Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 8/7

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

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

Hoot Owl restrictions are in place along the entire Bitterroot, from the confluence of the East and West Forks to the confluence at the Clark Fork. Hoot Owl hours do not allow fishing from 2:00 PM to midnight, so get out early if you’re heading to the Bitterroot.
The tricos have definitely established along the Bitterroot, and there are still some straggling PMD’s that will move fish, so have them with you. A CDC Thorax Trico or a Don King Trico have been working on the Bitterroot, as has the Gould’s Sunken Trico. If you use a Sunken Trico, drop it off a size 18 Royal Wulff (you’ll be surprised how many risers take the Royal Wulff) so you can locate the dropper. Use anywhere from 3-6 inches of dropper to control the depth.
The golden stones are almost gone, but are being replaced by the Hopper. A tan hopper, like the Morrish or the Tan Henneberry will work as both a Golden or a hopper. The Pink Thunder Thighs and the Juicy Hopper are also moving fish, and those two will also float a decent sized dropper. Don’t focus exclusively on Hoppers- other terrestrials are also working very well. The Micro Chubby in Tan and Gold are working well as a beetle, and the Ant Acid in Purple is taking fish as well.
When you go subsurface, try a Copper Top Duracell, a G Kes or a Tungsten Jig Pheasant Tail, all in a 14-16. Make sure your dropper is long enough to get the fly to the bottom, because wit the warmer water, the fish are hugging the bottom. When you hook a fish on a nymph, play it hard and fast, to get it back to the bottom quickly. If you’re wading, move out of the warmer water along the edges and release the trout in the cooler water away from the bank. Work the riffles hard with a nymph- lots more fish there than you think due to oxygenation.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot is fishing well along its length, having benefitted from the extended run-off, though getting a bit low for hard boats. Remember it’s inner tube season, so if you’re thinking of fishing the lower sections, get on at dawn and be ready to be off by 11:00, when the inner tube hatch begins.
Tricos are hatching on the Blackfoot, the trick is to find a place where bigger fish are rising. If you do, the Female Trico Spinner or the Hi-Viz are very effective. Sporadic Spruce Moths are being seen, so have those with you. If you don’t have any, a simple Tan Caddis will do the trick. The Goldens are still working, but they’re waning, so use what you have. Make sure to have a few Hoppers as well, including the Morrish Hopper in Purple, as well as the Tan Thunder Thighs and the Juicy Hopper.
Don’t sleep on the Attractor Fly fishing up here as well. It’s a great time to run the Hippie Stomper, Stubby Chubbies and the good old Royal Wulff. The fish are hungry and food is scarce, so a well placed dry will definitely spur on the interest.
If you plan to run a smaller dropper, it’s just as important to lengthen the dropper length as it is to get the right fly. A simple Tungsten Jig Pheasant Tail, Caramel Jig or a Hare’s Ear Jig are working well. Truthfully, since most of the nymphs have hatched out, almost any well drifted nymph at the correct depth will work. If you want to throw a bigger nymph, like a Tungsten Zirdle or a TJ Hooker, you’re going to want to use an indicator. 6 feet is not too deep to set the indicator- the fish are belly hugging the bottom in the deeper pools. Fight the fish hard, and fight them fast to get them back to their homes quickly.
We’ve also had some decent action on streamers in the last week. A White Sculpzilla and the White Mini Dungeon have been moving fish, as has the Skiddish Smolt and the Tungsten Found Ya Bugger.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Clark Fork River

