In this newsletter:
Fishing Report, Runoff Conditions, Yellowstone National Park Opener!
Happy Memorial Day weekend! We would like to remember all of the service men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our great country. Thank you to all the families who have loved ones that died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
We have been so busy since Easter that the newsletters have taken a back seat to all the wonderful spring fishing to be had. Clients have enjoyed some great trips on the Madison, Missouri, Yellowstone, and Ruby Rivers – walk and wade, jet boat and drift boat trips. The weather has been all over the board with sunny days, wind, rain, snow and colder weather patterns. Despite these conditions, and with the proper gear, we have had no problems finding fish.
The Mighty Mo has fished very well in April and May. Both our jet boat trips in Land Of Giants and our drift boat trips near Craig, MT were very productive and will continue to be productive through runoff. Because a majority of the Missouri River is a tailwater fishery, we don’t have to worry about muddy water from runoff. Below Hauser Dam, where we offer trips on the jet boat, there are no tributaries below the dam that put muddy water into the Missouri River. Below Holter Dam, where we offer trips with the drift boat, there is one major tributary that we watch: the Dearborn River, approximately 13 miles below the dam. The Dearborn River will throw major amounts of muddy water into the Missouri River, making much of the Mo unfishable below the Dearborn. There is plenty of clean fishable water in the drift boat section from Holter Dam to Dearborn ramp during runoff. Nymphing has been ideal in both sections with the occasional head up on Blue Wing Olives. Patterns like Soft Hackle Sow Bugs, Green Machines, Rainbow Warriors, Pink Lightning Bugs, egg patterns, and San Juan Worms. We are only a couple of weeks away from seeing some PMD’s, a favorite time for most anglers on the Missouri, as this is usually a great time to fish the dry flies.
Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS) on the Missouri River is currently at 7500 coming out of Hauser Dam. During late April the flows were almost reaching 12,000 cfs – this is common to purge the reservoirs before runoff in anticipation of runoff filling it up again.
Our busiest river when it comes to guided fishing trips, the Madison River speaks for itself. It always produces fish, diverse structure, amazing scenery and it can accommodate all anglers.
The famed Mothers Day caddis hatch came off on Mothers Day weekend; how appropriate! Leading up to the Mothers Day hatch we did have a few nice days with prolific March Brown hatches where the fish were eating on the surface. During the March Brown hatch, we had Skwala adults out as well. Fishing a Skwala dry with a March Brown dry behind it was deadly! After the few days of nice weather around May 8, 9 & 10 the cold wet weather came back in and has not left Montana. This colder weather has delayed runoff which has been nice keeping most of our waters in play! It looks like the weather is supposed to finally break with some sunny days forecasted for the Tuesday after Memorial Day! For this long weekend, the Madison River will be fishable from Yellowstone National Park to the headwaters of the Missouri River. The warm weather next week will lead to runoff conditions and limit the sections that will fish well. One of the major tributaries to the Madison River is the West Fork of the Madison. The West Fork flows into the Madison about 1 mile upstream of Lyons Bridge on the west side of the river. This will dump muddy water in during runoff leading to poor water clarity. We can still fish this section of river below the West Fork however, you will be confined to fishing the east side and center of the river all the way down to Palisades fishing access site. The muddy water from the West Fork will merge to the east side of the river by the time it reaches the Palisades area, not to mention more tributaries will also contribute to the muddy waters below Palisades such as Indian Creek.
Bugs for the Madison River this weekend include: Pats Stone black with olive legs sizes 2-6, San Juan worms in red or orange, Purple Lightning Bug size 16, Pearl Lighting Bug size 16, Green Machine in PT size 16, Red BH Serendipity, Green Caddis Pupa patterns in size 16, Adams size 16, Parachute Adams size 16, Purple Haze size 16, Peanut Envy in Olive, Kreelex Fly in silver.
CFS on the Madison at the Varney Bridge gauging station is currently at 1900. During the warm spell in mid-May this station almost hit 3500 cfs. If you are planning on floating without a guide make sure you are careful with these flows, especially a short distance downstream of Windy Point fishing access at the Wolf Creek Bridge. High waters make this difficult to impossible to float under – if you’re not sure don’t float in this section! This bridge has already claimed one boat this season.
We have had a couple of trips out wade fishing the Gallatin River this spring with great success. Mostly smaller fish averaging 8-12″ in length. Most of our trips on the Gallatin River are performed from Spanish Creek, downstream past Bozeman, MT to the headwaters of the Missouri River, near Three Forks Montana. We also offer wade trips on the Gallatin River in Yellowstone National Park, which opens on 5/25/19!
The Gallatin River is fishable for now. This will change as the weather becomes warmer next week, at which point we will keep a close eye on the clarity before each trip scheduled for the Gallatin. When the Gallatin is too muddy to fish we always have the Madison River as a backup, as well as the Yellowstone National Park section of the Gallatin. This portion of river is upstream of the Taylors Fork tributary that affects downstream clarity during the runoff.
Bugs you will need if you are hitting the Gallatin River this weekend include: Pats Stone black with olive legs sizes 2-6, San Juan worms in red or orange, Purple Lightning Bug size 16, Pearl Lighting Bug size 16, Green Machine in PT size 16, Green Caddis Pupa patterns in size 16, Adams size 16, Parachute Adams size 16, Purple Haze size 16, Wooly Bugger BH in black size 8-4. Similar flies to the Madison River right now.
