Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 3/3

Fly Fishing report brought to you by our Missoula fly shop staff and guides.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot River temps are starting to warm up to a high of around 38 degrees which means streamer fishing is starting to pick up. While still cold and maybe not the best option for fly fishing around Missoula, the Blackfoot can produce some big fish this time of year. Not a numbers game and you will be working hard for every fish you catch. We fished the lower river late last week and pulled out some nice fish in the softer water and inside seems. If you like nymphing then focus on this type of water and your numbers will increase. For nymphs try a stonefly as your point fly and cycle through droppers until you find one they like, such as Ptail, Worms, Hare’s Ear, G-Kes and Prince Nymphs. Streamers that worked well for us were the Baby Gonga, Mini Sex Dungeon, Sparkle Minnow and Kreelex.

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot river is still a bit cold for Skwala’s to start hatching but the warmer extended forecast should get the nymphs moving around. This can be a great time of year to nymph the Bitterroot river and should not be ignored. Some of our shop staff fished up here the last few days and had some pretty good dry fly fishing in the afternoon on midges. The dry fly fishing is a short window of opportunity during the afternoon in slow water. We started seeing more and more Capnia’s and Nemoura’s hatching on the warmer sunny days. The Bitterroot is still a few weeks away for consistent dry fly fishing but for those who like nymphing and streamer fishing, this is a solid option. Nymphing stonefly patterns like the Pats Rubber Legs, Double Bead Stonefly and 20 Inchers as your point fly is your best option with droppers like the G-Kes, Ptail, Hare’s Ear and Perdigons off the back. For streamers we had a lot of success with darker patterns in black and dark olive.

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork river had a minor bump in flows last week but has continued to drop the last few days. We Fished above town on the day of the bump and it surprisingly fished well considering the conditions. We fished streamers primarily but also had luck nymphing and even had a few silly fish come up to eat the big dry. The Clark Fork may not be the best option for fly fishing Missoula but it’s not necessarily a bad option either. For those who want a stretch all to themselves and enjoy streamer fishing, this is a solid bet for you. Streamers that worked well for us were the Dirty Hippie, Olive Baby Gonga and the Sparkle Minnow. Nymphing will be your most consistent tactic using patterns like the Pat’s Rubber Legs, Ptail, Hare’s Ear, Perdigons and the good old Worm.

Rock Creek

With the warmer weather in the forecast, fly fishing on Rock Creek will continue to get better and better. Still weeks away from a consistent Skwala hatch, the nymphing and streamer fishing is where it’s at right now. Our Missoula Fly Shop has been getting a lot of great reports from our customers fishing up here lately. Rock Creek is hard to beat for the wade fisherman this time of year. Like the rest of our streams, the streamer and nymph fishing is the tactic of choice. Smaller streamers like the Baby Gonga, Sculpzilla, Kreelex and Sparkle Minnow will get it done up here. With the Skwala nymphs starting to move around in anticipation to hatch in the coming weeks, nymphing slow inside seems with stonefly nymphs like the Pats Rubber Legs, Double Bead Stone and 20 Inchers while cycling through smaller dropper nymphs off the back will be your best producers.

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.

Fish Species

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 2/22

Fly Fishing report brought to you by our Missoula fly shop staff and guides.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot River is starting to wake up from Winter but there are better options for fly fishing around Missoula this time of year. If you have your mind set on the Blackfoot then stick to nymphing slow inside seems and dead drifting streamers. The Blackfoot is never a numbers game this time of year but can produce some big fish on both streamers and nymphs. You will be working hard for every trout you catch, but you will probably have the river all to yourself in February. The Stonefly and Worm combo is hard to beat for nymph patterns on the Blackfoot this time of year. We like natural colored streamers during February stripped slow or dead drifting.

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot river fly fishing in February can be some of the best nymphing and streamer fishing in the area during late winter. While we are still a ways out from seeing the first Skwalas of the year, we have been seeing Capnias, Midges and a few Nemouras hatching. With the warmer forecast coming you might even see a few trout eating on top in the afternoon. Skwala nymphs are starting to move around anticipating warmer water temps to hatch, so Stonefly nymphs with the good old worm behind the stonefly is a killer this time of year. Other nymphs to try include Ptail Jig, G-Kes, Bullets, Pats Rubber Legs, 20 Incher, Double Bead Stone and Hare’s Ear Jigs. For more patterns and tips check out February Hatch Resources at the bottom of this page.

