5 Best Hatches on Rock Creek

Rock Creek is the quintessential western river, and Missoula’s only Blue Ribbon trout stream. Many locals consider Rock Creek to be their home waters, and live for Rock Creek Hatches. If you could design a river for stoneflies, Rock Creek would be the model. Rock Creek’s high gradient creates fast, highly oxygenated water and a large cobbled bottom that is absolutely perfect stonefly habitat. Here is a list of our favorite Rock Creek Hatches.

Salmon Fly

Salmon Fly Hatch In Montana

Rock Creek is known the world over for its Salmon Fly hatch. Work in the shop mid-June through early July and you’ll hear 4-5 different languages spoken, all with one common denominator- Salmon Fly. That doesn’t need translation. Whether on foot or by boat, the Salmon Fly hatch on Rock Creek is a clarion call to anglers- big bugs here.

The start of the Salmon Fly hatch can be hampered by high water. Run-off traditionally ends just as the Salmon Flies are heating up. Rock Creek’s gradient means little to no silt, which allows Rock Creek to clear long before other local rivers will. Clear or not, the Salmon Flies will hatch and the trout will find them. Also, clear or not, Rock Creek is a tricky river to wade and row during the Salmon Fly hatch. Anglers can cover 25-30 miles in a day by boat- the river is moving that fast. Care needs to be taken in boat or on foot. While on safety, if you’re wading and see a Moose, go find somewhere else to fish. Get between a female moose and her calf and you have real problems.

Traditionally, the Salmon Flies begin hatching at the mouth of Rock Creek, and move 1-2 miles upstream each day on average. Many fishing reports reference “where” the hatch is on Rock Creek- it’s saying where the hatch is densest as it moves upriver. The density of the Salmon Fly hatch is truly magnificent. Find yourself in the thick of the hatch, and you can have Salmon Flies crawling all over you, the boat and every tree on shore. With every fish in the river up and looking for them.

Early in the season, we favor the large, foam Salmon Flies like Damien’s SUV or El Camino Grillo for their ability to float in high water. As the river drops, we go a bit smaller to a Goulds Half Down or a Morningwood Special. A Double Bead Black or Peacock Stonefly Nymph will work well subsurface.

Female Salmon Flies will live for 2-3 weeks in the trees, returning daily to lay new eggs. Over this time, they shrink in size and darken in color. As the hatch moves upstream, crafty anglers will take a smaller, darker pattern like a Bullethead Salmon Fly or Rogue Salmon Fly and go down low. While the crazy hatch (and crazy hatch chasers) might be at Mile 30, the adults are still there laying their eggs at Mile 6, and the trout are still eating them.

Fair warning. Rock Creek is Missoula’s most easily accessed river, with Rock Creek Road paralleling the river for 52 miles. It’s not a secret that the best Salmon Fly hatch in the world is here. If you’re looking to fish in solitude, not another angler within miles, Rock Creek during Salmon Flies may not be for you. Rock Creek is justifiably famous for this amazing hatch, but it draws a crowd. Be ready for that experience.

Golden Stones

Golden Stone Hatching On The Blackfoot River

The Golden Stones follow directly on the heels of the Salmon Fly on Rock Creek, and for many anglers provide more consistent fishing along the length of the river. The Salmon Fly can provide you with frenzied feeding, while the Golden will be consistent throughout the day. Unlike the single species Salmon Fly (Pteranarcys Californica) the Golden Stones are made up of many different but related species of stoneflies, which is why the Golden can vary in size from a 6 to a 12, with most in the 8-10 range. Be ready with multiple sizes and shapes to meet the changing hatch along Rock Creek. The size difference is why the Golden hatch is more consistent- more difficult for the fish to gorge on smaller flies and stop feeding.

The Goldens are coming off when the water is up, so a high floating fly is most effective at the start of the hatch. The Demoes Golden and the Morningwood Golden are both good foam flies that will absorb the pounding of Rock Creek. Because the Goldens will go almost through July, low floaters will work better near the end of the hatch. A Plan B Golden or Halfdown Golden are strong producers near the end of the hatch.

