Best Flies For August Fishing In Montana

When you study rivers and their make-up, you learn the month of August defines a rivers carrying capacity. For our purposes, carrying capacity is defined as the amount of trout biomass, or the total weight of the trout population, a river can support throughout the year. August sets carrying capacity as the most difficult time of year for the trout. Missoula’s freestone rivers- Rock Creek, the Bitterroot River, the Big Blackfoot River and the Clark Fork River– are at their lowest and warmest points in the heat of the summer. Competition for holding lies and food is intense at this time, and fish that can’t locate homes or food won’t make it to the September rains. August is the month when rivers in Missoula make their statement about how the fishing will be for the next 11 months.

This is both good and bad for the angler. Obviously, a scorching August makes trout habitat more difficult to maintain, with trout under considerable stress in Missoula and across Montana. But competition for food and space has a considerable upside for the angler as well. The trout are hungry, and food is scarce. The fish are willing to roam farther from their feeding lies to eat, and certainly less selective. A well presented fly will often take fish even if it’s not an exact match, due to lack of food present in Montana rivers.

Trico

Except for the trico hatch!  The tiny trico is the only aquatic hatch to come off with any regularity in the month of August, and when it comes off, it’s a blanket hatch. Trico-maniacs are dedicated anglers, focused and intense about being on the water when the tricos both hatch and fall. The trico is one of the few mayflies important to the angler that hatches at the same time the spinners fall. It is also the only hatch where the males and females differ significantly in color. For the hatch matching dry fly angler, the trico is paradise masquerading as sheer torment. At any given moment, you have male and female spinners, male and female duns floating as well as male and female cripples on the water. Tricos hatch in such great numbers that the water is covered with insects, with extremely selective to the sex, stage and size of the fly.

No other hatch offers this diversity in fly possibilities. A book has been written about meeting the trico hatch, providing strategies and ideas on how to approach this complex blanket hatch. The most important is make sure you have a wide variety of flies when you go to the water. We know, sounds like thinly veiled sales pitch, but it’s true. Our favorite trico pattern in the shop in the shop is Ron’s Trico. This simple pattern has been a top producer for as many years as Ron Beck, the Missoulian Angler’s longest tenured employee (and dedicated trico-maniac), has been tying them. The Trico Sprout is also an excellent cover for the cripples that are always present, while the Female Comparadun will work as a full floating dry, or as a cripple if you choose to dress only the wings. 5-6X tippet is the norm for these size 18-20 flies, and with the low, clear water a decent cast is imperative. Tiny flies mean narrow feeding lanes, so your cast needs to be on target, drifting correctly and be the stage, sex and size the trout is looking for. As we said, a hatch matchers paradise.

Terrestrials

But it’s not always so tricky in August. The Spruce Moths will be out in full force in the first two weeks, and trout feast on them as they come down to the water. Clocking in at a size 10 or 12, these flies are easy for the trout to find and easy for the angler to see. Again, Ron has created our best Spruce Moth imitation, the Mangler Moth. Made from spun and clipped deer hair, it perfectly mimics the mottled color of the Spruce Moth and floats like a cork. We also really enjoy the Spruce Almighty, with its lower floating profile, and the parachute Spruce Moth, which is the easiest of all our imitations to see. No need for super fine tippet on these guys, 3-4X will get it done when the Sprucies are coming off.

August is terrestrial time in Missoula and throughout Montana. Ants and Beetles are active all day with the heat, and consistently finding their way on to the water. Many times the random rise you see close to the shoreline is to an ant or beetle, and it’s the rare trout that won’t take either if they’re looking up. Again, with less access to food in the rivers, ants and beetles become a critical part of the trout’s diet. The Ant Acid in Purple or Red have proven to be extremely effective, as well as the foam beetle. Take your terrestrial fishing to the next level and try a Sunken Ant along the shoreline. Ants aren’t designed to float, and trout take them anywhere in the water column.

Hoppers also make their grand entrance in August, and we all know what that means. On the hottest, windiest days, the hoppers are up and flying. As the wind buffets them about, they can hit the water with a significant splat, alerting the trout to their presence. Those monster rises mid river in the heat of the day are almost always to a hopper. Because hoppers don’t enter the water with any regularity, you have to be ready on every cast, and ready for some dry spells in between strikes. But the ferocity of the take and the size of the fish that recognize hoppers as a valid food form makes hopper fishing so worthwhile in late August. The Morrish Hopper in all its color variations has proven to be the most consistent hopper we sell. The Parachute Hopper runs a close second, followed by the Henneberry Hopper. When hoppers are on, pretty much any hopper that catches your fancy will catch the trout’s as well.

