Hell Creek General Recreation Information (January 3, 2024)
With this slow start to the winter, fishing has been good on the Yellowstone. But watch for slush. A safe place to avoid slush is fishing around the various creek confluences on the river. Streamer fishing has been good, nymphing has been consistent, and on the right day fish will rise to dries. For streamers, we’ve been fishing Dragons, Dungeons, Hum Dingers, and Fresh Water Closures. Small sculpin patterns and buggers have also been working on indicator rigs or stripped. With the indicator rigs, trail that sculpin or bugger with your favorite little Baetis Nymph, Zebra Midge, worm, egg, or mop pattern. A larger Hares Ear Nymph has also been getting bit. If you see fish rising they’re most likely rising to midges or psudeos. Griffiths Gnats, small Purple Haze, and Buzzball midges have all been successful when there is fish rising.
Suggested Fly Patterns
Parachute Adams (16-20), Purple Haze (16-18), Griffiths Gnat (16-20), Buzz Ball (16-14)
Woolly Bugger (4-12), Mini Dungeon Black/ Natural/ White (6), Montana Intruder (4), Sparkle Minnow JJ’s, Silver (4-8), Double Gonga Black/Rainbow (4), Sculpzilla Black/ White/ Natural (4-8)
Pat’s Rubber Legs (6-12), Zirdle Bug (6-12), Woolly Bugger Black/ Olive (4-12), Perdigon (14-18), Pheasant Tail (10-18), Jigster Baetis (14-18), Prince Nymph (10-18), BH Hare’s Ear (12-18), Sizzlin’ Hot Spot Squirrel (14-16), Matt’s Shagadelic Mop Tan/ Brown/ Green/ Cheeto (10), Hare’s Ear (14-18), Dirty Bird (12-16)
Been decent fishing on the river here this holiday period.
Water temps are cold. 36F. Water flows are winter-like. Currently 3990cfs. The DNRC claimed a water increase this week, but just like any gov’t driven info piece, the prediction was inaccurate.
#1 Winter Fishing Rule: Fish water that is in no way resembling good water, in the spring, summer, or fall months.
Why? Water temps. Winter water temps are cold. Duh. The metabolism of the trout slows to a crawl. Trout do not waste energy chasing a quickly stripped streamer pattern. Nope. Never.
So, fish the slow water. Meaning really, truly slow. Nymphers find most fish in nearly stopped water. Just barely moving.
Streamer and Trout Spey anglers fish the slow, deep, back end of the run, buckets. And fish them slowly.
Flies? Nymphers like pink flavored sows and scuds. Black Zebra’s, the greatest midge representation, into subsurface form. Split shot? If you like. Or just wait until the flies sink in the deep and slow waters.
Streamer and swinger patterns? Flashy as of late. If flashy does not work, change it. Headhunters has the swing and strip patterns for you, the Mo River Angler. Open daily.
Shuttles too. Your regular Missouri River fly shop closed? No worries, HH is open. Daily.
The coolest, I mean warmest, in fly fishing winter gear is in the shop at HH of Craig. Skwala, Orvis, SIMMS, and more for winter outdoor wear.
16th Annual Poplar River Ice Fishing Contest (February 3, 2024)
Smith Lake- 5-6” of good ice. Lots of small pike, a few nice perch.
Rodgers Lake- 5-6” of good ice. Grayling biting good early morning, try small pink jigs.
Lower Stillwater- 6-8” of good ice. Good perch action 12-16” of water try small smelt for pike.
Little McGregor- 3-5” of ice, lots of small perch, a few trout.
Lake Mary Ronan- Lake has ice but still open water in the middle.
Church Slough- 4” of ice, lots of small perch, a few pike and crappie.
Upper Thompson- 3-5” of ice, some good perch action, a few pike.
Lion Lake- 4” of ice, small perch and a few nice trout.
Flathead Lake- Good numbers of lake trout, try jigging deep 120-150’, near painted rocks.
Koocanusa- Trolling near Rexford, try Dave’s PlugIt plugs, plugs have been great!
- Church Slough – 2″-3″ of ice. Be careful if planning to go out. Reports of a few pike being caught on tip ups.
- Lone Lake – 3″-4″ of ice. Reports indicate catching a few good perch between 7″-10″.
- McWenneger Slough – Ice has capped over, but no reports on thickness yet!
- Smith Lake – 4″-5″ of ice. Lots of pike caught on dead baits. Reports of a few perch showing up as well.
- Rogers Lake – 5″-6″ of ice. The fishing for Cuts has been slow, but lots of Greyling out toward 10′-12′ depth.
- Dog Lake – 5″-6″ of ice. Still good numbers of eater perch and some decent pike being caught.
- Lower Stillwater – 6″ of ice. Steady reports of Perch being caught out by the islands in around 18′-20′ of water.
- Loon Lake (West) – 2″-4″ of ice. There are still some thin spots around springs and out towards the middle! Reports that plenty of small perch and crappie are being caught on small jigging spoons and tungsten jigs down around 20′-25′.
