Missoula Fly Fishing Seasons

Hatches • Weather • Fishing

Missoula Fly Fishing Hatches

are prolific throughout our long fishing season. In the tabs below, we’ve tried to summarize information on Hatches, Weather, Water Flows and Fishing for our Western Montana fly fishing region; Bitterroot River, Blackfoot River, Clark Fork River, and Rock Creek. Each of the rivers have unique characteristics that vary from top to bottom, but the general summary will apply. Click over to our Missoula Hatch Chart for even more detail. Give the shop a call if you have any questions. Tight Lines!

Spring


Hatches: Skwala (8-12), Neumora (14-16), March Brown (12-14)

Weather: Variable/Mix Of 55 and Sunny To Cold And Snowy

Fishing: Days are warming up and getting longer. Two bugs really dominate Missoula fly fishing hatches in the early spring; the Skwala Stonefly and the March Brown. Fish are looking up after a long winter and are eager to eat on the surface. If that isn’t enough, our first hatch of Blue Wing Olives is coming on and brings the pods of trout up to the surface in the slow water.
These pre-runoff hatches seem to focus many anglers on the Bitterroot River where the weather breaks earlier than our other drainages, but don’t be afraid to check out different options. Expect fluctuating conditions out on the river with warm and sunny afternoons mixed with snow squalls and colder temperatures.

Hatches: Skwala (8-12), Neumora (14-16), Blue Wing Olive (14-16), Caddis (12-16)

Weather: Average High 50’s

Fishing: Skwalas and March Browns continue but the Blue Wing Olive hatch only gets better. We typically target the sweet spot of these early hatches as March 15 – April 15, but as we all know fishing on either end can be very good. Fluctuating air temperatures mean water clarity issues as snowpack begins to melt. This equals spikes in water after a warming trend (fishing turns to nymphing and streamers) and drops in water levels following a cooling trend (surface action back on).

Hatches: Skwala (8-12), Neumora (14-16), Blue Wing Olive (14-16), Caddis (12-16)

Weather: Average High 60’s

Fishing: Daytime temperatures are creeping up and the daylight hours are getting longer again. At some point the freestone rivers around Missoula begin the yearly ritual of full runoff. Anglers eagerly await the third Saturday in May when the lakes and tributaries open again. Boat traffic heads east of the Continental Divide to fly fish the Missouri River, a tailwater fishery that provides high numbers of fish per mile and a great option for our anglers.

Summer


Hatches: Pale Morning Dun (14-18), Green Drake (8-12), Salmonfly (4-8), Golden Stone (6-10), Caddis (12-16), Pale Evening Dun (14-18)

Weather: Average Low 70’s, Rain

Fishing: As the waters begin the downward trend, we’re looking forward to the giant stonefly hatch of the Salmonfly (4-6). One of our Blue Ribbon trout streams, Rock Creek, is the target for most anglers fishing this highly popular hatch, with the Blackfoot and upper Bitterroot following suit. Fishing Rock Creek by foot is a great option for almost any time of year, except now. At normal June flows the Creek is best from a boat.

Hatches: Pale Morning Dun (14-18), Green Drake (8-12), Salmonfly (4-8), Golden Stone (6-10), Caddis (12-16), Pale Evening Dun (14-18), Hoppers!

Weather: Average Mid 80’s, Hot Afternoons Late

Fishing: Rock Creek floating season ends June 30, leaving this pristine area for wade anglers to enjoy. The Bitterroot, Blackfoot, and Clark Fork Rivers are back in shape from runoff. Green Drakes, and Salmonflies taper off by mid month. Missoula fly fishing hatches continue like clockwork; mayfly mornings, stones in the afternoon, caddis in the evening. PMD’s, Goldens and Caddisflies continue strong and the terrestrial season starts coming in with Hoppers/Ants/Beatles in the afternoons. Watch out for the evening spinner fall and caddis hatch!

