At this time last year my home water – the Gallatin River – had substantial anchor ice, shelf ice, and slush ice throughout its valley reaches. Looking back at my fishing log, the fishing was generally slow, if there was any fishing to be had at all. This year has been a reversal of fortune, in that the river has remained open and fishable nearly all winter long, its banks largely devoid of ice. The unseasonably warm weather has been the bane of hardwater anglers, but has resulted in some very good trout fishing not only on the Gallatin, but on rivers throughout Montana.
My home office is located just a stone’s throw from the lower Gallatin River and lately it has been a rare day when I haven’t managed to get in an hour of fishing during the warmest part of the day, mid-afternoon. Midges are hatching, and on overcast days a few fish can be found rising to them. The nymph fishing has been very productive with the usual winter line-up: stonefly nymphs, midge larva/pupa, worms, sow bugs and eggs.
The trick to good fishing at this time of year is finding the winter holding water, trout are not evenly distributed throughout a river at this time of year. I was reminded of this fact this past weekend while fishing the lower Madison River, where I caught all of my fish from just two holes along a half mile stretch of river. Repeatedly drifting through these holes produced fish after fish, and when the bite slowed, changing flies (particularly the fly size) produced more fish.
As enjoyable as the winter fly fishing has been this year, I think most of us are ready for a solid dose of winter weather to close the season out – quality summer fishing depends upon it. The Gallatin and Madison watersheds are currently sitting at 70% and 74% of average snowpack, respectively. Old Man Winter has some catching up to do.
This report is from Will Jordan, of the Montana Sporting Journal. You can contact Will at 1 800-559-4351 or check out their website at www.montanasportingjournal.com.