Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 4/6

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 fly fishing took a bit of a hit with the warm weather, followed by snow, followed by rain. There was a large push of water which turned fishing off for a few days. It has leveled out and starting to drop as of today. Should fish ok for the next few days but expect nymphing to be the most productive strategy. We’ll see what the weather brings us in the next few days but we expect it to start fishing on top again and should continue to fish good.
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Blackfoot River

Fly fishing the Blackfoot River has seen a significant bump over the last few days. The clarity isn’t great but still fishable. This wouldn’t be our first option to fish this week but we hope levels come back down and water to clear up a bit. Might be a better option towards the end of this week and next week. Focus on deep inside seems with streamers and nymphs.
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Clark Fork River

Clark Fork fly fishing has been slow over the last few days with the bump in flows. Since everything dumps into the Clark Fork, it will be the last one to clear up. We are hoping it improves by next week but don’t expect great fishing any time soon. Fish are still found in the inside seems and slower paced water. Nymphing and streamers are the main game for now.
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Rock Creek

Fly fishing on Rock Creek has seen the same push of water like the rest of streams around Missoula. It’s on the drop as of today and fished decent even through the bump. Streamers and nymphs have been the most productive but big dries on top have moved a few fish in the afternoon. Starting to see some adult Skwalas hatching over the last week. Focus on inside seems and walking speed water with nymphs for the best fishing.
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March Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 4/2

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 fly fishing continues to fish well. There has been considerable bumps in flows with the recent warm up but fishing continues to be good regardless. More and more Skwalas are showing up every day with this warmer weather. Fish are still in their spring holding water like inside seems and walking speed water but are starting to move into faster holding water with the warm water temps. We still have been focusing on nymph droppers in the morning and dries late morning into the afternoon.
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Blackfoot River

Fly fishing the Blackfoot River is still cold and a little off color. Not unfishable by any means but keep your expectations in check. Streamers and nymphs are the way to go focusing on on inside seems. Fish streamers slow and deep, and hit every inch of the run when nymphing. While the fishing on the Blackfoot is nothing to write home about, it’s a good place to get away from people and have the river to yourself.
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Clark Fork River

Clark Fork fly fishing is still pretty slow with new push of water and darker clarity. We’ll see what the flows and weather does this week. Still fishable but you will be working hard for every fish. We’re hoping flows stabilize and water clears up. Focus on nymphs and streamers on inside seems.
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Rock Creek

Fly fishing on Rock Creek has been good over the past few weeks. Even with a bump in flows, the fishing continues to produce. There are a few Skwalas out and we expect more and more to show up with the warmer weather. Nymphing is still your most productive tactic but dry fly fishing is an option in the afternoon. Streamer fishing is a great choice this time of year for fly fishing on Rock Creek too. Like the rest of our streams focus your time on inside seems and walking pace water.
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March Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 3/26

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 fly fishing has been good lately with some decent dry fly action from late morning into the afternoon. With these colder nights we’ve been seeing, focus on nymphing in the morning and switch to a dry dropper or single dry during the afternoon. We are still not seeing many adult Skwalas but with the warm weather forecast, we should start seeing plenty. This weekends warm up might bring another push of water but nothing that should keep you from fishing. It’s been a long winter and this warm up is exactly what we all need in our life. Go enjoy it!
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Blackfoot River

Fly fishing the Blackfoot River is still cold and not much has changed as far as the fishing. It got a little off color with the last warm up but has leveled off and cleared up. We have been floating a few stretches and chucking streamers for a few good fish a day. The Blackfoot River is not a numbers game this time of year but focusing on slow inside seems and runs will get it done. This is a great option if you want the river to yourself, just don’t expect heavy action all day long. Nymphing and streamer fishing is the way to go.
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Clark Fork River

Clark Fork fly fishing is still pretty slow for the most part. Like the Blackfoot, it got a little off color with the last warm up and then started to clear up. Expect waterflows to bump a little with the warm up bringing more off color conditions. We have seen a few Skwala adults out but not enough to get the fish to excited at this point. Should be a decent option until the water turns dark as we expect to see with this warm up. Focus on slower water and inside seems with nymphs and streamers and possibility of some decent dry fly action in the afternoon.
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Rock Creek