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork river fly fishing is slowly but surely heating up. Still waiting for warmer temps for dry flies but reports of decent streamer fishing have been coming in pretty consistent as of late. With the colder water temps, the fish are still a bit sluggish so focus on inside seams and slow walking speed water. The streamers that have been hot lately are the Baby Gonga, Dirty Hippie, Sparkle Minnow, Kreelex, Sculpzilla and Mini Sex Dungeons. Stonefly nymphs are starting to move around subsurface which means it’s time to pull out those bigger nymph patterns as your point fly while nymphing and dropping something smaller off the back like Worms, G’kes, Pheasant Tail, Hare’s Ear and Montana Prince. For additional info check out February Hatch Resources at the bottom of this page.

Rock Creek

With the warmer then usual Winter, fly fishing on Rock Creek has been consistent throughout the Winter and will just get better as the weather continues to warm. Rock Creek is one of your better options for late winter and early spring fly fishing in Missoula. Nymphing and Streamers are the main game as of now with Skwalas and March Browns right around the corner. Focus on slower water like inside seems. Nymphing Stoneflies, eggs and worms can be the ticket this time of year. Don’t hesitate to switch up patterns often until you find the one they like. Fish each spot thoroughly, fishing every inch of water. These late winter fish are still a bit lethargic this time of year and won’t move far for your fly.

February Hatch Resources

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.

Fly Fishing Montana

Missoula Fishing Spots

If you’re here to find secret Missoula fishing spots, you can stop reading! Not that we won’t be talking about plenty of different spots to fish near Missoula. Don’t get us wrong, we are more than happy to share some of our favorite spots in person, but the internet is not the place to do that. We’ve seen it happen. Publish a spot, and 30 anglers descend on it. When you visit our Missoula Fly shop, we can spread the love around the area, not send every angler to the same rock in the Bitterroot River.

Here’s the thing about finding fly fishing spots in Missoula- there are 340 floatable miles of river within an hour’s drive of Missoula. If you’re a wading angler, there’s a lot more! Of course, some spots are more popular than others, but with very little work you can separate yourself from other fishermen. Because of the massive amounts of river mileage, anglers spread out and often you’ll have a section of river or stream completely to yourself.

An absolutely amazing thing about Missoula area fishing, and throughout Montana, is our river access laws. We feel they are the best in the country. Simply stated, if you access a river legally, and stay below the established high water mark, you may travel up or downstream as far as you would like. Unlike other states, where the water is public but the streambed is owned by the landowner, below the high water mark is public land in Montana. Legal accesses are from other public lands, including bridge abutments or highway crossings. When you see the T-Shirts all over Missoula that say Public Land Owner, this is one of the reasons! Private water? Not really in this state.

Before we get into some of the best fly fishing near Missoula, MT, let’s take a minute to talk about places you might not want to wade. First is the lower Clark Fork River, which we classify as below Missoula where the Bitterroot River enters. While there are some wading opportunities west on the Clark Fork, much of it is too big to effectively wade fish. The banks are steep, the water fast and deep six feet from shore. On foot, you can get into a lot of trouble in a hurry on the lower Clark Fork River. If you have a boat, that’s a whole different story!

The Blackfoot River is another one that has some very tricky wading situations. I know, I know, Brad Pitt waded it in the River Runs Through It. It’s a movie, not a documentary! It’s wonderfully dramatic to float down the river while fighting a fish, but truthfully, it might not be your best move. Don’t be a hero like Brad! While the Blackfoot is one of our favorite rivers in the Missoula area and Western Montana to float, wading is tough sledding. The banks are steep, the river deepens rapidly, high gradient means it’s quite fast and if you’re not paying attention, you can make one step and go from knee deep to over your head. When you do find a place to access and wade, it’s often very limited. Just like the Clark Fork River, there are spots where you can wade but they are few and far between.

Now that we’ve saved you a bit of time on places that may be less productive to explore as a wade fisherman, let’s touch on a few Missoula fishing spots to get you started catching trout. Again, these places that we are about to mention are no secrets and more often than not, you will have some company. But all of these streams we talk about have plenty of room to spread out and you shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot all to yourself.

Rock Creek Salmonflies

Rock Creek

Our most popular blue ribbon stream in Montana for wade fishing is Rock Creek. If you know anything about Missoula area fishing, then you’ve probably heard of Rock Creek. There’s good reason, as Rock Creek is a wade fishing paradise filled with naive Cutthroats, big Brown Trout and feisty Rainbows. While there is a short season for boats during higher water, the wade fisherman has Rock Creek to themselves for most of the season. We usually tell people that the first of many streams you should explore in Missoula is Rock Creek. Rock Creek Road parallels the Creek for over 50 miles, with multiple access points along the length. With 3,000 fish per mile, it doesn’t really matter what access point you choose. Figuring out where to fish on Rock Creek is as simple as driving up the road and picking a spot that makes you happy. It’s the smallest river in the Missoula area, which means wading opportunities abound. Honestly, the whole stream fishes great during all seasons from the bottom all the way to the top. The lower 11 miles is a paved road and after that it turns into a dirt road (sometimes it feels more like on continuous pothole!) with access points along the whole way. With Moose, Deer, Bighorn Sheep and thousands of trout per mile, there’s no wonder why Rock Creek in Montana is a destination for fisherman all over the world.

