Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 7/23

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 is under Hoot Owl restrictions from the west and east fork of the Bitterroot confluence to the confluence with the Clark Fork. No fishing between 2pm and midnight on that section. Get on the water early and stop fishing by 2pm.

If you’re on the water early enough, you might run into a Rusty Spinner fall. The Hi-Vis Rusty Spinner or standard Rusty Spinner are both effective. They’ll also work during the PMD hatch, as well as dusk. Make sure you have a couple if you head to the Bitterroot.

This will surprise no one- the Purple Haze is a consistent producer along the length of the river. Make sure you have a couple for searching. And while searching have some terrestrials as well. The Ant Acid Black/Purple, Stubby Chubby Tan and Jake’s No Sink Ant are working well on the surface. Get serious and drop an Ant Raid off the back of a small foamy. The sunken ant is often overlooked by anglers, but not by trout.

The hoppers are starting to appear just as the Goldens are falling off. Make sure to have some smaller Tan Hoppers, like a Morrish or Henneberry. Both will cover hoppers and a golden. Bring your yellow sallies as well. They hang on a bit longer on the Bitterroot. The PMD’s are still bringing fish to the surface as well. The Last Chance Cripple, Brooks Sprout and the Missing Link will move some of the fussier fish. A longer tippet will be of benefit.

Stick your trico box in the bag. They haven’t established yet, but sporadic clouds have been seen. The heat is bringing that hatch on, and you don’t want to get caught with rising fish and no tiny bugs.

The evening hatch of Pale Evening Duns and Tan caddis is still occurring, but the hotter the day, the later the hatch will occur. If you’re chasing those bugs, be ready to be on the water till afterwork. If you do hatch match till after dark, fish a mouse home, because you just never know.

When you head subsurface, make sure you’re deep. 3-5 foot fluorocarbon droppers will put your nymph where it needs to be. Nothing is standing out in the standard nymphs, but the Firetstarter has been more effective than its color would suggest. The Yellow Spot Pheasant Tail and Bullet Quill have been successful.

Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

Despite the heat, the Blackfoot River has been holding it’s own. Some of the sections are getting a bit bony for floating, but the wade fishing is starting to get very good. With the heat, the lower sections are unfishable in the afternoon, due to recreational floaters. If you want to float Johnsrud to Weigh, or Weigh to Spray, be on the water early and off by noon. You’ll have some floaters, but not the insanity of a hot summer day.

Early mornings have been strong with streamers, and remains that way till the sun climbs over the canyon. A small articulated Baby Gonga or Swim Coach are small enough to not spook fish in low water but mobile enough to get action. If you have a slow sink tip, use it, but it’s not necessary.

Or you can work the nocturnal stone hatch. A big Pat’s Rubberlegs or a TJ Hooker will get it done sub-surface, while the Sweetwater Hopper or Fluttering Stone will bring them to the top.

The Goldens are petering out but the hoppers are starting. Put on a small Golden like an ODB, Evan’s baby Stone Tan or a Morrish Hopper for a fly that does double duty. The PMD’s are still about, but bring your A game and some cripples, because the trout have been eating these for about a month and know what they want. Presentation is critical.

Presentation is less critical with the Spruce Moths, which are starting to move. The Parachute Spruce or the Spruce Almighty are good in the slower water, while a Tan Micro Chubby floats in faster water where fish are holding in the heat.

The nymphing has been good up here as well, with the Duracell and Orange Spot Pheasant Tail standing out for performance. It’s more about getting the fly to the fish, especially as the heat of the day comes on, so add some more depth to your dropper for better results.

The Pale Evening Duns are still out, as are the Tan Caddis. However, the evening rise is defined by the heat- the hotter the day, the later and shorter the hatch. Be ready to be on water after sundown on the hot days.

Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Clark Fork River

There is Hoot Owl restrictions on the Clark Fork River from the confluence with the Flathead River to the confluence of Warm Springs Creek and Silver Bow Creek. This means you can fish to 2pm. Get on early and off by 2pm. There are also a few mouths of tributaries that are closed listed here .

