Use The Bump Time To Prepare For Montana Spring Fishing

Blake Hasquet enjoying some Montana spring fly fishing.

One week the fishing will be incredible with bugs, stable flows and beautiful weather and the next week you’re dealing with rising water, snow/rain and frozen guides. Like the saying goes “if you don’t like the weather in Montana, wait 10 minues” the same goes for Montana spring fly fishing.

We are dealing with this issue right now. Just when things started warming up and the rivers started to fish really well, we get hammered by rain after a brief warm up and the the rivers start to bump in flows. The last few weeks have been amazing fishing, big fish on big dries all day long. The good news is the flows will level off again and the fishing should continue to be productive after these daily bumps in flow. The bad news is that this weekend isn’t looking great for fly fishing Missoula rivers with rising flows, wind and cold nights.

We are hoping by next week the Bitterroot river and Blackfoot river should level off and begin to clear unless the weather man changes his/her thoughts. Rock creek is also seeing a bump but fishing is typically less effected on this stream then the rest of the Missoula rivers when flows bump due to spring conditions. The Clark Fork river is always a bit behind the other rivers to clear up and hopefully it comes back into shape by the end of next week because it was fishing really well on top for the last week or so.

Your best options for fishing right now are the Bitterroot and Rock Creek if you do plan to go fishing this week. To be honest, it might be a better weekend to tie, organize fly boxes, study entomology and check out our online menu and give us a call or email to put in an order for needed supplies for better fishing next week. Skwala, March Brown, Neumora and BWO are the primary insects that will be hatching for the rest of April, so focus on tying these or loading your fly box for some of the best Montana spring fishing of the year coming,

Many of us have a lot of extra time on our hands lately and fishing is a great way to pass the time. The inconsistency of spring fly fishing in Montana is something we live with every year and those who prepare now will maximize their fishing time when rivers stabilize. The last thing that you want to happen is getting out on the river and realize that you’re out of 3x tippet or the right pattern and fish are feeding in front of you. We are more then happy to put together a variety of flies that will work this time of year for you if you would like. A dozen professionally picked flies will go a long ways for your Missoula fly fishing adventure. Our doors may be shut but we are still open to call in or email orders and are here to help like we always have. Don’t hesitate to reach out for an order or just some needed advice. We miss seeing everyone come into our Missoula fly shop and at the very least, we would still love to hear your voices.

Get out and go fish, enjoy the time to yourself or family and enjoy Montana spring fly fishing.

Rock Creek Cuttthroat

The Perdigon Nymph

When first shown a Perdigon nymph, you ask yourself what’s up with this fly? It has an extremely sparse tail, very thin body often made of thread, and coated with a hard shell. The colors are mostly neutral, sometimes with a hot spot, and are the exact opposite of a classic nymph. There’s not much to a Perdigon, and it’s not what you expect in a fly pattern.

But Perdigons are amongst the most effective flies the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop sells. They work on all Missoula river, The Clark Fork River, Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River and Rock Creek, as well as all the tributaries and lakes! They work because they do exactly what a nymph needs to do to be effective.

Polly Rosborough self-published his classic book, Tying and Fishing The Fuzzy Nymph, in 1965. His theory was motion in a fly provided life-like action, separating the fly from inanimate objects and attracted fish. This was conventional wisdom in the U.S. for a long time, and for many still is. Hackled nymphs, fuzzy nymphs and spiky dubbed nymphs all utilize fibers extending from the body to give action to the fly.

We all know that nymphs live on the bottom of the river and the trout are on the bottom as well for easy access to the nymphs. We all know that a sky diver, to slow their descent, will spread their arms and legs wide to slow down their drop rate.

A fuzzy nymph, by definition, has extending fibers. These fibers act as the arms and legs of the sky divers do, slowing the descent of the fly. A slower descent delays the fly from getting to where the fish are. The slower the sink rate of the fly, the longer the controlled cast must be to give the fly time to sink to the correct level. There is no denying classic (fuzzy) nymphs work, we see proof of that every time we go fly fishing!

The Perdigon is more effective than the standard nymph. The slim design and clear, smooth coating allow this fly to sink at maximum sink rate. With no extending fibers, nothing impedes its descent. Additionally, the smooth UV resin coating also removes friction, also adding speed to the Perdigon’s sink rate. The Perdigon gets to the bottom in a hurry, and it stays there. You can use a shorter cast to reach your depth or use a longer cast and be in the zone for a longer time, showing your fly to more trout.

