Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 10/1

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

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The bugs are really happening on the Bitterroot, with strong hatches even on the sunny days. The Mahoganies have been steady in the afternoons with the D&D Cripple and Mahogany Sprout working very well. The Tilting and Brindle Chute are also working, especially on lone risers. When you decide to work the bottom, the Orange Spot Pheasant Tail, Duracell and the Perdigon Butano are moving the nymphing trout.

The BWO’s are also strong, and really getting fish to pod up. Again, the cripples and mergers are working better than a standard dry. Look to the Film Critic, Split Flag and Last Chance Cripple to take the fish at the top of the pod. The Comparadun BWO is also a strong Bitterroot fly, and the Lexi GED is also finding a few trout. Stick a Hi-Viz Spinner in your box as well, for when the fish focus on that phase. The Olive SR Bullet, the Quill Bullet and the Olive Quill Bomb are doing good work on the bottom, if you can drag yourself away from the risers.

The Hecubas are having a decent season. While not prolific, make sure to have a Bigger Brindle Chute in the in case you find them. The October Caddis are also getting stronger, and the Orange Elk Hair Caddis with trimmed hackle has been very effective. The Foam October Caddis has also been moving fish on the surface. Be ready for the Pupa with a Bird Of Prey or the Orange Mop Fly.

For those hunting big fish, the streamer bite is on along the length of the river. Keep your streamer light and thin, especially if you’re wading. The Skiddish Smolt, Emma’s Mod Maisden and of course smaller Sparkle Minnows are all doing the job. If you’re floating, a bigger streamer like a Gold Double Fuego or the Baby Swim Coach is making it happen. The brighter the day, the closer you need to be to structure, so plan your buying accordingly!

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

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot is beginning to shut down for the fall. There’s no reason too be on the water before 11:00 Am, and the day is mostly over by 5:00. The October Caddis, Mahoganies and Blue Wings are all out and moving, but it feels like every day the dry fly fishing gets a just a touch slower as the temperatures drop. Finding rising fish can be a bit of a challenge, but when you do, it’s not very complicated.

For the October Caddis, the Foam Body has been very good. It floats in the roiling water, and pulls fish up. The bigger Morrish October Caddis is a sneaky good call up here- that bigger silhouette get’s at trout’s attention. The Orange Mop Fly and Morrish Pupa are making it happen subsurface.

The Tilt Wing Mahogany, Purple Haze and Brindle Chute are working when the Mahoganies are out. Have a cripple or two if the fish get snotty, but it hasn’t been critical. Get a quick sinking brown jig to get things going underneath. Same can be said for the BWO’s- Tilt Wings and the Lexi GED are working when you find risers. So small and olive subsurface, but you might do better with a deep TJ Hooker or Pat’s. The Blackfoot isn’t known for small nymphing.

The streamer fishing has been really good. If you have a slow sink tip, now is the time to bring it out. The big Browns are moving, so bring your White streamers and have a good size range. Depending on your rig, White Mini Dungeons and Mongrel Meat are working with the sink tip. The Sculpzilla and White Fishwhacker are perfect for a lighter set up

The same can be said for Olive and Tan streamers. Bigger streamers are working right now- as always, make sure you have the set-up to throw what you get. Deeper is better, so a sink tip or sinking leader is not a bad idea. If you head to the Blackfoot, make sure you’re on the water mid afternoon. The heat of the day is now your friend, so make sure you take advantage

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

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork has been a bit spotty this fall. The hatches are there, no question, but the consistency of daily pods hasn’t been seen. Be ready to do a bit more searching for rising fish, because fish rising yesterday in one spot doesn’t guarantee they’re rising there today. With that said, there are bugs along the length of the Clark Fork, especially the lower. Look for the Mahoganies to get stronger as we enter October. The Purple Haze, Mahogany Tilt Wing and Copper Haze are taking most fish when they’re podded up. If you want the lead fish, you might want to switch to a Sprout or D&D Cripple for the biggest snouts. Underneath, the Carmel Jig and Pheasant ail jig are moving trot lower in the water column.

The BWO’s are still responding to the sun, so clouds are still important. On the cloudy days, the fish are really up, and the BWO Last Chance Cripple, Split Flag Cripple and Fly tics are taking the fussiest risers. Make sure to have a Hi-Viz BWO Spinner when the trout move to them, and have a Tilt Wing or Parachute when the fishing gets easier. Have you SR Olive Bullet or Olive MicroDrop for the fish on the bottom. While not a BWO, the TJ Hooker or Pat’s Rubber Legs deep is a constant on the Middle and lower Clark.

