Bullet Points in Fly Fishing History

If you want to study fly fishing history, study the hook! The earliest hooks were discovered in Okinawa, and made from snail shells. Wikipedia says they are anywhere from 22.360 to 22,770 years old. Man has been looking to the ocean for food for quite some time!

Inshore, it probably didn’t take long to figure out there was food beneath a rise. All early man had to do was figure out how to get it. It took a while for technology to catch up with fly fishing, because it would be difficult to dress a snail-shell hook!  The first record of true fly fishing comes from the Roman author Aelius in 200 AD, from his book On The Nature Of Animals. In volume 17, he tells of Macedonians attaching red wool and two feathers to a hook, to imitate the Hippurus fly. The fly was attached to a 6’ rod that held a 6’ line. He called it the Macedonian way of fishing.

It’s important to note Aelius didn’t stumble upon this the first time it was done. This method of fishing had been in place for a while. While we date the first true fly fishing documentation as 200 AD, the tradition had been established before then. No one had bothered to write it down! Also note this is a Western version of history. As the world shrinks, and we get more information from China and Japan, the earliest date of fly fishing may change. The Chinese and Japanese have their own history of fly fishing that is just coming to light. We shall see!

Fly fishing was present throughout the Middle Ages. Reference to using a Vederangel (feathered hook) is found in German literature in the 13th century. If was known well enough to be a literary device, the idea of fly fishing was firmly established. Fly fishing is also referenced in Britain and Spain, as well as Japan. The writings are clear about fly fishing, but not very clear on details. But the seeds are there for Dame Juliana and her landmark achievement.

The first book on fly fishing to be published with moveable type was A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle,credited to Dame Juliana Berners. She was a nun, and an avid fly fisherman. It was the first manual for fly fishing, detailing building rods, weaving horsehair into lines and listing 12 flies, one for each month of the year. The fly for May was an Ephemerella, or a Mayfly. The impact of this book still resonates with us today.

In 1496, an angler’s tackle consisted of a rod anywhere from 12-16 feet long, made of 3-4 pieces of solid wood, angled at the ends and spliced together with twine. The horse hair line was approximately the same length as the rod, and attached to the tip. Flies were dressed on hooks, which were often shaped pins, and the horsehair leader was snelled into the fly as part of the tying process. If you hooked a smaller fish, you yanked it out. Hook something bigger, and you tossed the rod in the water and let the fish tow it around till it tired. It was not an easy sport to pursue, as the angler had very few places to procure tackle. The very wealthy had gillies (someone hired to do nothing but maintain tackle and do stream keeping if applicable) but most made their own tackle.

Interestingly, Tenkara today is almost a carbon copy of the angling enjoyed in 1496. Of course, Tenkara rods are graphite, the line and tippets are polyvinyl and mono, but the concept is the same. The Missoulian Angler fly shop hasn’t fully embraced Tenkara- its simplicity doesn’t seem to appeal to the tackle junkies who work here! But there’s no doubting the ease of taking a Tenkara rod backpacking, or the thrill of sneaking close enough to feeding fish to make the technology of 1496 work today.

Change came slowly over the next 350 years. Rings (metal hoops held by a band and wrapped on with thread) were the first guides, which allowed the line to extend and retract. Silk was a new material, and it was incorporated into lines. Gut replaced horsehair as the leader of choice, and would remain so until 1945. With a moveable line came the reel. As the world expanded, the woods used in rod building became more varied, and as bamboo came from China, anglers knew they had found something that held some promise.

Initially, bamboo was used as it came from China, like a cane pole. It was lighter in weight, with some flexibility in the thinner sections. Ferrules were a tricky business in the early 1800’s, as anglers tried to get away from splicing rod pieces into place every time out. The metallurgy still hadn’t caught up with the need. But by 1847, rod tips were being made with 3-4 strips of shaved bamboo, though the process hadn’t come close to being perfected. That was done in America by Samuel Phillipe and Hiram Leonard. Both were originally gunsmiths by trade, and both helped revolutionize fly fishing. They moved to 6 strip construction (hexagonal) which is still the preferred design to this day. They built rods that truly cast, and were significantly shorter and lighter than their predecessors. Reels continued to improve, as did the silk lines. Rod action was now controllable and expanded, with lines manufactured in different thicknesses (weights) to enhance the now controllable action.

