The holidays are behind us and our attention has turned to the upcoming fishing season. It is always a challenge to make an accurate Montana Fishing Forecast, especially at this early date. We still have a long way to go before we will be sure of our snowpack. Spring rainfall and temperatures will also have a big part to play in how the season turns out.
While it is too early to predict with any confidence the specifics of our upcoming fishing season, we can rely on historical averages and the general patterns of our Montana fishing season. It is supposed to be an El Nino year, but so far it is late to arrive. El Nino typically means a warmer, drier winter but at the moment our area snowpack is near average with extended cold in the forecast.
Honestly, as guides and anglers we worry about this information a little too much. Over the past 20 seasons I have seen big snowpack years quickly turn into low water and a dismal snowpack winter salvaged by big rainfalls and below average temperatures. Bottom line, it will be what it will be, and often it turns out differently than we expected.
With that perspective in mind, our 2019 Montana fishing forecast looks promising overall. Here is what I expect:
- March-April: Skwala stonefly season. Many of our biggest dry fly trout of the season come during this hatch. Some years it’s a roller coaster with changing water flows, others it’s smooth and steady throughout.
- May: We spend the entire month on the mighty Missouri river. This tailwater provides more reliable water conditions during run-off and the over 5,000 big trout per mile doesn’t hurt either. El Nino typically produces excellent conditions for the Missouri with consistent nymphing and exciting dry fly opportunities.
- June: Salmonflies and Golden Stones, the mere mention of those two giant hatches sends many anglers into a frenzy. June produces more big trout than any other month around Missoula. Some years it is lights out dry fly fishing with huge dries and other years it is mostly nymphs and streamers. El Nino stacks the odds in favor of the dry fly anglers.
- July: Wet wading season is in full effect with a myriad of hatches through the month. We start the month with Goldens, Drakes, PMDs, Yellow Sallies, and finish off with Spruce moths and Hoppers. The fishing is solid, but we may have to set early alarm clocks if fishing restrictions go into effect.
- August: This month is becoming known for a time to find solitude in our area. Fishing restrictions and forest fires are a possibility, but anglers this time of year can have entire stretches of river all to themselves. Fast water areas are prime for big, juicy hoppers while slower reaches are the domain of technical trout on tricos and small terrestrials.
- September/October: Fall is our most consistent season. Any issues with fires or water conditions are a thing of the past. Hoppers are still on the menu, but several different mayfly hatches are the main attraction. There is a reason why fall dates are the first to book each year.
How will the 2019 Montana fishing season play out? It is anyone’s guess at this point. The only thing we know for sure is that we will be out there everyday enjoying what we do. Be sure not to miss out on Montana this year!
Summer fishing season has finally arrived in Missoula! A big snow year combined with a cool and wet spring resulted in high water all through May and June. There were some great moments, but we did not see consistent dry fly fishing like we always hope for in June. That has changed. All the Missoula area rivers are dropping and clearing, and the dry fly bite has gained momentum in the last few days.
Based on the current conditions this looks to be our best July and August in several years. There have been many years where are temps are in the 80’s-90’s by mid-June and by the time we get to July we are meeting at dawn to take advantage of the cool weather and active trout. Yesterday we saw a high of 63 and we have been able to meet at a leisurely 8 am for weeks.
All of the Missoula rivers have plenty of water and the water temperatures are ideal for this time of year. The next couple of weeks will produce a myriad of good hatches from golden stoneflies, pale-morning duns, green drakes, yellow sallies, and caddis. During hot, low water years we run through our hatch cycles very quickly, but during high water years the hatches are much more sustained. The last high water year produced a golden stone hatch that went through the third week in July and we could very well see that again this year.
August is our sleeper month. Anglers are a little hesitant about fishing in August because of the chance of fishing restrictions and forest fires. As a result August has become the month with the least amount of river traffic during the entire season. If you enjoy solitude then August is the month for you. In a high water year we can have fantastic dry fly fishing in August. Hoppers are the main game, but there are also good hatches of tricos, fall drakes, and spruce moths.
We will be in shorts and sandals for the next couple months enjoying the best that summer fishing season has to offer. It promises to be some of our best dry fly fishing this year and the crowds will thin by mid-July. If you have a trip planned your in luck, and if you are thinking of coming out we still have some availability left.
The spring fishing season has finally arrived in Missoula! Old Man Winter has relaxed his grip just enough to make fishing enjoyable again. I am certain that we haven’t seen the end of winter yet, but we have strung together enough 40+ degree days to get things moving in the right direction.