Nymphs

The phrase originated as Hopper/Dropper, and now morphed into Dry/Dropper. But the original indicator fly was the hopper, because the nymph fishing in August can be great. The fish are looking to feed, stay out of the sun and away from the surface where they’re vulnerable. You can use pretty much any nymph in your box (within reason!) but we definitely prefer the Tungsten Bead Jig Nymphs. They sink like bricks, ride hook point up to snag less, and get to where trout live and stay there. Exactly what you’re looking for in a subsurface fly! Don’t be afraid to go with a size 16 or 18 nymph. The river is filled with smaller nymphs, and while they don’t look like much to you, the trout are accustomed to these smaller flies and take them without hesitation.

Streamers

A quick word about streamers. The dedicated streamer angler has put away the 7wt rod. The giant streamers, so effective in June, are too big to effectively fish in August water But trout haven’t stopped eating minnows. Scale back your fly’s size, and the bruisers will prove just as happy to eat a big meal in August as they were 6 weeks ago. Look for a slim, smaller fly like the Sculpzilla, the Kreelix or even the Baby Gonga. If you can throw the streamer comfortably on your 5 weight rod, you’ve scaled back enough. The smaller streamers make less commotion when they land, and in clear water present a less more lifelike appearance than their larger brethren. Predators are predators, and few turn down a well presented, easily captured meal!

Attractor Patterns

August is the fly tyer’s month as well. Remember that fly you tied late at night, purple, chartreuse and orange. You looked at it the next morning and thought, “What was I thinking?!” August is the time to fish that fly, and any other attractor that strikes your fancy. Food is scarce, and trout are willing to be more liberal about what constitutes food and what doesn’t. August is when oddball flies really shine. The trout are heavily fished late June and July, and very familiar with tried and true patterns. Show them something they’re never seen, like your late-night concoction, and you’ll be surprised by the gullibility of August trout.

Final Thoughts

August is a month where getting on the water can be a challenge. Heat, low clear water and the concern for the trout’s well being all come into play. But it can be a great month to angle. Fish the edges of the day if you can, and when we say edges we MEAN edges! If you’ve never tried mousing after dark, August is the perfect time to make that plunge. The weather is grand, with big fish responding to lower light and lower water temperatures. Flashlights and a little pre-scouting are certainly not remiss if you plan to be out after dark. And this is information you won’t get many other places, because we’re more about real fishing! If you fall in after dark in August, it’s not as cold as the other months!! If you are fishing mid-day with a hopper, fight the fish hard and fast, releasing them in cold water so they live to fight another day. August gets a bum rap from so many anglers, but if you put your time in, find the trico hatch, come prepared with hoppers, nymphs and streamers, you’ll find August to be an exceptionally rewarding time to be on the water.

Fly Fishing Floatant 101

You think to yourself, does anyone really think about fly fishing floatant? Heck, in this industry, Gink is a noun and a verb! Most people come in, say I need some floatant, we hand them something and off they go. Looking at flies or doing something more important than thinking about the stuff that keeps the fly floating. But as everyone who’s been in a fly shop knows, there’s a lot more to think about than the old tried and true. And keep in mind, as we talk about this stuff, it might be used for the same purpose, but it’s different stuff in the bottle. Each of the different floatants we carry have their champions. If one isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to try something else. Of course, nothing is going to keep a dragging fly afloat, so keep that in mind as you tend to your leader!

Gel Fly fishing Floatant

Of course Gink works. So does Aquel and High and Dry gel floatant. Those are the ones we carry, and there’s a lot more out there as well. They all work, and they all work pretty much the same. You start with a DRY fly. That means a fly that hasn’t gotten wet yet. Because all these paste floatants work in the same way, they waterproof the fly. The best way to use them is to get a little on the tips of your fingers, and lightly coat the fly with the paste. You’re NOT trying to saturate the fly with these pastes. You can waterlog a fly with Gink as easily as you can with water. Resist the temptation to squirt a dollop on your fly and work it in. It will make the fly sink.

Liquid Fly Fishing Floatant

Fairly new to the consumer market are the liquid floatants, like Fly-Agra and High And Dry Liquid Floatant. Angler have been mixing Mucilin and lighter fluid for years and using that as a liquid floatant as well, but truthfully, these work a little better. First off, the bottles actually seal, so the stuff doesn’t run all over your vest. Mucilin and lighter fluid leaves a permanent stain, and no matter how tightly you seal the baby food jar, the lighter fluid eats at the seal and at some point, it leaks. The newer liquid floatants don’t have that problem.

To use a liquid floatant, you take a DRY fly, attach it to your leader, and dip it in the bottle. Swish it about a bit, and pull it out. Shake the excess back into the bottle, and give the fly a few quick flicks through the air and give it a minute to dry. The liquid evaporates quickly, and the fly is completely coated with fly fishing floatant. That’s the difference between Fly-Agra and Gink. The main ingredient in Fly-Agra evaporates, so your fly isn’t saturated any longer. Gink doesn’t evaporate, so a full soaking doesn’t get it done.

