Well, it’s that time of year! Area freestone rivers and streams are full of snowmelt. Probably won’t be fishable until late June, early July. Luckily, the Trout Scout has access to some beautiful lakes in the Beartooth Foothills. Trips start at $295 for two anglers!
Rock Creek was a real treat today. Beautiful spring day and beautiful, willing trout! There are plenty of bugs around, but no concerted hatch of any one kind. There are March Browns, caddis and baetis. Along with miscellaneous mayflies of all sizes and colors. Fish were eating a size 14 Prince dropped from a big Purple Haze in the early afternoon. Later in the day, clouds started showing up and the bugs came out. A couple of fish refused the Purple Haze, so I took that as a sign. Switched over to a #14 brown parachute dry fished without the dropper. While no fish were actively rising, they were chowing on my parachute. The Prince took larger fish, but it’s always a blast to catch fish on a dry fly regardless of size. Get out there soon. This warm weather means run-off is right around the corner.
We’re still in a holding pattern for our spring hatches. The extended winter weather and fluctuating flows seem to have put things off. Some March Browns and baetis are around almost every day, but never in enough numbers to get fish rising. Even a few caddis pop here and there. But when you check the bushes, it’s hard to find one. Maybe the famous “Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch” will actually be on Mother’s Day this year!
Flows are really fluctuating right now. Expect the clarity of the Stillwater to change over the course of a day. Last Monday, we started out with a couple of feet of visibility. By 2 pm it had cleared to about three feet. By 5pm it was back to 2 feet.
The fishing has been tough. Big rubber legs and brown worms (oh my) are sticking a few fish. Throw a big #12 Purple Haze for a dry and you may stick a fish on well defined foam lines. Streamer fishing has been slow, but no slower than anything else! You really have to throw some meat, meaning big flies, to get much attention. Black is always better when the water is off color.
It was good to get out with Jimmy Brummel from Texas again after three years. He and Julia were my victims last Monday. We had fun on a rainy, cold day. Even if the catching wasn’t the best!
Early snows and fall colors make fishing area rivers and streams a special experience. Brown trout are active preparing for the spawn and baetis are hatching! It doesn’t get much better than a day of streamers and dry flies on a nice fall day in Montana.
Look for the little olive dry flies in the afternoon. Sparkle duns are a good choice for rising fish. An olive parachute is a good searching pattern pre and post hatch.
As always, the Grinch and black bunny fur streamers are key, with Sparkle Minnows and the Barely Legal taking big browns all day.
The bite on the Yellowstone slowed some the last couple of days. The return of hot weather and high pressure put the trout off a bit. The current cold front with it’s low pressure system should turn things back on. Even on the slow days, fish are eating the hopper here and there. Nymphing and streamer fishing have not been as effective as the big dry. Some fish are rising to spinners in the big slicks in the morning. Look for more mayfly activity this week with the cooler temps.
Area small streams are fishing very well on size 14 dry flies. Parachutes, Royal Coachman and small stimulators are getting it done!
We’re having a real hopper season on the Stone for the first time in three years! Trout are active due to plenty of water and cool nights. The banks are full of hoppers. A couple of windy days this week really got the bite going, blowing bugs into the river.
Look for tricos in the mornings. Some fish are taking the spinners in the slicks and tail-outs. We turned a big brown two days ago with a #18 double trico spinner. Got to see him nose to tail. He came to his wits before eating it.
Droppers are hit and miss. Today was good on the prince. The dropper can be key during the lulls in hopper bite.
Yellowstoner (red leg) #12
Any peach foam hopper if it’s #10 to 12
Prince Nymph, #14
Hare’s Ear, #14
Some fall mayflies are starting to pop, but not a factor yet. Have seen a few ghost flies and grey duns already.
Stoneflies are making an appearance on the Yellowstone and Stillwater rivers. The shucks are everywhere on the rocks at waterline. Browns on the Stillwater were hammering them in the bright sunshine earlier this week.
Small caddis and smaller grey mayflies are also popping on the Stillwater and Rock Creek. The caddis are hatching a few at a time, but good numbers can be seen laying eggs. Fish are keying on them in foam lines, so keep you eyes peeled for risers.
The Stillwater and Rock Creek are dropping fast. Wade fishing is getting better and better. Crossing is a challenge on the Stilly. Rock Creek can be crossed in certain places, but choose your spot carefully.
The Yellowstone is clearing. It hasn’t reached optimum condition yet. Some fish are on the big stonefly dry, but nymphs are taking the most fish. Hoppers are around and fish are eating them on windy days. This should only get better as the water comes down and clears.
Here’s your list of must have flies:
Yellowstoner Chubby, brown, #8 (Remember that our stoneflies are not orange)
Parachute Adams, #16
Elk Hair Caddis, black body, #16. I tie mine with no hackle and a little antron trailer. Good for both emerging or egg laying caddis. The traditional dressing is working, but the antron really seems to seal the deal.
Drop a beadhead Prince, Pheasant Tail, Montana Prince or any other dark pattern off the big dry to maximize your catch.
Montana Trout Scout
Flows are dropping and some spots are beginning to be fishable on foot. Crossing Rock Creek, the Rosebuds or the Stillwater is impossible, so be content with the water on your side of the river. The bite is good on both sides!
Fish are looking up for Stimulators, PMX, Chubbies, etc. Yellow is the best color. PMD’s are around on the Stillwater and fish are eating them in flat spots and along banks.
Dropper flies are deadly. Use a long dropper line because the flows are still high and fast. Two to three feet, depending on depth and speed. Prince, pheasant tail and Montana prince are getting hammered.
The Yellowstone is marginal right now. People are floating it and catching fish nymphing deep. Throw something big and ugly with rubber legs. Streamer fishing is fair to slow. The water is still pretty dirty.
The high mountain lakes have turned on. Try a black or olive bugger with a prince trailing it. A size 16 parachute Adams is a good choice for dry fly fishing. Black ants are always a winner.
Run-off is still in full swing, but the float fishing on the Stillwater is excellent. Wade fishing any of our area streams is still out. Floating the Stillwater or anything else is not for the inexperienced, but the fishing is great. Nymphing with small black bugs is really getting it done. PMD’s are hatching pretty much all day, but fish won’t come up through all that fast water to eat a size 16 bug. They are feasting on the nymph. A #16 pheasant tail or copper john is killin’ it fished deep.
Flows are coming down again, but things are still spicy out there. Keep your wits about you.