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Southwest Montana Fishing Report

Brian McGeehan
March 22, 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. Trout are governed by water temperature and in the winter 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. 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 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 Yellowstoneare beginning to open up and can produce nice fishing. The
Lower Madison is floatable, but again it is genearlly more productive to just wade fish. 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 for winter fishing. 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. For more on winter fishing visit our recent posts on the Montana fly fishing blog: http://www.montanaangler.com

Upper Madison River Fishing Report Fair
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 than on the Lower section of the river and we tend to wait to fish the upper until later in April.

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.
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. The canyon can be very cold in the winter due to the lack of light that penetrates the steep walls. Wind can be an issue too.

Yellowstoner River Fishing Report Good
Ice shelves have retreated and most floats are now an option but be very careful. The best fishing is still done by wade fishing 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 on Saturday 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. Egg patterns will also be productive for the next few
weeks.

Gallatin River Fishing Report Good
The Gallatin is a great early spring fishery. The smaller river and tree protection keep the wind down and several springs enter the riverbed near Big Sky keeping the upper portion of the Gallatin Canyon ice free even during cold snaps. Fishing in the Gallatin Valley near 4 corners can be good if it hasn't been too cold, but
be careful of dangerous ice shelves during cold snaps. 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 topy 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. Sometimes these deep runs are hundreds of yards apart and if you are just casually working your way up the river or are targetting your favorite summer riffles you will be missing the boat. Use yarn to detect subtle strikes.

Boulder River Fishing Report
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 winter 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 the area in the winter months.
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.

Upper Missouri Fishing Report Poor
Fishing will improve in April as some rainbows make their way out of Canyon Ferry Reservoir, but until then there are better options.

Ennis and Hebgen Lake Fishing Report
Drill a hole.

Spring Creeks Fishing Report Very Good
The spring creeks are nice option in the winter. Winter rates are down to $40 per day. DePuy's even has heated cabins to warm your cold hands! 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. Focus on finding some drift lines that produce trout. Once you find a good drift line, it will produce time and time again. Once of the most important strategies when winter nymphing is to mover your body until you find the right casting geometry to get the right drift. Don't make the mistake of casting to different drift lines while standing in one location. Often moving a few feet in or out or up or down can give the flies the right drift that these picky spring creek trout require. We just visited DePuy's on Sunday and managed to nymph up some trout in some of the deeper runs despite the 40 mph gusts. Milder days will become more and more common and trout will start moving into the creeks from the Yellowstone. The
next few weeks will produce some excellent fishing. PLEASE AVOID FISHING AND WADING THE SHALLOW RIFFLES TO AVOID DISTURBING SPAWNING
TROUT OR CRUSHING EGGS IN REDDS!

Other local fisheries
Mostly closed until May

More Fishing Reports:

 

Montana Angler Fly Fishing provides guided fly fishing trips on Montana's most famous trout waters including the Yellowstone, Madison, Gallatin, Missouri and Bighorn rivers. We are based in Bozeman at the epicenter of some of the world's greatest trout fishing. With a fleet of both drift boats and fishing equipped rafts we are able to guide on amazing variety of waters.

Contact Info:

Montana Angler Fly Fishing
76 Lucille Lane
Bozeman, MT 59718
Phone: 406-570-0453
Alt. Phone: 406-522-9854
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