Western March Browns

March Brown Hatch Montana

To be honest, we flipped a coin between the WMB’s and the Skwala Stone. Both appear in the Spring, starting in late March and moving through run-off. Rock Creek hatches tends to be a bit behind in the Spring hatches because it’s in such a steep, narrow valley. Takes a few more warmer days to get the water temps to where the WMB’s will hatch. When they do, they come alive along the length of the river.

Don’t ask an angler where his favorite Western March Brown water is, because they’re not going to tell you! Rock Creek moves quickly, and there aren’t many places for a trout to set up for a mayfly hatch. It’s not the quick dart to the surface for big food like a stonefly. Look for the WMB’s along the edges of the river, and be ready with some strong mending to get the drift. The good news is the trout up and eating don’t tend to be fussy, and a well presented fly in the correct size and color is effective most of the time.

We favor the Hare’s Ear Dry or Parachute Adams when the Western March Browns are on the water. If you feel you need a bit more, the Last Chance Cripple will do the trick for the fussiest fish. If you see a few WMB’s flying but don’t see any active risers, work the fly over the good water. For some reason, prospecting with a WMB is effective, so take advantage of that.

Skwala Stonefly

Bitterroot Skwala Hatch

Rock Creek is a stonefly factory, and the Skwala is no exception. Depending on the weather, the Skwalas may start as early as mid March, but will be in full swing by the end of the month. Rock Creek is typically low and clear when the Skwalas hatch, so no 1X tippet on a short leader here. You’ll need to get out a bit, and work with the lightest tippet you can when using a Skwala.

The Skwalas are found along the length of the river, and in the Spring are not fished as heavily as other local waters, specifically the Bitterroot River. Just as Rock Creek is famous for the Salmon Fly, the Bitterroot River is famous for the Skwalas. A bit of contrarian fishing can reap big benefits with Skwalas on Rock Creek. The hatch isn’t as dense as the Bitterroot, but neither are the fishermen, so that can be a good trade off. It’s not that Rock Creek doesn’t get a strong hatch, it’s just not the strongest. Use that to your advantage.

We love the Morningwood Skwala on Rock Creek, as well as the Rogue Stone Skwala. These two flies are strong floaters, and will easily support a WMB nymph, like a Tungsten Jig Hare’s Ear, so you can double your chances at this time. If the day calls for a low floater, go with the Rastaman Skwala or the Half Down Skwala. Both are very effective in slower water as well as days when the fish are a bit sluggish.

October Caddis

October Caddis Hatch

Rock Creek is home to many caddis species, and late in the season the big boy comes out to play. The October Caddis is Missoula’s largest caddis species, and when they’re on the water, the trout are eating them. It’s rare to find enough October Caddis on the water to where the fish will set up and consistently rise to them, but that doesn’t matter!

If you see an October Caddis on the water, tie one on the end of your line and start prospecting. If there’s one, there’s more, and the trout know it. Work the likely water, and don’t be afraid to put 3-4 casts over a likely spot. Sometimes a few extra casts alert the trout to the hatch, and you’ll take a trout that thinks it’s missing something.

Our two favorite flies for this hatch are the Orange Elk Hair Caddis and the Orange Stimulator. Both are strong surface performers, while the Stimulator has the added bonus of floating high enough to use a dropper. The Bird Of Prey is a great October Caddis pupa, and you can also run an Umpqua Pheasant Tail Tungsten Jig to imitate the Mahogany nymphs that are also present in the Fall. Be ready for a explosive rises and hard subsurface takes to the October Caddis.

Honorable Mentions

Honorable mention on Rock Creek hatches goes to the Spruce Moth. While not technically a hatch, and not always consistent, if Missoula has a big Spruce Moth year, Rock Creek will go crazy. The Spruce Moths appear in early August, when little food is available in-stream. When they come to the water, every trout in the river is looking for that bonus food. The Spruce Moth isn’t something to set your watch to, which is why it only gets honorable mention.

