Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 6/27

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 trying to drop, but is more staying constant with small daily bumps and a gradual decline in flow. The clarity is decent, and if you’re floating, you can get it done with Salmon Flies up top but quickly waning and Goldens are starting to show, as well as Green Drakes on the cloudy days. The wading is not easy on the Bitterroot right now, but if the river keeps dropping as it is now, we expect this to get a lot better in the next week. The forks are fishing well, again with few Salmon Flies and Goldens.
Green Drakes have been seen, and a few fish are taking advantage, but you need to find the soft spots to get the fish to come to the surface. The same is applying to the PMD’s, PED’s and Tan Caddis. As the river drops, these flies will become more important on the surface. The nymphs are important right now, and a PT jig, G Kes or a Caddis Pupa will move fish underneath the surface.
Streamers are definitely working, especially in the more colored water closer to Missoula. The Drunk And Disorderly, with it’s flat face, sends out vibrations to fish and moves them in stained water. Gongas, Dungeons, the Boogie Man and other streamers with bulky heads are working as well. If you have a sink-tip or a sinking leader, definitely bring it. While the water is slowly dropping, the Bitterroot is still big, and the extra depth will help your streamer perform.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot is dropping steadily in this heat, which means it will start to drop quickly in the next few days. At the moment, it’s a lot more friendly to floating anglers, though the further you go up the river, the better the wading will be. Remember the first 5 miles of the Recreational Corridor road is being paved, and is closed from Johnsrud to Whitaker Bridge. If you want to access the recreational corridor, you’ll need to drive to Roundup and come down from the top.
The Blackfoot is really fishing well with Streamers right now. Big streamers, little streamers- the big fish are eating little fish, and the streamer fishing is really good. The lower river is still a bit off color, so darker streamers down there, but as you go upstream, a lighter streamer has been just as effective. Bring the big streamer stick if you have one- a sink tip is getting the fly where the fish are, especially down low. A sinking leader will work as well. Pick your streamers to match your rod weight. It’s more important to get the fly close to the fish. If you can cast a big fly accurately, the Blackfoot is for you!
The Salmon Flies and Golden Stones are being eaten with regularity on the Blackfoot. The dry fly fishing is better the higher up you go, as the clarity is better. Still use the bigger, brighter bugs, and again, accuracy is more important. The Blackfoot is bank full, and the trout are hugging bottom and sides. Better to have a thicker tippet for accuracy. The Morningwood Special or a Juicy Stone is good on top. The tweener fly of choice is the Juicy Stone Golden, which does double duty as a Salmon Fly as well. The Rogue Golden and the Half Down Golden are producing as well. Of course, a dropper or double nymph rig is very effective, and a Double Bead Stone or big Pat’s Rubberlegs are working their magic subsurface.
Green drakes are being eaten, but with the higher flows, it’s more about finding where the water is soft enough to allow the trout to set up for the hatch. If you find the hatch, most flies close in appearance are being eaten. Make sure to have a couple of Parachute Green Drakes and a Flash Cripple or two to meet the hatch. For subsurface action, a big PT Jig Nymph and the Emerald Salvation Nymph are pulling in the fish. Get them deep enough!
PMD’s, PED’s and tan caddis are being seen, but the flows are such that the fish are taking less interest in the smaller bugs and focusing on the Salmonflies and Golden Stones. The nymphs of these smaller bugs are working, so have the G Kes, Yellow Spot Jig or the Umpqua PT Jig to take advantage of the subsurface smorgasbord. The smaller dries will begin to assert themselves when the water drops a bit, so be tready in the next few days.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Clark Fork River

