August fly fishing in Missoula is always a wild card. The potential challenges are many, including forest fires, heat, low water, and fishing restrictions. Those are always variables, but the positives of August fly fishing in Missoula remain the same each year.
August is one of the slowest time periods of our fishing season. Sure, the tourists are still around for another month but the majority of those are novice anglers who see the same “easy” stretches of river day after day. For the experienced angler who knows how to fish a dry fly well, there are miles and miles of water around Missoula in August without another soul in sight.
Our insect hatches start to gain momentum as well in August. There is always a serious lull in bug activity during the end of July. Spruce moths provide most of the action in a few select places, but the hundreds of other river miles in the area don’t see much for a hatch during late July. Tiny tricos, big Hecubas, and hoppers, ants and beetles provide the food source our trout need to get active again.
Big trout start to prowl again too. Smaller average size trout seem to rule the day during the peak of summer, but as our days grow shorter in August bigger trout are more prone to make a mistake. Large rainbows love to sip tricos on the Bitterroot and Clark Fork, and it’s a good idea to cover every tailout with a good hopper drift as over sized brown trout love those shallow holding lies.
This season our August fly fishing in Missoula certainly has some challenges. There are forest fires and smoke, low water in places, and even fishing restrictions on a couple stretches. It is not the end of the world though as we have fished through these conditions before. We are getting up at the crack of dawn and off before the heat sets in. And when my anglers know terms like; reach cast, feed slack, and twitch, I get excited because there are some big trout in trouble that day. If you like solitude and technical fishing for wild trout then you will love August in Missoula.
The spring fishing season in Missoula has been one of the most consistent in recent years and there’s nothing on the horizon to indicate any change. Day to day the conditions have been good to great depending on the weather and stretch of river. This time of year we can be plagued by rapidly changing river levels, but this season we experienced a big bump early in March and since then it has been stable to dropping water so far this spring.
Trout get grumpy when river levels rise. They like stable or dropping water so we have had plenty of happy trout this spring fishing season. At some point we will start to get bumps in flow that will signal the main run-off is one the way, but those bumps don’t look like they will happen for at least another week.
The big news this week is the arrival of the mayflies. Little blue-wing olives, march browns, and grey drakes started to make an appearance this week. They were a little behind schedule this spring, but more than made up for it with blanket hatches a couple days this week. The mayflies add another fly choice to your trout catching puzzle. The days of being able to fish a Skwala from start to finish are probably behind us for the season. The bright side is that the mayflies get a lot more fish looking up and your chance of finding pods of rising fish increases too.
The debut of the mayflies is also a signal that more fishing options are starting to open up. The Clark Fork has produced some decent fishing recently, although now that the blue-wings and grey drakes are here this river will start to provide some of the best dry fly fishing of the season. The march brown hatch on Rock Creek is one of the best hatches of the year on the creek and a highlight of the spring fishing season.
The Missoula fishing season continues to roll on and it looks to be a smooth ride into the near future!
It has been solid fishing in the area, and the Missoula Fishing Report for the week ahead looks to be a good one. River levels are still well above average for this time of year, but they are stable to dropping right now. With the weather that is on tap that should remain the story for the rest of this week.
The Bitterroot is still the star of the show at the moment with clear flows and your best bet at dry fly fishing. In the past week we saw good Skwala dry fly fishing from the upper reaches around Darby all the way into Missoula. March browns, grey drakes, and blue-wings can be found on cloudy days and we have found a few fussy trout that would only rise to a mayfly. At times the river has been busy. The extra water this year helps but you still need to choose your floats wisely, especially on the weekends. Spring is your best chance at a really big trout on a dry fly and it looks like we will have at least another week of favorable conditions.
Some other fishing options are starting to pop up as well. The upper and lower reaches of the Clark Fork showed signs of life in recent days. It’s still a little early for prime time on this river, but fishing was respectable and you are certain to see a lot fewer people than on the Bitterroot. We had moments of great dry fly fishing, but dry/dropper was the norm. If the rivers stay in shape then the Clark Fork will only get better as spring progresses.
The Blackfoot is still mainly a nymphing game with tricky access in spots. If you are looking for a big fish and only need a handful of opportunities, you will find plenty of solitude on the Blackfoot. Wade anglers have seen plenty of success on Rock Creek. Dry flies, dry/dropper, nymphing, and streamer fishing has also produced bent rods over the last week on Rock Creek. The road is passable all the way through so there is plenty of water to choose from.
Fishing in Missoula has been plenty good so far this spring and we are excited to get back on the water again this week!
The Missoula fishing report for this week is one of challenging conditions. We are looking at record high flows for this time of year on the Bitterroot, and while it is our best option right now in the area it is still day to day on whether or not it is fishable. The other rivers around Missoula are blown out currently.
If you happen to be reading this Missoula fishing report and considering floating the Bitterroot on your own in the next few days then you need to make sure you are an experienced rower and reach out to fly shops, shuttle drivers, and guides to find out about any hazards on the river. The Root is NOT for the inexperienced right now. There are blocked channels, nasty hydraulic currents, dangerous diversion dams, and even sketchy boat ramps at the moment. With almost 20 years on the river I have had a couple heart pounding moments in the last week, and no trout is worth risking your safety over.
The current conditions have made it a nymphing game mainly. A couple nymphs under an indicator fished in the right water will produce right now. There’s not much of a dry fly game at this point. If you hunt the back waters and side channels with a skwala you can raise a few fish, but if you are looking for action then it’s a stonefly nymph and san juan in the slow water.
We are at the mercy of the stream flow gauge this March. If the river stays level or drops then the dry fly fishing will begin to kick in. If the flows continue to bump up and down then a strike indicator will be your new best friend. Skwala fishing is always a bit of a gamble. There are some big trout hitting the net daily if you’re willing to take the risk.
Another 6″ of fresh snow overnight and it is still coming down as it seems winter will never end here in Missoula. March has certainly come in like a lion this year and we can only hope that it goes out like a lamb. This latest storm will certainly push the area over 100% for snow pack. With a couple more wet months ahead of us all signs point to a great water year in 2017. You can see for yourself right HERE.
In the meantime Missoula fly fishing guides are starting to get restless. Yes, there are a few fish to be caught right now in these winter conditions, but the hatch isn’t making much progress forward. We are holding onto the hope that next week’s forecast is correct.
If the forecast holds true, we should see daytime highs in the mid to upper 40’s and lows at or above freezing. That’s a good recipe to get those Skwala nymphs migrating into the shallows, and next week could be the break we’ve been looking for. I don’t expect dry fly pandemonium although it should get some trout looking toward the surface in the right spots.
For the moment we will continue to tie flies and drink beer to keep us sane. Fingers are crossed that the weather forecast is more accurate than normal.