Additional Resources For Rock Creek Hatches

Mahogany Nymph

Matching The Hatch And Identifying Insects

It’s a complicated world out there, the first time you dive in. Pteranarcys Californicus, Ephemerella Guttulata. It’s enough to send you back to the Royal Wulff and a Prince nymph. Which makes sense, because the only good description we’ve ever heard about why the Prince works, is it’s the nymphal form of the Royal Wulff! That’s a fly joke. You’ll get it before the end of this article, promise!

Insect identification is much easier than you think. Look at it this way. A guy walks down the street with a Chihuahua on a leash, and you think, nice dog. Right after comes a woman walking a Great Dane, and you think, nice dog. Now what on earth made you think those two animals were related to each other? Well, it starts with familiarity. 4 legs. Elongated snout, fur, canine teeth. Despite the size and color disparity, you know they’re both dogs. Because you’ve grown up around dogs, seen them all your life. it’s familiar.

As you spend time on the water, the sight of the insects will also become familiar. They’re smaller than a Great Dane, and no one will have them on a string, so you need to pay attention and look for them! The different ways aquatic insects fly, the way they emerge. As you start looking for insects, this all becomes nature, second nature, just as recognizing a dog did. And here’s another very positive thought about insect ID. You don’t need to know the latin name, or common name, of every bug that flies by. If a pale olive bug 11mm long flies by on July 5, find a fly in your box that’s pale olive and 11mm long, and tie it on. Simple as that. If the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop has done its job, you have that 11mm pale olive fly, and what they are is less important,

But there comes a time when you do want to know, and we get it. The MAngler has created a large online resource page called Hatches, which if we do say so ourselves, is pretty spiffy! Look at it, and the images will give you a good idea of what a caddis fly, mayfly and stonefly will look like. When you’re on the water, if you carry a net, looking at the real thing is a very simple task. Get a stocking  and stretch it over your landing net. Instant bug net, suitable for subsurface or in-flight grabbing. It’s easy to carry and store, and you don’t have an extra piece of tackle with you. There are also commercially available bug seines for this purpose as well. Start by kicking a few rocks directly upstream of the net, which is touching the bottom directly downstream of where you’re moving rocks. Look at what precipitates into the stocking. It will take a minute to get the hang of keeping the seined materials of the face of the stocking, but you will. You’re going to find more in the seine than just bugs! You’re going to have to move some stuff around to find the insects. Look and see what you’ve found. Are they big? Small? What color are they? How many of each are you finding? And once you’ve done that a couple of times. You’ll have identified the prevalent insect. If its brown, and 11mm long, tie on a nymph that’s brown and 11 mm long

Think about this. You’re a predator. An average hunter knows his quarry. A good hunter knows what his quarry is after for sustenance. We’re not on the plains of Africa, where predators congregate around water holes. Our prey lives in the water, so that doesn’t work! We have to learn about what our prey needs in other ways. When walking to the river, you’re paying attention.  See a spiders web? Look at it carefully. What’s in it. Shake a few branches next to the river as you walk AWAY from the put in. Let’s emphasize that. Most fishermen get no further from their car than it takes to drink a beer and get a new one. We tend to walk to where the path gets to be only a suggestion, and then start fishing. It makes a big difference. But we digress…..

You’re paying attention to your surroundings. You’re looking, and making the proper moves, to ascertain what the most abundant food form is. Shaking branches, looking for shucks along the shore, these are all things good anglers do to figure out what the trout are most likely to be feeding upon.

Aquatic insects are cyclical. If you see that pale olive insect in July this year, you’re going to see it again next year at the same time. The MAngler has a Hatch Chart in our Resource pages as well, detailing every insect important to the trout. The chart will say what species the insect is, and when it’s like to be found on the Blackfoot River, Clark Fork River, Rock Creek and the Bitterroot River. When you’re out on July 5, look at the hatch chart. It will give you a starting point to insect ID, because you can eliminate a lot of insects that won’t be on the water at that time of year. And you start looking at the bugs on the water.

