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Montana Angler Fly Fishing Report

Montana Angler Fly Fishing Inc.

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406-522-9854

Montana Angler Fly Fishing
76 Lucille Lane
Bozeman, MT 59718
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Montana Fishing Report Overview

Fall is coming fast and water temperatures on our rivers are coming into shape and offering a lot more options.  Most of the rivers around the area are really starting to produce and things should only improve as we advance farther into the fall.  Don’t be fooled when the days are still hot – the longer nights and colder temps after dark help drop even the most stubborn water temps into the prime zone.  This is a fun time of year with a mixed bag of techniques producing.  It is still a bit early for fall streamers and blue winged olive action but the terrestrial fishing and attractor nymph fishing has really been good the last few days. 

The Upper Madison continues to fish like a champ with opportunistic trout looking for the occasional terrestrial or flying ant but also chomping streamers on a tight line or the smaller nymph behind it.  Don’t be afraid to pull some big streamers nymphing even if the trout are only eating the smaller dropper – the big bug helps move the fish and sometimes you hit a home run.  The trout are still in the deeper heavy runs but some fish are sliding into the shallow riffles as temps drop and traffic on the river begins to wane. 

The Yellowstone has really improved as of late. The town stretch has been very consistent with its faster water but the water in Paradise Valley and the lower reaches near Big Timber will come back to life with the crisp autumn nights.  Often the best hopper fishing of the year is in September and this has been the case so far. 

The Gallatin has good temps and has been consistent but the trout are spookier with the clear waters and lower flows.  This is still a nice after work option and a beautiful river to spend the day wading.  The Boulder is in a similar boat – lots of fun but expect clear and technical waters.  Spring creeks have really been good with lots less pressure now that the PMD hatch is over.  There are ALWAYS fish eating on the creeks even thought they aren’t the easiest fish to fool.  As we move into the fall the blue winged olive will start bringing trout up on a regular basis.

The lower rivers that were too warm all summer are just starting to turn on now and will get better by the day.  The lower Madison has already been producing and the Jefferson is starting to show signs of life along with the upper Missouri.  The Jeff is low now but look for that to improve as irrigation ends and head gates are closed.

Fly selection
Trout in most of our waters are much more opportunistic now that many of the aquatic hatch cycles have finished. The exceptions are if there is a strong hatch like the trico or callibaetis (lakes) on the water or perhaps a very windy day blowing lots of hoppers in. If you see a lot of stonefly husks on the banks try a girdle bug sub surface or a big chubby just after dawn when the nocturnal stones are still skittering around the water. The reduction of aquatic hatches can be a good thing for the angler because trout are not as willing to move long distances when there is a strong hatch. For surface patterns, nothing beats a hopper if you are on lightly fished waters. If you are on more waters that see a lot of summer anglers then try more subtle patterns like ants and beetles. On the lower Yellowstone and Madison try some stonefly patterns that imitate the nocturnal stones.  For nymphing trout will start moving for a lot of sculpins but if nocturnal stones are around a size 6 rubber legs will still produce. There are usually still some caddis popping early in the morning so trailing a bigger fly with a caddis pupa is a good way to start the day and then transition to more of an attractor nymph as the day progresses like a lighting bug, prince or copper john. Smaller droppers and finer flourcarbon tippet sometimes makes a difference but no need to drop to anything below 5x unless you are on a spring creek.

Reading water
Where the trout are holding will depend greatly on water temps. On the bigger rivers trout are moving into heavy water with more oxygen so skip all of the slower slicks and start focusing on fast water. On cold rivers in the mountains the trout will still be in the slicks and tail outs. Shade will often hold trout in the heat of the summer. Look for overhanging trees, large boulders and even foam eddies can create an umbrella of shade to help hide trout from the sun and predators. 

 

Yellowstone River Report

Current Conditions:
The river is finally turning on again after some hit or miss fishing in the late summer and early fall.  Some very big browns are starting to show up and we have seen several 20”+ trout in the nets recently.  Nymphing has been good to outstanding with big streamers dead drifted or rubber legs trailed by lightning bugs or other attractor nymphs.  Stripping streamers produces less action but bigger trout.  The smaller dry fly action is good on days with a bit of cloud cover to trigger the baetis hatch as trout sip in soft seams and foam eddies.

The Month Ahead:
The ‘Stone should continue to produce well into November.  Anglers almost vanish in the late fall but mild days with some cloud cover can bring every trout to the surface over late season baetis hatches with not a soul in sight.

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
All good things come to an end and the Yellowstone will start to produce some nasty ice shelves in the early Winter – we mostly leave this bad boy along until April when it wakes back up.

