Best Flies For August Fishing In Montana

When you study rivers and their make-up, you learn the month of August defines a rivers carrying capacity. For our purposes, carrying capacity is defined as the amount of trout biomass, or the total weight of the trout population, a river can support throughout the year. August sets carrying capacity as the most difficult time of year for the trout. Missoula’s freestone rivers- Rock Creek, the Bitterroot River, the Big Blackfoot River and the Clark Fork River– are at their lowest and warmest points in the heat of the summer. Competition for holding lies and food is intense at this time, and fish that can’t locate homes or food won’t make it to the September rains. August is the month when rivers in Missoula make their statement about how the fishing will be for the next 11 months.

This is both good and bad for the angler. Obviously, a scorching August makes trout habitat more difficult to maintain, with trout under considerable stress in Missoula and across Montana. But competition for food and space has a considerable upside for the angler as well. The trout are hungry, and food is scarce. The fish are willing to roam farther from their feeding lies to eat, and certainly less selective. A well presented fly will often take fish even if it’s not an exact match, due to lack of food present in Montana rivers.


Except for the trico hatch!  The tiny trico is the only aquatic hatch to come off with any regularity in the month of August, and when it comes off, it’s a blanket hatch. Trico-maniacs are dedicated anglers, focused and intense about being on the water when the tricos both hatch and fall. The trico is one of the few mayflies important to the angler that hatches at the same time the spinners fall. It is also the only hatch where the males and females differ significantly in color. For the hatch matching dry fly angler, the trico is paradise masquerading as sheer torment. At any given moment, you have male and female spinners, male and female duns floating as well as male and female cripples on the water. Tricos hatch in such great numbers that the water is covered with insects, with extremely selective to the sex, stage and size of the fly.

No other hatch offers this diversity in fly possibilities. A book has been written about meeting the trico hatch, providing strategies and ideas on how to approach this complex blanket hatch. The most important is make sure you have a wide variety of flies when you go to the water. We know, sounds like thinly veiled sales pitch, but it’s true. Our favorite trico pattern in the shop in the shop is Ron’s Trico. This simple pattern has been a top producer for as many years as Ron Beck, the Missoulian Angler’s longest tenured employee (and dedicated trico-maniac), has been tying them. The Trico Sprout is also an excellent cover for the cripples that are always present, while the Female Comparadun will work as a full floating dry, or as a cripple if you choose to dress only the wings. 5-6X tippet is the norm for these size 18-20 flies, and with the low, clear water a decent cast is imperative. Tiny flies mean narrow feeding lanes, so your cast needs to be on target, drifting correctly and be the stage, sex and size the trout is looking for. As we said, a hatch matchers paradise.


But it’s not always so tricky in August. The Spruce Moths will be out in full force in the first two weeks, and trout feast on them as they come down to the water. Clocking in at a size 10 or 12, these flies are easy for the trout to find and easy for the angler to see. Again, Ron has created our best Spruce Moth imitation, the Mangler Moth. Made from spun and clipped deer hair, it perfectly mimics the mottled color of the Spruce Moth and floats like a cork. We also really enjoy the Spruce Almighty, with its lower floating profile, and the parachute Spruce Moth, which is the easiest of all our imitations to see. No need for super fine tippet on these guys, 3-4X will get it done when the Sprucies are coming off.

August is terrestrial time in Missoula and throughout Montana. Ants and Beetles are active all day with the heat, and consistently finding their way on to the water. Many times the random rise you see close to the shoreline is to an ant or beetle, and it’s the rare trout that won’t take either if they’re looking up. Again, with less access to food in the rivers, ants and beetles become a critical part of the trout’s diet. The Ant Acid in Purple or Red have proven to be extremely effective, as well as the foam beetle. Take your terrestrial fishing to the next level and try a Sunken Ant along the shoreline. Ants aren’t designed to float, and trout take them anywhere in the water column.

Hoppers also make their grand entrance in August, and we all know what that means. On the hottest, windiest days, the hoppers are up and flying. As the wind buffets them about, they can hit the water with a significant splat, alerting the trout to their presence. Those monster rises mid river in the heat of the day are almost always to a hopper. Because hoppers don’t enter the water with any regularity, you have to be ready on every cast, and ready for some dry spells in between strikes. But the ferocity of the take and the size of the fish that recognize hoppers as a valid food form makes hopper fishing so worthwhile in late August. The Morrish Hopper in all its color variations has proven to be the most consistent hopper we sell. The Parachute Hopper runs a close second, followed by the Henneberry Hopper. When hoppers are on, pretty much any hopper that catches your fancy will catch the trout’s as well.