The Middle and Lower Clark Fork river are still high and off color, though the off color is now more green than brown, which is a good sign! The upper Clark is fishing well on the upper, and the way upper stretch by Warm Springs is wading well.
The Golden and Salmon Fly hatches in the upper section are what we expect, present but not strong. It’s dry/dropper up here, with the dropper doing most of the work. A TJ Hooker or a Pat’s Rubberlegs is working well on the upper stretches. An Orange Chubby makes a great indicator, and will pick up a few fish. The goldens are being seen, and in the upper stretches, the smaller Goldens like the Henry’s Fork or Rogue Golden is working.
When it comes to the Middle and Lower sections, it’s going to be streamer time before it’s dry fly time. If the rivers continue to drop at this rapid rate, we expect the Middle Clark Fork to be seeing some good streamer action in 4-5 days, with the lower section a few days later. As the biggest drainage in the area, the Clark Fork takes a bit longer to round into shape. A bit of patience is needed from Missoula on down, but keep an eye our for that magical streamer green ,and take advantage.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Rock Creek

The heat is here and Rock Creek is dropping, which means the river is definitely rounding into shape. There’s still some Salmonflies kicking around, and the big orange floaters like the Morningwood Special and Rio’s Juicy Stone are still productive. But as the river drops and the fish start to move off the banks, the smaller, lower floating flies like Gould’s Half-Down Salmon Fly, Rogue Stone, Cat Puke and the Morrish Still Stone are working too. If you have the bright orange bugs, a quick application of brown or black magic marker will get them looking a lot more natural.
Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies are along the length of the river. The bigger Goldens, like the Dancing Ricky and the El Camino. The same applies to the Goldens- as the river drops, the duller, more natural Goldens will start to work. The Henry’s Fork Golden, Rogue Golden and the Demoe’s Mill Creek are some low floating bugs that will move the fish. The lower the flows get, the more important the Yellow Sallies will be. Make sure you have them with you.
Looking for a tweener- A fly that may be a Golden, may be a Salmon Fly? The Juicy Stone Golden or the Fluttering Golden will fit that bill perfectly.
If you choose to go subsurface which you shouldn’t have to, a big Pat’s Rubberlegs in brown will cover both golden and Salmon Fly nymphs. If you’re looking for more realism, the Double Bead Stone in Peacock (Salmon Fly) and the Double Bead Hare’s Ear (Golden Nymph)
The Green Drakes are being taken, in more places every day as the river drops. The Carnage Drake and the Parachute Green drake are working well. If you run across a little fussier fish, a Sparkle Cripple Green Drake has been very effective. The Emerald Salvation Nymph is taking fish subsurface.
The PMD’s are starting to be eaten as well- again more as the river drops. The PED’s and Tan Caddis are the same. Make sure to have them, but they won’t be super important on the surface for about a week. Unless you find a soft spot, and then they’ll be important now! But the nymphs and pupa are important right now, so make sure to have PT Tungsten Jigs, Tan Caddis Pupa and Yellow Hot Spots to move the fish close to the bottom.
If you can take your eyes off the Salmon Flies and Goldens, the streamer fishing up here is pretty good! Sparkle Minnows are moving fish, as are the Mini Dungeons and Sculpzillas. The Dungeons are working on a sink tip or sinking leader, and right now Rock Creek is big enough to take a sinking line
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Flat Water Of Clark Fork River

What’s A Good Day on the Water

One of the WORST things I ever did in a fly shop happened in early summer 2000. Yes, I remember the year- surprised I don’t remember the date. A guy came in the shop simply bouncing, telling me he had the best day he ever had on Rock Creek. It was epic! He’d never caught so many fish! He was so excited. I joined in his excitement, and said, “Hey, you must have caught like 40 or 50!

He looks at me and says, “I caught 6”

You can imagine his face. You can imagine how bad I felt. In one sentence, I’d crushed his day. Just crushed it. Still, to this day, I think about that. He’d HAD a good day….until he talked to me. I’m still haunted.

About 2007, I found myself back on the Bighorn in a 7 boat guide trip. I’d fished the Bighorn in the early ‘90’s, and spent two guided days following a huge polypropylene indicator. I caught 50 fish a day. It was terrible. I vowed I would never do that again.