Fly-Agra can be used on the water because it dries so quickly, of course. But it’s even more effective when you pre-treat your flies the night before. Some of our Missoula fly shop guys keep a wide lid jar on their tying bench about half full of Fly-Agra. Once you’ve got a few flies tied, take a pair of forceps, clip the fly by the hook bend and dip it in the goo. Pull it out, and then rattle the forceps off the inner edge of the jar. This knocks the excess off. Then use the forceps to stick the fly in some sort of drying rack (We often use a Styrofoam cup with something in the bottom to keel it) and let it dry. DO NOT forget to put the flies in your box the next morning. We’ve never done that, of course, we just read about it in a magazine!

It works better because most of the actual floatant stays on the fly. No matter how gently you flick your fly on the water to dry it, your fly is traveling at a tremendous speed when the fly curls back during the cast. Applying High And Dry Liquid Floatant prior to use allows all the fly fishing floatant to stay on the fly. Hareline makes a product called Watershed that is specifically designed for pre-treating flies at the bench, and it’s fantastic.

Powder Fly Fishing Floatant

You can also buy different dessicants, which is fancy for a dust that absorbs water out of the fly. They seem to have started with people taking the crystals packed with electronics and grinding it up. Boy does this stuff work on a saturated fly, defined as a fly that’s become waterlogged, or worse, schmucked by a 4” Squawker! The dust will pull the moisture out and revitalize the sodden fly.

If you’re using a fly with CDC in it, the dust is almost a necessity. Paste fly fishing floatants don’t always work well with CDC, because if the paste is over applied it will matt the CDC feather, rendering it useless. Fly-Agra and other liquids will work on CDC, but you really want to flick that stuff out on the drying casts, again to eliminate matting. The only exception to this is Lochsa Floatant, by Loon. It is absolute magic on CDC, and is what many in the shop recommend for CDC flies. That stuff really works.

We carry a couple of different dessicants, Shimizaki and Frogs Fanny, and they are used in a completely different way. The Shimizaki has a wide lid- you drop the fly in, close the lid, and shake the bottle around. The dessicant pulls the water out of the fly. As the Shimizaki gets a bit grainy, meaning the fine powder has been removed, Missoula’s best fly fishing guides will pour a bit into the palm of their hand, rub the fly against it in their palm, and return the unused portion to the bottle. Shimizaki is designed that way. If it was all dust and no granules, it would over adhere to the soaked fly, and not last as long. The larger Shimizaki chunks are designed to crumble into dust as the bottle is shaken.

Frogs Fanny is a different style of dessicant. It resembles flakes, and comes in a bottle that has an applicator brush in the cap. Hold your soaked dry fly, dip the brush into the bottle and use the brush to push the Frog’s Fanny into all the nooks and crannies of your fly. The brush gets the Frog’s Fanny into places the dust doesn’t always penetrate. A good thing. Frog’s Fanny is very light, and on a windy day, it sometimes feels like no flakes get from brush to fly. A bad thing. Again, both have their adherents. Both standard Shimizaki and Frogs Fanny are white, and the dessicating process leaves a white dust on your fly. Not a bad thing with PMD’s and Golden Stones, but they do turn your Ants, Beetles and BWO’s a bit lighter in color, which some find annoying. Shimizaki us available in a dark dun color, so when the fly leaves the bottle, it’s the correct color. Some use the Shimizaki because it doesn’t blow away in the wind. Others use the Frog’s Fanny because the brush gets the dust where it needs to be, and uses less on larger flies. Again, try them out and see how they work for you. But, it must be said that the Shimizaki lasts longer than the Frog’s Fanny.

A quick note on Frog’s Fanny. It also has a refracting quality about it that works as an attractant to fish. Many times we will hit a fly with Frog’s Fanny, and have a fish take on the next cast. Re-Frog, and another fish. Take this a further step, and it applies to nymphing as well. Many of the Tungsten Jigs, like the Howell’s Shuck It Jig or the Tactical Fast Water Prince are collared with CDC hackle. If you take the time to dress your nymph with Frog’s Fanny, the CDC retains its air capturing qualities, and is more attractive to the fish. It can be a bit of a pain in the tuckus, dusting every 4-5 casts, but in that perfect seam, or when the fish have lockjaw, every little bit can help.

Final Thoughts

There are certain flies that require specific applications of floatant, such as a Half Down Stonefly or a Sprout. (Flies For June)These are flies where only half the fly receives floatant. The paste floatant has traditionally been used on these flies, as it is a lot more accurate in its application. However, some have taken to putting Fly-Agra into an old Frog’s Fanny bottle, giving them a brush to apply the liquid floatant to specific areas of a fly. Pretty good thinking, as far as we’re concerned. The Frog’s Fanny itself can also be applied to specific regions of a fly as well, utilizing the brush.