Upper Madison River Report

Current Conditions:
The Upper continues to produce some of the most consistent fishing in the region. Big trout and good numbers on a daily basis. The most consistent action has been nymphing big streamers trailed by smaller attractor nymphs. Large stonefly nymphs on top have also been a good option and of course egg patterns. The dry fly eat has been hit or miss and really not much of a factor lately.  Stripping big streamers is a great way to hit a home run but expect lower fish counts.  The water has dropped a bit and trout are concentrating in the deeper slots and pools.  In the large pools they are sliding back a bit from the faster water where we found them just a few weeks ago.  The big browns are getting dark and some big boys are lowering their guard. Rainbows out of Ennis, Hebgen and Quake Lakes also move into the river in the fall to add to make things even more interesting.

The Month Ahead:
The next few weeks should produce good opportunities for very big browns.  This should continue into November.  Trout will continue to concentrate in the slower and deeper water as temperatures continue to drop.

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
By the end of November the Upper will become pretty quiet.  It isn’t our favorite cold weather fishery so enjoy it now while it is producing.

Lower Madison River Report

Current Conditions:
The Lower has turned on recently with the longer and cooler nights. The fishing has been really good on some days with some big slab rainbows coming into the net. The monster browns are starting to move and we have seen a few really dark fish looking for streamers.  This has been a very consistent fishery recently but every now and then it unexpectedly clams up.  Nymphing is still the bread and butter rig with.  Try a weightless rig on a longer leader with a crayfish trailed by a baetis nymph over the weed beds and then go heavy in the deep runs with several split shot.

The Month Ahead:
The Lower fishes well in the early winter.  The trout will start moving out of the shallow weedbeds and into the deeper buckets as water temps continue to cool.

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
By late November trout will be in their winter time lies which means look for fish in the deeper runs with slow to medium speed currents.  The Lower fishes well all winter.


Gallatin River Report

Current Conditions:
Water temps remain very good up and down the river.  The mornings are very cool around BigSky and the fish aren’t moving until the late afternoon.  In the valley things are starting up earlier.  In the canyon smaller patterns have been better on light 5x flouro leaders (think baetis nympyhs).  Down low don’t be afraid to dead drift or strip streamers for larger trout.  Baetis on cloudy days are bringing lots of trout to the surface for some entertaining dry fly action.

The Month Ahead:
The Gallatin fishes well in the late fall and early winter.  Don’t mess with the fast water as the fish will have moved into the slower and deeper runs by late November.  Nymphing smaller patterns and eggs is the big producer. 

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
The Gallatin is a great winter fishery, especially near Big Sky where it stays open year round from big ice shelves.  It is mostly and afternoon game with smaller nymphs.

East Gallatin River Report

Current Conditions:
The water on the East is low right now and trout are spooky.  Use longer leaders and plan your first cast or pay the price of spooked trout.  The afternoon dry fly fishing can be very good in the afternoon with some cloud cover.  Stripping small streamers can also result in some nice takes from the bigger browns.

The Month Ahead:
The East should continue to fish well into November.  Mornings will start to slow as temperatures drop and the baetis hatch will eventually wind down.

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
The East has enough spring creeks feeding it that it is a viable winter fishery for those looking to mix things up and stay close to home.  Nymphing small bugs in the big deep buckets can produce.

Jefferson River Report

Current Conditions:
The Jeff has better flows in it now that the irrigation season is over.  Water temps are coming down and fishing has been solid. Bigger fish are still coming in on big streamers or dead drifted crayfish, zonkers and sculpins.  If you have cloud cover stripping streamers can be productive but it is tough on a sunny day.  There are also baetis that are producing sipping fish in slow seams and eddies.  The Jefferson has lower fish counts than other rivers so it is not the place to go for numbers.

The Month Ahead:
As days grow shorter the big browns in the Jeff are growing dark and frisky.  The Jefferson is never a big fish numbers location but it does hold some quality trout and doesn’t see a lot of pressure.  You definitely need to pay your dues and learn how to fish this sleeper.  The baetis hatch in the afternoon brings up some trout and also can help you see where fish are holding.  The deeper runs below fast water are always a good place to start.  The river is very low but came up a bit once irrigators turned off head gates.  Stripping streamers may only produce a handful of trout but you are in the game for some large browns.  Dead drifting streamers trailed by baetis nymphs can be more productive.

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
Large ice shelves make the river treacherous to float in the winter.  There are better locations to wet a line in the cold months.

Boulder River Report

Current Conditions:
The Boulder is low and the trout are spooky so making longer casts helps to reduce sending trout in the wrong direction.  The good news is that fish are moving into deeper water where they aren’t as nervous.  Standard fair for nymphing like stone fly nymphs and baetis patters is productive.  Swinging and stripping streamers can turn some browns from time to time.  Cloudy weather will bring up rising trout over the baetis hatch like clockwork in the later afternoon.

The Month Ahead:
For the next few weeks the fishing will be a predictable pattern of nymph fishing deeper runs followed by some dry action over the baetis hatch.

