Missoula spring fishing is some of the very best of the season. Single dry fly fishing with big foam bugs is hard to beat, but it can also be tough fishing when the conditions do not cooperate. There are highs and lows to every spring fishing season around Missoula and it’s a mere matter of timing.
Rarely in the fishing world can you expect great rewards without some degree of risk. In other words, there is no “guaranteed” best time to go fishing in Missoula, or anywhere for that matter. It’s really up to each individual to decide what type of angler they are. Do you like to play it safe? If so, then come out in July when you have the best chance to find clear water in all the streams and warm weather. The fishing is likely to be respectable too, and lots of anglers come each year in July and love it.
But you want to catch big fish on dry flies don’t you? If that’s the case then you better buckle up, it could be a bumpy ride. I am 100% confident that more big brown trout were caught on dries in this past week around Missoula than were netted in the entire month of July last year. The catch is, I couldn’t make that claim about this same week in April of 2017. And that’s the rub, when the fishing is good in the spring it is incredible, but there is no reliable way to predict when it will happen.
What we do know is that every year between March and April we will see a high number of our biggest trout of the year on dry flies. Some years it’s the 3rd week of March, others the 2nd week of April, and when we are lucky like this year we will get a 4 week run of solid fishing that could produce the biggest trout of the year on any given day.
You could get snowed on, it might be windy, and the rivers could bump out of shape on you. That’s simply the price of admission for what could be the best dry fly fishing you have ever seen. If you don’t swing for the fences then you’ll never hit a home run. It has been a great week of spring fishing around Missoula and now we are looking down the barrel of some challenging conditions. If things break in our favor we will be netting a bunch of 20+” trout in the days ahead. If not then we will scratch and claw to make it happen. Either way we will be happy to not be playing it safe.
Fall fishing in Missoula has finally arrived! It was a long and painful fire season with hot temperatures and smoke filled valleys. That all changed with a big cold front that brought cool and rainy weather to western Montana. The forest fires are not out yet, but the smoke is gone and this new weather pattern has kicked our fall hatches into high gear.
We have a smorgasbord of mayflies on tap with tricos, hecubas, mahoganies, and blue-wing olives all coming off right now. There are big October caddis in a few spots and the trout are still willing to look up for hoppers, ants, and other terrestrials. The next few weeks promise to offer some of our best dry fly fishing of the year.
All the local Missoula rivers have turned the corner with the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, Clark Fork, and Rock Creek all producing solid fishing. Just a week ago we were meeting early to beat the hot, smoky conditions, but the best fishing now is an afternoon affair. Anglers can sleep a little longer as the dry fly bite doesn’t really get going until a little later in the day.
The other main draw of fall fishing in Missoula is big brown trout and streamer action. Since the weather change we have noticed more good browns on the prowl and that will continue through the month and into October. For those anglers willing to throw the big junk, there has been some good action and great visuals in the crystal clear flows of fall.
Fall is the anglers’ season. The reach cast, strip set, and good dead drift all play a huge part in our success this time of year. Those who know how to execute are able to reap the rewards of the finest season Montana has to offer.
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.
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!