So when you stop by our Missoula Fly Shop for floatant, we may just hand you a bottle and say good to go. And you will be! But there are a lot of floatant options out there. Each one is extremely good at what it does, though they don’t all do the same thing. You’ll find the best guides fishing in Missoula have 2 or 3 floatants with them at all times, and there’s good reason for it. While one will get the job done, it might pay to expand your floatant selection. You’ll find your fly floating longer and higher if you do!

Montana Stonefly Hatch

Best Flies For July In Montana

For Missoula, and most of Montana, July fly fishing comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. It starts like a house afire, and it often ends up just being hot! Montana rivers start the month high, cold and green, and end it low and clear. For the wading angler, this can be a blessing, for the floating angler, not as much. For those who float or row, early July can be the trickiest time of the year. As the water drops, the rivers teeth start to stick up and come into play. But the water isn’t actually low, it’s just lower.  Still a lot of push in the river, and the snags, rocks and sweepers are now a lot closer to the surface, and a lot more dangerous. Pay attention when rowing in early July! But we digress. . . . . . .

Stoneflies

If you want, July can start BIG! Not as big and bright as June, as the Salmon Flies are starting to wane, but they’re still around, coming back to the water to lay their eggs. The Rogue Salmon Fly or the Morning Wood Special in a size 6-8 can work very effectively, as the adult salmon flies are shrinking as they return to lay eggs. They get smaller and darker as the hatch progresses, and your flies should reflect that. However . . . .

The best fly fishing guides in Missoula will tell you the moment the Golden Stones appear in numbers, it’s time to drop the big guy and go for the gold. The goldens are a more consistent hatch along the river, and the fish will rise more readily to the golden. Maybe they taste better? We don’t know that, but we do know they’re usually more productive as we head into July. If you’re not ready to abandon the salmon fly altogether, we can suggest a few “Tweener” flies. A tweener is a fly that does double duty- could be a golden, could be a salmon fly. A great example of this is the El Camino Grillo Golden in the larger sizes. Fits the bill for a big golden or small salmon fly.  A long time stalwart in Missoula is the PK Golden, and don’t sleep on the Plan B either. While it may sound like a second tier fly, the Plan B is a go-to for Missoula fly fishing guides.

Streamers

Lets go back to big for just a second. At the beginning of July, when the rivers are full and maybe still a bit off color, a streamer will often move the biggest fish in the river. The lack of clarity in the water helps them feel safe, and the higher water means the fish are hugging the banks looking for an easy meal they don’t need to move far for. A streamer worked along the shoreline doesn’t give the trout a lot of time to make up its mind, and the vicious hit of a big trout bent on making the most of what the river rips by can about knock the rod out of your hands! Agreed, the surface activity can be so good that you don’t think past the meniscus, but the trout are feeding at all levels of the river. If you’re on the water early and there’s no movement on top, it’s a great time to mobilize big fish with big flies.

Mayflies

The Pale Morning Duns and the Pale Evening Duns are also out in big numbers in the month of July. Look for the PMD’s to come off anywhere from 9:00 am  to 1:00 pm depending on weather. Soft water and longer glides can offer some of the most exciting fishing in Montana and locally, with blanket hatches of PMD’s coming off steadily for 1-2 hours. Have a good selection of bugs, as the fish can get a bit snotty. The Tilt Wing PMD and the Last Chance Cripple cover a lot of the stages of the adult life cycle, and are go-to flies when the hatch is on. The Parachute PMD is easier to see, and is also very effective.

The Pale Evening Duns can be a bit trickier to find. They’re extremely weather dependent. If the day has hit 95 degrees (not uncommon in mid-July- bring your sunscreen!) the PED’s might not come off till about 15 minutes before dark. Be ready, so you’re not trying to tie your fly on in twilight! The same bugs that work for the PMD’s will work for the PED’s as well. If the day was cool or cloudy, they may start to appear as early as 7:30. Make sure you’re ready on the water when they come off, because they are going to. It just depends on the day.

The Rusty Spinner deserves a paragraph all its own. Both the PMD’s and the PED’s will morph into Rusty Spinners, so there are a lot of them on the water. The spinner is a spent mayfly that has returned to the water to die. Their wings are flat to the surface, and they are very difficult to see if you’re not looking for them. They will  come off at dusk or dawn, or both. If you’re an early riser, you might find some early risers! If you’re out late, and the trout have spurned your classic PED patterns, switch over to a Hi-Viz Rusty Spinner. You will be astounded at how popular that darn near invisible (to us) fly is to the trout.

