Three weeks into October and rapidly approaching the season’s end, we’re enjoying the slow and steady seasonal transition. The weather has been amazing this fall with moderate temps and very little precipitation. We’re hopeful that trend takes a turn very soon as we are in desperate need of water for next season, but for now we’ll continue to enjoy these classic fall days. The leaves remain on many of the trees with plenty of color providing an extended autumn backdrop to some great days on the water.

Most years we’ll have seen enough cold temps and wind by this point in October to strip the trees bare so we’re really enjoying the extended show.

Fishing has been good enough most days though I dare not oversell it as you’ll always have some days that are going to be a struggle for some. Overall though, the action has been consistently good and most are reporting good days nymphing and throwing streamers.

Dry fly fishing has had its moments with verified reports of actual BWO’s on several occasions but as is always the case with fall dry fly fishing on the Missouri, those days you would call epic are generally very few and far between. There will be bugs here and there, and fish rising here and there on a daily basis but this is not what you’ve heard about when people refer to epic fall dry fly fishing on the Missouri. It’s a whole different level of emergence and feeding activity, the likes of which the average novice angler if they’re lucky, may only experience a handful of times in a lifetime of fishing. Believe me, if you happen to hit it right and you are on the water for one of these days there will be no mistaking it. If you have to ask then it was likely not an epic dry fly day by Missouri River standards.

All that being said, approach every day with the hope that it might happen but with the realistic expectation that you will likely see a few bugs and a few heads and you may get a shot or two at a feeding trout…make it count!

My go-to BWO setup is a #18 Brook’s Sprout Baetis paired with a #18 Film Critic. Other good options include Olive Haze, Olive Parachute Adams, Parachute BWO, BWO Hackle Stacker, BWO Flash Cripple, Last Chance Cripple, Nyman’s BWO DOA , BWO CDC wing emerger, Wilcox’s BWO Micromay. All these and many more available at WCA.

Nymphing has been status quo with Zebra Midges, Tailwater Sows, Tungsten Tailwater Sows, Soft Hackle Sows, Scuds, Green Machines, Psycho Mays, Rainbow Czechs, Bubble Yums, Pill Poppers, Olive Lightning Bugs, Olive 2 Bits, BWO Magic Fly, Split Case BWO, Peep Show and various PT variations all proving to be effective offerings. Best setup has been short (3ish’ to first bug, no weight). I like to lead with a tungsten bead bug though I wouldn’t say that has been critical. Target the shallow fast water and leave the 5X at home. Your best bet is a 7.5’ 3X leader to 4X tippet. These fall fish are hot.

Streamer fishing is still my go to and will be from here on out. The word on the street is buggers and we’ve been selling plenty of them but don’t let anyone tell you that you have to go small. Buggers are fine and catch plenty of fish but there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be throwing heavy lines and big bugs. Big lines and big bugs require a fair amount of work but often that work results in big payoffs.

Yes, working a heavy line in shallow water situations requires effort but in my opinion it’s better to utilize the option that can work in all situations. An intermediate line works great in the shallows and doesn’t require any extra effort but you’re not going to dredge the depths of those drop offs with an intermediate line. A 240 or 280 grain Streamer Max short can be stripped rapidly through the shallows and will also give you the option of getting that big bug down in the depths where big fish often lurk. So sure, you can rig up a couple of rods, one with an intermediate and one with a heavy sink but why would you? Often you’re working across the shallow flat and down into the depths of the drop off or bucket. You can work the shallows and the mid water column effectively with your intermediate line or you can give yourself the option of dredging the depths if you aren’t finding them in the mid water columns.

It’s all personal preference. Many “traditionalists” will fish the same floating line they’re using for nymphing or dry fly fishing. They’ll tie on a bugger and add a split shot and call it good and they’ll likely catch plenty of fish, especially letting that bugger swing in the tailouts. It’s an effective way to fish and it’s what used to be considered “streamer fishing”.

