Montana Fishing Report
April 15, 2011
Bozeman - Freshwater Fishing Report
Montana's snowpack is in great shape and 2011 promises to be another great water year. Montana early spring fishing can be very productive. When air temperatures are in the 40's and higher it is time to head out for your favorite stretch of water. Midge hatches are a daily occurrence now along with the tiny black stonefly. Skwalas are also important on some rivers. Baetis are showing up on the spring creeks and will be on larger rivers soon. Trout are governed by water temperature and in the early spring they do not have a very high metabolism. Most of the locations in a creek or river that hold fish in the summer do not in the winter and early spring. Trout are operating on a maintenance diet and conserving energy is at a premium. Trout move out of faster water as water temps drop and by the middle of the winter they are only found in deeper and slower holding water. Although trout do not feed as actively as during warmer water
periods of the year, the incredible concentrations of fish in "winter time holes" allows for some good fishing. The key is to only fish the winter and early spring holding water and skip everything else. Another factor is to only fish when trout are feeding which is generally from about noon until 4:30 pm. A good strategy for early spring fishing is to have three or four good runs picked out and only fish those runs. There are some ideal winter runs that have hundreds of trout in them that I have spent hours fishing during the mid day feeding time. Float fishing is largely unproductive unless using the boat to hole hop on a very short float. Rivers like the Yellowstone are now open up and can produce nice fishing. The Lower Madison is fishing very well, but plan a shorter float in order to focus on some of the good slower runs while anchored or wading. Early spring fly fishing in our area is primarily a nymphing game but some fisheries produce strong midge hatches for decent surface action. Flies must be on the bottom because trout will not move very far to intercept flies. Takes will also be subtle since the fish aren't moving aggressively for flies and the current is usually slow where trout are stacked up. Both of these factors produce a very, very delicate reaction to a strike indicator. Because of the subtle takes I always use yarn indicators in early April since they are more reactive to soft takes. Often the yarn will simply rotate, rock or flutter when a trout has take your flies. It pays to be trigger happy on strikes when playing this game...most anglers don't even realize when they have had a strike and miss a lot of fish.
Upper Madison River Fishing Report: Good
Access is difficult in some places and only the water between the lakes and just above Ennis is open. The boat ramp at Ennis doesn't usually open until late April or May due to the ice jams that occurred over the winter months. Colder water produces lower activity levels in the morning and hatches are always a few weeks behind the lower river in the spring. One of our guides recently fished the Upper and had a banner day from Story to Varney nymphing sculpins and worms.
Lower Madison River Fishing Report: Very Good
The Lower is a great option in the early spring. The wind can blow pretty good on some days, but when it isn't too windy and the weather is good trout can be caught. Stick to one or two deeper slow water runs. Egg patterns and small bead heads or midge larva are a good bet. A crayfish or stonefly nymph is also worth a try. Wade fishing is more productive than floating unless you are simply using the boat as a taxi down the river to jump from one winter run to another. This time of year produces some variability in water clarity caused by sediment stirred in the lake by the wind so some days will be better than others. The best fishing will be between 11am and 5 pm and when you are sitting on a productive run, the catching can be very good at times. This is one of the best fisheries around in the early spring.
Bear Trap Canyon Fishing Report: Good
Bear Trap can be good, especially below the dam but dress warm because there won't be much sun in the canyon and the wind can be awful some days. Skip a lot of water and only focus on the slower deep runs where fish are stacked. Dead drifting a crayfish or stonefly with a smaller egg pattern behind is a good rig. Other patterns to try include worms, midge larva and small mayfly style nymphs in sizes 14-18. Midges have been producing some great dry fly fishing on some
days for an hour or two after lunch and baetis should be appearing soon. The canyon can be very cold in early April due to the lack of light that penetrates the steep walls. Wind can be an issue too.
Yellowstoner River Fishing Report: Good
Ice shelves are gone and the river is floatable. The best fishing is still done by wade fishing and working holding runs so if you plan a float make it short and use the boat to ferry from one run to another. A friend of ours had a great day fishing very slow water near in Paradise Valley nymphing hares ears and copper johns. The trout were in VERY SLOW water so skip anything with moderate current because the trout just won't be there right now. Warmer days will also begin producing some midge hatches and dry fly fishing may be an option if your lucky. Baetis are just around the corner and good dry fly fishing will soon be had! This is also a good time to slow twitch streamers in slow runs. Streamer fishing is a low number game this time of year but a few monsters always turn up. Egg patterns will also be productive for the next few weeks.
Gallatin River Fishing Report: Vert Good
The Gallatin is a great early spring fishery. The Gallatin Canyon can be chilly due to less sun from the mountains shading the river but can still fish well. The river below the mouth of the canyon can also be very productive in April. Pick one or two deep slow runs and work them with nymphs. Eggs, midge larva and small beadheads are the ticket on long leaders. A girdle bug as a top nymph is also a good option. Skip as much water as possible and only focus on the deeper winter water where fish are stacked up. Most of the fishing is still sub surface but midge hatches can produce some heads. In just a few weeks baetis will produce some great dry fly fishing on cloudy days. Pay attention to air temps because if we get some sustained warmed snaps low elevation snow will dirty the river. Midge hatches have been strong just after lunch and rising trout can be found in slower water. Sean Blaine and I fished this the other day and Sean
found a nice pod of larger fish working a soft seam on the edge of the main current and a backwater slough.
Boulder River Fishing Report: Good
Similar to the Gallatin but harder to access this time of year. It is a cold river and the fish are lethargic.
Ruby River Fishing Report Good
The Ruby is at nice April option below the dam. The water is very and the fish will be packed in deeper runs. Good dead drifts with midge larva is the ticket. On warmer days good dry fly fishing over midge hatches can be very productive. This is one of the better dry fly fisheries around in the early spring. Water levels are very low in the inter and the fish are spooky as a result so fish it with your spring creek flies and rods. Strikes will be subtle. Don't be shy to throw some streamers as they often produce but can be hit or miss.
Upper Missouri Fishing Report: Good
Rainbows are beginning to move in from Canyon Ferry and some monsters are sometimes caught in the early spring. Fish numbers are low so this is a fishery to swing for the fences...just be ready for some slow action.
Spring Creeks Fishing Report: Red Hot
The spring creeks always fish great in April and DePuy's even has heated cabins to warm your cold hands on a foul weather day! Water temps are warmer in the spring creeks relative to the larger rivers and fish feed during larger periods of the day. Slower water runs are still more productive than riffles. Nymphing egg patterns, ray charles patterns and midge larva is the ticket. Midges are hatching in the mid morning and can produce some decent dry fly fishing and baetis are just showing up so if you are lucky you might have some nice action on top. The rainbows from the Yellowstone are moving into the spring creeks to spawn. The spring creeks are a major spawning grounds for these fish. You will see lots of fish in shallow water, these trout are spawning and should be left alone. You will also notice some clean circular ovals in the gravel where the trout are digging redds. Trout below the shallow riffles are fair game. PLEASE AVOID FISHING AND WADING THE SHALLOW RIFFLES TO AVOID DISTURBING SPAWNING TROUT OR CRUSHING EGGS IN REDDS!
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Bozeman Fishing Forecast:
We have a great snowpack. 2011 should be an awesome year!
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