The business axiom of Location, Location, Location is the reason the Perdigon works. It may go against conventional fly fishing wisdom with its lack of life giving fibers. But the tail is mobile, and it gets down to where the fish are. If you show a standard nymph to 3 fish due to its sink rate, you have 3 chances a trout makes a mistake and eats the artificial. If your Perdigon is seen by 10 fish, you have 10 chances to have your fly eaten. Trout are comfortable on the bottom, and rarely selective in their daily feeding patterns. The Perdigon comes at feeding fish in an expected way, making them almost a no brainer for trout to eat.

From a fly fisherman’s standpoint, the Perdigon gets where it needs to be and stays there. From a fly tyers standpoint, the Perdigon is one of the simplest flies to tie. Depending on the Perdigon size and pattern, it may take just as long to get that pesky 3/32” bead on your jig hook than it takes to tie the thread body! Fly tyers will have a lot of Perdigons and won’t worry about losing a couple. Now you’re fishing those tight, tricky spots because you’re not worried about leaving 20 minutes of tying time in a submerged snag. You’re taking bigger fish from the better holding water, because replacement is so simple.

The Perdigon is a newer concept in nymph imitation in the U.S., stemming from Euro nymphing. But we’re finding these nymphs work just as well in a dry/dropper set up as well. You don’t have to Euro nymph to make use of a Euro nymph!

Here is some of our favorite Perdigon Nymphs for fishing in Montana and across the country.

Flathead Lake Montana Ice Fishing

Flies For Ice Fishing

As the fly fishing season slows down, the hunting season comes to an end, one of our favorite seasons is just beginning. Ice fishing in Montana can be some of the most fun of the year. If you’ve hung around our shop enough then you probably already know that some of our staff and guides are die-hard ice fisherman. From building our own ice fishing rods to tying our own ice fishing flies, you can quickly tell that we have a bit of an ice fishing problem. For us it’s a chance to fish bodies of water that the we don’t often fish and catching many different species like Trout, Bass, Perch, Pike, Walleye, Salmon and more.

Josh Gartner enjoying a day of ice fishing

While the amazing ice fishing we have in Montana is no secret, ice fishing with flies is often looked past or never even thought of. We use a variety of flies jigging under the ice to fool fish. Many times the bite will be hot in the morning and die down mid-day. These mid-day lulls are when we start experimenting with different tactics. Often, we will see fish refuse our traditional ice fishing jigs like Swedish Pimples, Rockers, Jigging Rapalas and many more. These picky fish will often take smaller flies more readily then some of the bigger traditional ice fishing jigs in Montana. So next time when you’re having a slow day, try tying on one of these flies listed and you may be surprised. We fish these flies all day while ice fishing and usually outperform the classic ice fishing jigs.

Flies like Scud patterns and Damsel Fly nymphs work great but some of the most effective flies we use are varieties of tungsten jig nymphs that are heavily weighted and sink quickly.

We stock 196 different varieties of jig nymph flies used for ice fishing here at The Missoulian Angler Fly Shop. Stop in and check them out or you can order from our limited selection online (here), try a couple and we are confident that you will have success when many other people aren’t. Many of us start with flies early morning and never change all day. We have done many experiments where half of us will be fishing traditional ice fishing jigs and the other half fishing jig flies and the jig flies will more often then not out fish the traditional hard-body traditional jigs. Not always but especially on days where the fish are less aggressive, this can be the key to a successful day of ice fishing in Montana.

Not sure which Jig Flies to try?

Give our assorted pre loaded ice fishing box a try with 10 hand selected patterns that consists of our tried and true ice flies and a few of our hottest patterns of recent. Click link below for more information.

Or select from a variety of different Ice Jig Flies from our Ice Flies selection by clicking here

You can also pick from our Top 10 Ice Flies below by clicking any image. These are some of our favorite and most consistent Jig Flies.

Here we have highlighted some of the best ice fishing flies. This list is primarily focused on Trout but will work for other species like Salmon, Perch and more.

If you decide to pick from our Top 10 list then don’t forget to pick a size. For ice fishing we suggest to pick the largest size of each of these flies.

Top 10 Ice Fishing Flies

Dusti Scott with a beautiful Brook Trout while ice fishing
Diana Maul with a big Montana Rainbow Trout

BWO Mayfly

Blue Winged Olive – Montana

For many anglers, the truest sign of Fall is the emergence of the Blue Wing Olives (BWO). Arriving after the first fall rains, the cold, cloudy days bring BWO’s out in big numbers. They continue hatching through October, and sometimes later. BWO’s hatch from late morning through mid- afternoon, bringing trout to the surface to gorge. With such a long hatch window, how do you time the emergence on the rivers? You look for the heat of the day. As the days get shorter and colder, the hatch begins to move from morning to afternoon.

