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 Post subject: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: March 22nd, 2018, 10:07 am 
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Joined: May 16th, 2013, 10:33 am
Posts: 116
Location: Norridgewock Maine
I have some friends ( jealous here) that are spending 10 days traveling from Glacier to yellowstone in the western half of Montana in the end of May. They are just DIYing it and hoping to see some great country. I told them I would put some feelers out there for some spots to fish that time of year that are in that area. ( North of yellowstone/ Missoula fromm what I can gather) . I told them I would tie up some flies that they might need. Is there any rivers in that part of the state that they should either stay away from or focus their attention on at this time of year?? Any help would be great !!!!.

Thank you.


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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: March 22nd, 2018, 10:36 am 
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Joined: December 2nd, 2001, 1:00 am
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Location: Ellsworth
kennebecster wrote:
I have some friends ( jealous here) that are spending 10 days traveling from Glacier to yellowstone in the western half of Montana in the end of May. ?? Any help would be great !!!!.

Thank you.


Hmmmnnnnn........I’m going to diligently try to not put a wet sock n this, but........

In most of Montana the end of May is runoff season. A lot of the rivers might be blown out and cafe au lait colored with snow melt. The Rockies as a entity are low on snow this year, but that particular area is right now over 150% in snow totals.......so runoff is going to be a major concern.

I’m sure Montana Man can give you an on the scene update on this, but from what I’ve seen of the snowfall map there might not be much fishable for streams/rivers at that time period. Lakes, maybe?

Dave M

PS. It’s quite a jolt for us easterners to realize that almos all of our snow is gone by mid-April ( or thereabouts), while the mountains of the West still have plenty of snow when we fly over them coming into Bozeman even in August.

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"Fish the West every year. Life is short; and you'll be dead a long time." Chris Hutchins--2009


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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: March 22nd, 2018, 10:59 am 
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Joined: December 2nd, 2001, 1:00 am
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Location: T3R11
Yup, Dave's right, it's runoff time and the amount of runoff is as difficult to predict as the weather. I'm checking my inventory of rivers looking for those with effective dam control. It's possible the Madison below Hebgen and Quake might be fishable, I'd check with places like Blue Ribbon Flies and Kelly Galloup at his fly shop on the possible late May conditions. The Henry's Fork is also dam controlled and should be fishable, check with Mike Lawson's shop in Last Chance. And inside the Park the Firehole opens the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. It's possible it would be fishing well when it first opens.

Best advice is your friends get familiar with the rivers they will be close to. Call fly shops and discuss the timing situation. It wouldn't be 100% but it will be better than just winging it.

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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: March 22nd, 2018, 12:10 pm 
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Joined: December 4th, 2001, 1:00 am
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Location: Near the tying bench
While working in Steamboat a few years back- there was a bimodal runoff. The valley melted out first around mid-April. The peaks then melted later, resulting in about a week to 2 week lull in flows. But by May- the mountain rivers were mostly in full runoff conditions. Best bet for non-chocolate rivers will be to concentrate on lake outlets/below dams. I wouldn't attempt wading unfamiliar water during May.

What about the spring creeks? They might be an option.

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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: March 22nd, 2018, 6:03 pm 
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Joined: May 16th, 2013, 10:33 am
Posts: 116
Location: Norridgewock Maine
thanks for the responses. I figured it would be runoff season at that point. I will direct them to the fly shops in the area that you mentioned and dam controlled flows.


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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: March 22nd, 2018, 6:05 pm 
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Joined: May 14th, 2008, 6:49 am
Posts: 88
Location: Winthrop
Go to the Rock Creek Mercantile web site.
They have a fishing conditions archives, look up may conditions.
There are also links to several fly shops in the Missoula area.
What everyone else said is correct about runoff but the local shops will be able to tell you the conditions as you drive into the area.
If it were me I'd have a plan to fish tail waters but call local shops the day before I was moving to a new area. Cold nights will slow the melt in some watersheds like Rock creek and make nymph fishing possible.
Dry flies are another deal altogether. Blue ribbon has a Mayfly tour about that time and should have good information on conditions. They have always been good about information with us.


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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: March 22nd, 2018, 10:30 pm 
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Joined: January 24th, 2002, 1:00 am
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Location: Lyons, CO
The longer I've been out west, the more I've come to realize that there are still some pretty solid fishing opportunities during runoff. Every time the temperature drops from day before, the rivers get a touch clearer. And what Hunter says is right, except I'd expand and call it multi-modal, with timing all depending on the elevation and quantity of snow in a particular watershed. People love spring fishing on the Ark in Colorado because there's almost no snow in the middle-elevations -- it's valley floor and 14ers, without much water in between. If you can see your feet standing in water a foot deep, you can catch fish.

I don't know Montana fishing really at all, but I've had friends do the Smith trip repeatedly (I've been invited and declined at least once) in late May and they've sometimes hit it just right and more frequently hit it just wrong. I think Montana is far enough north that they are more likely to catch a late season snow storm that shuts down runoff. If they want to fish, they should hope for crummy weather. Any time you get a hard freeze on the snowpack (which I'd define as low temp in the 20s and not getting out of the 30s for 36 hours), you'll catch a window of clear water. Higher in the drainage also offers better chances at high clear water.

Is it a complete crapshoot? Yup. Should they bring rods anyway? Yup.


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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: March 23rd, 2018, 1:07 am 
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Location: Manchester, ME
I have no experience whatsoever with spring fishing out there, but late May could give them a shot at the stonefly hatch on the Henry's Fork. Here's a report from a fly shop there last year on May 26: https://www.henrysforkanglers.com/fishing-info/fishing-reports/fishing-report93

The lower Henry’s Fork has come alive with Salmonflies. It’s always exciting to see these big prehistoric insects! It’s also amazing to see large trout throw caution to the wind as they crash the surface and inhale them. As most of you know the river becomes a mad house with anglers from all corners of the country it’s important to be courteous and remember proper fly fishing etiquette.


