Run-off has finally arrived in Missoula, and our Missouri river guide season has started. We always look forward to spending the month of May on the Missouri. This big tailwater rarely disappoints with consistent nymphing, exciting streamer action, and some of the finest dry fly fishing of the year.
With a bigger than average snowpack we are expecting higher water on the Missouri this year than the last couple of seasons. That is not ideal for our dry fly plans, but just like in Missoula, higher water equals more big brown trout and everyone loves big browns!
The big browns are always a special treat, but it is a steady diet of 16-20+ inch rainbows that keep our anglers coming back year after year to the Missouri in May. The spawn seems to be nearly over for the season and those big rainbows return to the main river ready to eat anything that moves.
While the higher flows aren’t the best for midge and blue-wing olive hatches, the trout won’t be able to resist big March Browns and the hordes of caddis that are coming. The March Browns should show up any day, and size 12-14 mayflies covering the river will get some big snouts breaking the surface. The caddis will come next and we will get explosive takes in fast water.
We had an unbelievable spring dry fly season in Missoula with some of the most consistent conditions ever on our local rivers. Now it is time to switch gears as our Missouri river guide season has already started. We will be on the big river for the next month with heavy nets and smiles as wide as the big sky. We look forward to seeing a lot of familiar anglers and introducing a few new ones to the Mighty Mo.
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.