On July 5, you see fish rising, and there’s a bug on the water that’s pale olive and 11mm long. You catch one, and it has an elongated body that curves upwards, 6 legs, large eyes and the wings stick straight up and back over the body. You’ve done some research, (or used your phone to access the Hatches Resource Page) and you ID the shape as a mayfly. Boom! It’s on like Donkey Kong! It’s like figuring out your first dog. The hard step is over. Now, any time you see that shape, regardless of size or color, you KNOW it’s a mayfly. The rest will follow, names, emergence times, etc.

The same will happen for stoneflies and caddis. You’ll ID your first one, and all of a sudden those worlds open up as well. And then, the river will start to look like a bug hatchery. When you’re not sure what exactly you’re looking for, it’s really difficult to find it! But as you spend more time on the water, and start to see the insects as stoneflies, or caddis, all of a sudden they seem to pop out for you.  You’ll be surprised you could have missed them all the other times you came to the river. You’ll start to understand what the birds are doing, wheeling across the surface of the water, and use their actions to locate insect activity. Patterns will start to emerge on the river, patterns that will provide you more successful angling in Missoula, and anywhere else you take the long rod out for trout. 

It’s a big step, learning to ID the different insects on the river. We know anglers who aren’t comfortable without knowing latin names, the range where they’re found, life cycles and the factors that trigger their emergence. Some just want to know the name so they buy the right flies! Other could care less, and just go a-fishing. Find your own comfort level, and don’t be influenced by others. At our Missoula fly shop, we have customers who really care, and we have people who used to care. It’s all good! Fly fishing is supposed to be fun, and it’s up to you to decide the level of fun you plan to attain. No matter what level of entomologist you plan to be, the MAngler plans to be there helping you get to the level you’re striving for, online and in the shop.

One last thought. You can look a little silly, running down the river in waders, waving a landing net in the air and cursing as your swipe completely misses the mark. Get over it! We’ve all been there, we just don’t talk about it anymore!!

Bitterroot River Fall Fly Fishing

Best Flies For September Fishing In Montana

September fly fishing in Missoula is arguably the best time of year. The water is low, reaching prime temps with longer, cooler nights with the most comfortable wading of the year. The bugs are diverse in size, ranging from size 6 hoppers to size 22 Blue Winged Olives. Subsurface, the nymphing is excellent with so much insect activity, while the streamer fishing comes on as September progresses. It doesn’t matter what type of fly fishing you’re looking for, if you’re in Missoula in September, you’re going to find it. Lets take a look at some of the best flies for September fly fishing in Montana.


September starts with the same flies as you’ve been using since August 10th. The grasshoppers have established, with fish on the prowl looking for a big, easy meal. Missoula hopper fishing starts in late July and depending on weather, may last into November! That’s over 3 months of fish seeing naturals, and their imitations. September is a good time to do a little experimenting with different hopper variations. We carry Pav’s Hopper in 5 different colors, and variations on the Morrish Hopper in 4 different colors. We have gray hoppers, blue hoppers and many pink ones. Why do they work? No idea, but they do. We watch Missoula’s best fly fishing guides shop every morning, and in September they will be looking for full fly bins. The theory is no one is buying them, so the fish haven’t seen too many. Think about expanding your hopper game in September to show the trout

something new and different.


The same can be said for Tricos. In early September, you can almost set your watch by the trico hatch. The fish have been looking at naturals for almost a month, and they can get a bit snotty at this time of year. Think about some Trout Hunter tippet in 5.5X. Trout Hunter tippet is much softer than Rio, and allows your bug to float more naturally. The half sizes of tippet provide more stealth without sacrificing as much strength. Move to trico cripples and emergers, like the Sprout or the Quigley Cluster Midge. Ron’s Trico Spinner will produce consistently as well, though by this time of year he is way tired of tying them! Be ready to drop down to a size 20 as well, so make sure you’ve got your readers when you hit the water.