Caddis

The reason you might not be ready for the PED’s is the Tan Caddis. When they are on, they are ON! They will also come off around dusk on the Clark Fork River, Rock Creek, the Bitterroot River, the Big Blackfoot River and all across Montana. The Tan Caddis may be the most popular fly in the entire state.  If you run across a blanket hatch, and there are few fish rising, move directly to the Deep Caddis Pupa Tan or Translucent Pupa Tan. Those insects on the surface didn’t appear from nowhere, and if the fish aren’t feeding on the surface, they’re feeding underneath! If you find them rising in faster water, nothing works better than a Tan Elk Hair Caddis. Find them in some slower water, and the X-Caddis Tan is often the answer. The Tan Caddis is also a great searching fly throughout the day, and will move fish at the strangest times in the strangest places!

Terrestrials

These hatches are huge as the month of July starts, but wane as the month goes on, until what was once a blizzard is now a mere localized squall. As the water drops and clears, and the aquatic food sources begin to dry up, the fish need to widen their gaze, and start looking for alternative meals. The big hope is the Spruce Moth. They can be huge in the last weeks of July, depending upon the weather.  You can hear the landowners curse as the tops of their trees are destroyed, but to the trout, they can be a huge bridge between the cornucopia of early July and the tricos of August. Ron Beck’s MAngler Moth is every guide’s favorite fly, but don’t lose sight of the Spruce Almighty, or even a big tan caddis when the Spruce Moths are on the water.

This is also the time that your Ants and beetles begin to shine. The hot days get those bugs moving around, and every time the wind blows, more enter the river systems. We enjoy the Foam Beetle, as it floats well, and is almost easily seen. The Ant-Acid has become very popular in the last couple of years, as has the ????. It’s a bit early to look to the hopper, unless July has been brutally hot, but the hopper days are coming, rest assured. Patience is required when fishing terrestrials, as the fish aren’t always looking up when we think they should be . . . . .

Nymphs

So go to the nymph!! Pick a good, basic nymph in a size 14-16 and fish the crap out of it. Jig nymphs sink faster- never the wrong choice. The fish are missing their regular meals, and will move a good distance to find some food. If you come across a good deep hole, the Pats Rubberlegs is still a top producer, especislly on the Clark Fork River. Stoneflies nymphs in Missoula have a 2-3 year lifespan, so the Pat’s is always a good bet in the deeper parts of the river.  A Double Bead Stone may be a bit much, but you’re sure going to get down to the bottom of the river with that fly in late July!

Mousing

There’s another terrestrial that deserves special mention in July, and that’s the mouse. Yes, the mouse. Late in the month, when the rivers have calmed down, and the heat of the day has driven the big fish deep into the shade, the mouse can be magic. It takes a little intestinal fortitude to fish rodentia, as the best mouse fishing is found after dark. We find its best to do your mousing in water you’re familiar with- a little prescouting doesn’t hurt either. A flashlight or headlamp is also highly recommended. The big Browns across Montana come out to feed after dark, and its not what you think it is. Darkness hides them from predators, and they will move into shallow water to feed. Work the top of a pool, right where the riffle comes in, and the tail out, where the water shallows back up again. At night, the big fish are in skinny water, and that’s where you need to be. If the mouse isn’t producing, switch to a streamer. Same place, just sub-surface. The takes can be brutally hard. But truthfully, we’re looking for the sippers, the trout that’s so big it takes your mouse with hardly a sign. That’s why you’re on the water after midnight, for the fish that hasn’t seen the sun for 3 years!

Final Thoughts

In like a lion, out like a lamb. The wading is tough in the beginning, awesome at the end. Reverse that for floating. You start the month with 2X tippet, and can find yourself with 4’ of 5X on July 31st. That’s what July is in Missoula and across Montana, the month with the biggest change. Be ready to match the hatches, be ready to make your own with some terrestrials, or get down to where the fish are when the hatches wane and the sun comes out. You get to see it all in July.

Salmonfly Pattern Blackfoot River

Thoughts On Fly Patterns For Fishing Montana In June

June fly fishing in Montana. It’s why so many of us live in Missoula! The best fly fishing in Missoula, the best fly fishing in Montana is happening right now. Salmon Flies. Because when the big dog barks. . . . . .  Green Drakes. Big fish rising consistently. With summer just around the corner, so a smattering of Pale Morning Duns, Pale Evening Duns and Golden Stones will round out the month. If there was ever a time to do a little distancing, pretty much pick a spot on the Clark Fork River, Blackfoot River, Rock Creek or the Bitterroot River for the next four weeks, and enjoy the best fly fishing of the year.

Picking favorite flies for this month is a pamphlet length affair. So we’re going to concentrate on a style of fly, and then apply that style to all the different hatches that are bursting out right now. And we’re going to be talking about a specific type of imitation, and that’s the ass in the water fly.