Bitterroot River

Another river to explore is the upper Bitterroot River. The main stem of the Bitterroot can be heavily used (at least by Montana standards) by boats, and can be a less than spectacular wade fishing experience. You can make your main stem wading experience better with this simple trick. When you get to an access point in the morning, head upstream. All the boats are going downstream, and the boats from the next access point above haven’t gotten that far. About lunch time, head back to the access point and go downstream. Most of the boats have passed, and you’ll miss the boats coming downstream. If you have a raft, there are many stretches of the Bitterrroot River you can get to with very few anglers. While there are wade fishing spots throughout the main stem that fish very well for the angler on foot, it is the upper stretches, into the East and Westfork of the Bitterroot River. Typically the West Fork of the Bitterroot holds bigger fish and takes a little more pressure, while the East Fork of the Bitterroot holds smaller fish with a bit less pressure. If neither of these are your jam, then explore one of the many great tributaries that drain into the mainstem as you drive toward the East and West Forks.

Clark Fork River Through Town

Some of the best fly fishing near Missoula, Mt is found in downtown Missoula. Urban fishing is often ignored when talking about fly fishing spots in Missoula. Many of our guides float this stretch to get away from other boats, and are often rewarded with some of the best fly fishing in Missoula. From East Missoula all the way down to Kona Bridge, the town section of the Clark Fork can offer some great fishing for the angler with a time budget, and College students without a car and fishing between classes. With plenty of breweries and restaurants nearby, it’s easy to take a break and catch a quick meal or beverage, and then get right back at it! Some of the biggest trout we’ve seen come out of the Clark Fork in Missoula. Just because the surroundings are more urban than expected, the fishing in town can be absolutely exceptional.

Clark Fork Rainbow Trout Downtown Missoula
Missoulian Angler Fly Shop owner Taylor Scott with a big Rainbow Trout in downtown Missoula

Many of our Missoula fly shop staff have fished these streams their whole lives, and know Missoula rivers like the back of their hand. Ron, our longest tenured employee, has worked in the shop since the late 80’s and has fished Montana for over 40 years. He spent many summers when he made it a point to fish a new stream every week, and he is the most knowledgeable person you will find on the local waters. He’s a walking encyclopedia of Western Montana fly fishing. We encourage you to explore in the same manner. Grab a map, pick a stream around Missoula and go. You would be hard pressed to find a strem in Western Montana that doesn’t hold trout and you may just find your own secret spot, where you never see another angler, or even footprints.

We said we weren’t going to get specific on a lot of streams on the internet. That being said, we love sharing some of our favorite fishing spots when you stop by our fly shop in Missoula . We’re more than happy to help you find a great fishing spot, even if you don’t need to purchase anything. Advice is always free at the Missoulian Angler and we love meeting new people who have the passion to explore Missoula fishing spots.

Montana Fly Fishing Guides – Float Or Wade Fishing Trips

Let Us Make Your Montana Fly Fishing Trip A Vacation Of A Lifetime!

Missoula Fly Fishing Guide Chase Harrison

Spring Fly Fishing Pre Game Tips

Spring is almost here. We see it in the longer days and slightly warmer temps. We start dreaming about the fishing…. will it be awesome? How’s the snowpack, and when’s run-off coming? Will spring be warm or cold? Will 2018’s high water translate into more fish recruitment? How has the Bitterroot river changed over the winter? We can spend hours pondering these questions.

Questions we can’t answer and won’t know the answers to till April 30. 

Here’s a suggestion. While wondering about the weather, the hatches and the river, take care of business where you can. Pull out your tackle bag, vest, etc, and take a look. Take some time to do some preseason chores so that your first spring fly fishing trip of the year is enjoyable.

Remember that submerged fence post on the Clark Fork river you wrapped your line around late last fall? It might be time to check the first 30 feet of your fly line for chips, abrasion and just plain wear. While you’re at it, check the welded loop. If the loop is fraying, you might want to replace it. If you don’t want to tie the nail knot, bring it to the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop and we’ll put a leader butt on your line. At a bare minimum, wash the last 30 feet of fly line in soapy water. It will float, mend and shoot so much better.