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
The Boulder is a cold river and not a premier winter fishery.  It will become a viable option in April after the thaw.

Missouri River Report

Current Conditions:
This is a great time to fish the Missouri from the headwaters all the way down to Cascade.  The upper river near Townsend has some big fish that have moved in from the lake and it isn’t uncommon to find some large rainbows over 20” sipping baetis dries on a cloudy day.  Stripping streamers on the slow seams or dead drifting zonkers trailed by a baetis emerger or egg pattern is also productive.  The Missouri between the lakes is seeing some pressure in the Land of the Giants as big lakerun fish have moved in.  It is mostly a rainbow game and most of the browns come in very late.  The tailwater area near Craig is producing nice surface action over the baetis mayfly in the afternoon and the streamer bite is improving.

 

The Month Ahead:
The Mo is a great November fishery with lingering baetis hatches and some big lake run fish.  Although there aren’t a lot of big lake run browns on the Mo you have a shot at some over 25” if you put in a lot of time.

 

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
The Missouri below the dam at Wolf Creek is a good winter fishery.  Nymphing the slower seams will always produce some fish when you need to shake off the winter blues.

 

Spring Creeks Report

Current Conditions:
The spring creeks are a great fall option when you want a break from tossing streamers the size a small lap dog.  The baetis hatch can be awesome in the afternoons, especially with some cloud cover.  The rod fees drop on the Livingston creeks making them a decent option for locals and you can expect to have a lot of the creek to yourself many days.  McCoy spring creeks are basically closed for the season because they are shooting waterfowl on the ranch.  The MZ ranch creeks are decent but Behnardts still has a lot of moss in it.  Thompson is good but as technical as ever.  The Livingston creeks are probably the place to be for spring creek fishing in October and November.  Nymphing sow bugs trailed by midge larva and then eventually baetis nymphs like RS2s is a great game plan before the hatch.  When the hatch starts make sure to try some emergers in the surface film or just below.  Most of the trout will be taken on these emerger and cripple patterns.  We still like to fish a dun on top for visibility.  The sprout baetis patterns are a nice option but so are the cdc patterns fished without grease so the sink just a few inches below the surface.

 

The Month Ahead:
The next few weeks will continue to produce very good dry fly fishing over the baetis hatch.  It lingers on the Livingston creeks well into November.  Even after the hatch wanes the spring creeks will produce steady and predictable results to technically sound nymphing techniques.

 

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
The Livingston creeks are a great winter option when rod fees drop to $40 per day – cheaper than a lift ticket at Bridger Bowl!  DePuy spring creek even has nice warming huts with stoves.  The key to winter nymphing is to use subtle indicators like small yarn tufts that flutter with the slightest change in the drift.  The trout won’t be moving much once temps drop and the takes are subtle.

 

Ruby River Report

Current Conditions:
The Ruby has been hit or miss for us in the early fall but things seemed to have stabilized and it is fishing well again.  The water is low and the fish are concentrated in the deeper runs.  The browns are moving and this is a fun fishery to strip streamers for medium sized trout.  The baetis hatch can also bring some fish up on a cloudy day.

 

The Month Ahead:
The Ruby fishes well in the fall.  Streamers and nymphs will be the main game once mid November arrives.

 

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
The Ruby is a pretty decent winter fishery.  Nymphing is the staple in the early winter but by February you can get a decent rise over the midge hatch.

 

Stillwater River Report

Current Conditions:
The StillwaterRiver is low but trout are moving into the deeper slots and nymphing has been productive in the late morning.  The afternoon can provide some good dry action with some cloud cover over the baetis hatch.  Stripping streamers for some Yellowstone run browns on the lower river can often produce a pleasant surprise.

 

The Month Ahead:
Fishing will start to taper off in November as water temps continue to drop on the river.

 

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
The Stillwater is a relatively cold river and isn’t as productive as some other fisheries in the region in the winter months.

Lakes Report

Current Conditions:
This is the time to fish the big rivers for big browns.  The browns are moving out of the lakes and into the rivers and most of the dry fly action is finished so there isn’t a big draw to the stillwaters now unless you just love fishing lakes. 

 

The Month Ahead:
Not much

 

Long Term Fishing Forecast:
Ice fishing

 

Other Waters

Current Conditions:
The smaller streams are pretty low but still productive, especially those that see little pressure.  The trout are definitely very “holed up” in the deeper lies so move a lot and skip the skinny water in between.  Yellowstone Park is fishing great right now for the fall run browns on the Madison.  The Firehole can also produce some epic baetis action on a cloudy day.

 

The Month Ahead:
Small streams can be very weather dependent as we head into winter.  

 

Long Term Fishing Forecast:

Small streams can be tough in the winter due to ice and snow but if you do venture out, concentrate on the slowest deepest pools.

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https://www.montanaangler.com/montana-fishing-report/

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