There are Hoot Owl restrictions on the Clark Fork River, specifically from the confluence of the Bitterroot to the confluence of the Flathead, and from Warm Springs to the confluence of Flint Creek. When Hoot Owl hours are in effect, there is no fishing from 2:00 PM to midnight, to avoid stressing the fish in the heat of the day.
With that said, the Clark Fork has been fishing well in the middle and lower sections. The tricos are now consistent in the morning, and there are still a few pods of fish taking the last of the PMD’s. The Hi-Viz Trico spinner is always a good choice for finding your fly, and drop a Female Trico Spinner or a CDC Thorax Trico behind it. Clark Fork fish can get a bit fussy about the Hi-Viz, especially the big ones, but you can use it to sight in the floating dropper.
Hoppers are starting to be eaten as well, and they are blending in with the almost done Golden Stones. The fish are still looking up for a big floater, so have a Morrish Hopper Tan or a Henneberry Tan to do double duty. The Tan Parachute Hopper has stayed hot from last year, as has the Sweetwater Hopper. Don’t forget the other terrestrials! The Ant Acid in Brown and Purple are working well, as is the Stubby Chubby in Cinnamon and Purple. It’s terrestrial time, so take advantage.
Subsurface, a smaller jig nymph like the Yellow Spot Jig, the G Kes or the Bullet Quill is working. Since most of the nymphs have just hatched out, there’s not a lot of food available to the trout. Just as important as the fly selection is the length of your dropper. That 2’ dropper that’s so easy to cast should be lengthened to about 3.5-4 feet. The fly needs to get the fish that are hugging the bottom. The annoyance of casting the long dropper will be balanced by more fish. Fluorocarbon leader is preferred at this point, since the water is so clear.
On the lower Clark Fork, a Brown Pat’s Rubberlegs or a TJ Hooker will work very well as the point on a double nymph rig. Those flies work best deep, so set your indicator about 7 feet from the fly. Drop a smaller fly off the bottom of the Pat’s to double your chances.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Rock Creek

Rock Creek is fishing very well along the length, mostly due to the high gradient and good oxygenation. You should still fight the fish quickly to minimize stress in the heat, but that’s a strategy that should be employed at all times, not just in the heat of the summer.
There are still a few straggling PMD’s, and the Tricos are also appearing. As always, the trick on Rock creek is to find a place where the fish are eating Tricos. If you know of a place (and don’t tell anyone!) a simple Hi-Viz Spinner or CDC Thorax will get the fish moving. Nothing fancy in flies- it’s finding them that takes the time.
Still a few straggling Golden Stones, and those will meld into hopper fishing. A Tan Morrish Hopper or Sweetwater Hopper have been working up here, doing a bit of double duty in the imitation department. If you’re looking for a more specific hopper pattern, the Tan Parachute or Tan Henneberry have been producing. Don’t forget the other terrestrials as well. The Black or Purple Ant Acid have been great along the edges, and the Stubby Chubby is proving to be an excellent beetle imitation under the trees. A few random Spruce Moths are being seen, so have your Tan Caddis. Have them anyways, because the caddis are still coming out at dusk.
It’s also fun to run Attractor dries at this time of year. A big Royal Wulff, Yellow Stimulator or a big foamie will pull fish up to eat. If you run a big foamie, drop a smaller Hare’s Ear jig or a Yellow Spot Jig underneath for more action. Make sure your dropper is a bit longer than you want it to make sure you’re getting where the fish are. If you deciode to run a bigger nymph, like a Pat’s Rubberlegs or a Black Double Bead Stone, use an indicator to make sure the fly gets deep enough.
A well placed streamer is also producing in the deeper pools. A Gold/Silver Kreelix has been quite successful, and of course the Sparkle Minnow is still money on Rock Creek. And if big flies are on your mind, step out after dark with a mouse and see what some of the bigger fish are doing. This is the time for mousing, and Rock Creek has a lot of fish that are active at night.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 7/21

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 dropping like a stone, which is excellent news for the wading angler. Still enough water for the floaters, but now waders can really get into the game as well. Water temps are holding decently, due to the cooler nights, and we expect that to hold for the season.
The Golden Stones are still coming out in numbers, as are the Yellow Sallies. This late in the season, go with the lower floating, more natural colored imitations like the Henry’s Fork Golden, Rogue Stone or the Demoe’s Mill Creek. The PMD’s and PED’s are strong as well, so have some Keller’s Rocky Mountain PMD’s and Parachute PMD’s for the adults, backed up with the PMD Film Critic for the emerger/cripple. Those bugs will work for the PED’s as well. If you’re out at dawn or dusk, make sure to have your Rusty Spinners with you to cover the spinner fall.
Caddis are being seen in the evening, so carry your caddis as well. Hoppers, ants and beetles are being taken as the hatches ebb and flow during the day. Keep your hoppers small and golden golden stone colored to do double duty on the water.
Sub-surface the basics are working extremely well. Smaller TJ Hookers, the G Kes, Jioggy Yellow Sally and the Orange Spot PT Jig are all very effective right now. Early and late in the day, a smaller, light weight streamer will move the larger fish. The Bitterroot is fishing very well right now.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