If you have streamers on your mind, the entire length of the river is kicking out some big fish. Above Drummond, the Sculpin Sparkle Minnow, Emma’s Mod Minnow and the Mini Dungeon have been moving some big fish. Get lower, and the Sculpzilla has been working, as has the Double Fuego and the Baby Gonga. If you want to go big, toss an articulated Dirty Hippie and get it deep. The Lower Clark has been good with streamers, but most are looking for snouts! If you decide to get big, the White Peanut Envy or Mongrel Meat have been moving some big Browns.

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

Rock Creek

The fall hatches are in full swing on Rock Creek. Whether looking to search with an October Caddis or find risers to BWO’s and Mahoganies, Rock Creek is fishing well. The Foam Run October Caddis is the perfect dry for bouncy water, while the Orange Elk Hair Caddis is working well too. Sub-surface, the Bird of Prey and the Caddy Shack are working as a caddis pupa.

The Mahoganies are not so prolific that you need to get super technical, which means the Purple Haze, Mahogany Tilt Wing and Brindle Chute are working well on the surface. As the hatch progresses, the flies will get more technical, but keep it simple now. The Carmel Nymph and Orange Spot Pheasant Tail Jig are working well underneath.

BWO’s are also on the water, and quite prolific. Be ready for a bit more technical fishing with a BWO Sprout, Last Chance Cripple or a HackleMaster. The standard parachutes are working, but not as well. When you go deep, the SR Olive Bullet and the Olive MicroDrop are working well. And while it’s not a BWO nymph, the TJ Hooker in a size 12 is working ion the deeper holes.

The Browns are starting to moving up river for their fall dance, so a white streamer is going to work for those cruisers. The bigger resident fish are also looking for big grub, and the Sculpin Sparkle Minnow, Baby Swim Coach and the Dirty Hippie are seeing a lot of action. The larger streamers haven’t been as popular as the mid size and smaller streamers, so keep that in mind. A sinking leader is useful in the deeper holes- keep the tippet short to maximize sink.

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

FallHatches

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.

Best Flies For October Fishing In Montana

How can you tell a Halloween costume has been designed in Montana? It has snow pants! That’s the way October fly fishing in Missoula is going to end. But it sure doesn’t start that way! The Fishing and hatches can be incredible. Let’s take a look at some of the best flies for Montana in October.

October Caddis

October’s most well known bug is the October Caddis. Makes sense, right? This is a big caddis, size 8-10, and very difficult to miss on the water. As with so many other fall flies, like the Hecuba, it’s orange in color, and is best imitated with an Orange Elk Hair Caddis or an Orange Stimulator.  If you don’t have an October Caddis with you, a large Brindle Chute will work as well. If you see one October Caddis on the water, tie one on. The fish will be looking for them, even if there’s not a full-blown hatch. It’s a bit like Hopper fishing- throw to the likely water and be ready for the rise!

The more productive way to fish the October Caddis is subsurface, because it’s rare to come across a full hatch of these bugs. The big pupa are moving, and easy meals for trout looking to fatten up for the winter. The Bird of Prey, Red Fox Squirrel Nymph and the Orange Mop Fly are all very effective as a dropper or on a double nymph rig. Big and orange is the key to getting the trout’s attention. We recommend fluorocarbon leader when fall nymphing- the water is low and clear.

Mayflies

You have the chance of running into three or four different mayfly hatches in the month of October- Tricos, Hecubas, Blue Winged Olives and Mahoganies. The tricos are waning, but on warm, sunny days you will often find a spinner fall in the early afternoon. This can be a bit tricky, as the BWO’s will often be hatching at the same time. If you’ve made good presentations to a fish with a Blue Wing, and you’re not getting any eats, try Ron’s Trico Spinnner or a Hi-Viz Trico Spinner. It’s not fool proof, but it’s a good option if the BWO isn’t working.

The BWO is a very strong hatch in October, especially on the colder, cloudy days. BWO’s are not a single species- there are many types of Baetis that hatch at this time. Luckily, they are all imitated by the same bugs. On the surface, be ready with a Tilt Wing BWO, Split Flag BWO or a Swishers Clumpa. These three flies cover adults, emergers and cripples quite well. The BWO is a tiny fly in October, and is best imitated with an 18 or 20, so have a light leader ready. There is also a BWO coming off in October that is very gray in color, so have a few small Parachute Adams or Purple Hazes in your kit to cover that hatch.

