Yellowstone River Fishing Report – 04/11/12

Yellowstone River Fishing Report - 04-11-12

Spring fly fishing in Montana doesn’t get much better than this on the Yellowstone River.  Unlike the past several years where Spring has brought us nothing but cold and snow, this season has basically been a fly fishing paradise.  Our weather has been warm and the snow levels are near normal, making for some great early season conditions.  The water levels are about 2,300 cfs and holding steady with good clarity.  A. Hurt is pictured here with a beautiful 24″ Yellowstone River Brown caught on a J.J. Special from this weekend.

Baetis (BWOs) and Midges are prolific on cloudy days and fish are starting to group up in the foam holes and long the rip-rap banks.  The Lower Yellowstone, below Springdale, has seen some early March Browns and as the water temps heat up to the 52-degree mark later this month start looking for the Mother’s Day Caddis to start popping in the late afternoon.  On the Upper Yellowstone above Livingston, we should start seeing the full mix of Baetis, Midges, March Browns and Caddis in the next couple weeks.  Obviously, we’ll keep you posted.

Flies & Fishing Strategies:
Nymphs – Black Copper John’s (14-16), BH Hare’s Ear (12-14), CDC BH Prince (12-16), Partridge & Pheasant Soft Hackle (12-16), Tungsten Zebra Midge (16-18).
Dries – Hi Viz Griffith’s Gnat (16-18), Hi Viz Parachute Baetis (16), March Brown Cripple (12-14), Parachute March Brown (14).
Streamers – J.J. Special, Black/Olive Zonker,  Olive/Black Sex Dungeon, or your favorite darker streamer pattern.

Concentrate on the slower water for both nymphing and streamer fishing.  Several of our dry fly fish have been caught inches from the banks so keep your eyes peeled for slow confident rises which will indicate a larger more confident trout.

The weather forecast for the week looks like overcast and drizzly – perfect for good Baetis weather, so make sure to get out there!

Hatch Update 05/04/11

YVR Boat Caddis 2006-053

Hatch Update 05/04/11

At 3PM today we saw a number of Mother’s Day Caddis on the Yellowstone River just below Carter’s Bridge.  While this looks like the begininning of the hatch it could progress quickly and go from zero to sixty in a hurry.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch it’s one of the great hatches anywhere in the western United States.  These medium sized tannish/olive insects can hatch in such vast numbers that the river appears to have an orangish hugh.  One of our guides several years ago stated that, “if you had snowshoes you could walk across the river.”  Not too far of an exaggeration in our opinion – just look at the mats of adult caddis in the photo to the right.

If you get the opportunity the next few days could be very good fishing.  Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted as we’ll be on the river the next several days.

Montana Fly Fishing Report & Streamer Video

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Our fishing…

The Yellowstone River has been a tricky one to figure out this spring, with cooler than normal temperatures we are still about a week or two behind our normal schedule.  The March Browns and Mother’s Day Caddis hatches are still yet to pop, but this week we’ve seen some good action on streamers as you can see on our latest video.

Our Prediction:

We are still guessing that by this weekend we’ll start seeing some significant hatches of both Caddis and March Browns so if you’re in the area get out there.  The weather looks fairly warm and as soon as those water temperatures hit 52 to 54 degrees it’s going to go off!  We’d also predict that the Yellowstone River won’t blow out until at least early next week, so get some fishing while you can.

The Highlights:

Yellowstone River:
Streamers have been our best ticket in yellow and black fished slow against the banks and in the slower water.  The other good option is a shallow bead rig 2′-4′ below a small indicator in the foam holes with 14-18 Pheasant Tails & Midge pupa.

Spring Creeks (Armstrong, DePuy, Nelson):
Midges and baetis have been very good on the cloudy days especially when the breeze is light.  Take advantage while you can with the early season discounted rates until June 14th.

Madison River:
The Lower Madison River is off color from Ennis Lake and Cherry Creek spilling in off colored water.  There are baetis, midges and caddis are right around the corner.  The trout aren’t consistently keying on the dry flies so it’s a nymphing and stream thing right now.  The streamer fishing, dragging a Bow River Buggers and small baetis nymphs dropped below are the best ticket right now.  Look for the fishing to pick up with the increased hatch activity.  The Upper Madison has been a bit trickier so be warned.

Missouri River:
The Missouri is getting much more consistant with nymphing and occasional dry fly action.  The nymphing from our reports is best with sow bugs and bright flies or baetis and midges.  The streamer fishing is still hit and miss mostly due to the higher flows for this time of the season.

