Green Drake Hatch Montana

Green Drakes in Missoula

The Western Green Drake is a good hatch for fly fishing in Missoula, MT, but not the easiest to predict. It doesn’t come off as heavily as other hatches in the area, but can be strong in certain places at certain times. As with many early season mayflies, the hatch is triggered by water temps, and due to factors like runoff, rain and varying weather, the Green Drake isn’t a hatch you can set your watch to. But they’re a sizable bug, and when they start hatching in early to mid-June, they’re big enough to pull fish off of the Salmon Flies and Golden Stone! So it pays to have some Western Green Drake imitations in your box, especially when the weather is cloudy.


There are two main species of Western Green Drakes, Drunella Grandis and Drunella Doddsi. D. Grandis max out at 16mm while D. Doddsi maxes out at about 13mm. We have both on our waters, imitated by the same pattern, in size 10 or 12, and applies to nymphs and dries equally. The nymphs don’t hatch at the surface, they hatch about a foot below the surface, and then float to the top to use their wings to break through the surface film. While this emergent phase may be critical on rivers like the Henry’s Fork, where the Green Drake is a blanket hatch, in Missoula the sparser nature of the hatch means fish keying on the Drakes are a much less fussy.


Using the wings to break through the surface film causes additional stress to these insects. When these insects do emerge, their wings are pretty beat up, and many of the adults don’t actually make it to the stage where they can fly off the water. A Green Drake Cripple, such as a Sir Francis or a Quigley Cripple are excellent imitations of the drakes that don’t make it.


The Western Green Drake uses a liquid to fill the veinations through its wings. That process takes time. And depending on air temperatures, the Green Drake wings can take a long time to dry. On colder days, the bugs may float for over a minute before their wings are full and dry and capable of flying. The dry fly is a subject of some debate amongst tyers and fishermen. In Missoula, Green Drakes hatch when the rivers are running pretty big. On the Blackfoot River and Rock Creek, you may want to use a Green Drake pattern with strong flotation, like a Hairwing Green Drake. But when Green Drakes hatch on the Clark Fork River or Bitterroot River, which are much lower gradients, use a more imitative pattern like a Carnage Green Drake or an Tilt Wing Green Drake. That’s not to say that the flies listed are river specific, we’re simply saying that a big, bouncing river will sometimes need a higher floating fly than a calmer river might require.


The Green Drake isn’t always the friendliest of hatches for the wading angler. The rivers are big when it starts coming off, and sometimes a wading angler simply can’t get to where the insects are hatching. As with most mayflies, if you can set yourself up downstream of a good, strong riffle, these crawler nymphs will hatch down into the slower water often found below riffles. And of course, in all high water, the fish are hugging the banks, looking for the softer water. With an insect that may float for a minute on the surface, it may not be critical to be near where they’re hatching, only to be near where the fish can find
soft enough water to rise!

Additional Green Drake Resources

MISSOULA FLY FISHING REPORT 7/7

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot is a great option right now and the dry fly fishing has been good. We have been seeing plenty of PMD’s and Green Drakes in the clouds and Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies in the sun. If you come across a mid day lull then the dry dropper rig will keep you busy. Our go to droppers right now are the G-Kes Ptail Hot Spot, Jiggin Stones and just about any color Perd’s. For Dries we have been running Water Walkers, Plan B’s and Flush Floater.

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot is producing some great fish lately and should continue to fish well throughout the month. There are still a few Salmon Flies up top but the fish are more keyed in on the Golden Stones then anything. Streamer fishing has continued to produce well if you like chucking the big bugs. Flies to try include Water Walkers, Plan B’s, Flush Floaters, Mill Creek, Super G for dries and for droppers try Perd’s, Ptail Soft Spots, G-Kes, Jiggin Stones and Jig Pheasant Tails.

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork has been fishing great from top to bottom. Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies in the sun and PMD’s and Green Drakes in the clouds has been the main game right now. Some of the best fishing in Missoula can be found on the Clark Fork this time of year. For flies most of your PMD and Green Drake patterns will do in the clouds and in the sun we have been running Water Walkers, Plan B’s and Flush Floater. Droppers include G-Kes Ptail Hot Spot, Jiggin Stones and just about any color Perd’s.

Rock Creek

Rock Creek is one of your best options right now along with dozens of other tributaries in the Missoula area for wading. Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies have been our go to in the sun and Green Drakes in the clouds. Most days there is no need to go subsurface unless you want to. Dries all day long is the game right now.