Not anymore. There’s a world of specialty lines designed for any and all situations and there are all sorts of bugs we call streamers ranging in size and weight and design. Some are designed to push water, some are designed to swim, and some are designed to dive to the depths and can be fished either by stripping or jigging. It’s a world of fly fishing unto its self. Some Love it. Some hate it. Few are indifferent. It’s a passion of ours and it’s one we’re more than happy to share with anyone who asks.

It’s all right here, right now. Dry Fly Fishing, Bobber Fishing, Streamer Fishing, Swinging….Fall is FLY FISHING on the MO and beyond.

The shop is open daily at 7 AM with lodging and guides available most days. Traffic has slowed for the most part though it still seems to come in waves. The nice weather will continue to generate some activity though many have shifted their focus to hunting so crowds won’t be an issue until spring.

Get out and enjoy this awesome autumn on the Missouri.

Livingston Area Fishing Report by Fly Fish Montana (October 21, 2021)

This Montana fishing report is valid from October 21 through the close of the Yellowstone Park season at sunset on November 7.

The brown trout are now spawning in earnest on all rivers and streams that hold them, while many waters are now too low and cold to fish well. These two extremes put a bit of a constriction on the fishing for the next few weeks (which gets worse the colder it gets). That said, in between the two extremes fishing can be very good.

On waters holding brown trout, avoid areas of ankle to thigh-deep gravel and small cobble with consistent walking-speed current. These are spawning areas and it is unethical to target fish in these areas. In addition, walking through them can kill hundreds or thousands of eggs. “Catch and release” doesn’t do much good when you destroy the next generation. If you don’t know how to avoid redds (spawning nests), you should clink the link you just read past, courtesy Gink and Gasoline. There are still plenty of pre-spawn browns in areas of deep, slow water as well as faster boulder-bottomed water, and that says nothing about the resident trout and even run-up rainbows that follow the browns to eat their eggs. On Wednesday last week, Walter caught seventy trout in four hours of fishing, and only eight of them were run-up browns, none from spawning areas.

In general, fishing will be better in the afternoon and evening than first thing in the morning, unless you’re throwing streamers on sunny days for those pre-spawn browns. Hatches will concentrate on calm and especially calm and cloudy days provided it isn’t too cold. Except maybe in the Firehole River, dry fly fishing is starting to get very shaky as water temps drop. We’re basically fishing subsurface now, and unless you see risers we suggest you do, too.

Overall, fishing quality is at a 0-9 out of 10, with quality depending on being on the right water when the weather is both tolerable and not too bright. The following are top fisheries right now. Use the reports menu to visit specific reports pages. All reports were updated on October 9. The Yellowstone River and YNP reports were updated today and are the most important fisheries.

  • The Yellowstone River is primarily a streamer, stonefly nymph, BWO nymph, and egg game now unless you see rising trout. Any hatches will be BWO and midges. It’s a good idea now to dead-drift a small streamer under an indicator with a BWO nymph dropper until you see hatches, or float a 5-mile section and get out to wade-fish good runs by swinging streamers. Mornings will be slow for numbers but may produce large fish. Afternoons will give the best shot at numbers.
  • Private Lakes are in some cases closed as their owners prepare for elk hunting, but those that are open will produce lots of big fish on nymphs and streamers.
  • Geothermal Rivers in YNP may produce BWO hatches. Of these, the Firehole is the best choice if you’re looking for surface activity. Crowds should be falling off as more and more people either leave town or fixate entirely on brown trout. There may also be hatches on the Gardner, Gibbon, or Madison, though these will be less consistent.
  • The Madison, Lower Gibbon, Lower Firehole, Lewis, and Gardner Rivers all host brown trout spawning runs. Of these the Lewis River Channel between Lewis & Shoshone Lakes and the Madison are the most consistent but also the most crowded. The Lower Firehole and Gardner will be less crowded but usually not un-crowded. The Gibbon falls somewhere in the middle. Nymphs of various sizes work well on all these waters (smallest on the shallow, clear Lewis). On the Madison, streamers and large soft hackles can also work.
  • Further afield, the lower Gallatin, lower Madison, Jefferson, and Missouri between Toston Dam and Canyon Ferry Reservoir can also produce browns now, but they hold many fewer (but in some cases bigger) fish.