When you live in the mountains of Montana, you try not to ask that question. Better to just ignore the calendar and keep the snow gear by the door.
One sign of spring is run-off. The area streams are big and dirty. Probably will be until late June, maybe early July. Bummer. Or is it?
Three great lake options are within easy striking distance from Red Lodge. Newton Lake, just north of Cody, has big fish. So do Luce and Hogan Lakes, halfway between Belfry and Cody in the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone drainage. Fish with big midge larvae under an indicator or strip a simple black or olive bugger. You can sight fish with the streamer to cruisers or just watch the indicator in deep water. Moving into late June, be prepared to throw damsel fly nymphs. It’s not uncommon to see thousands of damsels swimming for shore to hatch.
Hang in there, go fishing. It will stop snowing in August. I promise.
These high plains lakes hold big rainbows.
Someone stole the tops of the Crazy Mountains! Nothing like fall on the Stone!
We had our first high country snowfall last week. Fall has fell. The weather is shifting back and forth from hot and sunny to cold and rainy. There are still hordes of hoppers out there, but they aren’t active until late in the day on warm days and not at all on cold days. Having said that, fish are used to seeing them and eating them. I’ve been sticking with a large hopper and a small nymph dropper instead of deep nymphing and streamer fishing. Fish will eat the hopper here and there in the morning, and you will be ready when the hopper bite starts in earnest. Smaller nymphs, especially a size 18 flashback pheasant tail, are working all day. Drop them at least 3 feet down if you are fishing the Yellowstone, 2 feet on the Stillwater or Rock Creek.
Tricos are finally showing up in big clouds on the Yellowstone. They haven’t been much of a factor, though. Small fish, mainly whitefish, are eating the spinners in slicks and tail outs, but I haven’t seen anything big on them. There has been a brief baetis (size 20) hatch on the Stillwater on those cold, rainy days. It’s only lasting about 30 minutes and mostly small trout are eating them. I’m guessing the fish aren’t interested in the small stuff with so many hoppers around.
Expect the fishing to be slow on the transitional days, when the barometric pressure is changing suddenly. Stick with the hopper-dropper and you will catch fish. If you see fish rising, go to an olive or yellow parachute, size 16, with a trico spinner trailing.
Dry fly fishing on the West Fork of Rock Creek is great. Small hoppers are killin’ it.
The high lakes are pretty unpredictable right now. Swinging soft hackles at the inlets and outlets is working, and mosquitos are a good bet for a dry fly.
This fat trout is full of hoppers!
The hopper fishing just continues to surprise on all area rivers and streams. I can’t remember a better hopper bite in the 25 years I’ve been in Montana! Now we have the added bonus of fall mayflies. We are seeing tricos on the Yellowstone, but not the huge clouds associated with this bug, yet. There are a number of different mayflies around as well. Look for rising fish in the big tail outs above riffles sipping spinners. Peach or brown hoppers are working best, size 8. The Yellowstoner Hopper is my go to this year. Any size 14 or smaller parachute or spinner will work to match the mayflies. Still using a dropper in some cases, especially in the morning.
Rock Creek is fishing well, with plenty of flow. Small hoppers, parachutes and elk hair caddis are the ticket on all our area streams.
It’s getting cold at night in the mountains, so the high lakes are a bit more challenging. If you get a hot day, try an ant on top. Otherwise, a size 18 Adams will work to imitate mosquitos. An olive bugger is always a good bet.
The Stone has dropped, cleared and stabilized. The last two days have been red hot (fishing and temperature)! Fish are looking for hoppers and stoneflies on the surface. So far, this is looking like a banner hopper year. There are also several kinds of mayflies around. The Yeti Hopper, Chubbies in peach or purple, and the Yellowstoner in peach are working well.
The Stillwater is also fishing well on hoppers. Use the smaller sizes as the naturals are not as well developed as they are on the Stone right now. Try a size 12 parahopper. Caddis are everywhere and some fish are rising to them. Tan elk hair in size 16 will work.
Pure Cutthroat taken on the Stillwater, below Cliffswallow.
So great to see the pure Cutty strain is hanging on in the Stillwater. We see one or two a year below Cliffswallow.
Our rivers and streams are finally dropping. It’s still high and fast out there, but some wade fishing spots can be found. Old Nye, Moraine and Buffalo Jump accesses on the upper Stillwater are wadable, but don’t take chances!
