Montana Fishing Summary
If we had to summarize our Montana fishing season for 2013 it would involve descriptors such as; schizophrenic, dichotomous, incredible, frustrating, fantastic, and exceptional. You’ll notice dichotomous might be the best qualifier as one week was nothing but lot’s of big trout and the next was tough fishing and being rewarded with mostly little guys. Regardless it’s fishing – what are you going to do not go?
As fly fishing guides we spend well over 100 days of the season chasing trout so we have the advantage of getting into the rhythm of feeding behavior, weather patterns, and hatches. While this is an advantage overall some days are certainly better than others. It’s easy to feed happy trout, but when the are off the bite it’s hard to force them to eat. Years of experience will separate the truly fishy guides and anglers from every-once-in-a-whiles. Here’s our take from this past Montana fly fishing season…
Montana Fishing – Spring
This is probably the most consistent season year after year and also the most uncrowded and the same held true for this season. While we tout these bonuses every year, anglers rarely take advantage of the Montana fly fishing available in the Spring. See our previous blog post Montana Spring Fling
OK enough of the soap-box.
Spring was typical great fishing when the weather was cooperative, which was pretty steady in terms of the past few years. The occasional northern cold front would make fishing tough, but was quickly followed by gorgeous weather and fishing would return to it’s uncrowded bliss. Eager trout looking to pile on the calories ate March Brown’s, Blue-wing Olives (baetis), midges and Caddis. Highlights definitely included some great days on the Missouri River, Yellowstone River and DePuy Spring Creek.
Montana Fishing – Early Summer
May, June, and early July were exceptionally good this past season. We started up on the Missouri River with low water due to early season run-off so we had warmer than average water temperatures. Not too warm, but warm enough to get those early season hatches of PMD’s (Pale Morning Duns) and Summer Caddis popping. Fishing was plain and simple fantastic during these months. Woulda-coulda-shoulda has been here – amazing.
Armstrong Spring Creek and DePuy Spring Creek had their typically consistent hatches of PMD’s. The bonus there was the exceptional quality, frequency, and longevity of the hatches on DePuy’s. Not to mention the number and size of the trout that steadily rose to our flies day after day.
Even the Yellowstone River was low enough to fish by the 3rd week of June and Salmon Fly fishing was as good as it’s been in recent memory. While we normally don’t condone such a risky timeframe, as the Yellowstone historically doesn’t become fishable until closer to the 4th of July, anglers taking the risk certainly had some amazing fishing for big trout with big dry flies and streamers. See out Big Trout Photo Gallery to see some of the better quality trout caught during this timeframe.
Montana Fishing – Mid/Late Summer
OK here’s where the fishing got totally schizo. Low water in early summer means a high probability of warm water temperatures later in the season. While there were river is Montana that faced fishing closures due to these higher temperatures, such as the Madison, Jefferson, and Bighole, the Yellowstone, Boulder, Stillwater, and others remained within safe water temperatures. While water temperatures where a factor in good one day / bad the next fishing the real issue was the severe weather that repeatedly pounded localized areas of these rivers. The summer of 2013 in Montana experienced a 21% increase in severe weather. It’s typical to get strong thunderstorms, hail, and heavy downpours this time of year, but the frequency was incredible. This affected the fishing due to heavy rains washing mud into the rivers. With lower than average river flows and consistent mud plugs it was hard to find good quality, clear, fishable water.
Nearly every week we had to deal with the running from mud scenario. One of our guides said, “It’s the summer of mud” – He wasn’t wrong.
Which makes it hard for trout and guides alike to get into a rhythm. This scattered pattern of fishing started in late July and lasted until about early September. As mentally tough as this part of the season as we still managed to find quality fishing each and every week. We pulled some amazing tricks out of our back pockets to do that, but let’s all hope that we don’t have to deal with that again for a few years
or ever again.
Montana Fishing – Fall
Our fishing this Fall was pretty good for the most part. The weather was less volatile/cold than normal and made for some great fishing on the Missouri River, Yellowstone River, and the Spring Creeks. While the normal hatches of Blue-wing Olives were less than stellar on the Yellowstone River the other water had good hatches with consistently eager trout. The Yellowstone however, fished quite well with streamers and big fish were a common occurrence. The same low water scenario that added to our late summer fishing boded well for Fall. Lower, cool water allows trout to be active and anglers to be able to reach those bigger trout without going to the extremes of shooting heads, full sinking lines and the like.
It’s pretty hard to summarize a whole season in one sentence, but overall we would say fewer trout to the net, but the quality of trout was higher than average. The great thing about Montana fly fishing is the absolute dizzying array of waters we have to fish. While we prefer certain waters at certain times of the year when they aren’t fishing well we can move to a more productive fishery. We’d also point out that every year is different, just like everyday fishing is different from the last. Even as professional experienced guides we rarely can forecast the quality of fishing – that’s why we hit the water every day to find out.
We’ll look forward to seeing you next season and hopefully you’ll be part of the best of Montana’s fly fishing 2014.