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Golden Stone Hatch

The Rock….. Golden Stones in Missoula MT

Sure, the salmon fly gets the press. It’s the biggest! It must be the best! Well, no question it’s good, but when it comes to consistently strong fly fishing in Missoula to stoneflies, the Golden Stone takes the prize hands down.

The Golden Stones begin emerging about mid June, just as the Missoula area rivers are rounding into shape. And they consistently move fish til late July! From late July on, especially on the Clark Fork River, the goldens will hatch with enough consistency that an imitation will take fish all the way into September and is one of our guides go to hatches to imitate all summer long.

The term Golden Stone is a bit of a misnomer. Taxonomically, what we call a Golden Stone are actually a multitude of different species. Why don’t we identify the species? Because it doesn’t matter! All species are imitated by the same flies. When you think about it, we fish Golden Stones from size 6-12. What other insect species has a size range from 1.7 inches to 1 inch. None. When you catch a golden, some are bright yellow, some are a dull yellow, and some lean more to brown. They’re all different species, but luckily for us, the same flies work. If you’re an amateur entomologist, this could be of wild interest, but most of us just amble on, blissfully unaware of how complicated we could make this!

The Yellow Sallies are also stoneflies, they’ve just been given a different name amongst fly fishermen! They could just as easily be called Little Goldens, but we don’t do it that way. Yet they’re stoneflies as well, and they behave as every other stonefly does on the water.

One of the favorite fly patterns for Missoula fly fishing guides and anglers. The PK Golden Stone.

The nymphs will enter the shallow water starting in early June, preparing to emerge onto the shore. This is called staging. Excellent flies for shallow nymphing are a Double Bead Hare’s Ear or a Tan/Brown Rubberlegs. Once they’ve crawled out and shed their nymphal shuck, the adults fly to shoreline vegetation, mate, and the females return to the water to lay their eggs. Unlike mayflies and caddis, which hatch from the water, a stonefly hatch consists of the females returning to the water.  Goldens like warmer weather for flying, which explains why the best golden fishing is often late morning through late afternoon in Montana. For an egg laying Golden, we like a yellow Stimulator or a ??????????. Quite often, the female will get trapped in the surface film, which makes a much more appetizing target to the trout. Strong imitations of a flush floating Golden are the El Camino Grillos, PK Golden or the Plan B Golden.  If you’re going dry/dropper, the Tan Chubby is a great choice for strong floatation.

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Missoula Fly Fishing Guide Chase Harrison

It’s one of the real joys in Missoula, those last two weeks of June, fishing the double dry salmon fly with a golden stone dropper. And we think you’ll have the same experience, that the Golden outfishes the salmon fly 6 to 4. The Golden stone is an fly fishing angler’s friend. It’s consistent, so you know the fishing is there. It’s big, so you can easily see the fly! And it lasts for a long time, which is always very nice for planning your fishing. As we said, the Salmon flies may get more ink, but we think the Golden takes more fish. We’ll let you decide which one takes the prize!

Additional Golden Stone Resources

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 6/22

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot has improved a lot over the last week and is fishing well. Few Salmon flies up top but Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies in the sun and PMD’s and especially Green Drakes in the clouds. Most of our reports have been on the upper stretches although the mid section is fishing decent as well. For dries try Demoes Golden, Morningwood Golden, Double Dutch Bug, Carnage Green Drake, Comparadun PMD and the Film Critic. For nymphs try the G-Kes, Jiggin Stone, Yellow Resin Wing, Pilva or many of the other 200 different styles of Jig Nymphs we in stock.

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot is dropping and in great shape. There has been bugs all over including Salmon Flies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies and Green Drakes. This is a great time of year to hit the Blackfoot and should keep you busy with dry flies action all day. The Salmon Flies are on the mid to upper stretches and Golden stones everywhere. With the clouds this week, be ready for some great Green Drake hatches. Our dries of choice the last few days have been the Super G, Rastaman, PK Stones, Bullethead Salmon Flies and Golden. The streamer fishing has been great too if you are into throwing big flies. If 
the dry fly fishing slows midday then throw on droppers off the dry like G-Kes, cream ptail jig, Jiggin Stones, Hot Pheasant Jig, Bullets, Pats Rubber Legs and DB Stones.

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork is also coming into good shape and plenty of bugs to keep you and the fish busy all day. We have been seeing some Salmon Flies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies and many Green Drakes in the clouds. Another great option around Missoula and should continue to fish well here on out. Streamer fishing and nymphing is also a great option but we have been busy on dries all day long. When the dry fly fishing slows midday then throw on droppers off the dry like G-Kes, cream ptail jig, Jiggin Stones, Hot Pheasant Jig, Bullets, Pats Rubber Legs and DB Stones.