The last three days on the Stillwater have been excellent. Fish are eating nymphs and big stonefly patterns on top. There has been a great caddis hatch around 2 pm. PMD’s are still around and the big drakes are starting to show themselves.
Big winners are: Nymphs – Batman, Montana Prince, small Pheasant Tails. Drys – Chubbies, Yellowstoner, Stimulators, small yellow parachutes and Sparkle Duns, size 12 Purple Haze, Parachute Hare’s Ear and Adams, size 14 tan Elk Hair Caddis.
Eating stoneflies on the Stillwater
The Stillwater is finally fishing! Wade fishing is pretty much out of the question due to high flow, but boat fishing is good. Fish are looking up for the big bug. A Chubby, Stimulator or Madam X will work. A beadhead dropper is also picking up fish. Try the Batman or Montana Prince. There is a nice PMD hatch in the early afternoon and fish are keying on the little yellow bug. A size 16 yellow parachute is working best for the hatch!
Wyoming Lake Fishing!
These high plains lakes hold big rainbows.
Sorry for not posting much lately, but the weather and stream flows in the area have prevented much quality fishing time. Snow melt has blown out the rivers as it always does this time of year. The good news is two-fold. Runoff is progressing at an average pace, so the Stillwater could be fishing by the last week in June. In the meantime, the area lakes are fishing well! Newton, Luce and Hogan lakes in Wyoming are our go to choices for spring fishing. The high lakes are still frozen and will be for a few weeks. Chironomids (big midges) are your best bet for insect imitations. Fish will be looking for the larvae suspended in the water or traveling from the bottom to the surface to hatch. My favorite patterns are the Ice Cream Cone in red or black and the Jumbo Juju Chironomid in blood or zebra. Use a #16, 14 or even 12. If you can’t find any big midge patterns, use your standard beadhead selections. The Bloody Mary or even old favorites like the prince or pheasant tail will work. Suspend your bug under an indicator or let it sink and slowly strip it to the surface. An effective old school technique is to trail a wooly bugger with a beadhead and strip it in. Even with the rivers blown out, we still have plenty of good options!
Wow, could the weather be any more unsettled? River flows and clarity have been up and down almost daily. I’m looking for the Stillwater to clear up following this current cold snap. Looks like we might get perfect conditions for the spring triple on both Rock Creek and the Stillwater. BWO’ s in the morning and March Browns in the afternoon. We may just hit the jackpot and see caddis later in the day! Be sure to have some size 16-18 olive parachutes and comparduns for the BWO. I like a parachute hare’s ear or any brown to purple dry fly for the March Browns. Purple Haze works well, too. You’ll need about a size 12-14. A simple elk hair caddis, black body and tan wing, matches the Mother’s Day caddis perfectly. Size 14-16. If the water is off color, strip a black bugger or nymph with a dark girdle bug and a worm. Run-off is coming fast, so go fish!
Wow, that was a hell of a winter! Never got above 0 long enough to go fishing. Just in time to save my sanity, the Shoshone is fishing well. Flows were increased by almost double a couple of weeks ago. The fish were down hard for a while and moss was a bit of an issue. I was over there last Wednesday and things had vastly improved. There are baetis and midges hatching. It wasn’t on fire, but fish were looking for the dry in foam lines and flats. A #16 olive parachute produced well. A #20 midge larvae dropped off the dry took fish. I stripped streamers for an hour or so and caught one nice rainbow on a black and blue bugger. I anticipate the hatches will improve over the next couple of weeks. By then, it’ll be Stillwater time!
Blue Winged Olives (Baetis) are popping on the Stone. We’ve been seeing a few tiny BWOs for the last week or so, but the hatch is getting thicker and the second wave of bigger bugs is starting. The majority are still in the 18-20 range, but some solid 16 bugs are coming out. If the wind isn’t blowing, fish are getting on them. The hatch is starting around 1:00 in the afternoon.
Try a small olive parachute, comparadun or emerger when fishing to risers. Use a size 14 with a size 18 split case BWO as a dropper in between rising pods of fish.
Rock Creek and the Stillwater are fishing well on dry flies, too. There are Baetis around, but a size 16 caddis is the best searching pattern.
I love Fall on the Stone!
Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the Fall colors along the way. It’s spectacular out there right now!