Run-off Fishing Report From Montana

In This Newsletter

  • Where to Fish During Run-off
  • Fishing Report
  • Final Snowpack Report

Run-off Season in Montana

As I write this newsletter, it once again is raining here in Bozeman, MT. Lately, cooler air temperatures and more than average precipitation have boosted Montana’s much-needed snowpack and moisture. This has been warmly welcomed by not only our rivers and reservoirs but also ranchers, and forest firefighters, all of whom appreciate the higher-than-average moisture we have received. (And my city water bill too is less, as I need not water my lawn!). We hope this trend continues throughout the summer months.

Our waters are slowly swelling with rain and snow melt, and are becoming off color. This week will bring the run-off into full swing, as the temperatures increase. Don’t let this stop you from getting out to enjoy our waters. Fishable waters during run-off include the Madison River from Earthquake Lake to Palisades FAS (fishing access site), Warmsprings FAS to Blacksford on the lower Madison River, and the Missouri River below Hauser Dam and Holter Dam near Helena and Craig, Montana. Don’t forget about our still waters, such as Hebgen Lake, Holter Lake, Canyon Ferry, and Harrison Lake. Still water fishing is not the most popular option amongst anglers but should not be overlooked during run-off; speaking of which, let’s not forget the waters in Yellowstone National Park. The Firehole, Gallatin, and some other rivers and streams, which we prefer not to mention here or on any social media platform, can fish well too.

Fishing Report

Madison River

Of all the waters that we offer trips on, the Madison River is the most popular, and for good reason. It offers the most diverse, year-round fisheries in Montana. It fishes very well during run-off. The structure in the YNP section is different from the Three Dollar Bridge sections, which in turn is different from the Varney to Ennis Lake sections and the lower Madison from Warmpsrings to the headwaters of the Missouri River near Three Forks, Montana. The Madison is great for beginners, as they will have opportunities to hook fish and learn how to land fish, which is a major part of learning the sport of fly fishing. Regardless of this, the Madison will challenge seasoned anglers. It is great if you like to wade fish, fish from a drift boat, or enjoy a blend of fishing from the boat and getting out to wade too.

In the “Fifty Mile Riffle” sections on the upper Madison, the section from Earthquake Lake to Palisades FAS is currently the best option during run-off. We are still catching fish on the Baetis patterns in the mornings and Caddis in the afternoons. Stone fly patterns are a must in your fly box, as we are only weeks away from the Salmon Fly hatch.

On the Lower Madison River, just 30 minutes from Bozeman, MT, in the section from Warmsprings to Blacksford, the water is warmer than in the upper Madison River, which provides some different hatches, such as Caddis, PMD’s, and a few Yellowsallies.

Madison River float/wade trip Madison River Brown Trout Madison River Montana fly fishing Madison River Wade Trip

Recommended Patterns

  • Nymphs/Emergers
    • Pats Stonefly nymph, black with olive legs – size 8-4
    • Pats Stonefly nymph, olive with brown legs – size 8-4
    • Pats Stonefly nymph, coffee – size 8-4
    • Psycho Prince in green, purple & yellow – size 16-14
    • Morrish Super Pupa, Olive– size 16-14
    • Lightning Bug, purple & pearl– size 14-12
    • Hogans S&M, olive – size 16-14
    • Split Case PMD – size 16-4
    • $3 Dip, brown – size 16-14
    • Silvey’s Diving Caddis, brown/olive – size 16-14
    • Snapping Craw – size 6
    • BH Serindipty, red and olive – size 14-12
    • San Juan Worms, red & orange – size 6-2
  • Dries
    • Adams & Parachute Adams – size 18-14
    • Purple Haze -size 16-14
    • Flushfloater Stone Skwala – size 10
    • American March Brown – size 14
    • Elk Hair Caddis, olive, purple & brown – size 16-14
    • PMD Thorax – size 16-14
  • Streamers
    • Barely Legal, olive/white – size 6
    • Peanut Envy, olive – size 2
    • Delektable Screamer-Double Olive Black  Silver – size 6

Missouri River

Due to much of the Missouri River being a tailwater fishery (dam controlled), this is a great option during run-off. Our jet boat trips below Hauser Dam, and the drift boat section below Holter Dam to the Dearborn FAS is fishing great, and the water will stay clear and fishable during run-off. We are starting to see some of the year’s first PMD (Pale Morning Dun) hatch on the Missouri River. This is our favorite time to be on the Missouri River; let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy fishing to pods of large trout with a dry fly! We are also seeing Caddis on warmer days and a few March Browns and Baetis hanging around on cooler days.