Fly fishing on Rock Creek is starting to warm up with very few adult Skwalas starting to show up. Not a great dry fly option by any means but it’s at least a start. We’ve heard good reports from the top stretches to the bottom. Nymphing is still your most effective strategy followed by streamers. There are a few fish looking up for dries in the afternoon but don’t expect much on dries. Like the rest of our streams, focus on your fishing on the slow walking pace water like inside seems and slow runs.
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March Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.

Fly Fishing The Clark Fork River

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 3/15

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 fly fishing is improving every day. We have seen a few Skwala adults hatching but nothing to write home about yet. Focus your time nymphing and streamer fishing. The forecast is looking promising with higher night time temperatures but spring forecasts in Montana is never a for sure thing. We expect the dry fly fishing to improve late this week into next week.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

Fly fishing the Blackfoot River has been pretty slow with the cold temperatures. If you want to have a section all to yourself then this is a good option. Don’t expect numbers but the nymphing and streamer fishing can bring some quality fish to hand this time of year. Focus on slow inside seems with deep nymph rigs and streamers
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Clark Fork River

Clark Fork fly fishing, is slowly starting to wake up. Not much for good dry fly fishing yet but the nymphing and streamer fishing can be decent. Focus your time on slow inside seems with nymph rigs and streamers. We will see what the weather brings before we get to excited about streamer fishing on the Clark Fork river.
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Rock Creek

Fly fishing on Rock Creek is a good option this time of year with nymphs and streamer fishing. Not much for dry fly action yet but this can be some of the best nymphing of the year on slow inside seams with stonefly nymph imitations. We should start seeing some Skwalas hatching in the next few weeks.
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March Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.

Rock Creek Montana

Winter Nymphing

Unless you ski or snowboard, things get a lot slower in the winter. Slower traffic, slower getting kids out of the house, slow cooker meals- face it, things just don’t move as fast in the cold.

The same thing applies to winter nymph fishing for trout in the Blackfoot River, Rock Creek, Bitterroot River and Clark Fork River. Trout are cold blooded (Trout Biology), meaning their body temperature and metabolism fluctuates with the water temperature. The colder the water, the slower the trout’s metabolism. Trout in winter don’t need much food.

In the hot summer months, trout are stressed by warmer water. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water, so along with more food, summer fish are also searching for oxygenated water, often found in and just below riffles. Summer trout can be lethargic due to decreased oxygen. Winter trout don’t have oxygen issues. The cold water holds lots of O2.

Let’s add a third biological piece of the puzzle. Very little photosynthesis goes on in the winter. Not much beyond midges are hatching, and the number of insects in the river is declining, though the biomass is going up. Summer trout are stationed in areas of maximum photosynthesis, because where there’s plant life, there’s insect life. The higher metabolism in summer drives trout to feed more, meaning trout are found where the most bugs are- shallow, fertile water with lots of plant and algae life. In winter, trout don’t need as much food, so they don’t need maximum bug populations.

These cold water factors combine to push trout into much different water than they’re found in warmer weather. The driving forces behind trout behavior remain consistent- food, oxygen, safety from predators- but are implemented in a very different way as the water temperatures fall.

Trout are always looking for places to find food, breath and be safe. As water temps fall, trout begin to move to places that summer fishermen aren’t familiar with. Look for trout in deeper, slower water, away from the faster seams, again counter to summer behavior. A higher metabolism needs a bigger supply of food, provided by the faster seam. With less food requirements, trout are found in slower, quieter water. Less food, but with the addition of less energy used and safety from predators.