The Clark Fork River and Bitterroot River have phenomenal BWO hatches, and these insects can be found along the length of those rivers. Rock Creek will get good BWO hatches, but you’ll need to find the slower, quieter water where fish are feeding. The BWO is not an important hatch on the Blackfoot River. As Missoula’s highest elevation and most northern river, the Blackfoot isn’t known for it’s fall hatches. It IS known for its fall streamer fishing!

The BWO’s in Western Montana vary in size from 16 to 22. Why such a large size range? Because the “BWO” hatch is not a single species, but a complex mixture of multiple species. While the species, mostly baetis, are taxonomically different, they’re all basically the same size and color. Which means the same fly will be the correct imitation for any species that is hatching.

When many people think of late-season fishing, they think of a lovely day under the autumn sun, enjoying the crisp fall weather. For the BWO’s, change your thinking! Some of the best Blue Wing Olive fishing comes on the worst days of the season. 45 degrees, cold rain mixed with a little snow, maybe some wind, and the BWO’s will come off in droves. The fish respond to the cloud cover, and the fishing can be epic. If any hatch defines the value of cloud cover, it’s the Blue Wing Olives.

With so many different species in the rivers, it’s tough to find a place where some species of BWO nymph isn’t present. Most of the Baetis nymphs are very strong swimmers, capable of moving in 3-6 inch bursts. With this type of swimming strength, baetis nymphs are very active on the bottom, and very much a part of the trout’s diet. Frank Sawyer’s Pheasant tail nymph was designed to imitate the BWO’s found in his native British waters, and the pheasant tail works wonders in Missoula as well. Even better, Once in a while a moving pheasant tail can be effective. A slight jigging action on a slowly swung pheasant tail ban be a strong tactic in the fall.

Film Critic Fly pattern.

The BWO can be a blanket hatch, and with all blanket hatches, you have fish focusing on various stages of the insects emergence. The Missoulian Angle Fly Shop carries flies for all stages of the BWO emergence, including the Last Chance Cripple, Hi-Vis Spinner, Silhouette Dun and the TiltWing Dun. With the largest fly selection in town, we’ll have the hot BWO pattern. When buying flies, make sure you vary the size and shape of your purchase. Make sure to have cripples, spinners, emergers and duns to make sure you have the needed stage on the water. Nothing worse than watching fish rise without the right fly!

Tungsten Jig Pheasant Tail. One of Missoula’s most popular fly patterns from March-Novemeber.

The BWO will also emerge in the Spring. Once again, the species are completely different, but the same flies will work. This also explains why a small Pheasant Tail nymph always works in our area. With two separate life cycles, there will always be a size 16-18 little brown mayfly nymph swimming in 3-6 inch bursts. While the BWO might define fall for many anglers, it’s just as effective in the spring. Still loves the cold, still loves the clouds. The only difference is now it’s Spring!

Additional Blue Winged Olive Resources

The Euro Nymph Game

Trout eat constantly. If they’re not surface feeding, they’re sub-surface feeding. It’s a well-known fact that nymphs live in the rocks. It’s a more well-known fact that rocks live on the river bottom! So if you want to get your fly to where the fish are, you need to get your nymph on the bottom. Which is why Euro Nymphing is so effective.

Euro nymphing has been around for 100’s of years. Historic records have anglers fishing deep flies on tight lines in central Europe in the 1600’s. Fast forward to the 60’s, and you find anglers across the United States high stick nymphing, which is also Euro Nymphing. And of course, the competitive anglers across the world have dominated the river portion of the World Fly Fishing Championships with Euro nymphing techniques.

Euro nymphing traditionally uses a long rod (10-11.5 ft.), a FIPS (Fédération Internationale de Peche Sportive Mouche) Euro Nymphing line and a long, monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. The variations from that are endless, but that is the basic setup. The long rod allows for better line control on the water, while the line and leader are chosen for their ability to sink rapidly. You can definitely use a Euro nymph set-up on your 9 ft rod, however the shorter rod will not give you the coverage a longer rod provides, nor will you get the length of drift. But tightliners have been nymphing with 9 ft rods for years with great success.

Perdigon Fly Pattern is one of our most effective Euro Nymphs we carry. Also a very popular dropper off of a dry fly.

The flies are also different than many of the traditional nymphs used in Missoula. The Euro nymphs, like the Perdigon, are designed to sink rapidly. Many feature Tungsten beads on jig style hooks. The jig style hook rides point up, so they hang up less on the bottom of the river. The Missoulian Angler has the largest jig nymph selection in Missoula, and it’s expanding on a yearly basis. These nymphs sink rapidly, snag less and take trout.