CFS on the Gallatin River is currently holding at 1450 at the Gallatin Gateway gauging station. During runoff, the cfs can hit as high as 8,000 depending on snowpack.
The Ruby River near Alder, MT is a fantastic fishery that we truly enjoy fishing in the winter and spring months before runoff and before the crowds arrive for the summer. This fishery is fantastic for a half day of walk and wade fishing. A great option for a full day is to fish the Ruby in the morning and spend the second half of the day on the Madison River near Ennis.
Bugs needed for the Ruby include: San Juan worm in orange and red, Wooly Bugger in black size 4-8, Micro May in olive size 16, Purple Lightning Bug size 16, egg patterns size 16, Bow River Bugger sizes 4-8, Morrish Sculpin in olive, brown or dark olive.
CFS currently on the Ruby below Ruby Reservoir is 360. The ideal flows that allow you to walk around and not trespass are lower than this at 100 cfs or less. However, there is good fishing to be had on the current publically accessible areas of the Ruby River. Remember it is the responsibility of the angler to know private vs public land and where the ordinary high water mark is.
It has been 202 days since the last time we were able to wet a line in Yellowstone National Park (since Sunday, November 4th, 2018 to be exact.) The park always opens on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and you can fish through the first Sunday in November. Remember that Yellowstone Park requires a different fishing license than Montana. These fishing licenses can be purchased at licensing agents in West Yellowstone, MT, Gardiner, MT and a couple of locations in Bozeman. You can also purchase them in the park at ranger stations. You CANNOT purchase online. A few other important reminders when fishing the park: 1. No lead split shot. 2. No felt sole wading boots. 3. Barbless hooks. 4. Legal fishing hours are from sunrise to sunset. For more detailed regulations make sure you get a regulation book when you purchase a fishing license.
If you are fishing in YNP this weekend make sure you are carrying your bear spray and know how to use it!
Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news!
In this newsletter:
Fishing Report, Snowpack, Varney Bridge Update, and the Bears are Waking Up!
Dallas/Plano, Texas Show
Thank you to all that stopped by our booth a few weeks ago at the 3rd annual Fly Fishing & Brew Fest in Plano, Texas! We met some fantastic people and enjoyed all that Texas had to offer – most of all the warm weather!
We are finally seeing some spring-like conditions in southwest Montana; we even had several Sandhill Crane sightings on the Jefferson River on April 3rd – a sure sign of spring! The fishing bug is itching every angler around and we are seeing more than the usual amount of anglers out for this time of year. However, in comparison to the peak tourist season, it is still quiet on our waters.
Madison River – At last, boat access to much of the river is accessible! Boat ramps are open from Lyons Bridge to 8-Mile Ford in the Madison Valley. Ramps are also open on the lower Madison from Warmsprings to Greycliff south. We have had some Skwala action from McAtee Bridge down the river. Pats Stone size 8 in olive will put plenty of fish to the net. Fish this Pats Stone about 4′ under an olive Chubby Chernobyl size 8-10 and you will have a couple eats on the surface if you are persistent! Try these two march brown nymphs- gold bead Poxyback March Brown in a size 14, or the Hunchback March Brown in size 14. Baetis nymphs are fishing equally as good as the March Brown nymphs. Don’t forget to fish the attractor’s patterns with the smaller mayfly nymphs to get the fishes attention- San Juan worm and egg patterns – the fish will eat them too. CFS at Varney Bridge is holding at 1300.
Varney Bridge on the Madison River – The iconic bridge is now closed for removal to make way for a much needed safer bridge. The bridge will be closed through the entire season with a projected reopening at the end of 2019. Varney Bridge was built in 1897, and it has served us well. If you are planning on fishing near or floating past Varney during construction you can text the word VARNEY to 22828 to receive up to date information. You can also call (406)465-3350, or email Brandon@rbci.net for information. The Varney fishing access site above the bridge will stay open during the construction. However, there will be temporary river closures, “potentially 2-6 hours,” when construction activities pose a risk to river users. Boats will be directed through the construction area.
Missouri River – Land Of Giants (L.O.G.) boat ramp at the Gates of the Mountain Marina just opened up (from ice) on 4/5/19 to launch the jet boats! This is the time to be on this section of the Missouri River! These fish have had no pressure since November 2018 and they will be on the feed. Get it while the getting is good! Fished best from now through the end of May. The Mighty Mo in the drift boat section below Holter Dam near Craig, Montana is a sure bet too. Midge patterns, sow bugs, fire bead sow bugs, Baetis nymphs, San Juan worms, and egg patterns will be the flies of choice. For the dry fly angler, have your midge box with you, you will need it. Buzzballs and Midge Clusters in size 18 should get the job done. CFS below Holter Dam is holding around 5600 with water temps from 36-38.
Gallatin River – Walk and wade fishing the Gallatin near Bozeman, Montana has been productive especially if you are willing to walk a short distance from the public access locations (remember to stay within the ordinary highwater mark as not to trespass on private land.) Nymphing has been best with a Rainbow Warrior size 18, Green Machine size 18, $3 dip size 16, red and orange San Juan worms and egg patterns Currently 400 cfs at the Gallatin Gateway gaging station.