An angler in 1939 was decked out waterproof pants made of canvas sandwiching a layer of rubber. They used a hexagonal cane rod, either hand or machine planed. The reel was steel or aluminum, and the line was made of silk. The leader was still gut, which needed to be soaked the previous day or it had no flexibility. The picture our Missoula fly shop bathroom called Grandpas Tackle shows an aluminum gut soaker. The flies had integral metal eyes, and were dressed with much thinner thread than used in the 1800’s. The 1939 angler would be quite recognizable today, with tackle we would easily recognize and be comfortable with.

Then came WWll, and the world fought in ways that had never been experienced. From that carnage came plastic, fiberglass and Poly Vinyl. Rods went from cane to Fiberglass. Leaders went from gut to monofilament, and fly lines went from silk to poly coated. Spin fishing came from the technological explosion during the war. Fly fishing became easier and much more accessible. Tapered leaders were now extruded, not hand tied. Rods didn’t wear out, and required less maintenance. Lines lasted well over a year. Fly fishing was simplifying.

This blog writer learned how to fly fish using a cane rod with a plastic reel seat. When it was built, plastic was a marvel. Waterproof, almost unbreakable- it was a miracle of the modern age. I learned to spin fish before I learned to fly fish, and my grandfather provided me with a left-hand spinning reel.  I cast with my right hand, and reeled with my right hand, as I do today. In the early 1900’s, you cast right and reeled right, which made sense. A big bass or salmon rod weighed 9 ounces, and the reel might weigh 15. When you hooked a fish, you fought the fish with your “fresh” arm. By the early ‘60’s, left hand wind in fly fishing carried a stigma with old school fly fishers. It meant you started out spin fishing, and then moved to fly fishing. No grandson was going to go through life with that black mark on his head! So I reel right handed. Don’t sweat it, that thinking is long gone!

Things progressed until 1973, when Orvis introduced the first graphite rod. Talk about an upgrade! With graphite, rods became casting tools, built for power, accuracy and distance. New vistas opened up for fly fishing in the salt, as well as on streams and rivers. Rods weighed less, and reels soon followed suit. Fly fishing was getting easier and easier.

October 9, 1992. Brad Pitt stars, and Robert Redford directs. Fly fishing goes mainstream, and there’s no going back. In 1993, at the Fly Tackle Dealer Show, I got collared by Jim Murphy, president of Redington Rods at the time. You must try this rod. So I did. He asked me how much I thought the rod I’d just cast retailed for. I said $400-$450. He said $129, with a lifetime warranty. I said Bullsh*t. I said he cherry picked it- he brought me 5 more and they were all good rods. It was my introduction to overseas manufacturing of fly rods. In 1986, when I entered the fly fishing industry, I could say without hesitation that a good fly rod would cost you $375- half that if you put it together yourself, as I did. That changed in 1993. Fly fishing became (relatively) affordable, and the industry has never looked back.

I still have some of my grandfathers old tackle- rods, reels, flies and other assorted paraphernalia. I can say this without hesitation- we argue the finer points of rods like it makes a difference. Use one of my Grandpa’s “sticks”, and you know how they got that nickname. You’ll run back to your modern tackle so fast your head will spin. We’re in the Golden Age of fly fishing, and don’t let others tell you different. Our tackle is so far beyond what my grandfather used in 1978, it’s science fiction. Fly tying materials have never been better or more varied, The Feather Thief be damned. Be glad you have access to the best it’s ever been, because that’s what we have. Enjoy!!!!