Clark Fork has been fishing extremely well in the last week, and we expect that to hold for a while. It’s worth rising and shining to be out by dawn, especially on the lower sections. You expect the streamer fishing to be good at that time, and it is, but the nocturnal stones will pull big fish up to the surface. A Sweetwater Hopper with the back legs cut off or a Flutteriung Stone are very good imitation of the big nocturnal bugs.

If you see steady risers early, put on a Rusty Spinner. They can fall in the early morning, so be ready.

The PMD’s will still show up, but they are definitely waning. Have a Brook’s Sprout, Last Chance Cripple or a Sparkle Dun for the pods that are still forming. A little longer tippet will pay dividends for presentation to fish that have been eating these bugs for about 3 weeks. A double dry with a Rusty Spinner as the dropper greatly increases your odds.

The golden Stones are on their last legs, but the hoppers are just starting, so a “tweener” fly like a Henry’s Fork Golden, Morrish Hopper Tan or an ODB Stone will look like both a hopper and a stone fly. Make sure to have some Yellow Sallies as well. They’re still out, and can be quite effective as the a double dry dropper.

When you go subsurface, make sure you go sub! A Pat’s Rubberlegs or TJ Hooker about 7-8 feet from the indicator always works on the lower section. Not always a joy to cast, but proven. Smaller droppers also work, and again, get them deep. Work the faster water where the oxygen content is higher.

As the heat of the day comes on, start thinking about pike on the lower section. As the trout seek shelter from the heat, the pike are just finding their comfort zone. Choose the fly according to your rod weight, and have a wire bite tippet. If you have a dedicated streamer rod (7-8 wt), a big Cote Whitefish Fly or FireTiger is a strong choice. On lighter rods, a gray articulated streamer like a Boogey Man or Dungeon will get pike’s attention.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Rock Creek

Rock Creek is in full summer mode right now, with the last few golden stones still being eaten, but we’re pretty sure some are being taken as hoppers. The Henry’s Fork Golden in size 10-14, a Tan Henneberry Hopper and Plan B Golden are working equally well. You can still find some PMD’s and Pale Evening Duns, and of course the Tan Caddis is producing throughout the day.

Get your game face on for the PMD’s and PED’s. The fish have been eating them for a while- they what they want and how it needs to be presented. A little longer tippet with a Missing Link, Film Critic or Brooks Sprout has been effective, but be ready for a few refusals as well. Make sure to have a couple of Rusty Spinners for the refusals- it’s often exactly what they’re looking for. A great combo has been your choice of dry with a Sunken Rusty Spinner on about an 8” dropper. Covers all your bases.

The Tan Caddis is till working as a searching pattern- either Standard or X-Caddis, as well as in the evening. You can work that in the faster water for surprising action.

Atractors and terrestrials are starting to move fish as well. The Ant Acid, Jake’s No Sink Ant and the Tan Micro Chubby are taking fish from classic terrestrial hiding water. Work the grassy banks and under branches. Take your Purple Haze and Brindle Chutes as well. While not a “hot” fly, they are steady flies.

When you go subsurfaces make sure you’re getting deep enough. Size 12 to 16 Perdigons are never wrong- pick the pattern you’re comfortable with and use it. MAKE SURE to get deep enough. In the heat, the fish go deep and hang there, so get your fly to the trout- they may nt travel to you. Streamers through the deep centers will move more fish than you think- as always, the Sparkle Minnow Sculpin is a top producer.

As the heat rises during the day, the fish move into the riffles for more oxygen. When you hook a fish in 90 degree heat, fight it hard and fast, ands stay as close to where you hooked it as possible. Minimal net and photo time- get the fish back into the cooler, oxygenated water. Be ready to lose a fly or two to strong fish fighting- putting the rout back healthy is worth a fly.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

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.