Jefferson River – This can be off of most anglers radar, but don’t underestimate this fishery this time of year! A majority of the ramps are clear from Twin Bridges, Montana to Sappington Bridge. Water clarity is currently sitting at 12-16″ and the CFS (cubic feet per second) at Twin Bridges is holding steady at 1500. Skwala nymphs and adults, March Browns, and Baetis are the current bugs of choice on the Jefferson River. Also, fish the San Juan worm in red. For the streamer anglers, a Kreelex silver and gold are best with a medium to slow retrieve. The fish are holding in the inside corners, walking speed, and about 3′-4′ in depth.
Look carefully at the image on the left and you will see two Sandhill Cranes in flight – you know spring has sprung when they arrive! Photo number two – A Kreelex eating brown from the Jefferson River on 4/3/19.
There have been reports of bears being spotted in and outside of Yellowstone National Park. This time of year they are coming out of hibernation and looking to fill those bellies. If you are fishing in areas around YNP make sure to carry your bear spray and know how to use it. Have the bear spray readily available, not stored in your vest or pack. Yellowstone National Park opens to fishing the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. This year that date is May 25th.
This is a spring Grizzly bear that was seen a few years ago dragging a roadkill deer carcass up this scree field like a toy doll to an enjoyable spot with a view to eat it. This was located on the Gallatin River near Specimen Creek in YNP.
Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news!
In this newsletter:
Madison River petition, our final trade show for the season, 2019 fishing license renewal, current snowpack, and what to expect for spring fishing.
Final Stop: Plano, Texas
March, 23 & 24 at the Plano Event Center
- Saturday: 9am-5pm
- Sunday: 9am-5pm
Address:2000 E. Spring Creek Parkway
Plano, TX 75074
Plano Presentation: When & Where to Fish The Madison River
The Madison River
is fish-able year round no matter what the news or social media says about river closures, runoff conditions, and wildfires. Climate change is real and we adapt to these new conditions by changing when and where we fish. Because of river closures and environmental concerns, more and more anglers worry about limitations to their fishing vacation in SW Montana. I want to reassure you and help you make the most of your fishing vacation to the Madison River by letting you know when and where to fish it.
The Madison River
is a very different river from Yellowstone National Park
to the headwaters of the Missouri River
. I think of it as 6 different rivers in one, with three lakes thrown in. I will be discussing the best times to fish each section based on runoff, winter conditions, river closures, some major hatches, and crowds. I will also touch on the types of structure to fish as some anglers struggle to read much of the Madison River. I may mention a section of river that fishes best based on a major hatch, but I will not be going into details of hatches.
Presentation Times & Rooms:
- Saturday, March 23rd – Spring Glade Room from 2-2:50pm
- Sunday, March 24th – Spring Glade Room from 2-2:50pm
Pleasanton, CA Show
We always enjoy a break from our winter to visit sunny and warm Pleasanton, California! The show was a great success over the three days of talking fishing with area anglers. I gave my powerpoint talk each day on When and Where to Fish the Madison River. Friday and Saturday I had almost a full house at my presentations, while Sunday only had a few in attendance. Since I drove from Montana to the show I planned on getting an early start to my drive back home due to a severe winter storm that was forecast to arrive on Sunday. I departed the show immediately after the show ended in hopes of getting over Donner Pass before the storm was to hit. I did make it over the pass with no problems and I am happy that I did as the snow really hit Donner Pass on Sunday. I made the long drive from Winnemucca, Nevada on Monday and arrived home in Butte, MT around 5pm. I was fortunate as the Montana Department of Transportation closed Interstate 15 at Monida Pass (Idaho, Montana border) only hours after I had passed through there. When I arrived in Butte I relieved my wife of her hours of snow blowing. We received at least 18″ of snow and it continued to snow for the next couple of days. I am not sure what the final snow accumulation was but I would have to say around 24″ in a three-day period at our house in Butte, MT.
This past storm has jumped our snowpack up greatly, setting up our waters for a great upcoming season.
2019 Montana Fishing License
It is time to renew your Montana fishing license! Our license period is from March 1st through February 28th annually, unless it’s a leap year then it’s valid through February 29th. The prices have stayed the same for 2019.
On all our trips – We recommend every angler to purchase a Montana fishing license before your arrival. Purchasing your fishing license in advance allows us to get you on the water early if needed; this can make the difference between a great day and a fair day. Here is the link to buy Montana fishing licenses online https://app.mt.gov/als/index/index.html. If you forget to pre-purchase online before your trip, no problem we can wait until a licensing agent opens their doors to sell you one the day of your trip.
Not much to report on the fishing. Since I have been back from The Fly Fishing Show in California the temperatures have been frigid, to say the least. Single digits and teens for daytime highs not including the windchill. Lows as extreme as -25 degrees in Ennis on Sunday, March 3rd.
One of the things I mention in my talk When & Where to Fish the Madison River is where the best fishing or open water is to fish on the Madison River during the winter months. One location that typically is unfishable during winter is around Ennis, MT down to Ennis Lake. This past arctic cold front has “gorged” the Madison River, from Ennis Lake up the river, to almost 8 Mile Ford fishing access site! As you can see by the pictures below the river is completely frozen over, so much so that the some of the river water has diverted itself towards O’Dell’s Spring Creek and that water breached highway 287 outside of Ennis, Montana.