Blue WInged Olives

We’re all waiting for the magic moment in September- the first real rains of fall. If we’re lucky, the rain comes in about September 10th, and the entire complexion of fly fishing in Missoula changes. The weather change brings cooler temps and some clouds. The tricos trade out for Blue Winged Olives. Same size- different color. The week after the rains will prove to any angler that fish can see color! If you fish a trico through a BWO hatch or vice versa, you’re not going to be anywhere near as successful as you could be. Look for the classic figure 8 of a trico spinner cloud above the water, or get your nose close to the water and check what’s floating by. It makes a big difference!

As the BWO’s start, the basic patterns will work. A simple Parachute BWO or Comparadun will take fish consistently at the start of the hatch. But as the BWO’s extend through September, growing in numbers, the fish get a lot more selective. The Last Chance Cripple or Quigley Split Flag Cripple will start to be more effective for fussy trout. Again, shift down with your tippet size to give your fly the best chance at a drag free drift. Watch rise forms very carefully when BWO’s are on the water. Many fish focus on emerging nymphs, and while you’ll see concentric “rise” rings, it’s the fish’s back that breaks the surface, not the mouth. Drop an unweighted Size 18 Pheasant Tail about 4 inches off the back of your dry and watch your catch rate skyrocket.


In the middle of the month, the Mahoganies start to make their annual appearance. This size 14 mayfly is tough to miss on a Fall afternoon, and provides a steady hatch for the next 3 weeks. The Parachute Pheasant Tail, Purple Haze or Brindle Chute all in size 14-16 are excellent choices at this time, with the Brindle Chute out performing most other flies when the Mahoganies are on, especially on the Bitterroot River where it was invented. Again, as the hatch progresses, start to get a bit more technical with your flies. Bring some Last Chance Cripples or Sparkle Duns when the fish are ignoring your standard fare.

October Caddis

At the end of the month, you can start looking for the October caddis to appear. If you think you can’t miss the Mahoganies, you REALLY can’t miss the October Caddis. This size 8-10 orange caddis is a favorite of fish on the Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River, Rock Creek and the Clark Fork River. If you see one, tie one on. The fish are looking for them and will eat even when the naturals aren’t strong. Both the Orange Elk Hair Caddis and the Orange Goddard Caddis will float a small dropper as well, so make sure to utilize that option as well. The Birds of Prey October Caddis Pupa is deadly subsurface, and if you’re not getting the action you’re looking for on top, get down with the pupa to bring your fish count up.


With all the hatches across Missoula’s rivers, the nymphing can be off the hook! With lower water levels the droppers are shorter and easier to control, especially on the Bitterroot River and Rock Creek. Don’t be afraid to go small. Early in September, the SR Bullet Black in a size 18 is a great trico nymph. When the weather changes the rivers to BWO’s, switch to an SR Bullet Olive and keep raking in the fish. A Pheasant Tail Jig will outperform most anything for the Mahogany nymph, and don’t forget the October Caddis Pupa. It should be said again, if fish aren’t eating on the surface, they’re eating underneath- dry flies get the ink, nymphs get the fish. Especially at the end of the month, when the cold weather tells the fish winter is coming, and they need to eat.


The same weather that moves trout to nymph hard also moves fish to eat streamers. When the days start to get cooler and shorter, a great way to start the day is working a small to midsize streamer around the likely areas. If your streamer choice is comfortable to cast on a 5-6 weight, it’s proabably the correct size. This is conventional wisdom, but there are exceptions. In the big water of the lower Clark Fork River and the lower Blackfoot River (which is now bereft of tubers due to the cold) a big streamer run deep will still work its magic. If you’re a streamer-maniac, the last week of September can be prime time, moving bigger fish looking to take in a few calories before the real weather gets here. Pick your spots to run the Mongrel Meat or Sex Dungeons, or go smaller with a Baby Gonga or Dirty Hippie.