A very good outfitter in Missoula invented the Gould’s Half-down Salmon Fly, and he told us this story about the first time he used it. He said he knew he had a winner, and couldn’t wait to tie it on. When the first salmon fly starts to fly, he puts it on a clients rod, who does nothing for 45 minutes. So he takes and early lunch, feeds his guests and then asks if he could borrow the rod, and of course the guy says sure. Off he goes, up the stream, to find out why the magic isn’t working.

Third cast along the shore, and a beautiful 15” trout gently twists its pectoral fins and lazily drifts to the top of Rock Creek, and sips that salmon fly just like a mayfly. Released, and a couple casts later another nice trout slips up and sucks it down, same slow rise form. And the big 500 watt lightbulb went off over his head. The bug is SUBMERGED! It can’t get away! Why waste energy slashing at a trapped insect when a slow sip is just as effective. Back to the clients, and tells them to look for a subtle rise, not the classic Rock Creek slash, and they were off to the races. An epic day on a fly that imitates, what in mayfly terms, would be a cripple. This is basically a stonefly Klinkhamer.

We carry a lot of stone flies that ride with a half submerged body, in addition to the Half-down. The 64 Impala Salmon Fly, The El Camino Grillo and the Demoes Mill all float with a submerged abdomen. As long as you dress them correctly! For these flies, we use a gel floatant and only apply it on the front half of the fly. We want the rear to sink, so no floatant on the rear of the fly. It makes these flies a bit trickier to see, and they may not float a dropper as well. A small price to pay for flies that really connect with the fish. That ass in the water sends a message to the deeps- this fly aint going anywhere.

If you’re looking for the same “action” in a mayfly imitation, look for the Sprout and the Sparkle Dun to provide that sunken backside that’s so irresistible to trout. Once again, the submerged abdomen means the fly is trapped, and is worth the energy expenditure to move for. Breaking the meniscus with the abdomen is a clear call to all trout- this fly is easy pickings. Get your Sprouts and Sparkle Duns in all the June hatches you plan to meet on any of your fishing adventures.

So while this may not detail the exact flies you need for June, it certainly helps you get started with knowing which of the hatches are present, and gives a strategy for meeting them. To be honest, the fishing in June might not be this technical. The water is still big, and the fish are hugging the shore. As the flies zip by, the fish don’t always have a lot of time to make a decision, so you can use pretty much any hatch matching fly and be sure of some success. Big Orange and medium Gold/Tan cover the stoneflies, while pale mint green and pale olive cover the Green Drakes and PMD’s/PED’s. Stop by our Missoula fly shop or check out our online store to find the flies you need for June fly fishing in Missoula, and then get on the water. Don’t squander the years best fly fishing in Montana!

Trico Nymph

Small Nymphs For Trout

There’s a small but dedicated cadre of nymph fishermen who go small all the time. It seems contra-indicated in Missoula, where you’re surrounded by Salmon Fly, Golden Stone and Skwala nymphs, but we’ve seen the proof, and tiny nymphs work in Missoula. We’re talking about size 18 and smaller, mostly used on a standard nymph rig. They can be used on a euronymph rig, but you’ll need to take extra steps in rigging to get the smaller flies deep enough quickly enough.

We understand the conundrum. You’re standing on the bank of a river that’s 80’ wide. It takes some mental gymnastics to convince yourself that any trout would be looking for food that small. It’s also easy to fall into the mindset of even if the trout are eating them, how are they going to find something 5mm long in such a huge area. But it makes sense to go tiny more often then most of us do, and this is why.

Midges are one of the most prolific insects in any body of water. In Missoula rivers, we tend to focus on them in Winter, when they continue to hatch, and are eaten by the trout on the surface. But the next time you’re on the water in Spring, Fall or Summer, look for midges flying. You’ll find them. The fish don’t care (see Skwala, Salmon and Golden!) but the insects are out and moving. This means the Midge larva are available to trout 365 days a year. Consistent food will find consistent feeders.

There is also a constant supply of tiny mayfly nymphs year round as well. When a mayfly lays its eggs, it lays anywhere from 100-500. When they hatch, they are close to microscopic, and of little value to the fish. But there are a lot of them. With some growth, they hit a size 22 and the fish begin to take notice. This is an extremely plentiful food source, and as mayflies hatch from Spring to Fall, this underwater cycle goes on for 9 months as well. Add caddis larva and stoneflies to that same cycle as well, and the trout has a myriad food supply if they can find the correct lie.

The last factor comes into play when you’re fishing hard fished water. When a stream is seeing a lot of anglers, and the fish are getting hooked frequently, they rapidly learn larger food forms are dangerous to their health! Think about the Yellow Breeches in PA, the Farmington in CT and the San Juan or Green River out west. These rivers see 100’s of anglers every day. These highly educated fish have seen it all, and a larger fly simply doesn’t look natural to these fish any longer. But a tiny fly, by definition, has less going on. They’re easier to imitate, and they look more realistic to the trout. When you’re struggling to find a place to access the water due to pressure, you might use your down time to rig tiny for more success.