If you are looking for open water to fish in the next few weeks we would recommend fishing near $3 dollar bridge, Raynolds Bridge, between Hebgen Lake and Earthquake Lake, and below Ennis Lake. A majority of the boat ramps in the Madison Valley are buried in snow, so access with a vehicle to launch a boat will be limited until things start warming up. If you do find an open ramp that you can get a boat in, you want to make sure you can access your take-out location first. Don’t forget our tailwaters like the Missouri and Bighorn Rivers. These fisheries are great options this time of year with minimal crowds and there is some fantastic dry fly fishing to be had.
Photo #1 is the Madison River at Ennis, Photo #2 is where the river breached highway 287 near O’Dell Spring Creek, and photo #3 is at Pine Butte near $3 Bridge.
Spring Fishing Forecast
With much of February and early March held under old man winters thumb, we are all anticipating the arrival of spring in Montana. April and May are two fantastic months to visit Montana for fishing. Our fish have had little to no pressure all winter long, they are hungry and our tourist season has not yet begun, thus experiencing fewer crowds! Some of the best hatches of the year can be expected during April and May- Blue Winged Olives (BWO, or Baetis), March Browns, Skwalas and the famous Mothers Day Caddis Hatch. The Mothers Day Caddis Hatch can be difficult to time perfectly as an angler, especially an out of state angler. If you want to fish this prolific hatch we would recommend spending several days out here from April 26th through May 6th and we are sure you will hit it just right. Be willing to fish later in the day as this hatch will really get going once the water temperatures reach that 50-52 degrees, usually around 2pm-ish and will last into the evening. If you’re willing to be on our guides schedule, we enjoy launching midday and fishing into the evening when conditions call for it during this hatch.
We still have openings for the spring months of April and May. Keeping in mind that our fishable river options dwindle in southwest Montana around the second week in May as runoff will begin (on a ten-year average). The Madison and Missouri Rivers will be your best options during the runoff period. On a ten year average, the runoff will peak during the first week in June and a majority of our waters will be in good shape again around mid-June.
Yellowstone National Park will open to fishing on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, which falls on May 25th this year. No Montana or Wyoming state fishing license is required in Yellowstone National Park. A YNP fishing license is required – Anglers 16 years and older can purchase a three-day ($18), seven-day ($25), or season ($40) permit at all ranger stations, visitor centers, and Yellowstone Park general stores. Permits are also available at many businesses in the greater Yellowstone area. Anglers 15 years of age and younger may fish without a license when supervised by an adult or may obtain a free permit signed by a responsible adult to fish without direct adult supervision.
Madison River Petition
Fellow anglers, boaters, and river users, please take the time to read and sign this petition if you do not want to see the Madison River privatized. Take a stand to make sure your public access stays public for everyone and for future generations.
Please click HERE to read and sign.
I had a chance to sit in on one of many of the Madison Negotiated Rulemaking Committee meetings. Open to the public, anyone can sit in quietly and listen to the process on how this 10 person committee, with the help of a mediator, form a management plan that will more than likely be presented to the commissioners again this April. These meetings are followed up by public comment. You can also submit your comments via the FWP website HERE. We encourage you to submit your concerns that the committee members will read and take into consideration. One of the greatest concerns is eliminating the use of boats in the wade only sections from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge, and from Ennis to Ennis Lake. Many of you have fished those areas with me or one of our guides, and understand how important it is to make sure these sections stay open to boat access. Here are the reasons why we feel boats need to be able to access those stretches of water.
- Because the wade only areas are surrounded by private land, you cannot walk to several locations within these areas without trespassing. Thus we use a boat to taxi to and from each fishing hole. If the commissioners close off the wade only sections to boats then they are eliminating public and commercial (guides) access and the public’s and guides clients right to enjoy that part of the river.
- Boats allow us to fish away from the crowded public access points like Raynolds Bride, $3 Bridge and Valley Garden. This decreases the pressure in those areas and spreads the fishing out along these stretches of the river.
- If these wade only sections are closed to boats, this will put more angler pressure in other float sections of the Madison River, like Lyons Bridge to Palisades.
- Without the use of boats, our senior anglers physically cannot wade downriver to get away from the crowds near the public access locations.
- If these sections of the river are closed to boats, the stream access law is violated. This would privatize the world renown Madison River that so many enthusiasts enjoy. And could lead to future privatization throughout our state.
Don’t let one of the best fisheries in the lower 48 become privatized! Please click HERE and sign. And you can also submit your comments via the FWP website HERE.
Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news!
In this newsletter:
Our next trade show, fishing report, common trade show questions from anglers, and current snowpack.
Next stop: Pleasanton, California
February, 22, 23 & 24 at the Alameda County Fairgrounds
- Friday 10am to 6pm
- Saturday: 9am to 5:30pm
- Sunday: 9am-4:30pm
We will be located in booth #E26
Address: 4501 Pleasanton Avenue
Pleasanton, CA, 94566
Atlanta, GA Show
Despite it being the Superbowl weekend in Atlanta, our last stop in Duluth, GA (a suburb 35 minutes north of Atlanta) had good attendance. A good friend and fishing companion Jason, also from Billings, Montana, flew in to help out with the show. Some of you had a chance to talk fishing with Jason, and some even responded to me on how you enjoyed talking fishing with him. Even though he is not a guide, he has extensive knowledge when it comes to fishing Montana waters as he too has grown up fishing a majority of the rivers on which we offer trips. It is always nice to catch up with old friends as I was able to to do with Jason. I also had a chance to catch up with return guests that stopped by our booth. For those of you who attended my talk each day of the show and for all of you that stopped by our booth, thank you!
