Happy snow day Livingston! We’re getting the spring reminder that winter hangs on tight around these parts and it’s awesome. We will take every flake of snow and drop of moisture we can get this year. Snowpack figures have bumped up slightly, but they are still well below where we wish they would be. These spring storms are generally the very heavy, wet snow that can make a difference during the summer, so bring it on.
Temps have been pretty chilly this week and we can expect a small slowdown of fishing. Water temps are going to dip and fish activity is going to slow with lows in the single digits for a day or two. That’s alright, it’s going to be a long summer.
The big news of late on our local waters is the appearance of Baetis, or Blue Wing Olive (BWO) mayflies. Like we mentioned last week, these bugs kick start the spring dry fly season and can offer some great dry fly days. They start hatching when water temps hit around 44 degrees, and generally show up around midday. Keep an eye out for these “little sailboats” floating down the river.
While the wind on the Yellowstone River can be quite detrimental to the pursuit of fish on dry flies, look for fish rising in the calmer spots. Try hard enough and you’ll find a place out of the wind. The spring Baetis can be small - think size 18 or 20, with the occasional bug being as big as 16. While a classic Parachute Adams can work fine, a hatch specific pattern is even better. Be sure to bring some BWO nymphs and emergers as well.
A great tactic for spring fishing, especially as hatches become stronger, is to swing soft hackle flies. Soft hackles have that very enviable quality of “bugginess”, the ability to look like a lot of different things. The hackle on them moves in the water, giving them a lifelike appearance even when fished passively such as under an indicator or on the swing. For hatches like the BWO you can get away with a slightly larger soft hackle than the actual bug. Or fish a big one as an attractor up front followed by a smaller, more lifelike pattern.
Our area rivers are all picking up. The Lower Madison, Upper Madison and Gallatin are where most of the anglers we’ve talked to who aren’t fishing the Yellowstone are heading. Look for midges and BWOs, mind the redds, and pack for variable weather. Flows on the Upper Madison remain quite low, and they will be for the remainder of the month.
As we mentioned last week, we are right on the cusp of some of the best fishing of the year. Once this winter storm passes and things warm back up, be ready for it. It’s only going to keep getting better and better!
Thinking of visiting Montana this summer? Book a guided fly fishing trip with us! Our calendar is filling quickly, so don’t delay. Come by the shop for the latest info, the best flies, and any new gear you could possibly need. See you on the river.