Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 3/23

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 has started to fish, and with this cold spring, none too soon. The Skwalas are on the surface, as are the Nemouras and BWO’s. The fish aren’t rising with reckless abandon, but they’re certainly looking up. The Gray/Olive Plan B and the Olive Water Walker have had some early success, along with the Rogue Skwala and El Camino. Drop a dry Nemoura off the back of a Skwala, you’ll be surprised at how effective that little guy is. The BWO’s are getting the fish to rise in pods on cloudy days, while sunny days shorten the hatch duration. Have a Quigley Split Flag BWO or a Last Chance Cripple to take the bigger fish.
Don’t sleep on the nymphing. The SR French Bullet or Keslars Black Widow in a 12-14 are excellent Nemoura nymphs, well worth dropping off a dry or as the point fly behind a 20 Incher or Double Bead Stone Peacock. The Duracell, Caramel Jig and Newbury John Brown are all working as a Western March Brown nymph, while the Olive SR Bullet and Jake’s Olive Perdigon are doing the job for BWO nymphs. Don’t forget the worm
If you can take your eyes off the surface, the big fish are moving to streamers. Work the edges, tail outs and deeper riffles with a mid-size streamer. The Baby Swim Coach, Baby Gonga and the Articulated Silver/Gunmetal Kreelix have been taking some impressive trout. A 3ips sinking leader helps get the fly down, but can be a bit intrusive.
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Blackfoot River

You can get it done on the Blackfoot river, but be ready to go deep and work the slower water. The Blackfoot is the farthest north and highest elevation river- it takes the longest to get into shape. A deep TJ Hooker or a 20 Incher have been effective, and a San Juan Worm dropper is highly recommended. Find the best water and work it hard, that’s going to be more effective than fishing the marginal water that has fish in the summer.
Keep your streamer selection smaller than expected, Baby Gongas, Double Fuegos and the Dirty Hippie have been moving some fish. LOW AND SLOW. Give the fish a chance to see and react- too fast and it passes by. The water is cold, and the Blackfoot trout are still in their winter lies. Not many people up here, but be ready to work to move the fish.
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Clark Fork River

The water in the Clark Fork river is cold- the ice along the edges tell you that! That doesn’t mean it’s not fishging. BWO’s are being seen on the lower Clark in size 16-18. If the BWO doesn’t work, they could still be rising to midges, so be ready for both. Trout are taking a Tiltwing BWO and a Split Flag Quigley- it hasn’t gotten very tricky yet. They’ve been feeding on midges for the last 3 months. Be ready to switch flies till you find exactly what they’re eating.
The Clark Fork is fishing better sub-surface. As with most late winter fishing, low and slow is the way to get it done. TJ Hookers and Pats Rubberlegs 4-6 feet deep have been moving fish with regularity. A skwala nymph along the edges has proven effective in the middle section, and we expect that to move to the lower Clark Fork as well. Make sure you have some gray/brown nymphs in a 12-14 for the Westernb March Browns. The Duracell and a Hare’s Ear Jij are working for the mymph. And if you want to go small, use an Olive Bullet to imitate the BWO nymph. Don’t forget the worm.
Streamers have been performing fairly well. The fish aren’t crushing the streamers, but the ones that do have been big. The upper and Middle Clark Fork have more fish moving, while the lower Clark Fork is kicking up fewer fish to streamers. But the Lower Clark Fork trout are well worth talking about. Mid-size articulated streamers like a Baby Swim Coach or a Barely Legal have been good, and of course the Sparkle Minnow. The new Sparkle Yummy has been effective as well.

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Rock Creek

The lower and upper sections of Rock Creek are easily accessible- the road in the middle is still in winter form, so there’s no running the length of the river over the day. Skwala nymphs are taking fish on the edges, as is the Pheasant Tail Jig in sizes 12-14. The San Juan Worm has been very effective, as has the Gummy Worm. The nymphing has been really good up here, and while those nymphs have been strong, we’re hearing that a well presented nymph of your choice is working.
Skwalas are being seen on the surface, but don’t expect the dry flies to be lights out. Pick up a couple dries, but don’t lose your mind. That’s coming soon. The BWO’s are also showing, and a simple Parachute or Cripple are talking fish when you find them rising. The BWO’s have been better on the upper section, but are found top and bottom.
Streamers have been good, but not great. Again, low and slow will move the bigger fish, while working the faster water will get more fish, but of lesser size. Small to mid-size streamers like a Kreelix or sparkle Minnow have been strong, with a Natural Sculpzilla also making the list. Be ready for Rock Creek to get very good as the weather continues to warm up.
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Spring 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.