September is here and the Missoula fall fishing season is underway. What used to be considered a shoulder season has now become a favorite time to fly fish for many anglers headed to Missoula. Guides eagerly anticipate fall fishing as well.
The fall hatches top the list of reasons why September/October are prime months in Missoula. Terrestrials like hoppers, ants, and beetles are great options, but the mayflies are what keep the fish looking toward the surface. Fall starts with tiny, technical tricos but we also see huge Hecuba, or fall drakes, Mahogany duns, and Blue-wing olives. With that many options, fishing a single dry fly is a real possibility every day.
The diversity of good fishing options is another big draw to fall fishing. The Clark Fork, Blackfoot, Bitterroot, Rock Creek, and Missouri all fish very well in the fall. That allows anglers to spread out over hundreds of miles of water in the Missoula area. The fast pocket water of the Blackfoot fishes great and so do the slower glides of the lower Clark Fork along with everything in between. Variety and fall fishing go hand in hand.
Weather puts fall fishing over the top. Hazy 90 degree days are a thing of the past. The days are crisp and cool, the air is clear and with a little luck the clouds are overhead. As fall progresses the color change of the trees in the river bottom takes place and there isn’t a prettier time to be fishing in Missoula.
Fall is finally here in Missoula and we plan to relish every day on the water. Our waders are back in the truck and the dry fly rods are ready as we head into the home stretch of the fishing season.
Fall color is starting to show around Missoula
Our fall hatches have started around Missoula and it is always a highly anticipated event each season. The summer heat and tourist traffic fades away and the rising trout start to appear again on our rivers. The mayflies our are main attraction with Mahagony duns showing up first, followed by Blue-wing Olivers. These hatches make the Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers hard to beat in the fall, but they also show up in respectable numbers on the Blackfoot and Rock Creek. The October Caddis is a favorite on those latter two streams with trout crushing big, bushy caddis imitations on the Creek and Blackfoot. The lighter river traffic allows these fish to get more comfortable with coming to the surface to eat. Even on days when the hatch is light you can still motivate trout to the surface with a well placed dry fly. Under the same conditions a couple weeks ago, a dropper or nymph was the only to illicit a strike but we have moved into the dry fly season. It’s still just fishing, and we certainly can have our share of tough days in the fall, but they seem to be fewer and the dry fly rod become the rod of choice. We still fish our share of droppers in the morning when the action can be slower, and an avid streamer angler is always welcome in the boat this time of year, but after lunch it’s time to see what the dry fly can do. A forward angle with a reach cast and a long drift can produce some surprising results this time of year. Our trout know that winter is on the way and they want to feed. That urge to feed is only tempered by the fact that they have been fished to all season long. Show them a dry fly on a good drift and the odds are that they will eat it this time of year.