That morning in 2007, the guide introduces himself and says he’d like to take a look at my rod. I said, “Don’t touch my fly rod. Do not put a bobber on my line.” You can imagine the look on his face. He starts to tell me it’s the best way to fish, catch the most fish, etc. I say I don’t care, I don’t care how many fish I catch, do not put a bobber on my line. By this time, every guide in the group is watching this exchange, wondering what it’s going to be like having this @sshole in their boat, and who could blame them. After about 2 more minutes of the same conversation with my guide, including asking him to keep my friend Tom on all the fish, I reach into my wallet and tip the guide $150. In the parking lot, before the boat is wet. He looks at me and says, “I guess I have to believe you.”

I caught 7-8 fish that day, including a smallmouth bass, the guide’s first in that watershed. I was casting my streamer into some REALLY random water! Meanwhile, Tom is hooking up consistently. It must have looked pretty funny, the boat pointed into the bank for Tom, while I’m flipping a streamer behind the boat. Once in a while, I floated a dry fly, fruitlessly, and watched it drift along the bank. It was a great day on the water.

What’s up with that? 50 is terrible, 8 is good? It’s what I wanted on the water. It can’t be any simpler. I like fishing the way I like fishing. That makes a good day on the water.

Take A Kid Fishing!

When the Missoulian Angler fly shop books a guided fly fishing trip, we ask a lot of questions, trying to find out what the guest wants from his/her day on the water. Instruction? A shot at a legit 20” trout? A lot of trout? Only dry flies, or do they want to Euro nymph?

Can we guarantee a big trout, or a lot of fish? No. It’s fishing! But we guarantee our guides, the best fly fishing guides in Missoula, will do everything possible to make the day live up to expectations. We can’t stress this enough- talk to your guide, tell them what you’re looking for in a day. No matter what it might be. Our guides are good, but you’re input makes them better. That information will do a lot to make your day on the water a good day.

My Dad traveled the west for years, alone and being guided. He was happiest tossing a dry and catching fish 8-13” long. It made him happy. One day a guide, who knew my Dad was a “stick” (Guidespeak for a good angler) was floating Dad down a river. He stopped, and said, “George, let’s take a walk.” 45 minutes later, they’ve come to a slough. The guide gets excited, and ties on a little dry. “Cast it just above that log.” So Dad casts just above the log, and a 28” Brown Trout slides out from under the log and starts to rise… but halfway up, decides against, drifts back down and back under the log. “OOOOHHHH, that’s the farthest up he’s ever moved!” groans the guide. And then says, let’s get back to the boat.

About 2 hours, one cast. That was absolutely NOT what my Dad wanted. That was his memory of the day. The guide thought it was a magic chance for a huge Brown on a dry! That was his memory of the day. Straight up miscommunication. Just that simple.

There are anglers who go fishing for the Instagram moment. (Not my Dad!) They’ll walk or float anywhere to take one trout that garners the Big Looks! A day without big is a bad day. A one fish day over 20 inches, and it’s a great day. Like it or not, social media is here to stay. It’s changing the concepts of fly fishing and fly tying. Some is good, some not so good.

We have pictures lining the ceiling beam at the MAngler. What shop doesn’t have a bragging board! Big trout and happy anglers! We get questioned about those pictures all the time. Is that the average size of trout around here? Were they caught this week? And the answer is always no. They got on the wall because of their rarity. But it gives some anglers an inferiority complex, because they’re not catching those trout. Sometimes it crosses my mind to take those pictures down, because it raises expectations and may make an angler’s trip less enjoyable. Not always, but it does happen.

The same happens with magazine articles. In the mid ‘90’s, I worked at a catalog fly shop in New Hampshire, where I spoke with anglers all over the country. I got a call from a man in Texas. He’d just finished reading an article about trout fishing on the Housatonic River in Connecticut. I’d fished the Housatonic fairly often- the Smallmouth Bass fishing was pretty good. He was asking me about lodging, and when the best time to come for the Housatonic trout fishing.