- Upper Thompson – 2″-4″ of ice. Some decent perch being caught. Also hearing good reports of pike on dead baits.
- Lower Thomspon – Mostly capped over, no safe ice yet.
- Middle Thompson – About 3/4 capped over, no safe ice yet.
Petrolia Ice Report via MT Fishing Addicts 2.0 (January 2, 2024)
N.W.: My dad was just there. He said there was 4 inches where he fished, but there’s some open water.
This Kootenai River Montana fishing report is being brought to you by Orvis Endorsed Linehan Outfitting. This report will be updated weekly to provide current conditions, weather, hatches, patterns, and flows to our local waters and across the state.
Flows from Libby Dam: 4000cfs
Water temperature at Libby Dam: 42 degrees
Hatches: midge, baetis
patterns: zebra midge, parachute Adams, parachute pmd, Rosenbauer’s olive rabbit foot emerger, purple haze, purple chubby, red chubby, olive sparkle dun,bh prince, soft SJ worm, bh pheasant tail, bh rubber legged stonefly, big streamers in white, pink and olive, circus peanut, black conehead buggers
It’s not quite spring up here in Kootenai River country but we have good news. Flows from Libby Dam have been reduced and will be stable at 4000cfs through the end of March for now. That means there’s some great early season fishing available right now.
Expect more clammy cloudy weather through the weekend and into next week. March continues to come in like a lion and we’ve yet to see the lamb. Rain and snow mix will dominate forecast. Fortunately daytime temps will ooch into the forties which is at least a small sign of spring around here.
At the moment the river is clear and in good shape. Don’t expect much in the way of dry fly fishing and insect activity until we get some substantially warmer daytime temperatures. The water is still cold but trout will start to feed a bit in the coming weeks.
This is always a good time of year for nymphing. With low flows you don’t need a heavy rig. You just need to get the flies down in softer runs and pools where trout are most likely to be holding this time of year. Don’t spend a ton of time fishing fast riffles.
Streamer fishing is also productive this time of year especially since bigger fish will be hungry after laying low for a couple months during the dead of winter. Keep in mind they will not necessarily want to move too fast or too far to get a meal. Get your streamers down and fish them slowly and erratically. Nothing like a wounded minnow to get a big rainbow interested in at least a sniff.
In Boston Red Sox news, it’s PLAY BALL! After several weeks of a lockout the players union owners have finally come to an agreement. Spring training will start immediately and while opening day was and remains delayed until April 7, the season will still be 162 games. For now the Sox have managed to keep essentially the same playoff roster they had last season. Infielders Dalbec, Arroyo, Bogaerts, and Devers are key players. In the outfield Jackie Bradley Jr. has returned to Boston and Kike Hernandez and Verdugo will anchor the deep green. Ace Chris Sale will hopefully be healthy and other starters from last year will hopefully pick up where they left off in October. Go Sox!!!
Give a call anytime if you need more Kootenai River details or information on any of our hunting or fishing adventures. And please check out our e-commerce site for all Linehan Outfitting branded swag and Orvis gear. https://linehan-outfitting.myshopify.com/
We look forward to hearing from you. 406-295-4872
Fresno and Nelson Fishing Report by Brian Olson (December 28, 2023)
Fresno is 24% full. The pond is ice covered. The bays have about 6” and main lake has up to 4” of ice. Don’t be afraid to place tip ups with salted minnows in a foot of water especially at night. When the water is low bait will move to where it’s too shallow for larger fish to follow, but predators will cruise the shallows looking for prey. I only allow my tip ups to run out about 10’ of line to help eliminate snags. Nelson is 78% full and pond is ice covered. Beware of gas pockets. Good catches of northerns are being taken in 6’ to 12’ of water. Tip ups or spearing are good chooses. Perch are mainly in 20’ or deeper. Walleye are being caught in shallow as well as deep water. Live bait and different jigs are working. Check ice conditions to be safe. Good luck!
Canyon Ferry Ice Report via MT Fishing Addicts 2.0 (January 1, 2024)
T.W.: North end of cf is super open still as well
-No new report-
Happy December everyone. Things have been a bit quiet on the fishing report end for a bit, with a couple good reasons too. First, it’s late fall. We’re in that awkward phase before the really good winter fishing kicks off and after the bulk of the fall hatches have come and gone. Second, things have been BUSY around the shop. We had our annual Backcountry Film Festival (two nights this year!), the change of seasons and remerchandising of the store, and the busy Christmas season is right around the corner. Lots going on as we close out the year!
The fishing of late has been characterized by two main things: it’s slow and it’s windy. Sure, you can still catch fish these days and have some really good days on the water, but you’ve got to work for it these days. Water temps are low, fish are sluggish, and there isn’t a lot hatching at the moment. Focus on the deeper, slower water and bring some weight. Keep adding it until you find fish or the bottom.
The wind has been another key factor for anglers lately. It has been HOWLING. Sure, there are spots you can get out of it but if you aren’t after a couple mind clearing hours of being on the water the gale can make you rethink things. Be aware that you’ll be dealing with it on almost all of our local waters, and pack accordingly.