The extra daylight and increasing water temperatures have spurred the mass migration of Skwala nymphs into the shallows. The Bitterroot river is the focus of this early spring fishing season, but Rock Creek and the Clark Fork are coming to life as well.
Right now it is almost strictly a nymphing game on all of our rivers. Two nymphs under an indicator in the slower, moderate depth water is the best tactic to find fish. You may find the sporadic risers to midges on the Bitterroot or Clark Fork in the afternoons. A small single dry can fool those picky eaters, but you are not going to cruise down the river with a big Skwala and crush them, at least not yet.
Another small storm is on tap for early in the weekend, but the forecast for next week is the kind that cabin fever sufferers dream about. Temperatures in the 40’s and even low 50’s are on tap with partly cloudy skies. Conditions can change quickly in the spring, and my guess is that next week will see the first solid dry fly fishing of the season with Skwalas.
It has been a long, cold winter in Missoula but there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. The next two months will produce some of the best dry fly fishing of the season. The boats have been cleaned, fly boxes organized, and we will be on the river daily starting next week. The spring fishing season has begun!
June was a great month, and we have quickly transitioned into summer fishing season. All of the Missoula area rivers are dropping, clearing, and coming into shape. New fly fishing options in the region are opening up each day. The Blackfoot, Bitterroot, and Clark Fork are all fishing well and our biggest problem is deciding where to go each day.
Along with the new fishing options, there are a host of new hatches as well. Pale-morning duns, Bitterroot stones, yellow sallies, caddis, and the last of the green drakes are making an appearance daily. There is something for every angler at the moment. We have all day dry fly fishing to feisty cutthroats, post up rising trout scenarios to bigger fish, dry/dropper fishing for a mixed bag, and even some good streamer action for the die-hard.
As summer fishing season takes hold, we need to adapt to the changes. This year July has come in dry and hot. We still have plenty of water in the rivers but those willing to get up early will reap the rewards of cooler temps and more active trout. The last two hours of daylight this time of year can provide some excellent dry fly fishing during the caddis hatch as well. Just keep an eye on water temps, if the weather stays hot it may become too hard on the trout to fish the evenings.
As the summer progresses we will fish on all of our over 300 miles of local water in Missoula. It is a fantastic time to fly fish Montana. We have traded our waders for shorts and sandals, loaded up on the sunscreen, and filled our dry fly boxes.
This is one of our favorite months, and the Montana fishing report for June will tell you why. June is one of our run-off months when the snow comes out of the mountains and river conditions become unpredictable. That is the tricky part about June, but years of experience have also proven that June is our best month for big fish and epic dry fly fishing if you’re willing to be flexible.
Our local Missoula freestone streams usually come into shape sometime between the first of June and the 12th. Some years it is earlier and others it is later, but that is the average. When our local streams aren’t fishable we run our trips on the Missouri. It is a tailwater that provides consistent clean flows when our rivers are dirty.
This year we were on the Missouri until June 8 with great nymphing and some good dry fly fishing with PMDs. By then we had a couple options in Missoula so we fished Salmonflies on small, fast water for 3 days with good results. All the other options were dropping into shape and it looked as though the dry fly fishing would bust wide open in the coming days.
Unfortunately we had a huge rain storm move in with up to 4 inches of rain in the area. All of our local streams blew out and some even went above flood stage. Based on the weather forecast I moved the last 2 days of a 3 day trip over to the Missouri. My angler was a little reluctant as he had never fished the Missouri before. Two days later he had experienced some of the most fun dry fly fishing of his life, biggest brown trout ever, and a boat load of quality rainbows and browns.
I tried to get my next angler to move his 2 days to the Missouri as well. He insisted on staying in Missoula so on day one we ran over and back to the Missouri river. By lunch he mentioned it was some of the finest fishing he had ever experienced, then in the afternoon he landed 2 browns well over 20″. The next day we fished around Missoula and had to work hard for every fish in less than ideal conditions. At the end of the trip my angler said next time I recommend we go and stay somewhere to fish, he will listen.
At this point the Missoula rivers are again dropping into shape. We have giant Salmonflies coming off in several different places with Golden Stoneflies, and Green Drakes not far behind. We moved some huge brown trout on dries yesterday on the Blackfoot, and the big fish will continue to hit the net until our water clears and drops to summer levels.
We never know for certain where we will be fishing each June. The Montana fishing report for June this year has been unpredictable. What we do know is wherever that happens to be, there will be big fish and good dry fly fishing.