Missouri River Fly Fishing Trip Missouri River Land of Giants jet boat trip Missouri River Rainbow Trout Land of Giants in Montana Fly fishing trip Helena Montana

Recommended Patterns

  • Nymphs/Emergers
    • Soft Hackle Sow Bug, pink and tan – size 16-12
    • Lighting Bug, pink & purple – size 16-14
    • Firebead Ray Charles, grey, pink & tan – size 16-14
    • Pill Popper – size 16-14
    • Perdigon – Purdee John Brown– size 16-14
    • Perdigon – TNT PMD – size 16-14
    • Split Case PMD – size 16-14
    • Weight Fly, purple – size 16-14
    • Silvey’s Diving Caddis, tan/olive – size 16-14
    • TNT PMD // Tungsten Jighead – size 16-14
    • San Juan Worms, red & orange – size 6-2
  • Dries
    • Adams – size 18-16
    • Parachute Adams – size 18-16
    • Purple Haze – size 18-16
    • Elk Hair Caddis, olive, purple & brown – size 16-14
    • Snowshoe Caddis, olive – size 16-14
    • Parachute PMD – size 16-14
    • PMD Thorax – size 16-14
    • Film Critic PMD – size 16-14
  • Streamers
    • Kreelex, gold/silver – size 4
    • BH (bead head) Wooly Bugger, black – size 8-4
    • Sparkle Minnow, olive – size 4
    • Zirdle Bug, olive – size 8 (dead drift as a crawfish pattern)

Hebgen Lake

Fishing is great in Hebgen Lake and a great alternative to some of the muddy rivers during run-off season. Hebgen Lake is filling up from an extremely low year in 2021. We can again launch our boats at the Yellowstone Holiday Marina near the Grayling Arm. Dry flies, streamers, and nymphs are all putting fish in the net. Chironomid fishing has been great, both under a strike indicator and an adult on the surface. Streamer fishing is good, as well. With our jet boats and prop boats, we can easily move around the lake to find feeding fish and calm coves protected from the wind. For those anglers who have fished the fall run on the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park, these are the same fish – rainbows and browns averaging 18”-20” in length.

Hebgen Lake early June
Photo curtesy of Jeff Watt
Hebgen Reservoir Brown Trout
Photo curtesy of Ken Takata

Recommended Patterns

  • Nymphs/Emergers
    • Chironomid Bomber, black/red & black/silver – size 12-14
    • Ice Cream Cone, black or bright red – size 12-14
    • Jumbo JuJu Chironomid, blood, olive, or zebra -size 12-14
  • Dries
    • Midge Cluster, peacock – size 18-16
    • Parachute Adams – size 18-16
    • Hanging Midge, gray – size 18-16
  • Streamers
    • BH (bead head) Wooly Bugger, black or olive – size 8-4
    • Balanced Leach, black, olive, or burnt brown – size 10-6
    • Near Nuff Crayfish, brown or dirty olive – size 8-4

Upper Holter Lake

If the conditions are good (no wind), the fishing on Holter Lake has been great to incredible. Fishing a single Chironomid about 24” under a strike indicator without any weight is the best technique. You will have plenty of opportunities. A balanced leach with a Chironomid dropped off has also been highly effective. Calm, overcast days have been the best. If the wind picks up, we are able to use our jet boats to move up the Missouri River to continue fishing.

Our captains are among the few caped licensed captains to launch our boats with paying guests at the private Gates of the Mountain Marina just 20 minutes north of Helena, Montana.

Holter Lake Rainbow Trout
Photo by guide Matt Hoff

Fly fishing trip Helena Montana
Photo by guide Matt Hoff

Recommended Patterns

  • Nymphs/Emergers
    • Chironomid Bomber, black/red & black/silver – size 12-14
    • Ice Cream Cone, black or bright red – size 12-14
    • Jumbo JuJu Chironomid, blood, olive, or zebra -size 12-14
  • Dries
    • Midge Cluster, peacock – size 18-16
    • Parachute Adams – size 18-16
    • Hanging Midge, gray – size 18-16
  • Streamers
    • BH (bead head) Wooly Bugger, black or olive – size 8-4
    • Balanced Leach, black, olive, or burnt brown – size 10-6

Snowpack

This will be our final snowpack report until November or December of this year. We could not resist showing off our states current levels one last time. This is truly amazing and much needed. Hopefully this great snowpack will fill all of our reservoirs.

Montana snowpack June 2022

 

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Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news!