George Kesel

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 10/10

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot River has been slow to move into strong Fall mode- it’s more been a sneaking up on the classic fall hatches. The Mahoganies are pushing their way onto the scene, getting a little better every day. The Tiltwing Dun and Brindle Chute are working as adults, while the Rusty Hackle Stacker is taking fish as a cripple/emerger. While not a blanket hatch, there’s enough bugs to get the trout’s attention. Get down with a PT Jig or a Caramel Jig to make the most of the Mahoganies at the moment.
The BWO’s are also slowly appearing this year. Have the basics with you- Parachute BWO, Last Chance Cripple and a Hackle Stacker to cover the hatch along the river. Be ready for random appearances until the clouds start to hit the area with some regularity. A small Olive Bullet or Olive Spanish Bullet is working as the dropper on a double nymph rig.
The amazing weather we’re having has kept the hopper fishing as good as we’ve seen it for a while this late in October, and it looks like it will stay good for a while. There are still tricos coming off, and while they are waning, the trout are still looking for them. Make sure you have your tricos with you.
If the weather gets cloudy, get to the Bitterroot. The clouds will get the Mahoganies and BWO’s moving, so when the sky is overcast, you should be casting as well!
With the sun, a bright, flashy streamer is moving fish. Try a Skiddish Smolt, Little Kim Ciopper or any Kreelix in the sun to grab the trout’s attention. A little deeper is always better when the sun is shining, but the water temps are telling the trout it’s time to eat, so show them some big food and get ready.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot River is starting to show signs of the end of fall fishing. That means the streamer fishing is really good up here. The big fish are looking for some pre-Winter bulk, so it makes sense to show them what they want! If you have a streamer set-up, the big flies like a Dungeon or Double Dirty Hippie are moving big fish. Get them a bit deeper than usual to counter the sun. Make sure to have light, bright and dark streamers to cover all the bases. For lighter line weights, throw a smaller streamer, and make sure you get it close to structure. The big fish are looking to eat- make it easy by putting your fly where they live.
The October Caddis are being seen on the Blackfoot, and while the fish are taking the adults sporadically, the pupa are really working. The Bird of Prey and Orange Mop Fly are moving fish sub-surface with regularity. While not an October Caddis, the TJ Hooker, Orange Spot PT Jig and Olive Micro Dot are also taking fish on a double nymph rig or under a hopper.
Which are still working! The warm Fall we’re having is keeping the hoppers quite active on the middle and lower sections of the Blackfoot. Have a range of sizes, as the hot hopper seems to change from day to day, big and small. We can’t even say which color is hot, as that seems to change as well. But have your hoppers and larger attractors to get some fish to the surface.Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Clark Fork River


The Clark Fork has been a bit of an enigma this fall. The hatches are out, but without consistency. Mahoganies, BWOS and some October Caddis are being seen, but so far nothing has truly established with the warm, sunny weather. That keeps the hatches simple, with a Pheasant Tail Parachute working for the mahoganies, and a Tiltwing for the BWO’s.
The warm weather has trout still looking for hoppers. Have an assortment of sizes and colors, as the trout have seen a few this season and sometimes the wild card is the answer. Drop a Duracell or PT Jig off the back to imitate the Mahogany nymph. Mid size attractors are also working well, like a Purple Pennington or a Micro Waterwalker.
If you decide to run a double nymph rig, a TJ Hooker or a Double Bead Stone as the point will get your Olive Micro Dot or SR Bullet Quill down deep. Placing your indicator 5-6 feet from the point fly is not too far- get down deep in the sun.The streamer bite is coming on as well, especially in the middle section. Big flies move big fish, so if you have the line weight to throw big flies, do so. With a lighter line, a Skiddish Smolt or Kreelix will provide the sink rate and ease of casting that will take fish. When the sun is shining, a sparkly fly tends to work a bit better, but make sure to have the full color spectrum, just in case.
If we get a cloudy day, drop what you’re doing and head to the Clark Fork. The hatches have been strong ion the clouds, so take advantage.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Rock Creek

Rock Creek is fishing well right now with hoppers, nymphs and streamers. The classic fall hatches are taking their time to establish up here, but with a little diligence you can find some spots where the Mahoganies and BWO’s are starting to appear. Make sure to have some Parachute Pheasant Tails and your BWO’s, but it’s going to take a bit to find fish taking them.
The Hoppers and Attractors are still working along the length of the river, especially in the afternoon as the water temps rise. A Pink or tan hopper has been taking fish with regularity, as have the Stubby Chubbies, Micro Chubbies and the Brindle Chute. Work the edges and drop offs for the best reception.
Have your October caddis with you, as some dries are being seen. The real strength of the October Caddis is in the pupa. The Bird of Prey or a smaller Golden Pat’s Rubberlegs are taking fish sub-surface. If you see an October Caddis flying, try a pupa to move some fish.
The bigger fish are holding out for streamers. Sparkle Minnows and Kreelix are working along the length of the Creek, along the edges and in the middle of the river as well. Not surprisingly, nymphs have been steady producers, with the Duracell, Olive Micro Dot and Orange Spot PT Jigs working very well. Get them a little deeper in the sunshine, and make sure to work the water well. With low water and sunshine, the fish are stacked up in the prime spots, so make sure the fish get a chance to see your fly.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 8/7