Final Thoughts

Whatever you’re looking for when you head to the water, September fly fishing in Missoula has the answer. Whether you want technical dry fly fishing, prospecting with dries, focused Euronymphing, Hopper/dropper or streamer action, somewhere on Missoula’s diverse rivers you’re going to find it. The weather is relatively mild, the wading is easy, the rivers are at good flows and better temps, and you can expect good days on the water. If you live here, carve out some time to fish during some of the year’s best fly fishing in Missoula. If you’re traveling from out of town, get ready to see some of the best fly fishing Missoula has to offer. We’ll see you in the shop, or hear from you online! 

Missoula Montana Guided Fly Fishing Trip

Come enjoy a day on the river with Missoula’s best fly fishing guides. We float the Bitterroot River, Blackfoot River and the Clark Fork River. All gear, lunch and transportation provided.

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Montana Guided Fly Fishing Float Trip

Insect Biomass

Let’s start out with a few definitions. Insect biomass, for our purposes, is defined as the weight of all insects in a river at any specific time. Carrying capacity is defined as the maximum amount of life that can be sustained in a river system during the harshest conditions. Carrying capacity is always the nadir of population, as the harsh environment removes those less able to adapt to the conditions. That’s enough to be getting on with- more will be forthcoming.

If you look at the graph, there are two pieces of information being tracked. One is the fluctuating aquatic insect population over the course of a year in a river. Overlaid on that is a record of the fluctuating insect biomass over the course of a year in a river. These two pieces of information are critical to understanding the feeding habits of trout in a river.

Let’s follow the line created by the insect biomass in a river. You’ll notice it’s rising in January, and continuing through mid-March, when the insect biomass in the river is at it’s highest. Following the insect population line, you’ll see the insect population in the river is at it’s lowest. Reasoned out, the biomass has peaked because insects have been growing since they hatched, providing more biomass to the river. The insect population is correspondingly low. Few insects are added to the population over the winter, and natural selection and predation has brought the insect population to its lowest point.

And then the first hatches of spring occur. BWO’s, March Browns and Skwalas. As the insects leave the water to reproduce, biomass is depleted. Correspondingly, as the eggs from the spring insects hatch, the insect population begins to rise. However, these new insects are so small, they add little to the biomass of the river, only the population.

As you follow the two informational lines, they diverge until insect populations are at their highest in mid July. Which makes sense, as the bulk of the insects have emerged, and the corresponding eggs have hatched, pushing the population to its zenith. But these newly hatched insects are microscopic, with minimal biomass. By the end of July, the insect biomass in a river is at its lowest point.

These are some of the ramifications of this information. Ever wonder why winter nymphing is so good? With maximum biomass, the trout have access to the most food they will see all year. Jump to July, and the low biomass means food is at its minimum. Combine minimum biomass with the warmer water temps, and you’ve now established the carrying capacity for a river. These are the harshest conditions a river fish faces, and not all fish will survive these critical conditions.

The slash of a fish to a hopper, big fish rising to tiny tricos, the effectiveness of ants and beetles. Behaviors explained by this graph. With such a paucity of food in the river in July and August, fish are willing to be a bit less selective in their eating habits, and range a little farther from feeding lanes to take available food. When a sparkly purple and black thing floats over their heads, there’s a better chance the trout will eat it, because they’re hungrier now than they were in June.

As the natural cycle of insect growth moves on, the biomass of the river begins to recover in late August. Water temperatures drop in September, and the harshest period of the year has passed. The carrying capacity has been established for another year. The insect population will continue to fall, while the biomass rises until we hit March again, and the cycle starts again.

Few anglers use a nymph in a size 18 or 20. Yet this graph clearly shows there are smaller nymphs available throughout the year. As anglers, we get so focused on hatches that we sometimes forget to mimic the most abundant food form, which is small nymphs. The larger trout may not be exactly where you think they should be to take the “prevalent” insect. They may be in a prime location for size 20 nymphs, hoovering up the most abundant food source in the river. Another thought- because many stoneflies are on a two or three year life cycle, stonefly nymphs are always available to the trout. The rubberlegs we all fish so heavily in late spring is still just as effective in the summer and fall, because of the 365 presence of stonefly nymphs.

