Flows Coming Down, Fish Eating the Big Bug

Rainbows and Browns living together… chaos.

Flows are dropping fast on the Stillwater. Fish are starting to look up. The golden Chubby and the yellow PMX both saw action today. A pheasant tail dropper killed.

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Rockin’ on the Stilly

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.

I saw one big stonefly on the water yesterday. The first I’ve seen this season. Chris says he did well on the big bug dry today. About time. I’m tired of chasing a bobber down the river!

Flows are coming down again, but things are still spicy out there. Keep your wits about you.

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Stillwater Coming Down and Turning On!

Flows on the Stilly have moderated enough to float fish and the fish are willing! Water temps are coming up and the flow is going down. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still rippin’ out there. Wade fishing any of our area streams will be dangerous for a while yet, so be smart. Best to stay away from moving water if you are on foot for a week or so at least.

There have been PMD’s coming off on the Stilly every day for the last four days. Fish were not on them for the first couple of days due to high water. They are just now starting to eat the small bugs on the surface with any regularity.

Streamer fishing has been good, but nymphing is producing the most fish. We fished a big dry with a dropper today and killed it. Got a couple of nice fish on the Chubby, but the dropper nymph was red hot. Pheasant Tails and red Copper Johns were the big winners. Long dropper lines are the key. Three feet is a good starting point.

Started fishing with Paige when she was 8 or so. Always has been an Angler!

It was a real thrill to get Paige’s husband into his first fish on a fly rod today!

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Enjoy the Amazing Spring Weather!

We are experiencing some of the best springtime weather I can remember here in Red Lodge. Warm and sunny, bordering on hot and sunny! Quite a change from our usual two season pattern of winter and August.

Rivers are still blown out and will be for a couple more weeks. Flows from Yellowtail Dam are dropping. The Bighorn River is below 12000 cfs for the first time in weeks. That’s still very high, but better than the 14000 cfs it has been. Fishing is fair, with nymphing producing the most fish. The usual worm and scud combo is working. Prepare yourself to fish a long leader and lots of weight. There is a fair amount of grass to contend with.

Lakes are fishing well in the morning and evening. As usual, fishing is pretty slow when the sun is high and hot in the sky. Damsels and dragons are the prominent insects on area lakes with this warm weather. Try small olive or brown wooly buggers. Stubby, fat patterns fished deep in the grass for dragons, sparse patterns fished just below the surface for the damsels.

Not bad for a first timer!

Lake fishing in the Beartooth foothills. Amazing!

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Rivers are Rockin’ and Rollin’

Wow, this hot spring weather has rivers and streams near record levels. Makes it tough right now, but bodes well for fishing by the first week of July. With our huge snowpack this year, I was anticipating a late start to the season. For those new to fishing in the Red Lodge area, the entire month of June is almost always a bust for river and stream fishing. Our rivers are not controlled by dams. June is always when the snow really starts melting and the run-off lasts until the last week of June or first week of July. The heavier the snowpack, the later run-off ends. Unless we get hot temps in early June. If we keep this warm weather, especially overnight temps in the forties, we may get rid of most of this snow in time to start fishing the Stillwater sooner than later. BTW, overnight temps in the forties is hot weather around here in early June.

Chris Fleck and I fished the Big Horn yesterday. The ‘Horn is typically the only river within three hours of Red Lodge that is fishable in June. Because it’s controlled by a dam. The ‘Horn is flowing at an outrageous 14000 cubic feet per minute. They are releasing water from the reservoir to accommodate run-off from the huge snowpack in the Big Horn drainage. Let me tell you, we were flying down the river. We anticipated that the fishing would be marginal, and it was. Streamer fishing was very slow. Nymphing with the standard tail water fare was OK. Wire worms and sow bugs on a long, long leader with plenty of split shot did produce. The upside was the beautiful weather and the spectacular wildflowers. The ‘Horn is not known as a scenic float. This spring, it’s alive with blooming wild roses and a spectrum of other spring wildflowers. We floated 13 miles in five hours. Not many spots to anchor the boat, much less wade fish. Like I said, we were flying down the river. I was wishing for some of those goggles pilots used to wear in open cockpit airplanes! Pretty sure Chris had bugs in his teeth. He smiles a lot.