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

Hoot Owl restrictions are in place along the entire Bitterroot, from the confluence of the East and West Forks to the confluence at the Clark Fork. Hoot Owl hours do not allow fishing from 2:00 PM to midnight, so get out early if you’re heading to the Bitterroot.
The tricos have definitely established along the Bitterroot, and there are still some straggling PMD’s that will move fish, so have them with you. A CDC Thorax Trico or a Don King Trico have been working on the Bitterroot, as has the Gould’s Sunken Trico. If you use a Sunken Trico, drop it off a size 18 Royal Wulff (you’ll be surprised how many risers take the Royal Wulff) so you can locate the dropper. Use anywhere from 3-6 inches of dropper to control the depth.
The golden stones are almost gone, but are being replaced by the Hopper. A tan hopper, like the Morrish or the Tan Henneberry will work as both a Golden or a hopper. The Pink Thunder Thighs and the Juicy Hopper are also moving fish, and those two will also float a decent sized dropper. Don’t focus exclusively on Hoppers- other terrestrials are also working very well. The Micro Chubby in Tan and Gold are working well as a beetle, and the Ant Acid in Purple is taking fish as well.
When you go subsurface, try a Copper Top Duracell, a G Kes or a Tungsten Jig Pheasant Tail, all in a 14-16. Make sure your dropper is long enough to get the fly to the bottom, because wit the warmer water, the fish are hugging the bottom. When you hook a fish on a nymph, play it hard and fast, to get it back to the bottom quickly. If you’re wading, move out of the warmer water along the edges and release the trout in the cooler water away from the bank. Work the riffles hard with a nymph- lots more fish there than you think due to oxygenation.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot is fishing well along its length, having benefitted from the extended run-off, though getting a bit low for hard boats. Remember it’s inner tube season, so if you’re thinking of fishing the lower sections, get on at dawn and be ready to be off by 11:00, when the inner tube hatch begins.
Tricos are hatching on the Blackfoot, the trick is to find a place where bigger fish are rising. If you do, the Female Trico Spinner or the Hi-Viz are very effective. Sporadic Spruce Moths are being seen, so have those with you. If you don’t have any, a simple Tan Caddis will do the trick. The Goldens are still working, but they’re waning, so use what you have. Make sure to have a few Hoppers as well, including the Morrish Hopper in Purple, as well as the Tan Thunder Thighs and the Juicy Hopper.
Don’t sleep on the Attractor Fly fishing up here as well. It’s a great time to run the Hippie Stomper, Stubby Chubbies and the good old Royal Wulff. The fish are hungry and food is scarce, so a well placed dry will definitely spur on the interest.
If you plan to run a smaller dropper, it’s just as important to lengthen the dropper length as it is to get the right fly. A simple Tungsten Jig Pheasant Tail, Caramel Jig or a Hare’s Ear Jig are working well. Truthfully, since most of the nymphs have hatched out, almost any well drifted nymph at the correct depth will work. If you want to throw a bigger nymph, like a Tungsten Zirdle or a TJ Hooker, you’re going to want to use an indicator. 6 feet is not too deep to set the indicator- the fish are belly hugging the bottom in the deeper pools. Fight the fish hard, and fight them fast to get them back to their homes quickly.
We’ve also had some decent action on streamers in the last week. A White Sculpzilla and the White Mini Dungeon have been moving fish, as has the Skiddish Smolt and the Tungsten Found Ya Bugger.
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Clark Fork River

There are Hoot Owl restrictions on the Clark Fork River, specifically from the confluence of the Bitterroot to the confluence of the Flathead, and from Warm Springs to the confluence of Flint Creek. When Hoot Owl hours are in effect, there is no fishing from 2:00 PM to midnight, to avoid stressing the fish in the heat of the day.
With that said, the Clark Fork has been fishing well in the middle and lower sections. The tricos are now consistent in the morning, and there are still a few pods of fish taking the last of the PMD’s. The Hi-Viz Trico spinner is always a good choice for finding your fly, and drop a Female Trico Spinner or a CDC Thorax Trico behind it. Clark Fork fish can get a bit fussy about the Hi-Viz, especially the big ones, but you can use it to sight in the floating dropper.
Hoppers are starting to be eaten as well, and they are blending in with the almost done Golden Stones. The fish are still looking up for a big floater, so have a Morrish Hopper Tan or a Henneberry Tan to do double duty. The Tan Parachute Hopper has stayed hot from last year, as has the Sweetwater Hopper. Don’t forget the other terrestrials! The Ant Acid in Brown and Purple are working well, as is the Stubby Chubby in Cinnamon and Purple. It’s terrestrial time, so take advantage.
Subsurface, a smaller jig nymph like the Yellow Spot Jig, the G Kes or the Bullet Quill is working. Since most of the nymphs have just hatched out, there’s not a lot of food available to the trout. Just as important as the fly selection is the length of your dropper. That 2’ dropper that’s so easy to cast should be lengthened to about 3.5-4 feet. The fly needs to get the fish that are hugging the bottom. The annoyance of casting the long dropper will be balanced by more fish. Fluorocarbon leader is preferred at this point, since the water is so clear.
On the lower Clark Fork, a Brown Pat’s Rubberlegs or a TJ Hooker will work very well as the point on a double nymph rig. Those flies work best deep, so set your indicator about 7 feet from the fly. Drop a smaller fly off the bottom of the Pat’s to double your chances.
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Rock Creek

