When is the best time to fish Montana

When is the Best Time to Fish Montana?

When is the best time to fish Montana? We hear this question from anglers all the time and it's an important inquiry. As Montana fly fishing guides and avid anglers for the past couple decades we thought a little professional insight might be in order for those of your next Montana fly fishing trip.

First we'll discuss what you as an angler should consider prior to traveling to fish in Montana, then we'll provide some of our recommendations based on the season.

  • The first thing to consider is what are your personal fishing priorities? Do you want to target selective trout or just go for some biggies? Are you a dry fly only angler? Maybe you're just looking to have a great day on the river and introduce your newest partner to fly fishing and get them some professional instruction. 
  • Further consideration - what time of year is best for you and your group to travel? Montana like many western states experiences large amounts of spring run-off. This run-off is when mountain snows melt and flood certain rivers making them un-fishable. Fortunately, other rivers or spring creeks fish very well.

Now that you've had time to consider your priorities and travel dates here's our thoughts on when is the best time to fish Montana. We'll also suggest some, but not all, of the best rivers during those times.

When is the Best Time to Fish Montana - by Season

"When is the best time to fish Montana" we respond, "when can you get here". In all seriousness, most anglers can find excellent fishing between late March through October. With nearly 20 years experience we suggest you contact us so we can provide you with the most up to date information, then give you a recommendation based on our conversation. 

Montana has drastic changes in elevation and the weather can be just as dynamic as the geography. We don't recommend planning a fishing specific trip to Montana between mid-November through mid March. While there are good days here and there for the avid angler the weather is far too unpredictable.

  • April through May sees weather warm and often results in excellent hatches with the overcast weather.
  • The most consistent and enjoyable weather occurs from June through mid September and is popular with avid anglers and family trips alike.
  • In October we see winter rearing is chilly head and typically is only suited for hard core anglers in search of fewer, but larger brown trout.

Review the months, see a list of pros/cons and our professional recommendations or contact us for more details...  

March & April
Best RiversWhy it's Good
  • Great hatches, dry flies, streamers & Caddis!
  • Great sight fishing, fewer anglers & Midges
  • Big trout, great nymphing & quality dry fly
May & June
Best RiversWhy it's Good
  • Excellent nymphing, quality dry fly & streamer action
  • Good sight nymphing, some dry. Hatches: midges & PMDs
  • Good nymphing & dry fly. Salmonflies, Golden Stones & caddis
  • Big trout cruising for midges & Callibaetis
July & August
Best RiversWhy it's Good
  • Quality dry fly. Hatches: PMDs, Yellow Sallies, Caddis & Hoppers
  • Quality dry fly on Lamar & Soda Butte. Hatches: Drakes & hoppers
  • Excellent sight fishing. Hatches: PMDs, Sulphurs, & great midges
  • Quality nymphing / possible dry fly. Hatches Caddis, Yellow Sallies, PMDs & Tricos.
September & October
Best RiversWhy it's Good
  • Quality dry fly and streamers. Hatches Drakes and Baetis
  • October sees large trout, some dry flies. Hatches: midges, & Baetis
  • Quality streamers, some dry flies. Hatches: midges, Baetis, & tricos
  • Consistent water temps, streamers & nymphing. Hatches: Baetis & midges
November thru February
Best RiversWhy it's Good
  • It's cold and windy here! Crank out some of your favorites for next year.
  • Test your skills on some Tarpon, Bonefish, Redfish or Permit!
  • On the rare 40 degree day midge fishing can be effective

When is the Best Time to Fish Montana - by Preference

Our more experienced anglers usually have a fishing preference. Whether you are a streamer junkie, dry fly only, technical sight fishing, or a nymph-o-maniac there are opportunities galore. 

Don't be intimidated by all the terms you see bantered about regarding fishing styles. If you haven't had a lot of experience with one of these techniques don't worry. Our guides are excellent instructors and they'll be happy to improve your skill set so that you'll have bigger bag of tricks on your next fishing trip.

One of best things about fishing in Montana is the variety; Spring Creek sight fishing to tough fish one day, and the next you can throw streamers to big Brown trout on the Yellowstone River.

Choose your fishing preference from the list and see the pros/cons and our professional recommendations or contact us for more details...  

The Best Variety
Best LocationWhen & Why
  • Livingston, Montana and surrounding area
  • Hands down our most popular trip is the Montana Sampler. This option gets you on number different rivers from Spring Creeks, to Yellowstone Park to drift boat fishing large rivers such as the Yellowstone and Madison.
Numbers in the Net
Best RiversWhen & Why
  • April, May, June & October the "Mo" has huge numbers of trout/mile
  • April, July/August - when hatches are plentiful and trout are hungry
  • August/September - great hatches for eager Cutthroat trout
Big Trout
Best RiversWhen & Why
  • April & late October pulling streamers for Brown trout
  • Nearly every month except August & early September
  • September/October on the Yellowstone River near the Lake
  • April/May and October on the Lower Madison can produce monsters
  • May, June, July & September - sight fishing to huge crusiers
Dry Fly Only
Best RiversWhen & Why
  • April - Caddis, March Browns & Baetis; August - Hoppers
  • June/July - PMDs & Sulphurs; August - Midge-mania
  • May - Caddis; June - PMDs; October - Baetis
  • August - Hoppers & Drakes; September - Drakes, Baetis
Nymph-o-mania
Best RiversWhen & Why
  • Year round (except August/September) produces the most trout
  • Dredging the Madison is a consistent producer throughout the fishing season
  • Technical sight nymphing is effective April-October on the Creeks
Streamer Junkie
Best RiversWhen & Why
  • Big water produces large trout, especially when pulling streamers. We recommend any of these rivers for streamer junkies especially between April-May and again in late September-October.
Drift Boat / Raft
Best RiversWhen & Why
  • Drift boat April-July & mid September-October
  • Drift boat & rafts April & July - October
  • Drift boats & rafts April - October
  • Rafts only - season varies on flow, typically July
  • Rafts only - season varies on flow, typically July - August
Walk Wade Stalker
Best RiversWhen & Why
  • April - October, excellent sight fishing opportunities abound
  • Late July - October on numerous small streams in the Park
  • April, July-October use drift boat, pull over & wade hot spots
  • There are a few small streams we don't publicize that have good wade opportunities