The phrase originated as Hopper/Dropper, and now morphed into Dry/Dropper. But the original indicator fly was the hopper, because the nymph fishing in August can be great. The fish are looking to feed, stay out of the sun and away from the surface where they’re vulnerable. You can use pretty much any nymph in your box (within reason!) but we definitely prefer the Tungsten Bead Jig Nymphs. They sink like bricks, ride hook point up to snag less, and get to where trout live and stay there. Exactly what you’re looking for in a subsurface fly! Don’t be afraid to go with a size 16 or 18 nymph. The river is filled with smaller nymphs, and while they don’t look like much to you, the trout are accustomed to these smaller flies and take them without hesitation.


A quick word about streamers. The dedicated streamer angler has put away the 7wt rod. The giant streamers, so effective in June, are too big to effectively fish in August water But trout haven’t stopped eating minnows. Scale back your fly’s size, and the bruisers will prove just as happy to eat a big meal in August as they were 6 weeks ago. Look for a slim, smaller fly like the Sculpzilla, the Kreelix or even the Baby Gonga. If you can throw the streamer comfortably on your 5 weight rod, you’ve scaled back enough. The smaller streamers make less commotion when they land, and in clear water present a less more lifelike appearance than their larger brethren. Predators are predators, and few turn down a well presented, easily captured meal!

Attractor Patterns

August is the fly tyer’s month as well. Remember that fly you tied late at night, purple, chartreuse and orange. You looked at it the next morning and thought, “What was I thinking?!” August is the time to fish that fly, and any other attractor that strikes your fancy. Food is scarce, and trout are willing to be more liberal about what constitutes food and what doesn’t. August is when oddball flies really shine. The trout are heavily fished late June and July, and very familiar with tried and true patterns. Show them something they’re never seen, like your late-night concoction, and you’ll be surprised by the gullibility of August trout.

Final Thoughts

August is a month where getting on the water can be a challenge. Heat, low clear water and the concern for the trout’s well being all come into play. But it can be a great month to angle. Fish the edges of the day if you can, and when we say edges we MEAN edges! If you’ve never tried mousing after dark, August is the perfect time to make that plunge. The weather is grand, with big fish responding to lower light and lower water temperatures. Flashlights and a little pre-scouting are certainly not remiss if you plan to be out after dark. And this is information you won’t get many other places, because we’re more about real fishing! If you fall in after dark in August, it’s not as cold as the other months!! If you are fishing mid-day with a hopper, fight the fish hard and fast, releasing them in cold water so they live to fight another day. August gets a bum rap from so many anglers, but if you put your time in, find the trico hatch, come prepared with hoppers, nymphs and streamers, you’ll find August to be an exceptionally rewarding time to be on the water.

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

Fly Fishing Floatant 101

You think to yourself, does anyone really think about fly fishing floatant? Heck, in this industry, Gink is a noun and a verb! Most people come in, say I need some floatant, we hand them something and off they go. Looking at flies or doing something more important than thinking about the stuff that keeps the fly floating. But as everyone who’s been in a fly shop knows, there’s a lot more to think about than the old tried and true. And keep in mind, as we talk about this stuff, it might be used for the same purpose, but it’s different stuff in the bottle. Each of the different floatants we carry have their champions. If one isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to try something else. Of course, nothing is going to keep a dragging fly afloat, so keep that in mind as you tend to your leader!

Gel Fly fishing Floatant

Of course Gink works. So does Aquel and High and Dry gel floatant. Those are the ones we carry, and there’s a lot more out there as well. They all work, and they all work pretty much the same. You start with a DRY fly. That means a fly that hasn’t gotten wet yet. Because all these paste floatants work in the same way, they waterproof the fly. The best way to use them is to get a little on the tips of your fingers, and lightly coat the fly with the paste. You’re NOT trying to saturate the fly with these pastes. You can waterlog a fly with Gink as easily as you can with water. Resist the temptation to squirt a dollop on your fly and work it in. It will make the fly sink.

Liquid Fly Fishing Floatant

Fairly new to the consumer market are the liquid floatants, like Fly-Agra and High And Dry Liquid Floatant. Angler have been mixing Mucilin and lighter fluid for years and using that as a liquid floatant as well, but truthfully, these work a little better. First off, the bottles actually seal, so the stuff doesn’t run all over your vest. Mucilin and lighter fluid leaves a permanent stain, and no matter how tightly you seal the baby food jar, the lighter fluid eats at the seal and at some point, it leaks. The newer liquid floatants don’t have that problem.