Upon my return from the last show in Atlanta, I returned to winter in Montana. A cold front of snow and freezing temperatures parked itself in SW Montana from Monday the 4th through Sunday the 10th with highs in the single digits or teens, not to mention the wind chill. None of this was favorable for wetting a line. Finally on Tuesday, February 12th the daytime highs hit the low 30s near Ennis with the nighttime lows in the 20s, more favorable for getting out to fish. I had a chance to get out for a couple hours on Valentine’s Day to enjoy some winter fishing on the upper Clark Fork River near Warm Springs, MT. The fishing was great with no angler pressure. While I anticipated some topwater midge fishing, there were no heads up feeding. The nymphing was fantastic, however, and we also managed to take a couple of nice browns on streamers. Take advantage of the warmest part of the day during the winter months and fish from 10am-2pm. Take your time and observe the water before rushing in as to not spook any feeding fish and messing up a good opportunity to fish a dry fly.
There are several open water fishing options in Montana to consider during the winter months. Here are a few in no particular order.
- Madison River – Below Hebgen Dam, below Earthquake Lake and below Ennis dam are going to be your best bet.
- Ruby River – Below Ruby reservoir near Alder, Montana.
- Missouri River – Below Hauser Dam and below Holter Dam near Craig, MT.
- Area spring creeks – DePuy Spring Creek, Armstrong Spring Creek, or Nelson’s Spring Creek to name a few.
- Bighorn River – near Fort Smith, Montana.
- Upper Clark Fork River – near Warm Springs, Montana.
Common Trade Show Questions
Here are four of the most popular questions we receive and our answers.
- Where is your shop located? This is a popular question and a good one. Not all outfitters in Montana have a brick and mortar storefront, and we are one of those. Fly shops need to move inventory and thus may charge guests for flies and leaders. We have no desire to sell you flies, leaders, tippet, rods or waders. Not having a storefront allows us to include all tackle on our guide trips at no extra charge. We also feel charging extra for flies is a distraction on how you fish; as you start to lose those $3.00 flies two at a time (because most guides run a tandem setup), anglers start to compromise how they fish because they are more concerned about losing another fly (or two flies) when they should be rolling the dice to get that fly closer to the log or branch where the fish is located.
- Where do we stay during our fishing trip? We have several lodging options for anglers including vacation rentals for small or large groups, groups that like to cook their own meals, recommendations for hotels depending on where we are scheduled to fish, inclusive packages, or camping suggestions if traveling with a camper or RV. Guides representing us on the water will pick you up at your lodging location or meet you at a location convenient for you and them. We tailor trips to each angler’s needs based on the anglers’ desires, time of year for the trip, river conditions, and hatches.
- How many guides work for you? TOTF has about 30 guides on our roster. With that said most, if not all, guides in Montana are not employees of outfitters. They are licensed independent contractors that own their own boats, rods, gear and carry their own liability insurance. They are able to work for whomever they accept work from based on their availability. As an outfitter and guide now for the past 20+ years I have great relationships with all the guides I use and know exactly which guide is best for what water- from Yellowstone National Park to the Missouri River near Craig, MT. The guides we have listed on our website are guides we use more often than others and they are okay with us listing them on our site. We have several other I.C. guides that we use often but are not on our site. We have guides that live in Bozeman, Ennis, West Yellowstone, Livingston, Helena, Cascade, Butte, Cameron, and Missoula Montana. As stated above, guides representing us on the water will pick you up at your lodging location or meet you in a convenient location for you and for them.
- How many hours do we fish during a guided day of fishing? Over the past several years of doing trade shows, more and more visitors to our booth who have previously fished in Montana express concerns that when they have paid for a full day trip they end up with only a few hours on the water. Of course it would be disappointing to find out that your day starts at the ramp at 10 am and finishes at 3 pm, with only 5 hours of fishing. I am not sure where this routine started but we are not okay with this kind of treatment. Our full day trips are based on eight hours starting from the time the guide starts setting up your rod and/or the boat. Half day trips are four hours starting from the time the guide starts setting up your rod and/or the boat. If you have requested to be off of the river early we will accommodate.
- How far in advance should I book my trip? We always encourage booking your guided trip a year in advance to make sure you get the best guide, the dates you want, and the lodging you want. It is not out of the question to get a great guide last minute but that is usually because they had a last minute cancellation. For the best experience, we never recommend waiting last minute. For large groups of anglers, we recommend a year in advance too for the same reasons.
Snowpack to Date
Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news!
Next stop: Duluth, GA
February 1 & 2 at the Infinite Energy Center
- Friday 9am to 6pm
- Saturday: 9am to 5:30pm
We will be located in booth # H3
Address: 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth, Georgia 30097
When booking this show we had NO idea that it was the same weekend as Superbowl LIII, in Atlanta! I am not sure there are too many New England Patriots or Las Angeles Rams fans that live in Atlanta anyway. To our advantage, the fishing show is on Friday and Saturday, not Sunday. None the less, the show must go on. We hope to see you at this event this upcoming weekend!
Edison, NJ Show
Our last stop in Edison, NJ was well attended on all three days. My representative and I had no shortage of talking during the show; I wouldn’t have it any other way! Thank you for all who attended my talk each day of the show and for all of you that stopped by our booth. We meet some great people and had the chance to catch up with return guests!
