Spring Runoff- where to go?

Now that the muddy season is here and Spring runoff is underway, many anglers will hang up the fly rod and proceed with other springtime activities.  Amongst the favorites here in southwest Montana are: hiking, biking, rafting/kayaking, and relaxing at one of your favorite watering holes.  While any and all of these fine sports may deserve attention, there is no need to give up fishing entirely.  Many of the rivers in our region are "freestones".  In other words they are rivers void of any dams or reservoirs.

Spring Hatches

For many of us the month of March marks the beginning of an emergence from the cold, dark days of winter.  Here in Montana there is little exception to that.  In March, Montanans will gain almost 2 hours of daylight.  In other words, the days will be close to 2 hours longer at the end of the month, than at the beginning. Most of us will notice this seasonal change, as will the trout and the insects they consume.

River Cleanup

Trash collected from the Lower Madison river.

Winter is an excellent time of year to participate in river cleanup. Vegetation in the water and foliage on the banks are at a minimum, making wrappers, cans, bottles, etc. easier to spot and dislodge. With increased recreation on waterways across the country, it seems inevitable that more garbage will accompany this increased usage.  I honestly beleive that those of us who spend time enjoying the outdoors appreciate its value far too much to litter.

Winter Angling-Places to go

As the winter months are upon us in Southwest Montana, it's easy to think great trout fishing will have to wait until spring.  But even here in the Northern Rockies, we have ample winter angling opportunities.  Some local rivers that offer consistent, winter action include; The Lower Madison River, The Gallatin River and The Madison between Quake and Hebgen lakes.  In addition, a number of fine spring-fed creeks in our area provide solid off-season action.  Depuy's Spring Creek and Armstrong's Spring Creek are two that quickly come to mind.

Golden Trout

It's not often that I find myself fishing on a day off in July.  Sadly, the peak season leaves me with just enough time off to get an oil change, a nap, and some laundry done.  For many years I have wanted to catch a Golden Trout.  This season I promised myself that I would spend a free day pursuing this gorgeous fish.  

The Purple Drift

The Purple Drift 2015.  A nice Brown Trout caught in the name of pancreatic cancer awareness.

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of guiding for a great cause.  My friend and colleague, Collin Brown did a fine job of creating and organizing a group float to benefit pancreatic cancer research and awareness.  The day was also to honor Collin's father-in-law Jan Rivenbark, who was taken by this horrible disease in 2011.  The event was named "The Purple Drift" and was held on the Yellowstone River near Livingston, Montana.  Purple is the color for Pancreatic Cancer awareness.  Having lost my own father to this disease in 2003, I was eager to take part.

Gallatin Meadows

Gallatin River near Big Sky, Montana.


A day spent fishing the upper Gallatin river on foot is spectacular way to spend a day.  This day was no exception.  We found great fishing, unsurpassed views, and a little break from the summer heat.  We strolled through the meadows upstream of Big Sky, throwing dry-dropper rigs.  The trout seemed most willing when the occasional cloud passed by.  We fished tricos for a bit in the morning, by mid afternoon we had switched to a size 12 stimulator with a bead head sparkle pupae behind it.  

Recent Cooldown

July has been unusual.  Much cooler temperatures than usual, and consistent rain showers have been welcomed.  Things were starting to warm up, but this has helped to bring local rivers to a much happier place.  The Yellowstone River has done well for me in July.  Rainstorms have meant occasional mudplugs in the system, but leaning on experience I have been able to find good water.  We found some great fishing and some really nice fish.  Here's Max with gorgeous Brown trout Taken earlier in the month, on a streamer.


There is still a small window of opportunity to get in on some of the giant stonefly action.  If you havn't gotten out to witness this mayhem yourself, then now is the time!  The Yellowstone, Madison and Gallatin rivers are all seeing solid hatches with the water as clear as one can imagine this time of year.  All this is making for some great fishing with large dry flies and rubberleg droppers.  An obvious choice is the chubby chernobyl #8-#12.  Try not only the one with the golden belly, but also the peach and flesh tones.  Girdle bug and Girdle bugger have been my dropper of choice.

A Handful

Jefferson river brown trout near Bozeman, Montana.

Another fine brown trout.  We were pretty excited when Molly hooked into this one.  It jumped, ran and tried to shake loose, but Molly was able to subdue this beauty to the net for release.

Texas in Montana

Well, my good friend Kelly booked me for a day of fishing on the Lower Madison last week.  Her friend Margaret was in town from west Texas and Kelly wanted to show her a fine outdoor experience.  Kelly has fly fished some and Margaret had cast a fly rod once, but both are fast learners and were eager to try.  We spent the day enjoying a mix of showers and sunshine with steady fishing throughout.  Margaret had beginners luck on her side this day as she was able to land and release this 21" wild brown trout.  Great job out there ladies!