The Euro nymph fisherman is running a relatively a relatively short line (10-25 ft) with 1-2 flies and maybe some weight, depending on depth. The FIPS line is quite thin, and not utilized as a classic fly casting line. The cast is accomplished using the weight of the flies and the flexibility of the long rod to cast the nymphs. The design of the Euro nymphs takes them to the bottom quickly, and the long rod allows the angler to control their depth and speed with incredible precision. The graphite rod translates every bump and tick back to the angler’s hand. As the flies ride close to the bottom, where the fish are, the tight line instantaneously allows the angler to set the hook upon take.

Working at such a close distance, euro nymphing is more suited to faster moving water. You can definitely Euro nymph in slower water, but your wading game had better be in top form! Euro nymphing does not work well from a boat. You need to have a bit more control over your flies depth than is achievable from a boat. Additionally, it often takes a couple of passes through a viable lie before the proper depth and speed is achieved, which is quite difficult from a boat.

Euro nymphing is all about getting the fly where the fish live, allowing the fish to expend minimum energy to feed. There is no method of fishing that is more effective. The relative water currents are slowest at the bottom of a river. The nymphs in the rocks are at the bottom of the river. The fish get a maximum return for a minimum effort when feeding, so they spend the majority of their time hugging the bottom. When you get your fly where the fish are feeding, you take more fish. Simple as that. So if you’re all about catching a lot of fish, call and ask the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop about Euro nymphing opportunities in Missoula. Once you get the technique figured out, your catch rate will jump exponentially.

Happy fly fishing!

Missoula Fly Tying Classes in Missoula

We don’t care what YouTube says, or how many Instagram post are put up, nothing beats a fly tying class to rapidly learn how to tie flies to fit all of your fly fishing needs. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not down on electronic fly tying instruction, because there’s so much to be learned on the internet. Many of the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop staff haunt the internet, finding out about new flies and new materials. How else do you think we have the best fly selection and fly tying material selection? Because we pay attention to the new and the

But when it comes to teaching fly tying classes, George, Ron and Taylor approach teaching a little differently than a youtube video. Videos often highlight new materials and cool fly patterns. At the Missoulian Angler, we highlight techniques and material handling. There’s a big difference. Our classes are designed to improve a tyer’s skill set in handling materials, not in multiplying their number of patterns. Sure, we’re going to teach useful and innovative flies, but the focus is going to be on how to use the materials easily and efficiently, not the pattern.

Our employees have over 110 years of fly tying experience combined, and over 60 years of professional fly tying and fly tying instruction experience. We tie flies for destinations around the world. Again, the patterns aren’t important. But the skill set attained in tying destination flies translates into a mastery of materials that few others have. It allows us to provide exceptional advice, and the ability to solve pretty much every fly tying issue that arises.

That has tangible benefits for our students. Not only do we have the knowledge base to solve most problems, but it extends beyond that. When you go home and practice (notice the phraseology, not if but when!) there will often be a bit of a struggle. Bring your flies into the shop. We can look at your fly and tell you where the issues are occurring. Just a look at your fly will tell us that the reason your hackle is so sparse is you’re placing your dry fly wing at the 60% point, not the 75% point. Your hackle is being asked to cover too much linear space on the hook, and it looks wrong. Some might think the problem lies in the hackle, but it’s not. The problem lies in the wing placement, and we’re experts at identifying the root of the problem. It’s something the computer age has not yet been able to replicate, the instantaneous solving of your fly tying annoyances!

Boxes loaded with Christmas Island flies tied over the winter for our hosted trip.

We’re not going to lie. We’re more than a little obsessed with fly tying. Taylor roams the internet looking for new, different and innovative patterns.. George is ancient and crabby, and makes sure the shop is stocked with old school tying materials. We pay close attention to our customers, and stock what they’re asking for. We like to think we have the best material selection in Missoula, and a lot of our customers back us up on that claim. Our classes are a great mix of old school and new. We’re completely old school in our teaching concepts and material handling. But we’ve definitely stepped into the 90’s with a camera/TV setup. This allows the student to really see, up close, what’s going on while the instructor ties, as well as making the process smoother and easier. If it helps our students, we’re all for technology.

We run classes in late fall, early winter, and spring. We’re always running beginner and intermediate classes. Our specialty classes vary from year to year. Price for a class is $100, with all materials included. You will need to have your own tools, though the shop has loaner tools for the days you just don’t feel like tearing down your tying station! Call 406-728-7766 or email [email protected] to get the latest schedule.