Tributaries in the Western District open the third Saturday of May every year in Montana, opening up a lot of new waters we haven’t been able to fish since December! The cold nights and cooler days will provide some good fishing in the upper reaches of the tribs, so there’s going to be some good fishing to be found!
But as we start to venture farther away from the main stems, we start to wander closer to the wilder sections of our area. For the last two years, the bears have been prevalent in the Blackfoot valley. So if your,re going to head up to your favorite Blackfoot River tributary, you will want to have bear spray. The bears are up and moving, be ready for that situation.
Mooses are starting to calve. When we think of dangerous animals in Montana, we think of bears and wild cats, but in truth, in the Spring Moose can be incredibly dangerous. They are calving, and if you find yourself between a moose and its calf, you are going to have problems! If you see a moose, steer very clear. While moose are normally docile to humans, they will defend their calf vigorously, so don’t spend time looking to see if there’s a calf, just find another place to fish!
It’s still Spring in Montana, so as you venture up the tributaries, make sure to take additional layers, and maybe a little extra water and some essential safety gear. As we all know, the weather in Montana can turn on a dime, so you’ll need to be prepared for whichever way the wind blows. A little pre-planning can be a true life saver if you find yourself high in the hills when the weather gets unfriendly.
Once you’ve made the necessary preparations for Montana’s weather and critters, the fishing can be fantastic as the tributaries open. The Mother’s Day Caddis is still out and about. Make sure to have some dries and pupa to be ready when they come off. The Salmon Flies are right around the corner. While the big bugs probably won’t be flying, the nymphs are starting to stage in the shallows. Make sure you have a few sizable Pat’s Rubberlegs or Some big Double Bead Stones. The fish are looking for these tasty morsels, so make sure you’re prepared.
There is a lot of excitement around Missoula fly fishing when the tribs open, and there’s good reason, especially this year. They should be relatively clear, if still moving fast. The water is cold, and some of the bigger fish will still be holding out of the main stems. Don’t count on much surface activity, so be ready with your streamers and your nymphs. While the opening day is important, not as many anglers will take advantage as you think they will. It will be easy to find the best spots, and make sure you work them well. Fast water keeps the fish close to the bank, so keep your flies there as well.
For some of Missoula’s tributaries, this is the best time to fish them. Some of them get low and warm as the season progresses. If you love the small waters, the solitude of the woods and the simplicity of wading, today will mark the first time in 6 months that you can indulge in these joys.