To use a liquid floatant, you take a DRY fly, attach it to your leader, and dip it in the bottle. Swish it about a bit, and pull it out. Shake the excess back into the bottle, and give the fly a few quick flicks through the air and give it a minute to dry. The liquid evaporates quickly, and the fly is completely coated with fly fishing floatant. That’s the difference between Fly-Agra and Gink. The main ingredient in Fly-Agra evaporates, so your fly isn’t saturated any longer. Gink doesn’t evaporate, so a full soaking doesn’t get it done.

Fly-Agra can be used on the water because it dries so quickly, of course. But it’s even more effective when you pre-treat your flies the night before. Some of our Missoula fly shop guys keep a wide lid jar on their tying bench about half full of Fly-Agra. Once you’ve got a few flies tied, take a pair of forceps, clip the fly by the hook bend and dip it in the goo. Pull it out, and then rattle the forceps off the inner edge of the jar. This knocks the excess off. Then use the forceps to stick the fly in some sort of drying rack (We often use a Styrofoam cup with something in the bottom to keel it) and let it dry. DO NOT forget to put the flies in your box the next morning. We’ve never done that, of course, we just read about it in a magazine!

It works better because most of the actual floatant stays on the fly. No matter how gently you flick your fly on the water to dry it, your fly is traveling at a tremendous speed when the fly curls back during the cast. Applying High And Dry Liquid Floatant prior to use allows all the fly fishing floatant to stay on the fly. Hareline makes a product called Watershed that is specifically designed for pre-treating flies at the bench, and it’s fantastic.

Powder Fly Fishing Floatant

You can also buy different dessicants, which is fancy for a dust that absorbs water out of the fly. They seem to have started with people taking the crystals packed with electronics and grinding it up. Boy does this stuff work on a saturated fly, defined as a fly that’s become waterlogged, or worse, schmucked by a 4” Squawker! The dust will pull the moisture out and revitalize the sodden fly.

If you’re using a fly with CDC in it, the dust is almost a necessity. Paste fly fishing floatants don’t always work well with CDC, because if the paste is over applied it will matt the CDC feather, rendering it useless. Fly-Agra and other liquids will work on CDC, but you really want to flick that stuff out on the drying casts, again to eliminate matting. The only exception to this is Lochsa Floatant, by Loon. It is absolute magic on CDC, and is what many in the shop recommend for CDC flies. That stuff really works.

We carry a couple of different dessicants, Shimizaki and Frogs Fanny, and they are used in a completely different way. The Shimizaki has a wide lid- you drop the fly in, close the lid, and shake the bottle around. The dessicant pulls the water out of the fly. As the Shimizaki gets a bit grainy, meaning the fine powder has been removed, Missoula’s best fly fishing guides will pour a bit into the palm of their hand, rub the fly against it in their palm, and return the unused portion to the bottle. Shimizaki is designed that way. If it was all dust and no granules, it would over adhere to the soaked fly, and not last as long. The larger Shimizaki chunks are designed to crumble into dust as the bottle is shaken.

Frogs Fanny is a different style of dessicant. It resembles flakes, and comes in a bottle that has an applicator brush in the cap. Hold your soaked dry fly, dip the brush into the bottle and use the brush to push the Frog’s Fanny into all the nooks and crannies of your fly. The brush gets the Frog’s Fanny into places the dust doesn’t always penetrate. A good thing. Frog’s Fanny is very light, and on a windy day, it sometimes feels like no flakes get from brush to fly. A bad thing. Again, both have their adherents. Both standard Shimizaki and Frogs Fanny are white, and the dessicating process leaves a white dust on your fly. Not a bad thing with PMD’s and Golden Stones, but they do turn your Ants, Beetles and BWO’s a bit lighter in color, which some find annoying. Shimizaki us available in a dark dun color, so when the fly leaves the bottle, it’s the correct color. Some use the Shimizaki because it doesn’t blow away in the wind. Others use the Frog’s Fanny because the brush gets the dust where it needs to be, and uses less on larger flies. Again, try them out and see how they work for you. But, it must be said that the Shimizaki lasts longer than the Frog’s Fanny.