Got any good fishing reports from the area? Then make sure to leave a comment and let us know.


A Montana Angler’s Spring Fling

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This article appeared in The Bozeman Magpie on March 24, 2011.

It’s officially spring here in Montana, which means warm and sunny weather today, whiteout blizzard tomorrow. While anglers are obviously excited about hitting the first good fishing of the season, there’s also a sense of urgency, as the impending seasonal run-off starts on most rivers statewide in mid-May. Few devoted anglers can deny dreaming about an extended road trip with no set destination, just the promise of good fishing ahead. The warming days of spring only seem to agitate these desires. Fortunately in Montana, there’s no need for extended trips, since a wealth of great locations lie within a few hours drive.

Those looking for a little help selecting their destinations should consider the following recommendations before the dirty water hits.

While January and February in Montana can bring some great midge fishing, the nice weather days are too few to consider this timeframe among the best fishing of the season. However, as the days of March slowly warm, the rivers literally spring to life. One of the earliest major hatches is the Skwala in western Montana. These beefy stoneflies are easily imitated with Stimulators, Sofa Pillows, Mystery Meats and the like in sizes 6 to 10. After a long winter of minimal activity, the trout prove eager for such a dining opportunity. This feasting exhibition has anglers rushing to the Bitterroot, Clark Fork and Rock Creek, looking for that first tight line of the season.

This hatch⎯like many stonefly hatches⎯can be spotty, but there is hardly a better way to ring in the fishing season than with the possibility of trout eating large dry flies. Seems both anglers and trout are ready to break free of winters cold embrace with this great fishing opportunity.

April brings consistently warmer days, and the options seem limited only by your gasoline budget or level of angling wanderlust. The tailwaters, spring creeks and freestones throughout the state will start to witness plenty of spring baetis. On the more technical water, these small mayflies, also known as Blue-winged Olive, are best imitated with any number of Rene Harrop CDC flies, and subsurface with brown/olives and pheasant tails in sizes 14-18. On the larger freestone rivers, more traditional flies like Parachute Adams, Wulffs, and bead-headed CDC Pheasant Tails will do the trick.

The more noteworthy rivers at this time include the Missouri River, Armstrong Spring Creek, Bighorn River and the Upper Yellowstone River. As the warmth of April increases, an explosion of insects begins with the fabled Mother’s Day Caddis, March Brown’s and continued baetis. The caddis get all the press, but the baetis and March Brown mayflies occur just before and throughout the Mother’s Day Caddis (shown below), ending only when the rivers finally swell with a full-swing run-off. While anglers still have to deal with the occasional bout of snow or cold weather the trout seem to be happy to cooperate with the smorgasbord of eatables spring brings with her.

Spring run-off sullies rivers throughout the state during May and June, meaning a little concentration should be applied on where to head next. As there are limited options, a good choice is to head back to the Big Hole River where the caddis are often just beginning. This river does experience run-off, but its tannic-looking waters rarely yield to that unfishable muddy color for long. By late May, the caddis are popping, but those looking for truly big fish will be throwing a streamer, particularly in brown/yellow. The J.J. Special is certainly a crowd favorite. If the Big Hole does get dirty for a couple days, another short drive will have you fishing the tailwaters of the Beaverhead or the Missouri.

With so many options and all that wonderful activity, the month of May quickly turns into June. From there, the summer season is just a few short weeks in the offing. Tailwaters throughout the state are starting to fish particularly well, but certainly the Bighorn and the Missouri should be vying for the top of the Montana angler’s list. These two rivers tend to fish exceptionally well with nymphs, including Rainbow Czech Nymphs, Scuds, Lightning Bugs, San Juan Worms, Tung Darts, and a variety of others.

Those anglers who prefer to fish dry flies will have limited opportunities in June, however the Paradise Valley spring creeks of Armstrong, DePuy and Nelsonoffer dry fly fishing that is second to none. The Pale Morning Dun (shown right) is a common summer mayfly that typically appears in mid-June on these particular spring creeks. The Big Hole is another river to keep an eye on as the elusive Salmonfly can make its emergence anytime in June depending on the weather and water conditions, but it usually coincides with the onset of the summer season.

Spring awakens dormant life great and small with the receding snow, while the bounty awaiting trout and anglers alike excites the spirit. The aforementioned are just a few of the highlights for the upcoming spring season. But they do introduce good opportunities for many of you to experience exceptional fishing before the onset of summer. In the pursuit, you’re sure to discover unique wonders of your own. Here’s to the start of a great fishing season!


– Eric Adams