(photo courtesy of Montana Grant)
“You should have been here 2 weeks ago!” Despite the colder weather, fishing has been quite good. I have fished several spots and have been having good success.
The West Gallatin River is running clear and cold. When the wind slows and the sun peaks out, the trout are readily taking midges on the surface. Virtually every rising fish will take a well presented fly. I have been using #14-16 Griffiths Gnats with a short dropper. Use a soft hackle or emerger in size #16. Something gray or brown did the trick. Don’t forget to sharpen your hooks. I also had to tippet down to 3-4 lb. test. Tie clean knots and don’t horse the fish.
The Lower Madison River has stayed very consistent. On the top, use small stoneflies and the same midge rigs. Ennis Lake has turned over so nymphing with crawfish, dead drifting buggers has been working well. I used a dark brown conehead Madonna with a lightening bug dropper and had steady luck. When you find one fish, you will find more.
A lot of guys are drifting but I have found better fishing from the bank. Almost no pressure has been on the upstream river on the right side since most guys can’t nymph left handed. Try it and see if you can adjust your casting. It will pay off.
The Upper Madison River is fishing well. I am seeing Baetis and even a few caddis. There is also a nice mix of assorted mayflies and small stones. Fish near the rock walls above the Burnt Tree access. The rocks seem to hold the heat and stimulate bug action. Stalk the fish and walk easy. I am not yet drifting. Instead, slowly work the best water and look for active fish. I am catching fish regularly while covering less water. I am seeing a few rainbow trout redds and some spawning fish. Watch where you step to avoid damage to future fish.
Egg and worm patterns are working well for a nymph choice. Pre-rig your nymphs and roll them up into a tippet bag. This way you can quickly change from a dry fly set-up to a nymph set up with just one knot. I wrap the double fly rigs onto a piece of cardboard that fits into the tippet sack. This is a HUGE timesaver.
The Yellowstone River has been productive and more comfortable to fish. The relatively low water makes for easy wading. On cloudy days, the Baetis are rocking. I fished upstream from Pine Creek and Mallards Rest with awesome results. Again, try and embrace the upstream river right bank. Don’t forget to try olive and black conehead buggers. Strip them as streamers and dead drift them as nymphs. A Copper John or Lightening bug will give you more action.
Don’t forget to sharpen your hooks regularly. This one tip will give you three times the hook ups. Also try to forgo the strike indicators. Instead use your dry fly Aquel floatant to grease the terminal 5 feet of your fly line and upper tippet. This will float well and creates an indicator 5 feet long.
The weather is lousy but is supposed to get better in the next week. Hit the rivers before the snow melt off turns the water cloudy and colder. Despite current weather conditions, fishing is good. If you wait for the “Perfect Conditions”, you will spend more time not fishing. Learn to be adaptive and dress for comfort.
Polaroid glasses are a must for spotting fish, even in the snow. Try the amber colored lenses for better contrast. Remember that any time fishing beats working!