Tiny nymphs take the same care in rigging as tiny dries. You have to go to light tippet, 5X and thinner. The thinner tippet allows the fly to behave in a more natural way, as well as allowing these lighter flies to sink faster. This is also the place where your microshot comes into play. This type of fishing is way too subtle for a B or BB size lead weight- you need to get your tiny weight out, and rig accordingly. The large lead is simply too dramatic with a smaller fly, dragging the nymph in an unrealistic way along the bottom. Because the rig is so lightweight, scale your indicator down as well. You don’t need a ¾” inch Thing-A-Ma-Bobber to hold these flies up, and on hard fished waters a smaller, lighter indicator is so much less intrusive.

Depth control is crucial with tiny nymphs. While a trout may roam 2-3 feet to take a Salmon Fly nymph, they’re not going to move far to take a 5mm insect. You need to put these flies directly in front of the trout, or they’re not going to eat them. The energy expenditure is too great for the calories taken in. “Foam is Home” is never so important as when fishing tiny. The foam you see on the surface tells you where the currents are coming together in the river, which in turn tells you where the majority of food will be. Get your indicator in the foam line and let it ride.

Classic depth of your nymph is 1.5 times the depth of the water. But when going tiny, use a bit more length from your indicator. Tiny flies don’t sink all that rapidly, even with microshot, so they don’t stretch out tippet as well as a larger fly does. The extra length allows the fly to reach the depth needed to take fish. The only time this might not apply is if you’re using a small perdigon in your rig. Perdigons, with their tungsten bead and coated bodies, sink very rapidly. With a perdigon, you may be able to run less length from your indicator because the sink rate is so much greater. As a rule, tiny flies will require tiny adjustments to your leader to be effective.

Some may be asking why you don’t take a fast sinking fly like a wire worm or Pat’s Rubberlegs and attach it above the smaller fly to get it to sink more rapidly. This technique certainly works in less pressured water, where fish are less apt to shy from a larger bug. But in those high pressure situations, a larger bug may serve to drive the fish away. Also, at least in Montana, the maximum legal number of flies that can be used is two. We prefer to have two effective bugs if we can, so the larger bug is less useful in those situations. Go with two effective bugs, not a single fly and what’s essentially weight.

When you’ve found a likely spot, don’t be in a hurry to move. This is delicate nymphing, and not easy to control because of the light weight. Drag, any drag at all, will keep these flies from sinking. So you might want to make more than a few passes where you think the fish are. Not every presentation is perfect. Allow some wiggle room to make sure your fly is getting to the fish in a natural way, It won’t happen every cast, so make sure you make enough casts that it does actually happen! Drag is the enemy at all times, but its affects are magnified with lighter flies and longer leaders.

It’s so easy to fall into the thought pattern of big flies taking big fish. Which is true in so many times and in so many places. But while it’s a good thought, it’s not the only way to think about what will take trout. Trout are always on the lookout for a consistent food source, and tiny nymphs are there all the time. A constant stream of small food is as good as minimal stream of large food, from a caloric standpoint. If you can broaden your nymph selection to cover the tiny flies that are so abundant in the river, you’re going to find yourself getting into more trout. Plus, think how much fun you’ll have learning that when on a big river, the tiny flies are as effective, if not more so than those size 4 Double Bead Stones!

Fly Fishing Jig Nymphs

Perdigon. Perdigone. Doesn’t matter how you spell it, Perdigons are sweeping the fly fishing world. With euro-nymphing as the buzzword, and effectiveness proven, the Perdigon jig nymph is now the hottest style fly we sell for trout at our Missoula fly shop and work anywhere in the world that trout are found. But where did this design come from? It’s a bit of a journey to get from the bottom of the ocean to the shores of the Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River, Clark Fork River and Rock Creek, but the journey was well worth it!

The jig, and jigging, has been popular in saltwater for many years, and then brought to it’s modern fruition in bass fishing. Using a molded lead head, the hook rides inverted (hook point up) and uses an up and down action to attract fish. The advantages of the jig slowly dawned on fly fishermen, and in the late ’80’s Bob Clouser tied the first Clouser Minnow, using Wapsi lead eyes instead of a molded lead head. The Clouser Minnow may have taken as many species as the Woolly Bugger- it’s that effective.

It took a while for the jig hook to catch on amongst fly fishers, but it’s here to stay now. When bouncing a jig nymph along the bottom, the inverted hook point snags less, saving the angler flies and time on the water. Additionally, in order to invert the hook point, the jig style nymph requires a tungsten bead. The tungsten is heavy enough to turn the hook point “over”, if you will. Tungsten is much heavier than the brass beads that were popularized by Theo Bakelaar back in the ’80’s. Theo is from Holland, and was the first to use gold beads in his flies. The slotted tungsten bead is a direct offshoot of Theo’s original gold bead.

