflies begin to hatch that the spring creeks live up to their world-famous reputation. 

PMDs are small, yellowish colored mayflies that emerge from shallow flats, runs, weed beds, and riffles. The small cobble and abundance of weed beds on Nelson’s, DePuy’s, and Armstrong’s spring creeks creates ideal habitat for massive populations of PMDs. For anglers desiring fishing small dry flies on small, calm water, fishing the PMDs hatches of late June on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks has no other comparison in the angling world. 

Sometime between June 15th and June 20th PMDs will begin to emerge, increasing in frequency as July approaches. Anglers desiring to fish this hatch do not need to start early as most PMDs will  begin to emerge around 10 AM, with the bulk of the dry fly action occurring a few hours after emergence begins. 

Prior to the hatch, look subsurface for actively feeding fish. The clear waters of the spring creeks often make this possible. Have a good pair of polarized sunglasses and a ball cap to shade your eyes. Walk slowly and target any change in depth created by any small depression, weed hump, bucket, pothole, or the subtle drop-off below a riffle. Shallow water, two fly nymphs rigs fished with a light yarn or pinch-on indicator are ideal. Choose PMD nymphs or emergers in size 16 to 20 and fish nothing shorter than a 12- or 15-foot leader tapered to 6X fluorocarbon. 

As the hatch increases in frequency—in other words more and more adults are seen floating on the surface—rising trout may follow suit quickly. Once plenty of rising trout are seen, the fishing during a PMD hatch on the spring creeks actually gets easier…you see a rising trout, you know where it is, now it is just a matter of choosing the right pattern and getting the perfect drift. It might take one drift or it might take a hundred to get the perfect drift that imitates a floating natural. Patience, supple 6X tippet, quality floatant that works well with CDC, and a good reach cast are essential. 

Favorite patterns for fishing the PMD hatch on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks are: 

Sawyer Pheasant Tail Nymphs in sizes 16 to 20

Wondernymphs in sizes 16 to 20

Juju baetis in sizes 16 to 20

RS2 emergers, preferably with CDC, in sizes 16 to 20

Hairwing duns in sizes 16 to 20

Parachute duns in sizes 16 to 20

CDC duns in sizes 16 to 20

Where to find June trout on Nelson’s, DePuy’s, and Armstrong’s spring creeks

June on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks is all about fishing hatches of Pale Morning Dun (PMDs) mayflies. To clarify even further late June is the prime time for hatches of these size 16 to 20 aquatic insect. As water temperatures climb past 55 degrees F and days grow more sunny than overcast, PMD nymphs become active, which means a hatch is soon to occur. In most years, by June 20th anglers can expect consistent daily hatches of PMDs. 

These hatches can be very strong and many of the river’s trout will move to shallow flats, riffles, and runs to feed on emerging nymphs or floating adults. As the hatch increases in frequency throughout the day, look for trout to migrate to faster currents along riffle corners and seams, medium-speed currents on shallow flats or long runs, and as the hatch wanes later in the day, look for eddys where PMD adults may have accumulated.

In June most PMD hatches begin around 10 AM and last well into the afternoon. However, even if fish are not rising, it is highly likely they are still feeding. Target any change in current speed or change in depth, such as a bucket or small depression where the depth may be a foot or so deeper than the nearby bottom structure. Plus, with the crystal clear water of the spring creeks, sight-fishing is a daily occurrence, so be prepared to actively pursue specific fish—it just may be with shallow-water, lightly weighted nymph rigs rather than dry flies or emergers. 

These subsurface fish may be eating PMD nymphs and emergers or they may be eating midges. If fish are spotted and they appear to be active—shifting from side to side and opening their mouth—then a well-presented shallow-water tandem nymph rig may entice feeding fish in these subtle drop-offs below a riffle. 

Just because PMDs are thick in late June, doesn’t mean early June is worth ignoring. In fact, because the Yellowstone River—where these creeks flow into—is high and muddy with snowmelt runoff, the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks have high populations of trout that have migrated into the creeks to avoid high and muddy water. These trout will be found in deeper buckets and pools feeding on midges, scuds, sowbugs, and PMD nymphs. 

Important June hatches for Nelson’s, DePuy’s, and Armstrong’s spring creek

PMDs hatch in late June on the spring creeks and provide the quintessential small dry fly experience—sipping trout on a clear stream. River locals and loyalists relish the emergence of PMDs on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks. Emerging out of the many shallow runs, weed beds, riffles, and long flats, these size 16 to 20 mayflies create ample opportunities for classic match-the-hatch angling. 

Caddis can hatch throughout the month of June on the spring creeks but are small in comparison to PMDs. In the low-light evening hours, anglers who desire more dry fly fishing after a day casting PMDs to rising trout, may find that evening caddis on the spring creeks can check that box. 

Scuds, sowbugs, and craneflies are abundant in the spring creeks in June. Strictly subsurface, these insects are active throughout June and available to hungry trout. Often times thought of as the same insects, a scud resembles a freshwater shrimp and a sowbug looks like a “rolli-polli” bug. 

Midges are active in June and make-up a massive chunk of a trout’s diet. Fishing midge patterns is best done subsurface as part of a weighted two fly rig. 

Paradise Valley Spring Creeks fly box for June

PMD dry flies size 16 to 20

PMD emergers size 16 to 20

PMD nymphs size 16 to 20

Caddis pupae size 14 to 18

Caddis CDC emergers size 14 to 18

Caddis dry flies with dark grey, black or brown bodies in size 14 and 18; 

Scuds in sizes 16 through 20

Sowbugs in sizes 16 through 20

Midges, especially Zebra midges in black and olive, in sizes 18 through 22

Streamers in olive or brown in sizes 2 to 6