An understanding of the cycles of food sources in a river can help us understand some fish feeding behavior, and help explain why you can catch huge trout on tiny nymphs. It also may explain the Royal Wulff and Hippie Stomper’s success. Not a truly natural color or shape, but when the fish are hungry, those flies look enough like food to get eaten. Armed with a little knowledge, you may find your catch rate going up in all seasons as you match your tactics to the food source.

Salmonfly Pattern Blackfoot River

Thoughts On Fly Patterns For Fishing Montana In June

June fly fishing in Montana. It’s why so many of us live in Missoula! The best fly fishing in Missoula, the best fly fishing in Montana is happening right now. Salmon Flies. Because when the big dog barks. . . . . .  Green Drakes. Big fish rising consistently. With summer just around the corner, so a smattering of Pale Morning Duns, Pale Evening Duns and Golden Stones will round out the month. If there was ever a time to do a little distancing, pretty much pick a spot on the Clark Fork River, Blackfoot River, Rock Creek or the Bitterroot River for the next four weeks, and enjoy the best fly fishing of the year.

Picking favorite flies for this month is a pamphlet length affair. So we’re going to concentrate on a style of fly, and then apply that style to all the different hatches that are bursting out right now. And we’re going to be talking about a specific type of imitation, and that’s the ass in the water fly.

A very good outfitter in Missoula invented the Gould’s Half-down Salmon Fly, and he told us this story about the first time he used it. He said he knew he had a winner, and couldn’t wait to tie it on. When the first salmon fly starts to fly, he puts it on a clients rod, who does nothing for 45 minutes. So he takes and early lunch, feeds his guests and then asks if he could borrow the rod, and of course the guy says sure. Off he goes, up the stream, to find out why the magic isn’t working.

Third cast along the shore, and a beautiful 15” trout gently twists its pectoral fins and lazily drifts to the top of Rock Creek, and sips that salmon fly just like a mayfly. Released, and a couple casts later another nice trout slips up and sucks it down, same slow rise form. And the big 500 watt lightbulb went off over his head. The bug is SUBMERGED! It can’t get away! Why waste energy slashing at a trapped insect when a slow sip is just as effective. Back to the clients, and tells them to look for a subtle rise, not the classic Rock Creek slash, and they were off to the races. An epic day on a fly that imitates, what in mayfly terms, would be a cripple. This is basically a stonefly Klinkhamer.

We carry a lot of stone flies that ride with a half submerged body, in addition to the Half-down. The 64 Impala Salmon Fly, The El Camino Grillo and the Demoes Mill all float with a submerged abdomen. As long as you dress them correctly! For these flies, we use a gel floatant and only apply it on the front half of the fly. We want the rear to sink, so no floatant on the rear of the fly. It makes these flies a bit trickier to see, and they may not float a dropper as well. A small price to pay for flies that really connect with the fish. That ass in the water sends a message to the deeps- this fly aint going anywhere.

If you’re looking for the same “action” in a mayfly imitation, look for the Sprout and the Sparkle Dun to provide that sunken backside that’s so irresistible to trout. Once again, the submerged abdomen means the fly is trapped, and is worth the energy expenditure to move for. Breaking the meniscus with the abdomen is a clear call to all trout- this fly is easy pickings. Get your Sprouts and Sparkle Duns in all the June hatches you plan to meet on any of your fishing adventures.

So while this may not detail the exact flies you need for June, it certainly helps you get started with knowing which of the hatches are present, and gives a strategy for meeting them. To be honest, the fishing in June might not be this technical. The water is still big, and the fish are hugging the shore. As the flies zip by, the fish don’t always have a lot of time to make a decision, so you can use pretty much any hatch matching fly and be sure of some success. Big Orange and medium Gold/Tan cover the stoneflies, while pale mint green and pale olive cover the Green Drakes and PMD’s/PED’s. Stop by our Missoula fly shop or check out our online store to find the flies you need for June fly fishing in Missoula, and then get on the water. Don’t squander the years best fly fishing in Montana!