There are still remnants of the Salmon Flies hatch on the upper, upper stretches, so if you’re going high, make sure to have them. It’s still the Golden Stones that are the hottest fly. Make sure to have low floating flies in subdues colors. The Henry’s Fork Stone, Rasta Golden and the Emma’s Stone are great low floaters that will float a smaller dropper. The Yellow Sallies are also out in force, and a double dry with a Rolling Stone Yellow Sally will pay dividends. The PMD’s are still very active, as are the PED’s and Tan Caddis. Make sure to have some PMD Film Critics and the D&D Cripple, as well as some Parachutes for the adults. The X- Caddis and the basic Brown Elk Hair are working when the caddis are out.
The TJ Hooker and Natural Tungsten Zirdle are very good subsurface right now, as is the Jiggy Yellow Sally, the Tungsten Jig Assassin and the PT Jig. Use as long a dropper as you can stand, or to be more effective, go double nymph with a large and small fly. Streamers are still viable all day, especially from the boat, but smaller and more accurately placed my be better than a big streamer just close to the target.
The wading is starting to come around on the Blackfoot, with more spots becoming available as the water drops. Still better to go higher up the river, but the wading is getting better. If you plan on floating low, do it early in the day- the innertube hatch is getting strong as well!
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork is rounding into shape very nicely, with pods of fish setting up for the PMD and PED hatches. Make sure to have some D&D or Flash Cripples and the PMD Film Critic to supplement the basic PMD Parachute, as the fish can get snooty quickly. If those don’t work quickly, switch to a Rusty Spinner to bring up the fish count.
The Golden Stones are still very important, and if you don’t have pods, put on a subtle Golden like the Henry’s Fork or the Rogue Golden and search with those. Drop a Yellow Sally off the rear to increase your chances, and so you have an idea where that little fly might be.
Subsurface, the Brown Pat’s Rubberlegs as deep as you can drop it has been very strong, as has a TJ Hooker. The Orange Spot PT Jig, the G Kes and the Silverman Red Tag Yellow Sally Jig have also been very effective. Not many people throwing streamers, which shouldn’t deter you if you want to throw them. Get them deep and the fish are taking them.
The Clark Fork is dropping, but the wading opportunities are still not as easily found. The upper Clark Fork is where to head if you’re on your feet.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Rock Creek

Yellow Sallies and Golden Stones are still the top producers on Rock Creek right now, with PMD’s and PED’s also coming off with regularity. Again, subdued colors in smaller sizes are the more effective right now. The Rogue Stone, Henry’s Fork Golden and the Rasta are consistently effective up here. The Yellow Sally Rolling Stone and the Chubby Silvey Sally (with some brown marker on the body to dull the color) have been making excellent droppers on a double dry rig.
The Kellers Rocky Mountain PMD and the Tiltwing PMD have been strong during the PMD and PED hatch, as have the D&D Cripple. If you’re going to be out late or early, make sure to have your Rusty Spinners in a size 16. They’ve also been most effective.
The Tan caddis has been very effective all day on Rock Creek, not just during the hatch. Use a Brown Elk Hair caddis as a searching pattern all day, and an X-Caddis when the hatch is on. You can also search with terrestrials, which have been effective as well. If you choose to search with a hopper, stick to a tan hopper so it does double duty as a stonefly as well.
The size 12 Tungsten Natural Zirdle and the Tan/Brown TJ Hooker have been producing sub-surface, as has the Orange Spot Jig, the G Kes and the PT Jig. Streamers have been moving fish early and late, with a couple anglers reporting good streamer fishing during the day, but they were using sinking leaders. The water is still big on rock Creek, so the farther upstream you go, the easier the wading will be, though the river is dropping quickly along the length.
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.
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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!
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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.



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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.
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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.