Smilin’ Chris Fleck on the Horn in February. He was wearing a Speedo yesterday in the 80 degree weather, so I did NOT take pictures.

The word is that the flows will be reduced to 8000 cfs by July.

Area lakes are fishing well in the morning and evening. Avoid fishing midday. Damsels and Dragons are active in response to the heat, so concentrate on Damsel and Dragon nymph imitations. Slow retrieves or dead drifts are most productive. Don’t expect much on the dry fly in the hot sun.

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Lake Fishin’ Time!

Nice fish, Jack!

Cold and wet, but still fishing!

Well, it’s that time of year. Streams and rivers are high and brown. Good thing we have plenty of still water options! Luce, Hogan and Newton lakes are all fishing well.

Jack and Jack endured a morning of cold, wind and rain to catch some bass on their first day of fly fishing. (Dad caught some, too.) The fishing was slow, but these boys hung in there to the very end. My kind of kids!

Streamer fishing is good on area lakes. Black is working best, but olive is also taking fish. Not much insect activity yet, but look for damsel and dragon flies to start hatching as the weather warms. Chironomids are active, so fishing a big midge nymph under an indicator is also a good way to go.

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One Last Day on Rock Creek?

Area streams and rivers are rising fast! Stephanie and Noah from Billings via Houston wade fished Rock Creek with me yesterday. Stephanie hammered this 22 inch rainbow on her first day with a fly rod! Yeah, I said 22 inches. On the tape. From Rock Creek. Stephanie is my hero.

With the start of run-off, fishing our streams and rivers will be challenging to say the least. As you can see from the photo above, Rock Creek was off color and it’s worse today. Fishing in dirty water means stripping or dead drifting something big and black. This fish ate a black wooly bugger.

Stay tuned for lake fishing reports. Just because the streams blow out is no reason not to fish!

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Classic Spring Dry Fly Fishing

Snowing hard. Huge flakes like snowballs. It’s 33 degrees. The flakes are falling straight down. Good news, no wind! We sit in the truck a few minutes, just to see which way things might go. There’s a hint of blue above the clouds. Perfect dry fly day on the Stillwater.

Baetis are back with the cold, wet weather. Look for the hatch about 1:30. We got lucky last Wednesday. The Baetis hatch turned into a March Brown hatch. Wound up the evening with a Caddis hatch. Fish were rising for a good four hours. We did get rained on and snowed on. That was the best part!

Try a #16 BWO parachute, #14 brown parachute (a trailing shuck on it will kill) and a #14 elk hair caddis, black body and light wing. A Hare’s Ear with a soft hackle and the Prince Nymph are winners subsurface.

Nice fish on a cold spring day, George!

Christina’s first trout. On a #16 BWO, no less. Born to fish the dry.


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Mayflie Time!

Ate the brown parachute.

Took the BWO.

Perfect spring day for a hatch!

The baetis (BWO) have finally showed up! And so have the March Browns! Double whammy on the Stillwater right now. Nymphing has slowed down and the streamer bite if off (38 degree water on Wednesday). But the dry fly fishing is great in the afternoon. Soft hackles also worked well under the hatch.

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Of little stoneflies and baetis…


Sure sign of spring in Red Lodge!

The Stillwater and Rock Creek are in early spring mode! Rainbows are running up the Stillwater for the spawn. Caught several nice ‘bows around Absarokee today. A couple were definitely Yellowstone fish in spawn color.

Baetis nymphs are starting to darken up before the hatch. The Stillwater is crawling with them! Should have a good hatch this season. They could start hatching soon, judging from the change in color over the last week.

Little black stoneflies. That’s my scientific name for, well… the little black stonefly that comes out on area streams this time of year. There were quite a few out today. Every once in a while, a fish or three would rise, once. Once. Not in the foam lines, out in flat water. I associate that with the stoneflies. There tends to be one here, one there. Hard to dry fly fish that kind of action. Nymphing, on the other hand, can be really good. It was good today. I fished a baetis nymph and some stonefly looking stuff. The stonefly stuff killed it. Try a Montana Prince in size 14. Regular Princes work very well, too.

Streamer fishing has been up and down. Stripping a black and blue wooly bugger worked great last week, not so great this week.

Here’s hoping for March Browns and Caddis in a couple of weeks!

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