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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: March 23rd, 2018, 8:15 am 
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Joined: October 15th, 2003, 12:00 am
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Location: Bangor
Nearer to Bozeman the Beaverhead should be clean, Madison between the lakes should be OK, except if Cabin Creek is pumping mud. Below Ennis should also be OK. Of course, the Missouri will be fine.

I fished there from May 15-May 23 in 2015 and had no issues with runoff on the Madison, Beaverhead or Missouri- We floated the lower Madison ( also good wade fishing between Bozeman & Norris) and Missouri, wade fished the upper between the lakes and Raynolds, floated the upper from Windy Point ( aptly named) and waded the Beaverhead.


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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: March 23rd, 2018, 5:30 pm 
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Joined: May 14th, 2008, 6:49 am
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Location: Winthrop
Places I have wanted to try but the water is too low or warm when I'm usually there
The Ruby river - dam controlled.
Poindexter Slough
Madison river in the Bear trap canyon below Innis lake.
In the Missoula area
The Blackfoot
The little Blackfoot
The Clearwater

May might be a good time to try them.
The park opens to fishing on the Saturday of memorial weekend if your friends are in west Yellowstone the fire hole will be fishing with dry flies. Fish won't be huge but it is a great place to fish.


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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: March 27th, 2018, 12:33 pm 
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Joined: December 15th, 2001, 1:00 am
Posts: 223
Location: Twin Bridges, Mt.
Many good ideas listed here. Here's my opinion, if you're on foot you'll have to fish a pond or small lake, a semi-clear stream or river or a dam controlled river.

Ponds/Lakes - most of the higher mountain lakes will still be frozen up in May. One good option is a small lake on the Blackfeet Indian Res that can be fished by foot. I'll steer you towards it if interested. The setting is awesome. It is a bit hard to find but I can help you get there if serious. You do need a reservation fishing license to fish there.

Semi-clear streams/rivers. Two I can think of pretty quickly that are in the approximate drive you'll be making are the N. Fork of the Blackfoot and the Big Hole. Both will likely be high but fishable. As has been noted, Montana runoff is going to be solid this year. If it warms up early, both of these rivers could be blown out too. One river to keep in mind is the Upper Madison in Montana. Though it will likely be off color it fishes surprisingly well along the edges during early runoff. I've had some real nice days catching spring fish on nymphs within 6-8 feet of the bank. There are places/trails to access (3 dollar bridge & Raynalds) that give up nice fish using a girdle bug with an 18 BH flashback pheasant tail dropped off of it.

Tail waters - Ruby, Madison and the Missouri are all in between Yellowstone & Glacier and are options for the foot fisherman when the rest of the rivers are blown out and muddy. The Ruby is one of the few drainages that is not too thick with snowpack, meaning it might be in good shape at the time you're travelling.

Check with me as you get closer to your trip. The Blackfeet lake has cruising cutts and rainbows that are looking to false spawn and one guy can sit up on a hill and spot fish while the other guy casts to them. Leeches, hares ears and princes are the best bet though it's been a decade or so since I fished the lake.


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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: April 3rd, 2018, 9:01 am 
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Joined: October 16th, 2006, 12:00 am
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No clue about Montana, but...
Having fished later runoff in CO, if the water has a even a foot or so of clarity you can catch fish. Maybe not the way you want...you might find yourself bass-jigging large weighted streamers like SD or similar, literally right against the edge of the banks, but the reward might be the biggest brown trout you could imagine. Think like a fish...where would you hide to get out of the raging flow and forage for food? Cut banks, boulders, edges of grass beds. But then the kicker is getting a hooked fish to your net! big fish + heavy flows = broken gear and broken hearts. Have a plan for fighting a fish BEFORE you cast :wink:
Air Temps are so important...and timing. You might think morning is best because it was cold at night and the snowmelt slowed down. Which is true. However the snowmelt from the previous afternoon is now entirely in the flow...
Mid-day will actually bring about the lowest and clearest condition, but only relative to the overall picture. You'll have two or three hours of mid-day prime...until that days' melt starts to bring the levels back up and clarity down.
This is all mid-June CO experience though. I would guess that May probably is the worst month to fish the Rockies.
PS...what MM said about girdle bug. I had tremendous heavy water success with it's nearly twin-sibling, Pat's Rubberlegs. Dynamite performance.

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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: April 7th, 2018, 8:59 am 
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Joined: April 17th, 2016, 2:18 pm
Posts: 73
Location: Bath, ME
I lived in the Rockies for many years...I never took fishing time off because of runoff I think you may well be in runoff during that time. Its not an ideal time but if you want to sample the rivers, have good fishing and not worry about too many anglers go for it!....you are going to fish within 3 feet of the bank the whole time...if you want to wade or expect to wade don't. This time of year put more big fish in the net for me than any others... If you don't want to deal with runoff fish in April or wait until after July 4 to be safe.


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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: April 7th, 2018, 9:00 am 
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Joined: April 17th, 2016, 2:18 pm
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Location: Bath, ME
FWIW I am going to be in Yellowstone/Ennis July 11-21...planning around runoff but even the 11th could catch the tail end of it but it will be good regardless.


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 Post subject: Re: Montana question(s)
PostPosted: April 9th, 2018, 10:38 am 
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Location: Bangor
I am planning to go to Bozeman mid July. I talked to my son last night and the opinion around the shop is that runoff on the Yellowstone could eat up all of July. It's still snowing there, a lot...


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