Pale Morning Duns and Pale Evening Duns

Why are we grouping these two together, when they’re so taxonomically different? Because the same fly that works in the morning will work in the evening, so with the same imitation, we lump them together. The PMD’s and PED’s are the first hatches post run-off that can be wader friendly for fly fishing, and the PMD’s are a classic mayfly hatch. PMD’s have been known to darn near blanket the waters on the Clark Fork River and Bitterroot River, and they’re also very prevalent on Rock Creek and the Blackfoot River. This is a very important insect for Missoula rivers and it’s fisherman.

When we say classic mayfly hatch, it comes from the view many anglers take, declaring matching the hatch as the premiere challenge in fly fishing. During a blanket hatch, the fish definitely key in on certain stages of emergence and adulthood. Because of the feeding complexity, the PMD is a hatch where you buy flies wide and shallow. That means if you buy 6 PMD’s, get two parachutes, two cripples and two emergers. That way, you’re better able to match the insect stage being focused on, instead of having six adults when the trout want cripples. It’s not a bad way to buy flies at any time, but especially important with an abundance of insects. The PED’s aren’t always as abundant, but since you’ll already have a wide array of flies, you’ll be ready!

The PMD nymphs are crawlers, and very poor swimmers. After bottom release, their ascent to the surface is quite feeble. The long, slow rise to the surface gives trout time to gorge, and during emergence trout may be found higher in the water column, following nymphs to the surface. The PMD emergence is one time you may not want your nymph on the bottom, but suspended a little higher up. It’s an exciting way to nymph, sight fishing to suspended fish. A jig Pheasant Tail or a Racing Gold Perdigon is effective at this time. After ascent, PMD’s emerge from their shucks a couple of inches from the surface and finish floating to the meniscus to emerge as adults.

Trout can very specifically target PMD’s after emergence from their shuck but not yet to the surface. Pay close attention to the rise form. If there are no bubbles trailing the rise, chances are very good the fish didn’t break the surface with its mouth, but with its back. Floating a dry fly over a fish that’s not coming to the surface is exceptionally frustrating! If there are no bubbles, attach an emerger or a nymph on a dropper about 4 inches long. This will allow the fly to sink just under the surface film, but not too deeply. You’ll take a lot of “risers” this way.

With the PMD, it’s a good time to talk about the difference between a cripple and an emerger. Our best answer is about 1 second. Mother Nature is not always kind, and when the emergence process is interrupted, the insect quickly goes from emerger to cripple. It’s not as complicated as some people make it out to be. Both cripples and emergers are found in the surface film, and often imitated by the same fly, like a Film Critic. The PMD, with its slow emergence, provides multiple opportunities to use a fly in the film. A rise form to a fly in the film may or may not leave bubbles. Just adds to the puzzle!

Once a PMD has broken through the meniscus and emerged, it must wait for its wings to dry before flying. Depending on weather conditions, an adult can ride on the surface for quite a long distance, again providing the trout with quality feeding opportunities. A Tiltwing Dun or simple parachutes are excellent imitations for the adult.

So let’s make things complicated. PMD’s and PED’s also fall as brown spinners, which is imitated by the Hi-Vis Rusty Spinner. A spinner is a spent adult, returning to the water to finish its life cycle. These spinner falls can occur early in the morning, late at night, or, our favorite, during the hatch. So quite often, you will have the option of Rusty Spinners during the emergence, which adds complexity to matching the hatch. Again, we return to the classic concept of a mayfly hatch. You can find a group of rising fish, and while one may be taking emergers, the fish next to it may be taking adults, cripples or spinners. Which can make matching the hatch an interesting proposition. But isn’t that why we choose to pursue a fish with a measured IQ of 4, to keep things interesting!

Fisherman and guides are pretty spoiled in Missoula, MT having so many great hatches for fly fishing and the PMD is one hatch that last longer then most. This makes it a very important insect and there should be plenty of different stages of imitations in your fly box.

Additional PMD and PED Resources

MISSOULA FLY FISHING REPORT 7/15

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot is a great option right now and the dry fly fishing has been good. We have been seeing plenty of PMD’s, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies and the hopper fishing is starting to pick up as well. If you come across a mid day lull then the dry dropper rig will keep you busy. Our go to droppers right now are the G-Kes Ptail Hot Spot, Jiggin Stones and just about any color Perd’s. For Dries we have been running Water Walkers, Plan B’s and Flush Floater.

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot is producing some great fish lately and should continue to fish well throughout the month. There are still a few Salmon Flies up top but the fish are more keyed in on the Golden Stones and hoppers then anything. Streamer fishing has continued to produce well if you like chucking the big bugs. Flies to try include Water Walkers, Plan B’s, Flush Floaters, Mill Creek, Super G for dries and for droppers try Perd’s, Ptail Soft Spots, G-Kes, Jiggin Stones and Jig Pheasant Tails.