This past week in the store Rob called this “low commitment season”. Meaning you can go out and hit the water with a low commitment, fish for a few hours or until you get tired of the wind, and come home without a worry in the world. During the summer it’s easy to talk yourself into the need to be out all day, or fish hard the entire time. Not so much this time of year.
As far as reliable fishing goes, our go to options right now would be the spring creeks if you want to stick close to Livingston, the Missouri by Craig if you want to get the boat out, or the walk/wade section on the Upper Madison by Reynold’s Pass. If you can get a break in the wind you should be able to find midges around at all of those places, and likely not a lot of people. The spring creeks are all on their winter rates now, and a nice fire and warm lunch in a hut on Depuy’s is never a bad idea in the winter…
If you do make it out, dress warmly and be careful out there. If you need the right gear to keep you warm, dry and comfortable stop in. We’ll make sure you get what you need. Or break out the vise and start working on the winter’s fly tying. There’s always lots to do!
We know this time of year can be incredibly busy, hectic, and even stressful. If taking a couple hours to stand in a river helps with that, go for it. If you can’t make it out fishing with all the holiday activities and family in town, you’re not missing out on much. The important thing to keep in mind is that this is the slowest period of the literal entire year for fishing – but it will improve before long!
Flow Data: Bighorn River near St. Xaiver, MT
The Bighorn has improved significantly the past week. Nymphing will remain the most effective method to catch fish after the weather improves with caddis pupa, midges, scuds and sowbugs under an indicator. And worms. San Juan worm season is back on the Bighorn. The best nymphs have been Pheasant Tails, Jigged Hares Ears, Pill Poppers, and tungsten bead Tailwater Sowbugs. Not many fish have been spotted rising. If you do find a consistent riser make sure that you make the first cast count. A Peacock Cluster of Griffith’s Gnat or Small Purple Haze will be great options. Streamer fishing can produce good fish but requires covering a lot of water and fishing hard. Sparkle Yummy’s, Black Peanut Envy’s, and Articulated Thin Mints are some of our favorite streamers to fish.
East Fork Reservoir – outside of Lewistown – Ice Report via Montana Fishing Addicts 2.0 (December 30, 2023)
C.G.: 7.5 inches today. 7 of clear and half inch of white.
875 @ Kirby – The Upper Madison has been a wade anglers dream. If weather cooperates (wind mainly), some great dry fly days on midges/BWO’s can be had. Streamer fishing has been productive, especially smaller patterns dead-drifted under a bobber. A bobber rig with a prince/worm trailed by a midge or baetis nymph can save the day too!
– Shop Vac #16
– Mini Boogieman Olive #6
– 20 Incher #10
– TB Bruised Baetis #18
– Hi-Viz Griffith’s Gnat #18
December 27, 2023
Location: Missouri River
Flows: CFS/4160 increasing to 4700 later in the week
Temperature: 35-36 Degrees below Holter Dam
Quite a few anglers have been fishing the past week in our mild temperatures. Most are wading, but a few are still rolling their drift boats. Currently, all the boat landings are snow and ice free.
Dry: A few midges out there. Not much dry fly action to speak of.
Nymph: Running longer leaders with split shot is the winter norm. Sow Bugs are the primary standby imitation throughout the winter months. Some are fishing their sow behind a worm. Others drop a Zebra Midge off their sow bug. Running a double sow bug rig with beaded and non-beaded versions is also popular. If you want to get technical, anglers find success short leashing midges (flies 2-3′ under Palsa Tab indicators) in the slow edges, channels and back waters.
Streamer: Smaller weighted streamers like Flash N’Grabs, Flare-A-Bou, Chicago Overcoat, and the She Demon Bugger will provide action. Cold water slows things down. Whether you choose a floating line or a sink tip, get them deep and move them slowly.
Trout Spey: Prime time for swinging. Buggers like the Thin Mint are always on the menu along with Balanced Leeches in dark colors. The Foxxy Clouser, Flare-A-Bou, Trout Spey Bugger, Trout Spey Intruder, Montana Intruder, Mini Montana Intruder, Bald Eagle, Pocket Rocket and many more will find connections. As fish tank up, Scandi set ups with tung head flies will work for fishing the soft inside zones. Swing Skagit tips for streamers over the buckets, deeper runs and shelves. T-8 tips in 5/5 and 10’ or the OPST tips in the Riffle (S2/3), Run (S4 or S6) and Bucket (S9) Series will cover all bases.
We will have a crew out fishing on January 1st for our annual Slay Day. Check Instagram @flyprojectusa for details and some photos.
Cooney Ice Report via MT Fishing Addicts 2.0 (December 27, 2023)
J.R.: I was there the 19th right in the middle of the warm spell we had. Red lodge creek had 4” in the bay there all the way across. Lots of open water on the main lake from the point on red lodge to the main boat ramp on the north side. But it was capped all the way from the dam to the main boat ramp on the north that day. I checked at the dam an it was 2”. That was the 19th.