Trout rivers across Montana are in various stages of rising, peaking and falling as the rush of a healthy snowmelt cascades down out of the high country.
As a result, you’ll find trout fishermen in various stages from true bliss to melancholy as they anxiously wait for high water to pass.
The good news is that salmonflies are in the bushes and fluttering across the waters of western Montana rivers like the Blackfoot and Bitterroot and on Rock Creek. The hopeful news is that they’re due to pop on the Big Hole. The bad news is that the Yellowstone, Gallatin and upper Madison are still blown out with mostly high muddy flows and are basically unfishable and downright dangerous.
Reservoir fishing has been turning on with the warm, more stable weather in the past weeks. Walleyes are biting well on Fort Peck and smallmouth bass are starting a good bite on Bighorn Lake.
Here’s a sampling of the fishing across Montana this week:
Big Hole River: Still waiting for the first reports of salmonflies, but they should be appearing any day (or, they have appeared and the fishermen who found them are keeping it a secret). Check with local shops before you go for the status of the hatch.
Bighorn Lake: Smallmouth bass are starting to bite well on jigs tipped with minnows or leeches. Bass are running up to about four pounds.
Bighorn River: Tis the time to be hitting the tailwaters with so many other rivers running high and muddy. It’s mostly a down-under bite on the Bighorn with San Juan worms, scuds and nymphs your best bet.
Bitterroot River: Salmonflies are out on the West Fork and caddis, PMDs, golden stones and yellow sallies are on the water as well. Flows are still high, but are dropping.
Blackfoot River: Flows have started to drop but there is still plenty of muddy water rolling downriver. Salmonflies are out but the lack of visibility in the water makes fishing the hatch more difficult. With luck, the flows will continue to drop and the river will clear – soon!
Canyon Ferry Reservoir: Rainbows are still being caught while trolling pink Rock n’ Rolls from Hole-in-the-Wall north to Round Top. The rainbows are moving deeper with most action happening 30 to 35 feet deep. Shore fishing with worms or marshmallows is still producing some rainbows on the north end. Walleye fishing is starting to pick up with most of the action around Pond 1. Bottom Bouncers with a crawler seems to be working best. Court Sheriff has been producing some walleye from shore. River flows into the reservoir are still high so boaters should beware of floating debris, especially on the south end of the lake.
Flathead Lake: Like everywhere else, it seems, the normal patterns on the lake are a bit behind schedule. Some good lake trout fishing is to be had right now, but look for the lake whitefish bite to be a week or two later than usual this July.
Fort Peck Reservoir: Lake levels are coming up and predators are following the baitfish into the shallows. All fishing methods are working – jigs and bait, bottom bouncers and spinners and crankbaits. Both walleyes and northern pike are on the edges of the flooded clover.
Hauser Reservoir: Rainbows are being caught in the early morning hours while trolling cowbells around the Black Sandy area. Riverside has been producing a few rainbows from shore while drifting jigs. Walleye fishing is fair in the Causeway around dusk while using bottom bouncers and leeches or perch colored crankbaits.
Holter Reservoir: Rainbow fishing is good in the early morning while trolling cowbells tipped with a crawler. Most rainbow action has been around Split Rock and the Oxbow. Walleye and perch action have started to improve. The best action has been in the evenings with bottom bouncers and leeches or a leech under a slip-bobber in 8 to 10 feet of water.
Madison River: Salmonflies have been spotted in Beartrap Canyon but the hatch has been sporadic. The best fishing is early in the day with big black and brown nymphs. The upper Madison is still high and off color.
Missouri River: Flows are still relatively high but nymphs are producing for fishermen in the reach from Holter Dam downriver. Go deep with them. Still no major hatches to report.
Rock Creek: Flows are dropping and salmonflies are out in full force. Salmonfly dry fly patterns are working well or fish ahead of the hatch and work the shallows with big, dark nymphs. There are good numbers of mayflies and caddisflies out as well.
Tongue River Reservoir: Fishing remains very good for crappies with some smallmouth bass and a few walleyes being caught as well. The best tactic on the crappies is using small jigs with twister tails in various colors. The evening bite is the best.
Yellowstone River: While the upper Yellowstone is blown out and basically unfishable, catfish anglers on the lower rivers are catching some nice ones. Big minnows or shrimp is the best bait fished in slack water areas or current edges.For up-to-date and detailed information on river flows, go to: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/mt/nwis/current?type=flow