Closely intertwined with the emergence of jig nymphs and Perdigons is Euro-nymphing, or Czech nymphing as it was originally called. Euro-nymphing is a highly sophisticated version of high stick nymphing, and without doubt the most effective method of fly fishing. Most of the World Championships of Fly Fishing have been won by people using Euro-nymph techniques. On hard fished waters these bottom bumping tactics move fish that have seen every fly and lure available. In Montana, Euro-nymphing takes so many fish because of the comparative lack of pressure found here. In the summer of 2019, a euro-nymphing guest who competed for a position on the Italian National Fly Fishing Team had two 100+ fish days with one of our Missoula fly fishing guides. Euro nymphing works!

Because Euro-nymphing relies on getting flies deep quickly, the jig nymph is perfect for the application. While not snagless, they certainly hook the bottom with less frequency. The tungsten bead gets the fly to the bottom faster than other materials used in construction. At the Missoulian Angler, we carry over 75 jig nymph patterns and many of them can be found on our online store, but not all of them are Perdigons. Any nymph can be tied on a jig hook- we carry Hare’s Ears, Pheasant Tails and Princes that are tied inverted on a jig hook. Not going to say they aren’t a bit different, but they’re quite recognizable. Many of our jig nymphs use a CDC collar. (More on that later!) The Perdigon is a style of fly that has specific construction techniques.

Perdigons are specialized jig nymphs, and while they vary in color and size, Perdigons are defined by their construction style. They are tied sparsely, usually with a Coq De Leon fiber tail, and the bodies are coated with either UV resin or epoxy. The coating is critical to the Perdigon, as it allows the fly to sink faster. Not due to additional weight, but because the coating is glass smooth, and almost frictionless in the water. The coating dramatically improves sink rate. Some Perdigons are tied with hot spots, or a bright, contrasting band or collar. The hot spot is used to attract fish to the fly, though they’re not found in all Perdigons.

The first time you look at a Perdigon, you wonder why they work. There doesn’t seem to be much there. There isn’t, and that’s the beauty of this style. Because the Perdigons don’t really imitate anything specific, they pretty much imitate most things. The color and shape could be a caddis pupa, a small stonefly or mayfly nymph. Because it’s a universal shape, the Perdigon is never really the wrong fly to tie on. It’s why it’s so effective. The non-denominational nature of the Perdigon makes it universally accepted by fish. Add that to the rapid sink rate, and you have the perfect storm for a nymph.

While Perdigons are very uniform in their shape, size and color are very important. Think of the dominant colors prevalent in insect life in the river at any given time, and match the color and size. In Spring, the G Kes and SR Olive Bullet are both effective, one imitating the Western March Brown and the other the BWO. As run-off ends, again the G Kes is a winner, imitating a small Golden Stone or a PMD nymph. The SR Bullet Quill is also effective for WMB’s and  BWO’s. The Black SR Bullet is perfect for Nemoura nymphs as well as trico nymphs. As you can see, there’s a Perdigon out there for every hatch, and we carry them!

Here’s a heads up. When you go hopper/dropper with a Perdigon, especially in slower water, be ready for a “bump” when the fly hits the nadir of the drop. They sink so quickly that when the Perdigon gets to depth, it might pull on the back of the dry and make you think you had a strike. Just be ready for that. Additionally, you may want to shorten your dropper length just a bit, as the angle from the dry fly with a Perdigon is much steeper than a standard brass bead nymph. It’s why they work.

The CDC collar can be a very effective nymphing weapon if you choose to utilize it. CDC comes from the preen gland of waterfowl, and is very resistant to matting. It’s so effective with dry flies because it holds air bubbles, which refract light and look very realistic as wings on a dry fly. When you first cast a Jig Nymph collared with CDC collar, it’s dry, and retains air bubbles. Those air bubbles refract as well underwater they do on the surface, and really attract the fish. But after 3-4 dunkings, the feathers will mat and lose their ability to hold air bubbles. If the fish are fussy, you may want to take a little Frog’s Fanny or Shimizaki desiccant and dress the collar again. If you’re using a jig with dubbing, try to keep the desiccant away from the body. With a dressed collar, your jig nymph will become a more effective fly. Just a thought!

Jig nymphs have changed the way we nymph for trout. They sink faster, getting them to “the zone” faster. That alone makes them more effective! Add the inverted hook which snags less, and now you’re more willing to get to the zone! You become a better nympher when you use a jig nymph. The best fly fishing guides in Missoula have been using tungsten bead join nymphs for at least 6 years. We think they will change the way you approach your nymphing, and make you a more successful angler.

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