Montana Fishing News

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.

Fishing Report

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.

Missouri River 

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.

Madison River

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.

Gallatin River

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.

Ruby River

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.

Yellowstone National Park

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!