Rock Creek

Rock Creek is one of your best options right now along with dozens of other tributaries in the Missoula area for wading or floating if you are a confident rower. Salmon Flies are all over the upper creek and Golden Stones showing up as well throughout the creek. Green Drakes have been great on the cloudy days. Most days there is no need to go subsurface unless you want to. Dries all day long is the game, Stones in the sun and Green Drakes in the clouds.

Casting A Fly Rod With Dr. Beck

Thoughts on Casting . . . . . and Travel

Miles Davis, the great jazz trumpeter, said, “If I don’t practice for two days, I start to notice. If I don’t practice for four days, my fans start to notice.”

This isn’t about contrasting casting styles, or the merits of a fast or slow rod. This is about being ready when you get off the plane or out of the car. Our guides have quoted numerous clients, when getting into the boat for the first day of five days of fly fishing trip to Missoula, “I haven’t picked up a fly rod for 6 months.” And the thought, “REALLY?!?!?!?” immediately floats through the guide’s head. You’re about to spend $2750 and you haven’t even picked up a rod?

I knew a man who was comped a 7 day trip to the South Island of New Zealand. Four 5-Star lodges and the finest fishing the South Island could provide. On day two, after having blown his third shot at his third fish, the guide turned to him and asked’ “Did you not even practice before coming here?” He wasn’t implying he was a bad fisherman, because he wasn’t. He was saying that a bit of planning might have made the trip a bit more successful and a bit less frustrating.  Our guides don’t do that, but they definitely know you’re not getting anywhere near what you could be from your time on the rivers around Missoula, MT.

When pre-trip information is given to someone going on a Billfish trip, it lists tackle and fly needs, clothing and other necessities. It also directs the angler to purchase a 10 pound dumbbell, and starting two MONTHS before the trip, begin to do one minute of forearm curls, with each hand, three times a day. Move to two minutes, and try to increase even more. Why? Because when a billfish sounds and then starts to spiral, you will need to derrick that fish to the surface. If you’re not prepared, if you haven’t trained for that, your Billfish experience is going to be long and painful.

We’re not asking you to spend hours a day casting, or hire a casting instructor till you can hit a trash can lid at 85’. But if you haven’t picked up your rod for a while, string it up. Put in 15 minutes day for a week before you head out. Don’t change your style, just refresh your familiarity with the tools of the trade. You’re going to be stunned at how much better your guided trip goes with a bit of pre-practice. You’ve made a pretty serious investment of time and money. If your fishing time is limited before the trip, an investment of a little casting time will maximize your time on the water.

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 6/14

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot has been rising a bit the last few weeks with the warmer temps. The Bitterroot should fish better and better every day as the water continues to warm up and flows steady out. There are Salmon Flies moving on the upper along with some Green Drakes and Sallies but the nymph and streamer game will be your best technique up here right now. Focus on Salmon Flies and Golden Stone Dries up and Green Drakes in the clouds. Nymph patterns to try are be DB Stone, Pats Rubber Legs, G-Kes Jig, Jiggin Stones, Jig Prince Nymph, Hot Pheasant Jig and the good ole worm.

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot is dropping and in great shape. There has been bugs all over including Salmon Flies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies and Green Drakes. This is a great time of year to hit the Blackfoot and should keep you busy with dry flies action all day. Our dries of choice the last few days have been the Super G, Rastaman, PK Stones, Bullethead Salmon Flies and Golden. The streamer fishing has been great too if you are into throwing big flies. If
the dry fly fishing slows midday then throw on droppers off the dry like G-Kes, cream ptail jig, Jiggin Stones, Hot Pheasant Jig, Bullets, Pats Rubber Legs and DB Stones.

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork is also coming into good shape and plenty of bugs to keep you and the fish busy all day. We have been seeing plenty of Salmon Flies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies and a few Green Drakes in the clouds. Another great option around Missoula and should continue to fish well here on out. Streamer fishing and nymphing is also a great option but we have been busy on dries all day long. When the dry fly fishing slows midday then throw on droppers off the dry like G-Kes, cream ptail jig, Jiggin Stones, Hot Pheasant Jig, Bullets, Pats Rubber Legs and DB Stones.

Rock Creek

Rock Creek is one of your best options right now along with dozens of other tributaries in the Missoula area for wading or floating if you are a confident rower. Salmon Flies are all over the upper creek and Golden Stones showing up as well throughout the creek. Most days there is no need to go subsurface unless you want to. Dries all day long is the game, Stones in the sun and Green Drakes in the clouds.

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Missoula’s Largest Fly Tying Selection