Blackfoot February Fly Fishing

When you go to the river in summer, you see the places that are “prime”, and many places that are marginal. While marginal covers a LOT of water- shallows, stagnant, too deep, too fast- winter anglers are looking for slower, darker and less fishy looking areas. Think about the deeper drop farther below a riffle, or the very inside or outside of a seam, where the water is quite slow. If you fish those places in the summer, you tend to take tiddlers- fish that require much less food to survive, simply because their size doesn’t need as many calories to sustain them. Remember these spots!

We’ve been talking about winter trout as if they don’t eat. That’s not correct, not by a longshot. They’re still eating, and regularly, just not where you think they are. They’ve moved to the marginal water for the winter. All those spots that kicked out 4-6 inch fish now hold larger fish, looking for the less strenuous lifestyle offered by water that’s slow, cold and deeper than usual. The summer margins are now the go-to spots for nymphing.

Timing and conditions differ for winter nymphing as well. We know in the heat of the summer, it’s better to fish the edges of the day. Dawn and dusk offer the fish a more comfortable water temperature, and they get more active. It’s the direct opposite in cold weather. Get out in the “heat” of the day. Mid afternoon is prime time when the temperature drops. Sunlight is also your friend in winter. Just as the sun makes you feel warmer in winter, it does the same for the trout. Sun on the water will quicken their metabolism, getting trout more active in the water. Counterintuitive to the summer fisherman, but important in winter.

When it comes to rigging for winter nymphing, it’s a double nymph rig all the way. However you choose to rig- drop shot, double tungsten jigs, wire worm or lead weight- there is no indicator dry in the winter. You’re going down to where the fish are, and staying there. Try and use as small an indicator as you can, and as unobtrusive as it can be. A small Thing-A-Ma-Bobber or Air-Lock is the way to go. The New Zealand wool or other natural indicators are not as effective on really cold days- they freeze on the cast! Drop your fly a bit deeper than you’re comfortable with. The fish are on the bottom, and not roaming very far for food. You need to get to them- they’re not coming to you.

When it comes to choosing winter nymphs, we wish we could say only these bugs worked. It would help sales in a slow time of year! But pretty much any nymph that worked in the summer will work in the winter, and at pretty much any time. There are no winter hatches in Missoula, other than midges, and the trout are seeing a wide variety of nymphs and pupa go by. Because there aren’t enough insects of one type to grab the trout’s focus, they will eat most anything that goes by. Provided it’s close enough to eat, presented properly and they don’t need to expend too much energy.

Early winter nymphing, found in November and December, will sometimes benefit from a smaller nymph. Due to nymphal life cycles, the early winter nymphs are smaller than the later winter nymphs. As an example, a PMD nymph in November may only be 4mm long- by February it will be 6-7 mm long. Trout are trout- you still have to be close to the size of the food form to entice them into eating.

Not expending too much energy to eat is critical. The trout’s metabolism is down, energy is down, motivation is down. They’re not going to move 4 feet to take a Pat’s RubberLegs, even though it’s a big meal. The fly needs to drift very close to the trout before they’ll eat. Which changes the strategy of the winter nympher.

One of the true joys of winter nymphing is the solitude it provides. River access parking lots that are full in July are now empty. You have your pick of the river most of the time. Cold weather fishing is not the time to go prospecting for trout. The smart winter fisherman goes right to the spot he wants to fish and stays there.

Unless you’re a world class Euronympher, there will be subtle variations in each cast you make. It looks like your flies should be doing the same thing, but underwater they’re not. In summer, these differences aren’t so pronounced, as the trout will range farther to take in food. Now, you have to bang them on the nose to get them to eat. For most anglers, the chance you hit the first cast perfectly is not great. But you know the fish are here. So keep casting!

Fly Fishing Bitterroot River

Winter fishermen go to Prime Position A, and stay there a while. They make sure to throw enough casts to cover all the fish there. Understanding that each cast is different, and just because no trout ate the last one, doesn’t mean they won’t eat the next one. Trout aren’t moving to your fly- you need to move your fly to the trout, and that can take some time to dial in. That’s why we recommend a small indicator. It creates less disturbance on the water. The indicator doesn’t have to be a huge beacon of color in the winter- you’re working slower water where any indicator is easily seen.