I was baffled. I barely drove 3 hours to get there, and thought it was a bit of drive for the fishing. I went because one of my best friends lived close by, and I would hang out with him and his Dad (who still remembers me as “the guy who falls in the Housatonic.” It was very slippery, and I was too young to need a wading staff. Hence, falling). I asked the customer why he was even considering coming? He said he’d read the article, and was ready to make the effort for that type of fishing. I zipped out front of the shop, got the magazine, and started to read the article. Hmmm….

I’ve been to exactly ONE place where the fishing was as good as the magazine said, and that was New Zealand. What I was reading about the Housatonic was as close to fiction as you could get, without downright lying. I’m sure what was described happened on one magic day, but it was not anywhere close to what I experienced on that river in my 14-15 times fishing it. Think about magazine articles you’ve read about rivers you’ve fished- was the reality anywhere close to the actual experience?

That’s what I thought.

I told this gentleman about my experience on the Housatonic. I told him he was going to an airport, and standing at a gate. He had a lot of gates to choose from! Missoula. Bozeman. West Yellowstone. Colorado. So many options where I KNEW the fishing was actually good. None of those gates included Hartford, CT. No dis on the Housatonic, but there are better rivers in the United States. Yet someone had written an article about it, and people from away were reading it and believing it. I think he would have had the worst days of fishing there- the reality would never have matched the expectations created.

This dovetails with a fascinating conversation I had with the caretaker of DePuys Spring Creek in Livingston, MT. I found myself on this amazing stream in early August in 2009. I was there with two friends, and there was a fourth rod on the water, but he was gone by noon. My two friends went to their spot and stayed there. I basically had 3 miles of spring creek to myself. It was amazing!

In my wanderings along the river, I saw the caretaker and we started talking. I said how pleased I was to be there when so few where fishing, and he said yes, that’s the new way of fly fishing. When I asked for an explanation of that statement, he told me this.

He’d been the Depuy’s caretaker for 20 years, and had seen a huge change in booking patterns. He said at this point, when the hatch chart said there was a strong hatch, all 16 rods were filled. But when there were no hatches, no one booked a rod. In early August, no hatches, so no anglers. Again, I was baffled. He elaborated, and it has stuck with me.

20 years ago, people came to Montana to fish when they could. They went fishing, and caught some trout. But since The River Ran Through It, a lot of anglers needed a REASON to be there. It wasn’t enough to go fishing, there had to be a reason to go fishing. To come when “nothing” was happening didn’t have enough ROI, it didn’t have punch, not enough to be GOOD. It made me think about my experience in destination fly shops and booking trips, and saw his insight was correct. There are many anglers out there who travel to something. Not to the fishing, but to the expectations of what fishing could be. There needed to be more than just fishing. An event was needed.

I caught about 30 fish that day, all on the surface. Hoppers, ants, beetles, micro caddis and there was even a rusty spinner fall for about 30 minutes. No, the rises didn’t make it look like it was raining. But if you think 30 fish on the surface isn’t a good day, you and I aren’t calibrating our fishing days the same way. The sky was iridescently blue, the mountains so close you thought you could touch them, but so far away. A good cast was rewarded often enough that subsurface never crossed my mind. It was a great day.

When nothing was going on.

Instagram and Facebook. So many magazines about fly fishing. I get it, I’m old and crotchety. I’ve been fly fishing for 49 years, and I was taught that a day on the river is better than a day doing anything else. Sometimes you hit it right, and lite the world on fire. Other days you got your fanny handed to you, and went home smelling of skunk. But it was never about the end result. It was always about the journey.

I feel that’s changed in the last 25 years. Now, it’s less about the process and more about the result. Guides have reported getting in a boat with anglers who have a counter with them. Yes, a finger activated counter. When they caught a trout- not a fish, a trout- the counter was clicked and the event recorded. Next.

Some of those anglers return year after year, and they will definitively let you know they had better fishing 8 years ago. As you speak with them, you find they aren’t enjoying the fishing as much. It didn’t meet their expectations. It can get a bit crazy. I’ve been told that the 25 fish day just wasn’t as good as the 40 fish day they had in the past. I get it. This is their vacation- it needs to be what they want. But every year is different, hell, every day is different.

