Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Prime Fall Fishing

After a pleasant but unusually summerlike September, fall weather has arrived. 75 degrees yesterday up on the Missouri, 38 degrees and snowing today on the Yellowstone. Fishing has been good and will likely get great as the cooler, overcast days settle in. Baetis and midges are prolific on the Yellowstone right now - today the baetis emerged right at 2pm and gave us some good dry fly fishing for the remainder of the afternoon. Prior to that, Black zebra midges, soft hackle PTs, lightning bugs and shop vacs were all good fished just 3 feet under an indicator. The lower Madison is low right now but fishing has been good - small flies and light leaders have been the ticket. Should be some good baetis fishing out there with the overcast skies. Have spent a lot of time on the Missouri lately - though the floating weeds have been a nuisance, the action has been good - though surface activity has been spotty. Crayfish patterns, black zebra midges, flashback hare's ears and the purple lightning bug all seemed to do the trick. Might try throwing some streamers in the weeks ahead as well - it's getting to be that time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 18, 2009

Cool weather and somewhat consistent rainfall have created some of the most ideal river conditions we've seen in recent history. As a result, we're often finding ourselves in places we typically avoid during the month of August. Ther lower Madison, the Jefferson, the Boulder are are still fishing well and as long as the weather pattern remains the same they'll likely stay that way right into September. The hopper fishing on the Yellowstone has been second to none - though better on the warmer days, we've had many ramp to ramp outings using just a single fly on 3X. Color choice seems to be the challenge of the day - pink, purple, red, yellow and good old tan have all done the trick. The Chaos hopper from Blue Ribbon Flies has been my top bug though the Chubby Chernobyl and the Chernobyl Hopper have certainly earned their keep. Have also heard good reports from the Upper Madison, Gallatin, Big Hole and Stillwater - the only problem right now is deciding where to go!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday July 29

Just 68 degrees today - hard to beleive this is July after the hot summers we experienced a few years back. Needless to say, cool weather and excellent river flows have created ideal fishing conditions. With weather changing from day to day, we've been all over the map with techinques. Yesterday was hoppers for nice rainbows on the Madison, today was buggers and some big browns on the Yellowstone. Prior to cooler weather and rain, the hopper/attractor fishing was starting to pick up on the Yellowstone and as soon as it dries out and heats back up I suspect it will be back - August is going to be an excellent month. Caddis and a variety of mayflies have also created some surface activity. Best bugs have been the Chubby Chernobyl, PMX, Goddard Caddis, PMD Para Wulff, Improved Rubberlegs, Soft Hackle Hare's Ear and a variety of Epeorus emergers. Have also heard some good dry fly reports from the Lower Madison. Chased the carp last week and found them hungry - best fly was the little known skunk bugger - a new invention that met the approval of a few 10 pounders .

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's shaping up to be another great summer on the river. As we speak, just about everything is getting into prime condition and fishing has been excellent virtually everywhere. The Yellowstone has been fishable for several days and while the clarity is off, fishing has been good throughout Paradise Valley. Salmonflies are present on the stretches above Emigrant and a variety of other stoneflies, caddis and mayflies have been hatching in big numbers as well. Yesterday was a classic post runoff day on the Yellowstone - Black Crystal Buggers were the ticket in the morning while Chubby Chernobyls and the good old PMX were the hot ticket in the afternoon. As the river drops, conditions around Livingston and downstream will get much better. The upper Madison has continued to produce great attractor dry/dropper fishing. Stimulators, PMXs, Trudes and the Chubby Chernobyl have all been good - best droppers have been soft hackle Copper Johns and large soft hackle Hare's Ears. The Lower Madison is also in good shape and as of the last week or so, the larger browns have gone on the feed. McCunes Sculpin and Clouser Crayfish trailed by lightning bugs and small soft hackles have been the ticket. Just today, we fished Burns Lake north of Big Timber - the afternoon produced some terrific hopper fishing - let's hope that's a sign of things to come througohut the rest of the summer. If the hopper fishing doesn't come to fruition, we'll always have the carp - we hit the Missouri earlier in the week for the first time and while the water was high the carp we're still there and hadn't lost their appetite - the Bow River Bugger was the bug of choice.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Though river conditions have been back and forth over the past few weeks, it seems as if everything is starting to settle down and come in to prime shape. Fished the Upper Madison today - though wind hampered our efforts one fish did fall victim to an adult salmonfly.. the rest were caught on caddis pupa and a #6 Mega Prince. The salmonflies are just getting started and should be in full swing in the next few days. The Lower Madison has also been good with crayfish, caddis and PMDs being the main attractions... those looking for dry fly fishing might consider the Lower in the last few hours of the day as the caddis have been thick.
The Missouri continues to be red hot - this spring was one of the best I've seen up there in some time which could be the result of the big flush the river received last year.
The Yellowstone is currently flowing around 13000 cfs ...once it gets to 12,000 we should be in good shape to hit some of the floats in the Paradise Valley. Hope to be back on there by July 4.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Back in town after a week on the Missouri below the Holter Dam. Fishing has been nothing short of spectacular up there and througout the week flows dropped substantially - the river is pristine condition and pressure was light. Though most of our success came from nymphing with a variety of caddis pupa imitations such as the Iris Caddis, Soft Hackle Hare's Ear and Tan Sparkle Emerger, we did find occasional fish feeding on the surface. One of the highlights of the trip was a 24" brown caught on a #18 caddis pupa on 5X. Seems like there are probably a bunch of those fish in that river though that's the biggest one I've managed to run across yet.