This doesn’t mean you grow roots and stand in one place. Move your feet, vary the drift. Find out how the trout want the fly delivered to them. And be sensible. If you’ve fished a spot for 30-45 minutes without success, it’s time to move on. Go find another place that looks winter fishy, and cast there. If you’re new to winter nymphing, it’s going to take a bit to find the spots trout have migrated to. When you’re exploring winter nymphing, move a bit more till you find the fish.

Winter nymphing also has its own set of safety issues that need to be addressed. Cold and water don’t mix. Of course you need to dress warmly, layers, etc. We’re Montanans, we know that! But basic safety precautions need to be taken. Never walk on ice that’s formed over a river. Have waterproof matches or a dry bag with a lighter and some firestarting stuff. Put dry clothes in the car. If you take a header in August, you’re a point of entertainment to your friends. If you fall in the river in December, you have a lot more issues to contend with. Safe wading practices are key. Being ready to get yourself warm if you do fall in is critical. Rubber soled boots are the only way to go in the winter. Felt soles, once wet, will pick up snow with every step, putting you in high heels after 50 yards. Bootfoot waders are much less cold than stockingfoot waders. If you have them, use them.

Winter nymphing offers the angler some serious peace and quiet on the water. It can also be very effective, and a great way to spend a day outdoors when the opportunity arises. The best days to head out are when the temps will be above 35. Dress warmly, take precautions, and take a net. You’re going to need it all for winter nymphing!

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 9/23

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

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

Bitterroot river fly fishing has made the transition into Fall fishing. The rains are here for the next week, and we’re seeing the change in the hatches. BWO’s are hatching consistently along the length. The Mahoganies are starting to establish, and are strong in some areas. Keep your eyes out for the Hecubas- they’re there, but you have to watch for them. Hoppers are going to be sporadic in the cool, cloudy weather but will make a return when the sun comes back. No need to be on the water very early, though the nymphing has been good on the middle and lower sections. SR Bullets Olive, Birds of Prey and the Umpqua PT Jig have been cleaning up subsurface, and the clouds are providing surface action from about 11:00 am on.
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Blackfoot River

Fly fishing the Blackfoot River is still good, but starting to show some signs that it’s slowing down for winter. BWO’s, Mahoganies and October Caddis are being seen and eaten, but it feels like each day it takes a bit longer for the action to start. That’s great news for the streamer anglers, as the big fish are starting to look for big calories before the river gets too cold. Take your Dungeons and Sparkle Minnows and head up there to work the deep pockets and seams. If you’re looking for big fish on the dead drift, tie on a crayfish under a big indicator, and watch the trout gobble it up. You can hit the Blackfoot about noon and know you’ve not missed much
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Clark Fork River

Clark Fork fly fishing, especially below town, is really coming into form. The BWO’s, Tricos, Hecubas, and Mahoganies are getting the fish to pod up and sip dries pretty much from town west. The cloudy weather is keeping the fish at the surface, and you’ll find enough rising fish from 11:00 AM on to keep you happy. If the dries are slow, subsurface with a Pats Rubberlegs or a PT Tungsten jig will take fish all day. Streamers have been working some, but they might not be your first option. If you go that way, Baby Gongas Tan and the Kreelix have been working.
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Rock Creek

Fly fishing on Rock Creek is in full Fall mode. Mahoganies, BWO’s, sporadic Hecubas and October Caddis are keeping the dry fly anglers very busy up here. Work the edges of the river, or find a slow seam and go to town. Don’t sleep on the streamer fishing, as the bigger fish are looking to fatten up before the temps fall too low. A Sculpin Sparkle minnow or a Kreelix will work well up here all day. If you decide to add some numbers to your day, work a PT Jig or an SR Bullet Olive. Use as long a dropper as you can handle, and keep them in the zone. The fish are hungry, plentiful and healthy!
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Montana Fly Fishing Guides – Float Or Wade Fishing Trips

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Missoula Fly Fishing Guide Chase Harrison

July Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.

Fish Species