A quick note on Frog’s Fanny. It also has a refracting quality about it that works as an attractant to fish. Many times we will hit a fly with Frog’s Fanny, and have a fish take on the next cast. Re-Frog, and another fish. Take this a further step, and it applies to nymphing as well. Many of the Tungsten Jigs, like the Howell’s Shuck It Jig or the Tactical Fast Water Prince are collared with CDC hackle. If you take the time to dress your nymph with Frog’s Fanny, the CDC retains its air capturing qualities, and is more attractive to the fish. It can be a bit of a pain in the tuckus, dusting every 4-5 casts, but in that perfect seam, or when the fish have lockjaw, every little bit can help.

Final Thoughts

There are certain flies that require specific applications of floatant, such as a Half Down Stonefly or a Sprout. (Flies For June)These are flies where only half the fly receives floatant. The paste floatant has traditionally been used on these flies, as it is a lot more accurate in its application. However, some have taken to putting Fly-Agra into an old Frog’s Fanny bottle, giving them a brush to apply the liquid floatant to specific areas of a fly. Pretty good thinking, as far as we’re concerned. The Frog’s Fanny itself can also be applied to specific regions of a fly as well, utilizing the brush.

So when you stop by our Missoula Fly Shop for floatant, we may just hand you a bottle and say good to go. And you will be! But there are a lot of floatant options out there. Each one is extremely good at what it does, though they don’t all do the same thing. You’ll find the best guides fishing in Missoula have 2 or 3 floatants with them at all times, and there’s good reason for it. While one will get the job done, it might pay to expand your floatant selection. You’ll find your fly floating longer and higher if you do!

Fly Tying Classes with George Kesel

Individual Fly Tying Nights with the Man Himself George Kesel.

With the popularity of George’s Fly Tying series this winter we have decided to open up single classes covering various topics and techniques. These classes will be held once a week on Tuesday evenings from 6-8pm. We limit each night to 8 students and the classes fill up quickly so call now(406-728-7766) to reserve your spot. Each class will be $15 per student and you can sign up for one class or all of them. These classes are for intermediate tiers. Call and ask about our beginner fly tying program if you are new to tying.

Handling Hair: March 13th
Starting with a simple streamer and moving through Stimulators and Wulffs, we will take on the
challenges of working with hair on large flies and in small.

Dubbing, dubbing loops and dubbing brushes: March 20th
Dubbing is one of the most under looked aspects in fly tying. We’re going to explore dubbing to
catch more fish, and all the amazing ways that dubbing can be attached to a hook. We will also
discuss and show how dubbing can be custom created to provide bulk, flash, mottling and so
many other aspects of dubbing and dubbing loops.

Building Hard Body Bass Poppers: March 27th
This will be more of a hands off class, devoted more to showing the steps needed to create a
hard body bass bug. We will be detailing a standard bug, created on a hook shank, and then
move off into a very untapped segment of popper design, building a popper that is not attached
to a hook. This second method allows a hard bug builder to create poppers not constrained to a
hook size, and opens up a vast area of popper design.
Advanced fly tying: April 3rd
Are you wondering what it takes to advance your tying skills when you’ve hit that plateau? It
comes from looking at fly tying from a different angler, and learning new disciplines. We’re going
to take some very simple patterns from a few different disciplines – Steelhead, nymphs and dry
flies, and delve deeply into their construction. We’ll focus on methods to improve accuracy,
minimize bulk, while examining methods to create a balanced fly every time you approach the

Articulation: April 10th
Big streamers catch big fish, but there are some underlying principles that need to be adhered
to when creating an effective fly. We’ll look at basic construction, and study different ways to
create articulations in your streamers.

Mangler Secrets: April 17th
You know we have bugs you can’t get anywhere else! Its because they work! This class will take
you through some of out most successful flies, the flies that have been developed over 25 years
of business. This is the real deal when it comes to finding out why we’re busting out butts tying
in the shop.

Spinning Deer Hair: April 24th

Get into the basics of spinning deer hair, for trout flies, bass and other large species. Deer hair
is one of the most versatile materials in use, and we’ll examine the most effective methods to
create small and large flies, floating and sinking.
Tying tiny
It’s not really a lot more difficult to tie smaller flies, but it does take some different techniques
and thought processes. This class will take you through the different ways to create small,
durable, well proportioned flies. Get comfortable with smaller hooks and improve your odds on
the water

New and Amazing: May 1st
Every year, Mangler gets a whole lot of “new and wonderful” materials to look at. Most aren’t all
that new or wonderful, but some are really, really good. Come learn about and use all the cool
new stuff the Mangler has to make your flies into fish catching machines!

Call Now to Reserve your spot