Flows have dropped on the rivers around Bozeman as well - the Madison is looking good and one has to wonder how long it will be before we're back on the Yellowstone and Gallatin. Another great option is Depuy's Spring Creek - spent a day out there last week and experienced solid numbers of fish and a steady PMD hatch which proved to be an excellent combination.

Though we were expecting a runoff like that of '08 it appears as if things are going to clear up a bit faster this year - we'll just have to wait and see in the weeks ahead.

Just this morning my 2.5 year old son Jack caught 3 suckers in a local pond - nightcrawlers were the hot ticket.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Though runoff is now in full swing, we're still managing to find enough fishable water to keep us busy. Flows on the lower Madison have been up and down but as of Sunday, they have remained stable and the river is quite fishable with a manageable flow and good clarity. Though action was spotty today, yesterday went well with Soft Hackle Hare's Ears, SJ Worms and a variety of sculpin and crayfish patterns producing the most consistent results. Spent some time on Nelson's Spring creek a few days back - an midday PMD hatch was the driving force there and in spite of the bright sun, we managed to fool a number of nice fish on PMD Sparkle Duns or a Quigley's Cripple with an RS2 as a dropper. As we speak, the creek is full of fish. Later this week we'll be off the Missouri for a few days - as long as flows remain consistent, fishing should be good.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spring is here

After a long dose of snow, rain and all the lasting effects of winter, spring has finally arrived and with the warm weather of the past few days the rivers are on the rise. The Yellowstone is now officially blown out and will likely stay unfishable until early to mid July. As we speak, the Madison is still in good shape and fishing well though that may be short lived unless cooler weather arrives to slow the snow melt. If in fact the Madison turns muddy as well, we'll be looking to spring creeks, the Missouri and some lakes and ponds in the weeks ahead - all great options in theiur own right.
The Mother's Day caddis hatch was phenomenal this year providing some of the best surface activity I've found with the hatch in the past few seasons. Fished a local but private spring creek today that feeds the East Gallatin. Wondering if some fish had moved into the creek to escape the runoff conditions in the larger river, we figured a black bugger thrown right into the confluence of the two might be a good idea. A few minutes later, 25.5" brown lay in the bottom of the net - the biggest I've managed to find in Montana thus far. Now we're looking for the 26 incher!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


As of this past weekend, the caddis have started on the Yellowstone - it's no longer a rumor. And while weather conditions continue to be spotty, the benefit of the cooler weather has been a fishable river. Conditions are optimal right now and the typical day has been nymphing in the mornings with Girdle Bugs and Sparkle Pupa and dry fly fishing in the afternoons with March Browns and/or caddis. Without any question, the #14 Royal Trude has been our best bet with a CDC Caddis Emerger or Iris Caddis in tow. As of now, it seems that most caddis activity is occuring below and around Livingston. Reports have been good from the Madison and we should see some caddis over there soon as well.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's been a classic spring thus far....snow and wind one minute, vibrant sunshine the next. Took off the river on Weds and the truck thermometer read 77 degrees - the same ramp on the Madison just 24 hours later and the thermometer read 27. The fishing in the past few days has mirrored these rapidly changing conditions. Slow mornings have been followed by amazing afternoons and vice versa. As the Yellowstone blew out in the last warm spell, we have been fishing the Madison above Ennis and generally speaking the fishing has been terrific. Though scattered baetis are around, the best fishing has been with nymphs such as the Olive/Brown McKee's Rubberlegs #8, Sawyer PT #18, SJ Worm #12 and Black Zebra Midge #18. Without question, overcast skies have been the ticket. With the Yellowstone dropping and clearing fast, we're hoping to get back on it tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