Rock Creek is fishing very well along the length, mostly due to the high gradient and good oxygenation. You should still fight the fish quickly to minimize stress in the heat, but that’s a strategy that should be employed at all times, not just in the heat of the summer.
There are still a few straggling PMD’s, and the Tricos are also appearing. As always, the trick on Rock creek is to find a place where the fish are eating Tricos. If you know of a place (and don’t tell anyone!) a simple Hi-Viz Spinner or CDC Thorax will get the fish moving. Nothing fancy in flies- it’s finding them that takes the time.
Still a few straggling Golden Stones, and those will meld into hopper fishing. A Tan Morrish Hopper or Sweetwater Hopper have been working up here, doing a bit of double duty in the imitation department. If you’re looking for a more specific hopper pattern, the Tan Parachute or Tan Henneberry have been producing. Don’t forget the other terrestrials as well. The Black or Purple Ant Acid have been great along the edges, and the Stubby Chubby is proving to be an excellent beetle imitation under the trees. A few random Spruce Moths are being seen, so have your Tan Caddis. Have them anyways, because the caddis are still coming out at dusk.
It’s also fun to run Attractor dries at this time of year. A big Royal Wulff, Yellow Stimulator or a big foamie will pull fish up to eat. If you run a big foamie, drop a smaller Hare’s Ear jig or a Yellow Spot Jig underneath for more action. Make sure your dropper is a bit longer than you want it to make sure you’re getting where the fish are. If you deciode to run a bigger nymph, like a Pat’s Rubberlegs or a Black Double Bead Stone, use an indicator to make sure the fly gets deep enough.
A well placed streamer is also producing in the deeper pools. A Gold/Silver Kreelix has been quite successful, and of course the Sparkle Minnow is still money on Rock Creek. And if big flies are on your mind, step out after dark with a mouse and see what some of the bigger fish are doing. This is the time for mousing, and Rock Creek has a lot of fish that are active at night.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 7/21

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot is dropping like a stone, which is excellent news for the wading angler. Still enough water for the floaters, but now waders can really get into the game as well. Water temps are holding decently, due to the cooler nights, and we expect that to hold for the season.
The Golden Stones are still coming out in numbers, as are the Yellow Sallies. This late in the season, go with the lower floating, more natural colored imitations like the Henry’s Fork Golden, Rogue Stone or the Demoe’s Mill Creek. The PMD’s and PED’s are strong as well, so have some Keller’s Rocky Mountain PMD’s and Parachute PMD’s for the adults, backed up with the PMD Film Critic for the emerger/cripple. Those bugs will work for the PED’s as well. If you’re out at dawn or dusk, make sure to have your Rusty Spinners with you to cover the spinner fall.
Caddis are being seen in the evening, so carry your caddis as well. Hoppers, ants and beetles are being taken as the hatches ebb and flow during the day. Keep your hoppers small and golden golden stone colored to do double duty on the water.
Sub-surface the basics are working extremely well. Smaller TJ Hookers, the G Kes, Jioggy Yellow Sally and the Orange Spot PT Jig are all very effective right now. Early and late in the day, a smaller, light weight streamer will move the larger fish. The Bitterroot is fishing very well right now.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