Hatches: Pale Morning Dun (14-18), Golden Stone (6-10), Caddis (12-16), Pale Evening Dun (14-18), Hoppers, Spruce Bud Moth (10-12), Trico (18-..freakin’ tiny)

Weather: Average Mid 80’s, Still Hot Afternoons Early

Fishing: The morning PMD’s start to taper off along with the afternoon Golden’s as we move through the month. Terrestrials are bringing fish up later in the day, but there are two hatches we really look forward to in August; Spruce Moths and Tricos. The Moths get going earlier in the month, the fall Trico fishing gets started toward the middle, and the Blue Wing Olives are on their way again toward the end.

Fall


Hatches: Blue Wing Olive (18-22), Trico (18-..freakin’ tiny), Mahogany Dun (12-16), Caddis (12-16), October Caddis (6-10), Spruce Bud Moth (10-12), Hoppers

Weather: Average Mid 70’s, Cooling Into Fall Weather

Fishing: This is when we like to fish. Missoula fly fishing hatches are dominated by Fall Mayflies, Flat Water, Pods of Fish Heads, Light Tippet, Long Casts. Period. Bright sunny days for Tricos; cloudy dark days for Blue Wings and Mahoganies. Nothing finer than picking the fish you want feeding on the surface, finding the rhythm, long cast on the right line, watching the eat…. Watch out for the big October Caddis also.

Hatches: Blue Wing Olive (18-22), Mahogany Dun (12-16), Caddis (12-16), October Caddis (6-10)

Weather: Average High 50’s, Nights Starting To Get Cold

Fishing: Fall Mayflies. Tricos taper off but the Blue Wing/Mahogany festival continues. October fly fishing in Missoula is often overlooked and is a great time to be out. Daylight hours begin to shorten again keeping the dry fly window in the warmer afternoons. When you aren’t throwing the dry fly to pods of big fish, Its time to throw the streamer. Or throw the junk all day. The brown trout are extremely aggressive preparing for the spawn. This is the time of year that the streamer junkies live for. Throwing giant flies for giant fish. While streamer fishing isn’t a numbers game and requires lots of hard work, it is a good way to put a two foot fish in the net.

Hatches: Blue Wing Olives (18-22), October Caddis (6-10), Midges (18-24)

Weather: Average Low 40’s

Fishing: November can be a great time to get a few more days in on the water before winter sets in. On the warmer days, Hatches of Blue Wings and Midges can provide the last bit of dry fly fishing. The Brown trout are still actively seeking out smaller fish to eat, so the streamer fishing can be fantastic. October and November are the streamer junkies favorite time of year. Most anglers have shifted their focus to the animals in the mountains so the rivers are empty and left for the who just aren’t ready for the season to end yet.

Winter


Hatches: Midges (18-24), Abominable Snowmen (XL-XXL)

Weather: Average Low 30’s

Fishing: 

The main stems of our rivers are open to catch and release all year. Getting out with a double nymph rig can offer up some good fishing underneath as you look for the midging fish in the warm afternoons in the local spots. We’re all watching the snowpack levels and trying to forecast how the water will be this season, everyone is eager to get the boats dusted off for a launch on any sunny day. The Fly Fishing Film Festival in February always gets the frenzy fired up

Hatches: Capnia (16-18), Midges (18-24)

Weather: Average Low 30’s

Fishing: 

Most days the fishing this time of year will freeze your line and your fingers. However, when the temperature creeps up above freezing and the sun comes out, the fishing can be fantastic. When this happens, it will be a nymphing game. Looking for “Winter Water” and fishing low and slow is the most productive way. While it may not be stonefly or mayfly fishing, you are fishing in the winter and a few bonus days on the water can be just enough to keep cabin fever at bay.

Hatches: Capnia (16-18), Midges (18-24), Neumora (14-16)

Weather: Average Upper 30’s

Fishing: 

Most days the fishing this time of year will freeze your line and your fingers. However, when the temperature creeps up above freezing and the sun comes out, the fishing can be fantastic. When this happens, it will be a nymphing game. Looking for “Winter Water” and fishing low and slow is the most productive way. While it may not be stonefly or mayfly fishing, you are fishing in the winter and a few bonus days on the water can be just enough to keep cabin fever at bay.