I get a unique perspective in the shop. I see guides every day, I know how the fishing is. Everyone in the shop does. I know when a 5 fish day is a GOOD day. Here’s a thought. Missoula is blessed with over 300 miles of floatable water an hour’s drive from town. That means everyday, Missoula’s best fly fishing guides have a big decision in front of them. Some days, you make the call and you’re the hero. Some days you’re the goat. It’s all part of the experience. The experience………

I try not to be old and grouchy. Older is actually easier to deal with! We’re lucky enough to be close to a college- I see young, enthusiastic anglers every day. I wish I still had their legs! They go places and do things I used to do, and it makes me happy. It keeps me young. When asked (and often unprompted!) I’ll tell them something I think is important. Sometimes they think it is, sometimes not.

Grouchy is tougher some days. When the going gets tough, some customers get grumpy. Not enough surface action, not enough fish, not enough big fish, too many people. I want to ask them, did you look at the iridescent sky? Did you watch that little cloud form, and then simply fade away across the vast panorama of the mountains? Did you watch a storm move up the valley? Were you aware of the herd of Elk behind you, watching you, wondering what you might be doing in their river? What did you miss in your quest for fish?

We know all the hackneyed phrases. “It’s not called catching, it’s called fishing” and others are bandied about when the conditions go against you. Said with a laugh, but meant with a purpose.

Again, I get it. I used to fish so hard for so long. Nose to the water, complete focus on the cast. Drift. Cast again. Drift. Cast, drift, cast, drift. Next thing I knew, it was dusk. Where did the time go?? It went fishing. And I went with it. Some days hero, some days goat. But always, at the bottom line, I went fishing. And that was good.

To sound like a jackass, I can truthfully say I’ve caught enough fish in my lifetime. I’ve been lucky, and I know it. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days when I go fishing and it’s important to catch fish. It’s not as often as it used to be, but it’s still there. I’ll never lose that. But it makes fishing a lot more peaceful when the day doesn’t always rely on a result. Some days are about the journey, and those are turning into my good days on the water.

Do I tell my customers I went out and caught nothing? Not a chance! I use my father’s stock phrase, “I caught a couple.” Never more, never less. But I do tell them about the eagle’s nest and the circling adult, looking for food for her babies. I think about the play of light across the water, and wonder how many crayfish might be in the shallow rocks I’m walking through. I hope I don’t see a snake, and secretly hope to see a bear…..on the other side of the river! I talk about the ones I didn’t catch, and tell them how I plan to take them later. It always requires a new fly!

Missouri River Guided Fly Fishing Trip

So as you contemplate what a good day on the water is, think about what it is that really matters. Ask yourself if it matters all the time. Think about the things that do matter all the time when you go fishing. And think if you’re giving each day on the water a fair chance. Every day on the water is good- if you have to search a bit deeper to find it that’s OK. And never forget Robert Traver’s words about why go fishing;

“I fish because I love to. Because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly. Because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape. Because in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing what they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion. Because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed, or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility, and endless patience. Because I suspect that people are going this way for the last time and I for one don’t want to waste the trip. Because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters. Because in the woods I can find solitude without loneliness. … And finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important, but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant and not nearly so much fun.”
― Robert Traver

And as a final note in this somewhat contained rant, I ask you to look up one of my favorite fishing stories. It’s short, fun and to the point. It defines why we fish, and why the bad days are so important. Because they are!

George Kesel Mssoula Fly Fishing

George Kesel

Western Montana Fly Fishing 2022 Forecast

We’re having a typical Montana Spring. We had snow in late April, and the weather hasn’t gone above 70 since October! We’re getting a bit of rain each day, which is keeping the ground moist and the grass green. While some don’t enjoy this weather now, we’re all going to love it in about 6 weeks and throughout the summer. So far the Montana fly fishing 2022 prediction is looking pretty dang good.