After a brief dose of runoff, the Yellowstone was again fishable today - just a week ago it was dumping snow, today temps neared 70 by the end of the day. Still good baetis and midge activity and I did see a few caddis in the air. Though I can't hazard a guess of when the caddis will really start it's good to see a few around - a sure sign of spring. If the river holds out, we'll try it again tomorrow, if not, we'll simply head to the Madison... which isn't a bad alternative.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Though the weather continues to go back and forth in true spring fashion, fishing has been good. As luck would have it, the nastier days have been the best with snow, drizzle and overcast skies producing good afternoon baetis hatches and the start of some good dry fly fishing. The perfect, comfortable bluebird days, though extremely pleasant, have been the toughest. My thoughts on this are simply that with prolific midge and baetis hatches on the overcast days which are more common at this time of year, the fish are well fed and have little reason to feed in the absence of hatch - often the case under clear skies. Who knows for sure - endless speculation with this sport. Needless to say, the blue winged olives are now underway - a sure sign that spring is here.

Just read in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that there are plans to remove the Ninth Street Bridge on the Yellowstone that was damaged in last year's runoff. They hope to do so before this year's snowmelt takes the structure down on it's own. Selfishly, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that we'll still be able to use this access point this season.
Grab your fingerless gloves, hat, raincoat and Parachute Adams - now is the time for some of the best fishing of the year.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Well, it was a snow packed week here in Bozeman yet in spite of the weather we did manage to get out on the water 5 days. Fished the Lower Madison 2 days, the Upper Madison, Yellowstone and Depuys Spring Creek. Though fishing was good each day, the fish seemed to prefer the overcast conditions when midge hatches were strongest. Have not seen any blue winged olives yet though I suspect that the next warm spell, predicted for this coming week, should get some hatch activity started. Even in the absence of baetis we have experienced some great dry fly fishing, particularly on the Yellowstone - a #16 H&L Variant seemed to do the trick. Otherwise, nymphing with worms, shrimp cocktails, zebra midges and the Micro Madison Midge from Blue Ribbon Flies produced excellent results.

Interestingly enough, I have not seen much spawning activity from the rainbows yet regardless of location. There are some fish on redds at Depuys but not nearly as many as in years past. It seems that everyting is running just a bit late this year. In your travels, if you see fish on redds let them be - though I'm not aware of any scientific proof that catching fish will harm anything, common sense leads me to believe that it's just not a good idea.

Recent storms have put snowpack levels at or above 100% throughout our region - this bodes well for summer river levels and the fishing season that lies ahead.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fishing Report March 24, 2009

After experiencing relatively dry conditions in January and February, we have experienced widespread snowfall throughout the month of March. And while this has made fishing conditions unpredictable, the recent addition to the mountain snowpack bodes well for this upcoming season. The last reports I read for the Yellowstone region had snowpack levels hovering right around 100% and it appears as if the mountains surrounding the Madison, Gallatin and most of other major rivers are showing similar numbers.
Despite the snow, fishing conditions have been good lately and for those willing to brave a bit of wind and cool temperatures the results have been well worth it. Though we have experienced some action in the mornings, it seems the fish have been turning around noon when water temperatures begin to heat up and midges start to get active.
The Lower Madison has been excellent with best results coming on San Juan Worms, Shrimp Cocktails, Red Brassies, Egg Patterns and small Clouser Crayfish. On calm, overcast afternoons there has been some good dry fly action - midge patterns such as the Grifftih's Gnat, Micro Wulff Cripple and H&L Variant #20 have been good choices.
The Yellowstone provided some clients and I with an exceptional day last Friday. Once again, it was an afternoon thing but when it got going, fish responded well to Red Soft hackle Copper Johns, Soft HAckle Pheasant Tails and the McKee's Rubberlegs stonefly pattern. Surface activity was limited which we credited to the bright sunshine. As soon as it warms up again I would expect to start seeing some baetis.
The spring creeks in Livingston (Depuy's, Armstrong's and Nelson's) have also been getting good as rainbows move in from the Yellowstone to get ready for spawning. Though I don't condone fishing to spawning fish and working the redds, I do enjoy fishing to the numberous fish that have shown up in other areas of the creek. Midges, eggs, scuds are consistent bets and when it comes to the dry flies, a variety of midge and baetis patterns will do the trick.
Have also heard some excellent reports from the Gallatin as well - Golden Stones and Prince nymphs have been the ticket in the canyon.
With the boat freshly painted, a winter's worth of flies tied and a touch of spring fever, I'm ready to to get back on the water on a more consistent basis. Tthings have been good but they're only going to get better in the coming weeks.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Is Winter Back