There are still remnants of the Salmon Flies hatch on the upper, upper stretches, so if you’re going high, make sure to have them. It’s still the Golden Stones that are the hottest fly. Make sure to have low floating flies in subdues colors. The Henry’s Fork Stone, Rasta Golden and the Emma’s Stone are great low floaters that will float a smaller dropper. The Yellow Sallies are also out in force, and a double dry with a Rolling Stone Yellow Sally will pay dividends. The PMD’s are still very active, as are the PED’s and Tan Caddis. Make sure to have some PMD Film Critics and the D&D Cripple, as well as some Parachutes for the adults. The X- Caddis and the basic Brown Elk Hair are working when the caddis are out.
The TJ Hooker and Natural Tungsten Zirdle are very good subsurface right now, as is the Jiggy Yellow Sally, the Tungsten Jig Assassin and the PT Jig. Use as long a dropper as you can stand, or to be more effective, go double nymph with a large and small fly. Streamers are still viable all day, especially from the boat, but smaller and more accurately placed my be better than a big streamer just close to the target.
The wading is starting to come around on the Blackfoot, with more spots becoming available as the water drops. Still better to go higher up the river, but the wading is getting better. If you plan on floating low, do it early in the day- the innertube hatch is getting strong as well!
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Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork is rounding into shape very nicely, with pods of fish setting up for the PMD and PED hatches. Make sure to have some D&D or Flash Cripples and the PMD Film Critic to supplement the basic PMD Parachute, as the fish can get snooty quickly. If those don’t work quickly, switch to a Rusty Spinner to bring up the fish count.
The Golden Stones are still very important, and if you don’t have pods, put on a subtle Golden like the Henry’s Fork or the Rogue Golden and search with those. Drop a Yellow Sally off the rear to increase your chances, and so you have an idea where that little fly might be.
Subsurface, the Brown Pat’s Rubberlegs as deep as you can drop it has been very strong, as has a TJ Hooker. The Orange Spot PT Jig, the G Kes and the Silverman Red Tag Yellow Sally Jig have also been very effective. Not many people throwing streamers, which shouldn’t deter you if you want to throw them. Get them deep and the fish are taking them.
The Clark Fork is dropping, but the wading opportunities are still not as easily found. The upper Clark Fork is where to head if you’re on your feet.
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Rock Creek

Yellow Sallies and Golden Stones are still the top producers on Rock Creek right now, with PMD’s and PED’s also coming off with regularity. Again, subdued colors in smaller sizes are the more effective right now. The Rogue Stone, Henry’s Fork Golden and the Rasta are consistently effective up here. The Yellow Sally Rolling Stone and the Chubby Silvey Sally (with some brown marker on the body to dull the color) have been making excellent droppers on a double dry rig.
The Kellers Rocky Mountain PMD and the Tiltwing PMD have been strong during the PMD and PED hatch, as have the D&D Cripple. If you’re going to be out late or early, make sure to have your Rusty Spinners in a size 16. They’ve also been most effective.
The Tan caddis has been very effective all day on Rock Creek, not just during the hatch. Use a Brown Elk Hair caddis as a searching pattern all day, and an X-Caddis when the hatch is on. You can also search with terrestrials, which have been effective as well. If you choose to search with a hopper, stick to a tan hopper so it does double duty as a stonefly as well.
The size 12 Tungsten Natural Zirdle and the Tan/Brown TJ Hooker have been producing sub-surface, as has the Orange Spot Jig, the G Kes and the PT Jig. Streamers have been moving fish early and late, with a couple anglers reporting good streamer fishing during the day, but they were using sinking leaders. The water is still big on rock Creek, so the farther upstream you go, the easier the wading will be, though the river is dropping quickly along the length.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 6/20

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The bitterroot bumped with the recent rain and is slowly coming back down. The water is still big up here. Not a bad idea to give this one some time to come back down a little more. We’ve had some reports on the upper stretches that fished good before the bump but the lower end will take some time to calm down. The Salmonfly hatch has been inconsistent over the last few weeks on the upper, they’ve been out heavy in the sun but are starting to wane. Be ready for the Golden Stone hatch on the upper soon.
We’re still doing our best to scout some of these stretches but with the fluctuating water the river is constantly changing, we’re waiting for it to drop back down after the recent rain event. Be careful if you decide to float. Might be a better idea to get out the tying vise, hit your favorite lake or wade smaller streams.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot river bumped in flows with the recent rain and is leveling off as of this morning. The Blackfoot has been the most consistent for us this last week with the dropping flows and warming temps. We started to get some Salmonfly dry fly action on the lower end but nothing to really write home about. The nymphing was consistent and the streamer fishing was also productive. We’re hoping the water continues to drop throughout this week. The forecast isn’t calling for much more rain after today, the warmer temps should bring a little more consistency to our flows opposed to the rain which can cause big spikes.
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Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork is on it’s way up and not a great choice right now. The stretches above town should come back down quickly this week after the rain but the lower should be high and murky for a while. Much better options than the Clark Fork this week.
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Rock Creek