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork has been fishing great from top to bottom. Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, PMD’s and some decent hopper action is on the menu right now. Some of the best fishing in Missoula can be found on the Clark Fork this time of year. For flies most of your PMD patterns will work along with bigger bugs like the Water Walkers, Plan B’s and Flush Floater. Droppers include G-Kes Ptail Hot Spot, Jiggin Stones and just about any color Perd’s.

Rock Creek

Rock Creek is one of your best options right now along with dozens of other tributaries in the Missoula area for wading. Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies have been our go to and the fish are starting to look up for hoppers too. Most days there is no need to go subsurface unless you want to. Dries all day long is the game right now.

Green Drake Hatch Montana

Green Drakes in Missoula

The Western Green Drake is a good hatch for fly fishing in Missoula, MT, but not the easiest to predict. It doesn’t come off as heavily as other hatches in the area, but can be strong in certain places at certain times. As with many early season mayflies, the hatch is triggered by water temps, and due to factors like runoff, rain and varying weather, the Green Drake isn’t a hatch you can set your watch to. But they’re a sizable bug, and when they start hatching in early to mid-June, they’re big enough to pull fish off of the Salmon Flies and Golden Stone! So it pays to have some Western Green Drake imitations in your box, especially when the weather is cloudy.


There are two main species of Western Green Drakes, Drunella Grandis and Drunella Doddsi. D. Grandis max out at 16mm while D. Doddsi maxes out at about 13mm. We have both on our waters, imitated by the same pattern, in size 10 or 12, and applies to nymphs and dries equally. The nymphs don’t hatch at the surface, they hatch about a foot below the surface, and then float to the top to use their wings to break through the surface film. While this emergent phase may be critical on rivers like the Henry’s Fork, where the Green Drake is a blanket hatch, in Missoula the sparser nature of the hatch means fish keying on the Drakes are a much less fussy.


Using the wings to break through the surface film causes additional stress to these insects. When these insects do emerge, their wings are pretty beat up, and many of the adults don’t actually make it to the stage where they can fly off the water. A Green Drake Cripple, such as a Sir Francis or a Quigley Cripple are excellent imitations of the drakes that don’t make it.


The Western Green Drake uses a liquid to fill the veinations through its wings. That process takes time. And depending on air temperatures, the Green Drake wings can take a long time to dry. On colder days, the bugs may float for over a minute before their wings are full and dry and capable of flying. The dry fly is a subject of some debate amongst tyers and fishermen. In Missoula, Green Drakes hatch when the rivers are running pretty big. On the Blackfoot River and Rock Creek, you may want to use a Green Drake pattern with strong flotation, like a Hairwing Green Drake. But when Green Drakes hatch on the Clark Fork River or Bitterroot River, which are much lower gradients, use a more imitative pattern like a Carnage Green Drake or an Tilt Wing Green Drake. That’s not to say that the flies listed are river specific, we’re simply saying that a big, bouncing river will sometimes need a higher floating fly than a calmer river might require.


The Green Drake isn’t always the friendliest of hatches for the wading angler. The rivers are big when it starts coming off, and sometimes a wading angler simply can’t get to where the insects are hatching. As with most mayflies, if you can set yourself up downstream of a good, strong riffle, these crawler nymphs will hatch down into the slower water often found below riffles. And of course, in all high water, the fish are hugging the banks, looking for the softer water. With an insect that may float for a minute on the surface, it may not be critical to be near where they’re hatching, only to be near where the fish can find
soft enough water to rise!

Additional Green Drake Resources

MISSOULA FLY FISHING REPORT 7/7

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot is a great option right now and the dry fly fishing has been good. We have been seeing plenty of PMD’s and Green Drakes in the clouds and Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies in the sun. If you come across a mid day lull then the dry dropper rig will keep you busy. Our go to droppers right now are the G-Kes Ptail Hot Spot, Jiggin Stones and just about any color Perd’s. For Dries we have been running Water Walkers, Plan B’s and Flush Floater.

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot is producing some great fish lately and should continue to fish well throughout the month. There are still a few Salmon Flies up top but the fish are more keyed in on the Golden Stones then anything. Streamer fishing has continued to produce well if you like chucking the big bugs. Flies to try include Water Walkers, Plan B’s, Flush Floaters, Mill Creek, Super G for dries and for droppers try Perd’s, Ptail Soft Spots, G-Kes, Jiggin Stones and Jig Pheasant Tails.

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork has been fishing great from top to bottom. Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies in the sun and PMD’s and Green Drakes in the clouds has been the main game right now. Some of the best fishing in Missoula can be found on the Clark Fork this time of year. For flies most of your PMD and Green Drake patterns will do in the clouds and in the sun we have been running Water Walkers, Plan B’s and Flush Floater. Droppers include G-Kes Ptail Hot Spot, Jiggin Stones and just about any color Perd’s.