Our snow pack is between 150 and 215% throughout the area, and if this rain continues, we’re going to have an epic summer. Hate to pull a jinx, but it’s looking a whole lot better than last summer, when we had some serious drought throughout western Montana. But right now, we’re poised to have water throughout the summer. The weather looks mild for the next few weeks which always helps extending the runoff further into the summer and should produce some good june fly fishing as well. As long as we don’t see those early record breaking temperature like we saw last June, we should have some much happier fish for the summer of 2022.

We can’t wait. The droughts that occasionally show in Western Montana can be a real issue for fishing. Low flows and high water temps are a serious stresser on the trout. When water levels stay up through the summer, keeping water temps lower, the fish stay healthy. This snowpack, and some typical June rain will keep water levels where they should be through the summer.

The Missoulian Angler is prepping for a big summer of fishing. Our cold spring fishing has shown us some very healthy, fat fish with no noticeable population decline. We came through last years’ low water relatively unscathed. All the cards are in place, it looks like the stars are aligned. With a little help from June rain, this summer is looking to be a lot deeper than last summer. Lazy waders might be a bit sad, as will those who like their fish stacked like cordwood. But for those who want a healthy river, stress free trout and cold water around their feet, it looks like the summer of 2022 Montana fly fishing is going to be a whole lot better than last year.

Current Western Montana snow water equivalent percent map – 6/1/2022
A great start to Western Montana fly fishing 2022 season!!!
Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 4/30

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

We’re fishing in May for the first time in a while. The cold, wet spring is keeping river levels fairly steady, and the fish are up and feeding on skwalas, March Browns and big Gray Drakes. Go a bit smaller on the skwalas- 10’s and 12’s- they’ve been ashore for a while and are losing body mass. A Rogue Skwala or a Gray/Olive Plan B will still take fish looking to the surface. The skwala nymph is still OK, but most have hatched, so a smaller mayfly nymph might be a better choice.
The Gray Drakes are well imitated by a size 12 Hare’s Ear Parachute, our a Brindle Chute. Subsurface, don’t sleep on the SJ Worm, as well as a Duracell Jig or the Pink Hot Spot Jig. As the water levels are fluctuating, make sure to get your dropper or nymph rig deep enough.
The pike are starting to pod up to spawn, so they’re easy to find, but a bit spooky. Run a smaller articulated fly like a Gray Dungeon or a Kill Whitey to imitate the whitefish. Gaudy flies are drawing attention, but not as many eats at the moment. Make sure to have a few bright ones if that changes.
When the water is fluctuating, streamers are a very good choice. Throw what you’re comfortable with, something with a bit of a head to push water. Get as deep as you can, and keep the streamer moving. Have light, bright and dark to cover all the bases.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The colder Spring has put the Blackfoot into play, and it’s fishing well. With the weather forecast in the next 5 days, we think it’s going to stay good through early May. The Gray Drakes are being seen in the lower sections, and streamers are working along the length of the river. A deep nymph is also working very well- bigger has been better. Take some Rubberlegs and TJ Hookers, run your dropper as deep as you can, and let them hunt. The fish have been looking for them.
The Gray Drakes are sporadic, but when the fish find them, they’re on them. Have your big profile flies like a Brindle Chute or Parachute Hare’s Ear. The fish aren’t fussy, but finding them can be.
Streamers are working up here, and we’re getting reports of big and little, light and dark. So pick your poison and get them out in the river. Blackfoot fish love streamers, and they’re hitting them now. Take advantage of Spring Blackfoot river fishing!
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork is a spotty river right now. The upper is definitely clearer than the middle section, and we’re hearing down low is still fishing well. Check the USGS web site to see if the water is rising, dropping or steady. With the weather that’s forecast, the Clark Fork should stabilize and fish well for the next week or so. It’s been a while since we’ve had good May fishing in the area. That will make a big difference in how and where you fish. If the river is rising, be ready to fish streamers. Rising water moves the little fish out of their homes and into the bigger fish.
If the water is steady or dropping, the skwalas, March Browns and Gray Drakes are still moving fish on the surface. Use a Size 8-10 Rogue Skwala or an Olive Chubby if you’re running the dry/dropper. A darker Rubberlegs underneath is always working on the Clark Fork, just keep it deep.
The Gray Drakes are really going on the Clark Fork, with pods of fish rising in the afternoon to these big bugs. Try a size 12 Hare’s Ear Parachute or a Brindle Chute to give the big profile needed, or run the Adams if you want a thinner bug. Subsurface, have the Tungsten Jig Assassin or a Duracell to mimic the nymph.
When the water is coming up, use a bigger streamer to move the bigger fish. Darker flies have been taking fish when the water is a bit off color, so have your dark streamers ready. If the water is clearer, start dark but be ready to switch to a lighter color. Sink tips are good on the Lower section- get deep and stay there.