Though there are many benefits to a good Montana summer such as smoke, extreme heat and fishing restrictions on local waters, I always look forward to winter. At least I used to. For years, after the long days of summer and a busy hunting season come fall, it seemed that winter was a time to slow things down, to hibernate and fill the crock pot with something right. Indeed, winter was a time of bitter cold and flying snow which, when coupled with short days and long nights meant time well spent by the fire with more than enough time for a book or few flies at the vise. It was the "off season". But then it dried up. Suddenly, and I can’t quite remember the year, it seemed that weather patterns changed. It wasn’t the way it used to be anymore. According the Weather Channel, to science and the Farmer’s Almanac there was always some good reason - El Nino, El Nina or global warming to name a few. Either way, it stopped snowing, and even raining much for that matter, creating the infamous drought that we’ve all grown familiar with. To put it mildly, the Bozeman winters have been terrible in recent years. Seems it’s been warmer than average most of the time, colder than average some of the time and rarely if ever did it snow in between. As a result, our winter based culture has found it self in a state of limbo doing it’s best to make the most of the conditions at hand. Frustration and ultimately a downright pessimistic view of our moisture levels and the future of life on the planet grew infectious amongst even the most open minded of sorts. And rightly so. Much of the health of our region relies on a solid mountain snowpack. Not only will such winter moisture provide the winter conditions we desire but come spring, when it melts, it feeds the rivers and reservoirs, seeps into the soil and is soaked up by the trees. When this is the case the result is simple - better conditions for the fish, more water to irrigate, fewer forest fires and higher spirits. Though the weather of the past month may serve as no indication of things to come, it’s been refreshing to get a least of glimpse of what winter can be. I’ve had to shovel far more often than in recent years and have consequently eaten more sausage and eggs because that’s what you do after a good shovel. I’ve kept a pot of coffee going during all waking hours and have spent at least a few minutes scratching my chin while looking at the wood pile and wondering if I have enough. It’s felt good to be outside, to see the snow fly and watch the wind blow snow instead of dust. To ski on fresh powder or crank on the auger. And it’s felt good to be inside. It seems right to be inside when winter is winter. Tying flies makes sense under such conditions as does watching a game or simply sitting by the fire looking at last year’s summer photos. And how nice is it to call the snow phone at Bridger, not to see if they got snow overnight, but simply to find out how much. In the unusual weather of the past few years, I’ve felt almost guilty practicing stereotypical winter rituals and consequently have found myself in an odd state of equilibrium. It just hasn’t felt right to sit around the house and make corn chowder, but caught between conditions that weren’t quite winter and not yet spring, I’m not sure what else I might do. Thirty-five degrees with tons of wind and no snow leaves one stranded once hunting season is done. Usually, I just made the soup anyway since I have a good recipe. I’m more relaxed now than I was just a year ago. Not because I feel that our moisture issues have been solved or that the drought is over but more simply because it feels, as it hasn’t for quite some time, like it’s really winter again. Even walking around town, it seems that the energy has changed as people walk bundled up and the light blinks atop the Baxter. Unlike other areas of the country where a hearty winter’s blast brings discomfort and panic, we thrive upon such conditions here in Bozeman. Aside from the obvious benefits of decent winter snow, it’s a big part of our identity as well and it’s good to have it back.