Welcome to high summer. The fourth of July is behind us, the forecast is calling for hot, dry weather and the rivers are starting to drop and run clear. Now is the time to be fishing Montana!
The Yellowstone River is clearing up, but still has some color. It’s below 8,500 cfs as of this morning at the gauge here in Livingston and has 6-8” of visibility. If you drive through town early in the morning you’ll see lots of boats headed out..
Quick side note on that - if you do decide to float the Yellowstone River while it’s still at these higher flows be EXTREMELY CAREFUL. This much water can get dangerous fast, especially in low side hard boats. There are many new obstructions, channel changes,, and obstacles in the river that might be entirely invisible in the dirty water. Pay attention, and be safe.
With the river still pretty off color, you won’t find much for dry fly action. That part of the summer on the Yellowstone is on the horizon, but it will be a hot minute still. With the conditions being what they are, a fishable salmonfly hatch isn’t really in the cards this year but we should see some golden stones and then nocturnals later in the month. Expect lots of caddis, yellow sallies, and terrestrials this summer as well!
Right now it’s a streamer or nymph game. The streamer strippers out there are getting into a few fish on the cloudy days, but a more effective tactic is floating one under an indicator with a dropper behind it. Not only does this present a large, tasty morsel to the fish but often they’ll be drawn in by the streamer only to see and eat the dropper. Don’t be afraid of weight in this heavier water.
As the Yellowstone River continues to drop and clear, it’s about to get really good.
Both the Upper and Lower Madison have been fishing very well over the past week. If you’re after salmonflies, the hatch is starting to peter out but you can still find a few up high on the Upper. This weekend there were still a lot around Lyon’s Bridge and they’ll just keep moving up.
If you want to fish dry flies right now, head for the Madison. Caddis, yellow sallies, PMDs, PEDs, a few drakes, golden stones, salmonflies… It’s chow time up there. Expect to see other anglers, especially on weekends. Fishing early and late will help with crowds. Dead drifted streamers with a flashy dropper (see above) have been producing as well.
The Lower Madison is still fishing well with dry fly patterns - caddis are hatching, as are some scattered mayflies here and there. Ants and other terrestrials are on the menu as well. Crawfish patterns are always a great bet this time of year. Fish are chasing streamers on cloudy days. If you’re after rising fish, consider a walk up Bear Trap Canyon away from crowds. The tube hatch starts around noon from Warm Springs to Blacks Ford, be aware of that.
We’re reaching that time of year when almost everything in the state is fishing well. The Boulder, Missouri, Gallatin and Stillwater are all good options if you want to try something else. Look for caddis, some stoneflies, and generic attractor dries. Terrestrials such as ants and beetles are a summer staple, but it’s still early for hoppers.
This is the time of year to explore! Go fish somewhere you haven’t been. Take that drive up in the mountains. Get the map out and do some looking. Montana is a big state, go find your secret spot.
One often overlooked aspect of summer (at least from a fishing perspective) is the high country. After a snowy spring and a cool and wet early summer the mountains are melting out nicely. There are countless lakes and miles upon miles of streams, most of them home to hungry trout willing to eagerly take a dry fly. The fish aren’t as big and you have to put the work in but the high country is an enticing option this time of year.
Like we’ve been saying, this summer is shaping up nicely. There is still lots of water and it’s nice and cold. Fishing is about to get Really good.
The shop is fully stocked with everything you need to explore Montana, whether you are fishing or not! Flies, rods, reels, waders, technical fishing gear, as well as hiking, camping, backpacking, biking and much more is all here. We’ve even got some prime dates available for guided trips! Call the shop at 406.222.1673 with questions or to book.