Extensive Montana Fishing Report from Nate Stevane of Trout on the Fly

See below for a guest post from one of our own Damn Good Guides, Nate Stevane, of Trout on the Fly out of Bozeman, Montana. Thanks for the awesome writeup, Nate!

On Wednesday, April 22nd, Montana Governor Steve Bullock addressed his phase one and two Directives for reopening our state. To read the full Directive, click HERE.

Governor Bullock has lifted our stay at home order starting on Sunday, April 26th. Beginning April 27th, we will be able to start offering guided fishing trips again. While this is excellent news, this first phase still has restrictions; if you are traveling to Montana from another state, you will need to self-quarantine for 14 days before we will be able to take you out on our waters. If you meet the requirements and are scheduled to fish with us during phase one, we will still need to follow the social distancing guidelines until we receive updated directives from Governor Bullock.

We recommend contacting the county health department in the county you will be lodging at before arrival as each county may have directives that may differ from the state of Montana.

Madison County (Ennis, Cameron, Big Sky) • Gallatin County (Bozeman, Big Sky, West Yellowstone) • Park County (Livingston) • Lewis & Clark County (Helena) • Bighorn County (Fort Smith, Hardin) • Cascade County (Great Falls)

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Montana Fishing Report

We know this report will be painful for many of our readers as they sit at home and are unable to join us for some of the year's best fishing during the spring. But hang in there. Doing your part will only help get all anglers out to Montana sooner rather than later.

We experienced some more than welcome early summer temperatures hovering in the high 50’s to low 60s this past week. The beautiful weather started to melt some of our mountain snow, and as a result, some rivers became off-color.

The Gallatin, Jefferson, Yellowstone were off-color but fishable during this warm spell. The lower Madison River between Bozeman and Norris Montana had water temperatures that reached 50 degrees, almost warm enough to encourage the caddis to start hatching. The Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch needs water temperatures to hit that happy 52 degrees to get things started.

This hatch is challenging to hit perfectly due to the fact that the warmer air temperatures needed to get the water temps up also triggers snow to melt and creates some dirty water, thus leaving us with a very short window to capitalize on the hatch. To have the best success with this hatch, we recommend fishing from midday until dusk. This allows the water temperature to get up to that happy 52 degrees when the caddis will start hatching or returning to the river to lay their eggs.

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Madison River

Of all the rivers we offer trips on, the Madison has been on fire lately! We are still seeing Skwalla’s, Baetis (BWO), and some March Browns hatching. Sections best for having the opportunity to fish the dry fly will be from Raynolds Bridge fishing access down to Ennis Lake in the Madison Valley.

The afternoons once the water temps are up have been best to see some fish feeding on these adults. Nymphing has been VERY productive until we find rising fish. The streamer bite has been hit or miss.

Recommended Patterns • Nymphs/Emergers o Pats Stonefly nymph, black with olive legs – size 8-4 o Pats Stonefly nymph, black with olive legs – size 8-4 o Pats Stonefly nymph, olive with brown legs – size 12-8 o Green Machine, olive or PT (pheasant tail) – size 18-16 o RS2, olive or grey – size 18-16 o Lightning Bug, purple – size 18-16 o $3 Dip, brown – size 16-14 o PT (pheasant tail) Beadhead Soft Hackle – size 14-12 o San Juan Worms, red & orange – size 6-2 o Egg patterns – orange – size 18-14

• Dries o Adams & Parachute Adams – size 18-14 o BWO CDC Thorax Dun, olive – size 18-14 o Sparkle Dun, olive – size 18-14 o Carnage Western March Brown – size 14-12 o Parachute Hare’s Ear – size 14-12 o Amy’s Ant, olive – size 14-12 o Chubby Chernobyl, olive – size 14-12

• Streamers o Peanut Envy, olive – size 4 o BH (bead head) Wooly Bugger, black – size 8-4 o Morrish Sculpin, light & dark olive – size 8-4

Missouri River

Either the jet boat section below Hauser Dam near Beaver Creek or the drift boat section from below Holter Lake to Dearborn have and will continue to fish very well through runoff (late-May, early-June). Mostly a nymphing a game right not. However, we are seeing some fish feeding to Baetis adults on overcast days when the wind is calm. The streamer guys are seeing some quality browns come to the net but not in quantities.

Recommended Patterns • Nymphs/Emergers o Soft Hackle Sow Bug, pink and tan – size 16-12 o Lighting Bug, pink & purple – size 16-14 o Firebead Ray Charles, grey, pink & tan – size 16-14 o Green Machine, olive or PT (pheasant tail) – size 18-16 o RS2, olive or grey – size 18-16 o Transitional Dun, pink – size 16 o San Juan Worms, red & orange – size 6-2 o Egg patterns – orange & pink – size 18-14

• Dries o Adams & Parachute Adams – size 18-14 o BWO CDC Thorax Dun, olive – size 18-14 o Sparkle Dun, olive – size 18-14

• Streamers o Kreelex, gold/silver – size 4 o BH (bead head) Wooly Bugger, black – size 8-4 o Sparkle Minnow, olive – size 4

Yellowstone River

Leading up to the warmer weather we received last week, the Yellowstone was in great shape and fishing well. The water clarity diminished to 6”-8” by Wednesday, April 22nd.

This will still fish during these conditions but mostly a nymph and streamer game with patterns that have some color to them, such as San Juan Worms, Stone Fly nymphs, and white streamers. Blue Winged Olives are the fly of choice for the dry fly anglers if you happen upon rising fish. Like the lower Madison River, we anticipate seeing some Caddis and March Browns in the next week or two.

We would recommend fishing anywhere from Carbellas to Highway 89 fishing access site. Once you float below 89 Bridge you will encounter the Sheilds River pushing some muddy water into the Yellowstone.

• Nymphs/Emergers o Pats Stonefly nymph, black/olive legs – size 8-4 o Green Machine, olive or PT (pheasant tail) – size 18-16 o RS2, olive or grey – size 18-16 o Lightning Bug, purple – size 18-16 o PT (pheasant tail) Beadhead Soft Hackle – size 14-12 o San Juan Worms, red & orange – size 6-2 o Egg patterns – orange – size 18-14

• Dries o Adams & Parachute Adams – size 18-14 o BWO CDC Thorax Dun, olive – size 18-14 o Sparkle Dun, olive – size 18-14

• Streamers o JJ Special – size 4 o BH (bead head) Wooly Bugger, black – size 8-4 o Morrish Sculpin, light & dark olive – size 8-4

Jefferson River

Our favorite time to fish the Jefferson is in the spring before runoff starts. That window of opportunity has faded in the rearview mirror unless we receive multiple days of colder weather to slow the snowmelt, and based on the ten-day forecast, that is highly unlikely.

The Jefferson will start to see runoff conditions earlier than the Madison, Gallatin, or Yellowstone Rivers.

The ideal time is late-March through mid-April. Once the river starts dropping and we see 6”-8“ water clarity, then we are ready to get back on this river; this will occur around mid-June.

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Yellowstone National Park

Always opens to fishing on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Opening day is May 23rd this year. Yellowstone Park is closed to all visitors, and we have no new information on if or when they will reopen. Hopefully, by May 23rd. We will keep you posted once we receive some information on this. Cross our fingers.

Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news! Stay safe and always enjoy the time you have with family!