Missoula Montana Guided Fly Fishing Trip

Come enjoy a day on the river with Missoula’s best fly fishing guides. We float the Bitterroot River, Blackfoot River and the Clark Fork River. All gear, lunch and transportation provided.

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Montana Guided Fly Fishing Float Trip
BWO Mayfly

Blue Winged Olive – Montana

For many anglers, the truest sign of Fall is the emergence of the Blue Wing Olives (BWO). Arriving after the first fall rains, the cold, cloudy days bring BWO’s out in big numbers. They continue hatching through October, and sometimes later. BWO’s hatch from late morning through mid- afternoon, bringing trout to the surface to gorge. With such a long hatch window, how do you time the emergence on the rivers? You look for the heat of the day. As the days get shorter and colder, the hatch begins to move from morning to afternoon.

The Clark Fork River and Bitterroot River have phenomenal BWO hatches, and these insects can be found along the length of those rivers. Rock Creek will get good BWO hatches, but you’ll need to find the slower, quieter water where fish are feeding. The BWO is not an important hatch on the Blackfoot River. As Missoula’s highest elevation and most northern river, the Blackfoot isn’t known for it’s fall hatches. It IS known for its fall streamer fishing!

The BWO’s in Western Montana vary in size from 16 to 22. Why such a large size range? Because the “BWO” hatch is not a single species, but a complex mixture of multiple species. While the species, mostly baetis, are taxonomically different, they’re all basically the same size and color. Which means the same fly will be the correct imitation for any species that is hatching.

When many people think of late-season fishing, they think of a lovely day under the autumn sun, enjoying the crisp fall weather. For the BWO’s, change your thinking! Some of the best Blue Wing Olive fishing comes on the worst days of the season. 45 degrees, cold rain mixed with a little snow, maybe some wind, and the BWO’s will come off in droves. The fish respond to the cloud cover, and the fishing can be epic. If any hatch defines the value of cloud cover, it’s the Blue Wing Olives.

With so many different species in the rivers, it’s tough to find a place where some species of BWO nymph isn’t present. Most of the Baetis nymphs are very strong swimmers, capable of moving in 3-6 inch bursts. With this type of swimming strength, baetis nymphs are very active on the bottom, and very much a part of the trout’s diet. Frank Sawyer’s Pheasant tail nymph was designed to imitate the BWO’s found in his native British waters, and the pheasant tail works wonders in Missoula as well. Even better, Once in a while a moving pheasant tail can be effective. A slight jigging action on a slowly swung pheasant tail ban be a strong tactic in the fall.

Film Critic Fly pattern.

The BWO can be a blanket hatch, and with all blanket hatches, you have fish focusing on various stages of the insects emergence. The Missoulian Angle Fly Shop carries flies for all stages of the BWO emergence, including the Last Chance Cripple, Hi-Vis Spinner, Silhouette Dun and the TiltWing Dun. With the largest fly selection in town, we’ll have the hot BWO pattern. When buying flies, make sure you vary the size and shape of your purchase. Make sure to have cripples, spinners, emergers and duns to make sure you have the needed stage on the water. Nothing worse than watching fish rise without the right fly!

Tungsten Jig Pheasant Tail. One of Missoula’s most popular fly patterns from March-Novemeber.

The BWO will also emerge in the Spring. Once again, the species are completely different, but the same flies will work. This also explains why a small Pheasant Tail nymph always works in our area. With two separate life cycles, there will always be a size 16-18 little brown mayfly nymph swimming in 3-6 inch bursts. While the BWO might define fall for many anglers, it’s just as effective in the spring. Still loves the cold, still loves the clouds. The only difference is now it’s Spring!

Additional Blue Winged Olive Resources