No fishing report. I have been traveling for a month around the east coast attending trade shows. I have almost forgotten what Montana feels like by now. Once I return home after Atlanta I will make sure and get out to wet a line and share with all of you how the Madison River is fishing. Until then we will keep you posted on our snow accumulation in the high country that we so desperately rely on for our fishing season.
Snowpack to Date
Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news!
We had a wonderful two days this past weekend at The Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA. Friday and Saturday we had non stop attendance at our booth, keeping all three of our representatives busy with questions and inquiries about everything fishing in Montana. We received about 8″-10″ of snow on Saturday night that continued into Sunday and, as a result, the show attendance was minimal at best on Sunday. I presented my power point each day on When & Where to Fish the Madison River. Several anglers came to see my talk on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday was a no show at my talk, which was okay, it gave me the opportunity to take in a presentation which is never an option as I am so busy at the booth or giving talks. The presentation I was able to sit in on was by Bob Clouser, a legend in our industry to say the least. You can never stop learning in our sport.
Thank you to all who stopped by our booth; we hope to see you in Montana soon!
Next Stop: Edison, New Jersey
January 25, 26, & 27, 2019.
- Friday – 9 am to 6 pm
- Saturday – 8:30 am to 6 pm
- Sunday – 9 am to 4:30 pm
Location: Booth #336
- The New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center
- 97 Sunfield Avenue, Edison, NJ 08837
- To purchase tickets click HERE
We have had some great responses to our new website and some helpful corrections that needed to be made. In the last newsletter in the section about our new vacation rental, some folks said that the link to The Noble Bison was not sending them to the appropriate location within the site. Hopefully, this is corrected. These are the little things that will be hammered out over the next few weeks as they become apparent.
We hope to see you in New Jersey this upcoming weekend!
We have been anticipating the announcement of two great additions to our program, and here they are!
First – New Website
After almost a year in the making, we have launched our new website! We encourage everyone to take a look and give us any feedback needed to polish the site and make sure all areas are firing on all cylinders! As most of you know the site was dated, to say the least, and needed a major facelift. New items to the site include an online store that you can purchase TOTF apparel and you can even book your trip(s) When booking trips you will be allowed to request your dates and we will have a confirmation for you within 24 hours based on availability. We have several testimonials on our site as well. If you would like to add a testimonial please email our way!
Second – New Vacation Rental
As some of you are aware of, we added a new house to our list of vacation rentals. My wife Jen and I built a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in Ennis, Montana, only three blocks from Main Street in Ennis, and only a 2-minute drive to the Ennis fishing access site on the Madison River! The name we have chosen is The Noble Bison, once you look at the pictures you will understand the inspiration for the name. We are currently booking anglers and would love to have you stay in this well-appointed house during your fishing vacation to Montana. Even though this is available on AirB&B and Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO), we would appreciate you booking directly through us for your stay.
We would like to thank everyone for stopping by our booth this past weekend in Doswell, VA at the 19th Annual Fly Fishing and Wine Festival. Despite mother nature snowing in the area, we had a wonderful time visiting with the anglers and exhibitors that battled the terrible weather to attend. Thank you!
Next Stop: The Fly Fishing Show, in Marlborough, Massachusetts
- The Marlborough Show is this weekend, January 18, 19, & 20th 2019 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center.
- Address: 181 Boston Post Road W
Marlborough, MA 01752
- Time: Friday: 10am – 6pm
Saturday: 9am – 5:30pm
Sunday: 9am – 4:30pm
WE WILL BE LOCATED IN BOOTH H11
We hope to see you in Marlborough this weekend!
Unfortunately, we do not have a current fishing report for you. We have been busy in the office getting ready for trade shows and now we have been on the road for the past week traveling to the shows. We do know that the warm spell last week had anglers getting out to wet a line. Take advantage of those warmer days in the winter months. The best times to fish during our winter season is from 11am to 2pm when the air temperatures are at their peak. This time of year you should be ready with midge patterns both larvae and adults for when you see heads up feeding. If fishing the Madison River we recommend fishing near Raynolds Bridge, between Hebgen & Quake Lake, and below Ennis Lake. These sections historically will be accessible and ice-free. Make sure you have plenty of fuel in your vehicle when venturing outside during the winter months, bring spare clothing, extra food and let family or friends know where you plan to fish. Another important thing to remember if you are fishing between the lakes to be cautious when fishing below the dam – the chutes across the river are steep and loaded with snow, this snow does slide into the river creating a wall of water that can wash you off of your feet if you are on the road side of the river. And if you have crossed the river and are fishing on the chute side, you very well could be buried alive with an avalanche that are unpredictable.
Thank you for your continued support. We look forward to helping you on your Montana fishing vacation.
We want to start off by thanking everyone who fished with us in the 2018 season. Without your support Trout On The Fly and its team would not be where we are at today, so thank you!