We’ve had some awesome reports over the last week with warmer temps and dropping flows. The Salmonflies have been out and the fish are eating them. The last few days the water has bumped in flows but we expect that to come down in the coming days. If you’ve been paying attention to the flows, you’ve seen how quickly flows can drop this time of year after rain even through the warmer temps. They’re up now but should drop again this week.
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Blackfoot River Salmonflies

Yellowstone Flooding – Missoula Rivers Coming Into Shape

It’s all over the news- Yellowstone Park Closed! It looks like they’re having a 100 year flood down south, and we feel for them. Missoula had a 100 year flood event in 2018, and the town had issues for about 2 weeks. And then, except for the people whose houses took on water, we went back to a normal year. Better, in fact, because the water was high and cold throughout the summer and fall. Freestone rivers are at the mercy of the weather, and when the weather makes the national news, it has a definite affect on the rest of the season.

Right now in Missoula, the rivers are dropping. The cool spring has our flows where we want them, falling, and water temps staying cold. We have some heat coming in the next few days, but we don’t expect as dramatic of a bump like last week with the rain, followed by more mild temperatures. Last year at this time we were already talking about when hoot owl hours would come into play, and at the end of June we needed them. That won’t be the case this year. We have the makings of a good end of June fly fishing in western Montana and great fishing for the rest of the season. Water is what we need in the drought plagued west.

It’s a 4 hour drive to Yellowstone Park from Missoula, the intense flood we see on the Yellowstone river is much different than the bump in flows we saw last week around Missoula. We’ve had some people call and email the shop today concerned with what they’re seeing on national news. It’s important to note that Yellowstone river is almost 300 miles away from us. That’s multiple states away for some areas of the country! The Yellowstone river fly fishing will be affected by these floods for a while, Missoula rivers are in better shape and the rivers are dropping and the fishing is going to slowly picking up. Should be a decent salmonfly hatch starting by next week, although we don’t expect the rivers to keep dropping as quickly with the warm weather on tap for the next few days. Most likely another bump that should be smaller than last week and flows should continue to drop after that.

It’s the cycle of nature- the snow will melt and spring rains will come. Sometimes it happens early, and takes a while. Sometimes it happens late and occurs all at once. This year in Yellowstone Park, it’s happening late and a lot at once. In Missoula, it’s taking a while to occur. Both are normal, though we sympathize with the people whose lives and travel have been impacted by the extreme weather down south. It’s normal for the rivers to be high and off color.

But in a time, the roads will be cleared and the rivers will be back in play in Yellowstone. In the long run, it’s just a blip on the radar. Just as last year’s low, warm water was a blip on the radar to Missoula. Each year brings its own challenges, and its own set of conditions. But it takes a crazy year to really foul up the fishing beyond June 22 in this area and we don’t expect that to happen in Missoula. We expect our late spring fishing to be decent in Missoula, and the summer/fall fishing is going to be spectacular across the western half of Montana. Of course these are all speculations at this point but we are optimistic about the last week of June and the rest of summer

It’s all about the water, and in both places, we’re getting it. It might not be the way they want it in West, but it will be there. We’re having an easier time of it, and for that we’re thankful. But in the end, this too will pass, as Spring goes into Summer and then Fall. Then we see how next year shapes up, we see how nature treats us. It’s an endless cycle that anglers and other travelers have been dealing with for centuries. It seems like a lot right now, but in the long run, the trout, the rivers and the anglers will be doing what they always do- handling the conditions as they find them.

Right now, despite the news, it’s looking pretty darn good in the Missoula area for at least the last week of June and the rest of summer. Yellowstone will be out of commission for a while and we expect there to be an extended road closure for the summer months over there. We realize that many people are changing their plans to come fish the western side of the state at least for the next few weeks as we don’t have near the amount of issues like many other places in the state. Just remember those small businesses on the Yellowstone will have a tough summer. We’re happy to accommodate the lost fisherman for the time being but those small businesses will hopefully be ready when the damage is repaired. Might not be a bad idea to give them some business later this year or next, whenever they open back up.