Rock Creek

Rock Creek is one of your best options right now along with dozens of other tributaries in the Missoula area for wading. Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies have been our go to in the sun and Green Drakes in the clouds. Most days there is no need to go subsurface unless you want to. Dries all day long is the game right now.

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Golden Stone Hatch

The Rock….. Golden Stones in Missoula MT

Sure, the salmon fly gets the press. It’s the biggest! It must be the best! Well, no question it’s good, but when it comes to consistently strong fly fishing in Missoula to stoneflies, the Golden Stone takes the prize hands down.

The Golden Stones begin emerging about mid June, just as the Missoula area rivers are rounding into shape. And they consistently move fish til late July! From late July on, especially on the Clark Fork River, the goldens will hatch with enough consistency that an imitation will take fish all the way into September and is one of our guides go to hatches to imitate all summer long.

The term Golden Stone is a bit of a misnomer. Taxonomically, what we call a Golden Stone are actually a multitude of different species. Why don’t we identify the species? Because it doesn’t matter! All species are imitated by the same flies. When you think about it, we fish Golden Stones from size 6-12. What other insect species has a size range from 1.7 inches to 1 inch. None. When you catch a golden, some are bright yellow, some are a dull yellow, and some lean more to brown. They’re all different species, but luckily for us, the same flies work. If you’re an amateur entomologist, this could be of wild interest, but most of us just amble on, blissfully unaware of how complicated we could make this!

The Yellow Sallies are also stoneflies, they’ve just been given a different name amongst fly fishermen! They could just as easily be called Little Goldens, but we don’t do it that way. Yet they’re stoneflies as well, and they behave as every other stonefly does on the water.

One of the favorite fly patterns for Missoula fly fishing guides and anglers. The PK Golden Stone.

The nymphs will enter the shallow water starting in early June, preparing to emerge onto the shore. This is called staging. Excellent flies for shallow nymphing are a Double Bead Hare’s Ear or a Tan/Brown Rubberlegs. Once they’ve crawled out and shed their nymphal shuck, the adults fly to shoreline vegetation, mate, and the females return to the water to lay their eggs. Unlike mayflies and caddis, which hatch from the water, a stonefly hatch consists of the females returning to the water.  Goldens like warmer weather for flying, which explains why the best golden fishing is often late morning through late afternoon in Montana. For an egg laying Golden, we like a yellow Stimulator or a ??????????. Quite often, the female will get trapped in the surface film, which makes a much more appetizing target to the trout. Strong imitations of a flush floating Golden are the El Camino Grillos, PK Golden or the Plan B Golden.  If you’re going dry/dropper, the Tan Chubby is a great choice for strong floatation.

Montana Fly Fishing Guides – Float Or Wade Fishing Trips

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Missoula Fly Fishing Guide Chase Harrison

It’s one of the real joys in Missoula, those last two weeks of June, fishing the double dry salmon fly with a golden stone dropper. And we think you’ll have the same experience, that the Golden outfishes the salmon fly 6 to 4. The Golden stone is an fly fishing angler’s friend. It’s consistent, so you know the fishing is there. It’s big, so you can easily see the fly! And it lasts for a long time, which is always very nice for planning your fishing. As we said, the Salmon flies may get more ink, but we think the Golden takes more fish. We’ll let you decide which one takes the prize!

Additional Golden Stone Resources

Guided Fly Fishing Missoula Montana

Take a Cloud Day!

If you ski, or know any skiers, you know the concept of a powder day. When 10” of beautiful powder falls on a Tuesday night in February, In Missoula, MT, a certain group of diehards fisherman are prepping their reason they can’t work the next morning. Bad stomach, headache, the dog ate my homework, all these are employed by erstwhile employees as they bag work and go skiing!

The Missoulian Angler Fly Shop and guides are well aware of the summer version of a powder day. It’s called a cloud day. We’re big sky country, and when the sun comes out for good in late June, the sky is azure blue with little rest from the sun. For the angler or the fish! Trout fishermen have sunglasses. Trout don’t even have eyelids. When the sky is high and bright, trout show up like beacons to overhead predators. Many trout choose to stay close to the bottom where the sun is less debilitating, and depth provides protection from overhead predators even when the hatch is going on.

Watch the summer weather reports closely in Missoula, MT. When they call for a cloudy day smack in the middle of a sunny spell, start thinking of your reason not to go to work. A cloudy day is the perfect storm for fly fishing. Mayflies will hatch in greater numbers when they have cloud cover. With no eyelids, the trout are more comfortable in the lower light. Additionally, cloud cover affects the ability of predators to locate prey in the water. Combine more insects, less predation and less ocular stress, and you have so many more fish moving to so many more insects on a cloudy summer day it can look like a battalion of kids tossing rocks in the water. As Missoulians well know, a cloudy day in summer is a rare treat for fisherman. Much like 10” of powder. So take advantage! Work on those symptoms, sound convincingly hoarse and stuffy, and then enjoy some of the best summer fishing you can get.