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

Rock Creek

The Gray Drakes are really getting hot right now along the length of the Rock Creek, and with the weather forecast, will stay this way for a few days in early May. The skwalas are still active as well, and the fish are looking for them after about noon. An Olive Chubby and the Gray/Olive Plan B are taking fish on the surface, and the 20 Incher is working as a skwala nymph.
Make sure to have your size 12 Adams or Parachute Hare’s Ear for the Gray Drakes. They’re coming off in the afternoon, and are pretty easy to find. If you want to ply the depths, bring some Duracell CopperTops or a Brillons Lucent Hare’s Ear Jig to imitate the nymphs. The San Juan Worm is also working really well up here.
Streamers have been working as well, but not anything special. It’s still standard streamer fishing on Rock Creek, but hey, it’s fishing in May! Take advantage while you can.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

May 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.

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 3/20

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

Yes, it can now be said the skwala hatch is consistent on the Bitterroot River. Decent surface action is being found in the afternoons. Most Skwalas are working right now, but the Mangler custom Gray/Olive Plan B has been noticeably more effective, as has the El Camino. The Nemoura is even more prolific than the skwala, and a double dry- Skwala on point to a Nemoura dropper- is taking fish very consistently. A few BWO’s have been seen, and the fish are taking them when they can. WMB’s are in the air, but not much interest in them yet.
If you go subsurface, keep your skwala nymph near the edges, imitating the skwala nymphs staging before emergence. Have a few extras- big nymphs shallow is a recipe for snags. Smaller nymphs like an Olive Bullet or Pheasant Tail Jig are also working. And the worm- it is spring.
Pike are starting to move in the sloughs, and anglers have been targeting them successfully. Not hearing much about streamers on the Bitterroot, probably due to Skwala-mania. If you’re on the ‘Root and the dries aren’t getting it done, flip a streamer. The bigger fish are looking to feed- if they’re not coming to the surface, then you ought tp go down and meet them on their own terms!
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Blackfoot River

Every time we get a couple warm days, we think the Blackfoot river is going to start to fish, but so far it’s river choice four in the area. You can still take fish on the Blackfoot with a deep nymph rig or a very well placed streamer, but on the whole, it’s not in top form. Get your Pat’s Rubberlegs or 20 Inchers, and don’t be afraid to add split shot to make sure you get where the fish are. Smaller nymphs are decent, and the worm is taking it’s fair share of fish.
The lower sections are fishing a bit better than higher up, and if you’re heading north to the Blackfoot, the longer you wait the better the fishing will be. Give the water a chance to warm up a bit before making the journey. You might not be rewarded with massive numbers, but it should be pretty peaceful on the river.
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Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork river fly fishing has been a bit slow waking up this spring, but there are signs the fishing has turned the corner. Some Skwalas are being seen in the middle and lower sections, and once in a while the fish will care. Subsurface, the action is quite good, with a deep Pat’s Rubberlegs or a shallower Double Bead Peacock Stone are both taking trout. Drop a smaller, brown or tan Perdigon, like a G Kes or a Hot Spot Pheasant Tail Orange below the larger nymph to imitate the WMB nymphs that are starting to move.
Streamers have been working well on the Clark Fork as well. Low and slow is the move, with fish still finding their spring lies. Start small and light colored, and move to darker and larger till you find the ticket. The pike are also starting to wake up, and they’re being taken as well. We just got a new shipment of pike flies in- might be worth checking out.