If you choose to go subsurface for the BWO’s, have some SR Bullet Jigs in Olive to get deep. If the fish are near the surface, but not taking the insects off the surface, and unweighted Pheasant Tail is an excellent pattern for “smutting” fish. Drop it about 4’ off a dry fly (don’t worry if the dry sinks, it’s just an indicator at this point) and send it over the fish. The short dropper length will keep it near the surface, but not on the surface- just where the fish are taking the emerger.

The Mahogany is also a very strong hatch for fly fishing Missoula in October. Once established, they come off like clockwork starting at 1:00 in the afternoon, and will continue until the water temps get too cold. The Mahogany Thorax is very good for this hatch, as is the Tiltwing Mahogany. If you’re going subsurface, a Caramel Specialist Jig or Solitude Pheasant Tail jig will take fish all day.

The Mahogany’s will hatch in sun or clouds, though of course cloudy days are better. Again, the water is low and clear, so a longer, finer leader is called for. Think about some TroutHunter tippet in half sizes (4.5X, 5.5X) to get a little more stealth and a better drift. The Mahoganies are a size 14 at the beginning of the hatch, but as October ends, they will be as small as a 16, so have those sizes with you in nymphs and dries when you hit the water.

There’s an off chance you’ll see a Hecuba hatch as long as temps stay mild. You won’t miss it if it comes off, as the bugs are about a size 8! Have a Hecuba Cripple or a Brindle Chute with you, but don’t pin your hopes on this hatch- it can be very unpredictable. It’s much more apt to occur earlier in October, so have the flies with you, but don’t expect much.

Hopper/Dropper

The hoppers are still a bit of a presence in October, but no where near as important as they were in late August and September. The cold nights and rainy October weather is taking its toll on the hopper population, but if it gets hot and sunny enough that you hear them buzzing on the shore, then they’re in play for the fish! As always, a bit of a breeze helps the hopper fishing, but if you decide to run a hopper, drop an SR Bullet Olive or a Solitude Pheasant Tail jig off the back to make yourself a more effective angler.

Streamers

Fly fishing Missoula in October can be one of the best times for streamers all year. The cold nights and shorter days tell the trout winter is coming, and it’s time to get some calories inside for the long winter months. While this blog writer tends to favor smaller streamers in fall like the Baby Swimcoach, due to the fact I’m heading out to match hatches, and need streamers that can be thrown on a 4-5 weight rod. In October, you can plan an entire day around streamer fishing.

The Blackfoot River is the first river to “turn off” due to the colder weather. It’s our northernmost river, and comes from the high mountains. It will get cold fast. But if you get out there in the first couple weeks of October, the streamer fishing can be extremely productive. Run the big flies like the Sex Dungeon or Mongrel Meat. Bang the banks, and start them as shallow as you dare. The fish are piled up behind boulders and off shelves, and are looking for a big meal before winter.

Rock Creek also has excellent streamer fishing in October. A Sparkle Minnow Sculpin is still a great producer up there at this time of year. Be ready for strikes in the middle of the river, where the bigger fish are. A wading staff is not remiss on Rock Creek at this point- those rocks can get very slippery this time of year, and if you’re trying to cover a lot of water with a streamer, good footing is paramount.

Final Thoughts

October is a month of big weather changes in Missoula. It starts off like the end of summer, and ends up like the beginning of winter. This means being prepared for the weather when you go to the water. Extra layers and a raincoat are critical. Put a spare set of clothes in the car, and leave them there. If you fall in in August, you’re just annoyed. If you fall kin on a cold, rainy day in October, it can turn into more of a problem. Having dry clothes to change into can be a game changer if the weather is cold and you’re soaking wet.

October in Missoula can be some of the best and most peaceful fishing of the year. The cold nights are slowing things down in the morning, so showing up about 9:30 is not a problem. And by 5:00, when the day starts to get chilly, it’s OK to head home to a warm dinner and a cold beverage! We like to call it Gentleman’s Fishing. No longer do you need to be on the water at dawn, and stay until after nightfall. The fishing will be best in the heat of the day, so why work the edges. Sleep in, enjoy, and get out when the day is nice. You’ll find it easy and more productive, which is what October fly fishing in Missoula is all about. 

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