Take a look at your leaders and tippet. Don’t just check to make sure you still have 3-4-5X, but pull the little elastic aside, and make sure you’re not down to three wraps. If the tippet spools you’re using have different packaging than what’s on display now, it might be time to replace that nylon. Manufacturers change packaging every 5-6 years. That will help you date your tippet! If you’re using fluorocarbon, that doesn’t apply, as it doesn’t degrade. You still have to check under the elastic with fluorocarbon!

Check the laces on your boots. Try and remember if you had a leak in your waders last time you wore them. If you think you did, then check. The easiest way to check for a leak is with a hair dryer and some soapy water. Fill the waders with air using the hair dryer, and then paint the suspect areas with soapy water. If bubbles form in the soapy water, you have a leak. Better to patch now than leak in March.

Open up your reel. If you dunked it last year, it has dirt and scree in it. Get some Q-Tips, and swipe around inside the spindle receiver of the spool. Try to stay away from WD-40, as it gums up in reels. Once you’ve got it cleaned, check manufacturers instructions for lubrication, and do it. A clean reel is a smooth, functional reel, and that pays dividends for the rest of the season. Rattle the handle. If it’s loose, get some Loc-Tite and screw it back on. Make sure the handle rotates before the Loc-Tite sets!

Clean your cooler!! If you have a raft and trailer, do the maintenance there as well.

Take a look at your flies. Take out the shredded streamers and the hackleless dries! If you store your standard dries in foam, pull them out and steam the hackle straight. Use a teakettle and a pair of forceps to accomplish this. Then let the flies dry and put them in a compartment box. Foam and standard hackle don’t mix.

Go through your vest and determine if you really need a third flashlight, or 4 almost empty bottles of Gink. If you want to transfer Gink from one bottle to another, run it under hot water for a minute, it pours better. Look at your net. Check the bag for cracks or torn attachment points. If it’s a Rising Net, drink what’s left in the handle. We have a feeling the rubber stopper doesn’t add to the flavor. Start the year fresh with a new fill, and let the old stuff motivate you through spring maintenance!

Or if your a dedicated angler like shop staff Bryce Hasquet, you fish all winter long!

When rods were made of cane and lines made of silk, this off-season maintenance was critical. But with the ease of care and durability of modern equipment, it’s easy to skip this step. We can’t tell you how many reels come into our Missoula fly shop that squeak when you wind them. Or how often we have to tell people their waders need to be completely dry, and then the Aquaseal takes 24 hours to cure. An ounce of prevention will make your first days on the water enjoyable, dry and effective, instead of damp, annoying and frustrating. It won’t take anywhere near as long as you think it will, and hey, while you’re playing with your tackle, you’ll REALLY be focused on your 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.

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 9/25

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot has been fishing great lately with the cloud cover. The dry fly fishing has been spectacular with a smorgasbord board of Mayflies to eat. Get out in the next few days as the forecast calls for a quick cold front to move in. As the weather cools over the weekend, focus on subsurface fishing with nymphs and streamers. The extended forecast is calling for a warm up after this weekend which should turn the afternoon dry fly delight back on. For dries the BWO and Mahogany have been the go to bugs for us.

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot will be majorly effected if you are a dry fly fisherman by the upcoming cold front that appears to be moving in over the weekend. For the streamer fisherman, the forecast is a happy site. The cooling temps should start off a nice water temp for the start of October which is one of our favorite times to strip streamers on the Blackfoot. The nymphing should stay consistent throughout the next month. Streamers we have been throwing lately are the Dirty Hippie, Articulated Kreelex, Baby Gonga, Sparkle Minnow and Carlsons Gulpin Sculpin.

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork like the rest of the rivers dry fly fishing will be affected this weekend as a cold front rolls through but should kick back into gear once the cold front rolls out and the dry fly fishing should continue to be a good option. Focus on subsurface fishing during the cold front like streamers or nymphing. October is a great month to fish the Clark Fork so be ready for continued dry fly fishing after the cold front moves out. BWO’s and Mahoganies have been the go to for dry fly fishing with a few October Caddis kicking around.

Rock Creek

Rock Creek  has been fishing great as of late and should continue to produce through the Fall. One of the best options for fall fishing as streamer fishing continues to get better and still some solid dry fly afternoons. Of course if you want numbers then nymphing will be the tactic to stick with. Hatches right now include Mahoganies, BWO and October Caddis.

Sign up NOW for our evening Fall Fly Tying Classes.

Classes for all skill level with the Legendary George Kesel

Beginner Class, Streamer Class, Nymph Class