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Rock Creek

While all eyes focus on the Bitterroot, Rock Creek fly fishing is sneaking up as being a pretty hot river. Skwalas are starting to show and being eaten with some frequency, and reports of fish taking the early WMB’s and BWO’s are being heard. The upper section is fishing well, but we recommend still taking the highway to get to P-Burg- Rock Creek Road is still a bit tricky in the middle. It’s early yet, so the fish are still pretty willing to hit a PK Skwala or a Mill Creek Skwala. A simple Hare’s Ear Parachute for the WMB and a Parachute BWO are working on the surface when you find rising fish.
Subsurface is very good, with a 20 Incher and a San Juan Worm working their yearly spring magic. If you want to go a bit smaller, the G Kes or Umpqua Pheasant Tail jig are working for the WMB nymph, while the Olive Bullet is taking fish as well.
Streamers have been somewhat productive, but have not yet started to get hot. Have them with you, but it will take some dedication to make a strong day with them. Make sure you have a Sculpin Sparkle Minnow or a Baby Gonga in Tan or Olive. Accuracy is more important than action- cold water is keeping the fish from big slashes, so get the fly close to the fish.
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March 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.

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 3/6

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot is slowly dropping and clearing as we write, but still has some color. Lots of water came in last week. The skwala nymphs are starting to stage on the Bitterroot. THE NYMPHS. We’re still a bit away from dry fly action with Skwalas and Nemouras. An SR Bullet Black or Black Knight are great Nemoura nymphs, while the 20 Incher or the Peacock Double Bead Stone is a good skwala nymph. Bring your dries if it makes you feel better- they make a decent indicator.
There’s shelf ice on the ‘Root as well, so wading anglers make sure of access in and out. Also, wade carefully in the shallows- the nymphs are there, so are the trout. If you’re waist deep, you’re probably where the fish just were. Access for floaters was good two weeks ago, and there hasn’t been enough recent snow to change that. Dress warmly!
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Blackfoot River

Cold, cold, cold. The wade fishing has been slow, though larger fish are being taken. Floaters are finding more ice in the guides than fish in the boats. And just the lower river, boat access in the upper river is sketchy at best. Of the 4 rivers we have, this will be the slowest. Wait a bit before hitting the Blackfoot, but if you do make the call, a Brown TJ Hooker or dark Pat’s Rubberlegs is the best option. Drop a small perdigon off the back of the bigger nymph, and get Deep.
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Clark Fork River

Clark Fork is up and a bit off color through town and above. Which will help get rid of some of the shelf ice lining the banks. Waders need to make sure they have clear access in and out before entering the water. Some of the access ramps are easily accessed, others will require a bit of a boat drag. The weather this week won’t melt access blocks all that quickly- that will change in about 5 days.
Look for the river to be much clearer in the next 24-48 hours, and the trout to get back to their subsurface feeding. Don’t sleep on a deep, slow moving streamer, as well as the usual suspects for nymphs. Take a look into the back sloughs and slow eddies to target the pike, they’re starting to get on the feed as well.
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Rock Creek

Be ready for a little shelf ice in some spots, and if you’re thinking of the upper river, go around by Phillipsburg. The middle portion of Rock Creek Rd is still in winter conditions. Of the four local rivers, Rock Creek was least affected by the spate, and it’s the clearest river in the area.
Make sure to run your dropper a bit deeper up here- the water is up and moving a bit, and trout are hugging the bottom or deep in structure. Skwala nymphs are working, and a Brown Perdigon is a good WMB nymph. Slow pools will show willing for a streamer, but keep it low and slow. Smaller is better for streamers up here, but we’re hearing the little articulated streamers are moving fish.
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March 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.