This article was written, by Eric Adams and edited by Blake Maxwell, for The Bozeman Magie Dec 23, 2010 | Vol: 1 and can be viewed in it’s entirety here.
Montana presents a number of great locations to test your adventurous spirit and bask in the warmth of knowledge. Many of Montana’s Rivers are open to fishing year round, but make sure to check the official State of Montana Fishing Regulations as some streams and major rivers have seasonal closures.
Remember a trout’s metabolism in near-freezing water doesn’t allow for aggressive feeding. So the initial step is finding the most obvious places where a trout can feed, but not have to exert unneeded energy. These areas tend to be the opposite of a trout’s typical summer habitat. Look for warmer water temperatures or slower moving water. Finding a location combining these characteristics will stack the odds in your favor.
Southwest Montana boasts some of the richest spring-fed trout streams in the world. These springs flow directly out of the ground and typically maintain a water temperature of about 52 degrees, often a full 18 degrees warmer than non-spring fed rivers. While most of these creeks are located on private land, the landowners of Armstrong’s, DePuy’s and Nelson’s spring creeks do offer access for a small wintertime fee.
For larger waterways in our backyard around Bozeman/Livingston, the mighty Yellowstone River and the Madison River have numerous warm springs that flow into the main channels. Concentrate your fishing on these junctions and be patient. Look for small surface disturbances that might reveal a subtle rise to a dry or the tip of a nymphing fish’s tail. One good location is on the Yellowstone River near Corwin Springs where warmer springs seep into the main river. Another hotspot on the Upper Madison River, the stretch from Quake Lake to Lyon’s Bridge can produce large browns and rainbows on the right day (see trip photo 3, below). Again be sure to check the regulations, as this area is only open from the third Saturday in May until the end of February.
Along with the numerous spring creeks and freestone rivers, tailwaters such as those on the Bighorn, Missouri (below Holter Dam) and the Beaverhead (below Pipe Organ Bridge) offer many miles of good wintertime water. Many of the larger tailwaters, like Missouri, provides, have long sections of slower water. Concentrate on the slowest water you can find and be patient. One particular location on Missouri is just up from the Craig Bridge on river left. It has some ideal slow water, and it’s only a few hundred yards from Joe’s Bar in case a little liquid back-up is in order.
The best advice we have is this: next time you’re looking to satisfy that wintertime fishing itch, get out there. Be adventurous and fish wisely. Go explore. What else are you going to do on a beautiful winter day, sit inside and tie flies? Well, sometimes we do that too.
If you missed Part I of our Montana Fly Fishing in Winter article check it out.
Or you can view the article in its entirety at The Bozeman Magpie.