We came into 2018 with a fantastic snowpack that would set us up for a fantastic year, and it was fantastic! The snow we received during the winter of 2017-2018 was stacked high and much needed coming off of several seasons with low water levels, high water temperatures, river closures and some fish mortality. 2018 had none of these issues; water was high, cool, and the fish were happy! Once spring and the warm weather arrived, the much needed water started to flow, refilling reservoirs such as Hebgen Lake (on the Madison River) and Holter Lake (on the Missouri River). Our Missouri River jet boat and drift boat trips battled high water all the way into early July. For the nymph and streamer anglers, the fishing during this high water was great. The dry fly game was hit or miss and seemed to be more miss than hit. The Madison River fished very well during run-off in the walk and wade section from Raynolds Bridge to Palisades as the high water pushed the fish into the slower water behind boulders and tight to the banks.The highlight to the 2018 season was our terrestrial fishing, hoppers in particular. I have been guiding the Madison, Yellowstone, Gallatin and Missouri Rivers for over 20 years and this was one of the best hopper fishing seasons I have experienced in my career! Every day our guides and I asked each other “if today is the day they will stop eating the hoppers?” And the answer was NO, they kept on eating the hopper well into September, amazing!One thing we cannot control is the fishing. After coming off of a spectacular hopper season we anticipated a fall run equally as exciting, but such was not the case. Our fall run out of Hebgen Lake, Ennis Lake and Holter Lake were not up to our usual standards. This was the report across the board. Despite this, we still caught quality fish and I would always suggest fall fishing for a shot at a large brown making their way up river.Felt Ban
Yellowstone National Park banned felt sole wading boots as some of you experienced. Here at Trout On The Fly we made a huge investment and purchased numerous pairs of Simms wading boots without felt for our clients use during the 2018 season and for the future.
As some of you may have followed, the Madison River came under scrutiny with the attempt to put a management plan into effect. Thankfully the commissioners unanimously rejected the proposal. FWP has now hand picked a committee to revise the management plan that was shut down. If the new plan gets approved by the commissioners then the Madison River will have a management plan put in place starting in 2020. We will keep you posted on this issue as we receive information.
Just when you thought you were finished hearing about politics I have one more item to recap from 2018- Initiative 186. If passed, this initiative would have not allowed new mining companies to mine in Montana if perpetual water treatment was necessary in their operation. Unfortunately, this initiative did not go through. The fishing community of Montana, Trout Unlimited and many more put a lot of effort into campaigning for YES on I-186. Some of you may have even seen an article in TROUT magazine with Nate Stevane’s view on the initiative. What we learned is that it was a close race and there were an amazing number of people on board to get this passed, a good sign for future initiatives towards protecting our valuable waters.
Looking ahead to 2019, we have two big announcements and will keep you up to date on the upcoming trade shows. Stay tuned!
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Years! We hope to see you in 2019.
The Montana FWP Commission unanimously voted AGAINST the recreation management plan and administrative rules brought in front of them on Thursday April 19th.
We are pleased to hear that this proposal was not passed. However, as we mentioned in our last email, we do believe that a fair and reasonable management plan needs to be put in place during our peak season.
We do not know the next step in the process, but we’re positive another proposal will be drafted and brought forth to the Montana FWP Commissioners.
We will keep you posted as information comes our way.
Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports and news!
After several airlines, hours looking through a vehicle windshield, weeks staying in hotels and AirB&B’s, and eating good food with good company, we have buttoned up the trade shows for 2018. Thanks to all who stopped by our booth at each show, and good seeing several clients/friends while on the road.
Get comfortable and grab a beverage as we have a lot of important information in this newsletter that may affect you and your trip to Montana and Yellowstone National Park.
Signs of springtime are in the Big Sky state!
When I see the arrival of sandhill cranes, this can only mean one thing, springtime! Look closely at the above picture and you will see a sandhill crane in flight. Now is the time to be in Montana. The winter ice build up on rivers has disappeared, and the lakes and reservoirs are either free of ice or soon to be! The time from now until we see the muddy water of the run-off is a fantastic opportunity to fish dry flies on both our freestone and tail-water rivers. As our waters start to warm up, this will trigger insects like Blue Winged Olives, March Browns, Skwallas, and Caddis to emerge. These fish will have had little to no pressure all winter long and they are hungry! We have already had guide trips on the Madison, Gallatin and Missouri Rivers; all are in great shape and fishing well! Read the full fishing report at the end of this newsletter.
FELT SOLE WADER & BOOT BAN IN YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Effective starting this fishing season, which gets underway on Saturday May 26th, 2018 in YNP.
Felt Sole Ban
- Boats will be allowed to enter park waters from 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 26, until 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 4.
- All watercraft are required to have a boat permit and a Yellowstone AIS inspection before launching in the park. Watercraft include, but are not limited to, power boats, sail boats, canoes, kayaks, and angler float tubes. Permits and inspections are available seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at various locations in the park.
- If a boat does not pass the AIS inspection, it will not be allowed to enter park waters.
- Instituting a boating season guarantees the park will have staff to provide timely boat inspections.
Take action. Ensure that you don’t transport AIS to Yellowstone and that your watercraft will be permitted to launch:
- Clean all plants, animals, mud, sand, and other debris from your boat, anchor, boots, and equipment. Use high-pressure, hot (120-140F) water if possible.
- Drain all water from your boat including the motor, bilge, livewell, and other compartments before you arrive. Leave drain plugs out during transport. Do not dump water or organisms from one water body into another.
- Dry all compartments and equipment in the sun for five days.
The Madison River’s Future
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is proposing a recreation management plan and administrative rules for the Madison River. Although we do not agree with everything on the proposal, we do agree that there needs to be some management plan put in place during peak season. Please read for yourself.
FWP PROPOSES MADISON RIVER RECREATION PLAN
F&W COMMISSION TO HEAR INITIAL PROPOSAL AT NEXT MEETING
(BOZEMAN, Mont.)—Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is proposing a recreation management plan and administrative rules for the Madison River. The proposal is set to be presented at the next meeting of the Fish and Wildlife Commission as a first step in addressing increasing concerns about crowding and social conflict on the river.
At its April 19 meeting, the Commission will not be deciding on the proposal, only whether to allow the Department to seek public input on the proposal as a start to the process.
The proposed plan addresses the Madison River in southwest Montana from the outlet of Quake Lake to its confluence with the Jefferson River near Three Forks.
It is intended to improve the recreational experience for all users by reducing crowding and social conflicts. As such, it is strictly a recreation management plan, not a resource management plan.
The proposed plan comes as a response to years of public input in the form of surveys, scoping meetings, and informal comments indicating a decline in the user experience on the Madison. Specifically, users expressed concern about crowding both on the river and at access points, the level of commercial outfitting and the impact of the increasing numbers of visitors to the Madison.
The Department’s data also shows that overall recreational use on the Madison continues to increase with angling pressure increasing approximately 15-percent every two years. With that, reported commercial use is up 72-percent from 2008.
Therefore, the Department began developing a recreation plan and convened a citizen advisory committee in 2012 which included individuals representing fishing outfitters, landowners, anglers and local business owners.
FWP’s proposal combines many of the recommendations made by that Madison River Citizen Advisory Committee and that of FWP staff.
The plan as it’s proposed includes:
- Establishing a cap on the number of commercial outfitters at 2016-2017 levels;
- Restricting commercial use based on the reach of river, and 2016-17 levels of use;
- Designating one reach of the river every day for non-commercial use (the rotating closed sections include reaches from Quake Lake to Greycliff Fishing Access Site);
- Prohibiting any commercial use from Greycliff Fishing Access Site to the to the Jefferson River to preserve the primitive nature of this unique reach;
- Prohibiting the use of any vessel or float tube to gain access for angling in the two walk/wade sections to help eliminate conflicts between boats and wade anglers;
- Prohibiting the use of glass containers on the river.
As with similar plans, the Fish and Wildlife Commission would review the rules governing recreational use on the Madison River every five years.
“The objectives of this plan echo the Department’s Vision for the future in protecting the value of this iconic resource and quality of experience for all,” said Region Three Supervisor Mark Deleray.
Deleray stressed that staff went to great lengths to consider the effect the proposal would have on all the interest groups and wants to hear from them all in the process.
Regional Fisheries Manager Travis Horton said, “In putting this proposal together, we wanted to hear from and incorporate diverse voices of interest and we will continue to do that as proposal moves forward. FWP believes this is a balanced first step to addressing recreational concerns on the Madison.”
Fish and Wildlife Commissioners will listen to a presentation on the proposed plan at their April 19 meeting to determine whether to allow FWP staff to start a public input process.
Where we stand on this proposal
While the majority of these proposals will help with the overcrowding during peak season, I have grave concerns for the points that close off the two walk-and-wade sections of the Madison River. Not only would this increase the volume of anglers and boats in the rest of the river leading to even more overcrowding, but this would also be creating private stretches of river in a state that prides itself and thrives on its public recreational water & land. This only favors land owners along those stretches and will create future problems with trespassing to access these areas without the use of a boat.
The FWP meeting is this Thursday. I will keep you up to date if the proposal passes to the next step of public input.
Yellowstone River by the numbers
Like we promised, here are the data on number of fish per mile post Proliferative Kidney Disease (PKD) in 2016 on the Yellowstone River outside of Yellowstone National Park. These numbers were taken in the Paradise Valley from the Dan Bailey fishing access site to the Loch Leven fishing access site, which is approximately 5 miles in length. This data is from 1981 to 2017 and includes, Rainbows, Browns, Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (YCT) and Mountain Whitefish (MWF). We do have the full report if any of you are interested. The full report includes numbers near Corwin Springs, Springdale Montana, Columbus Montana, and Laurel Montana.
Blue Winged Olives by the handfuls on the Madison River!
The Madison River is fishing very well from the “lower” Madsion, near Bozeman all the way up to the Yellowstone National Park boundary line. Blue Winged Olives (bwo’s) and midges are the game right now if you are looking to fish a dry fly. Nymph fishing has been very productive with black stone fly nymphs, red midge larvaes, san juan worms in a variety of colors and sizes, and bwo nymphs and emergers. The streamer game is low and slow, almost at a dead drift, using olive or tan sculpin patterns.
The Gallatin River near Bozeman has been really nice with little to no angler pressure, however the further south you head towards Big Sky there seems to be more anglers. The water conditions are in fantastic shape; historically these conditions will hold on for a couple more weeks. Midge fishing has been best with black a Palamino Midge, and red midge larvae. Some black girdle bug/stone fly nymphs and red san juans have been working well too. The dry fly bite has been hit or miss depending on the day. Nymphing seems to be the best option to bring fish to the net on the Gallatin.
The Missouri River, in both the drift boat and jet boat sections, is fishing great and will continue to fish well through our runoff months of late May and early June. The water temps are still very cold, reaching highs in the high 30’s to low 40’s, making most of the fishing a midge game. Nymphing with scud patterns in the orange colors and black midge larvae have been best, however we are catching some fish on bwo nymphs so it wont be long before we start seeing blue wings emerging.
Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports and news!
A view from the drift boat as we float through the walk and wade only section of the Madison River.