Cutthroat trout

A fly angler removes a hook from the mouth of a cutthroat trout at Lake at Falls in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

Fall fishing is here.

After a winter that seemed to never end followed by a chilly spring and a quick transition into summer, runoff began. A good dry fly-fishing season followed, and now is the transition to fall patterns as the weather again cools. The next month or so should offer some fantastic fishing opportunities for river and lake anglers. Just remember to bring a coat.

This will be The Gazette’s last fishing report for 2018 as we shift our focus to other outdoor activities. Thanks for reading and we’ll catch you again next spring.

Top picks

Big Hole River — It’s time to get out the largest streamers in your box and chase some big browns.  Look for runs with large riffle water above and this is the kind of water that the browns will stage in. Find the right run and you will find heaven. BWOs are hatching so a size 20-22 CDC, or Extended Body Parachute will do the job. Small and large soft hackles should be in your box, as well. A Red Spot (16) does magic on even the big fall browns. The entire river is fishing well, but if you want to catch grayling and big brook trout travel up by Wise River. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Holter Reservoir — Rainbow fishing is good while trolling cowbells around Cottonwood Creek and from Split Rock to the dam. Rainbows are being caught from shore at Departure Point and Gates of the Mountains while using worms or PowerBait. Perch fishing is good around Cottonwood Creek, the Sleeping Giant and the clay banks while using jigs and worms in 25 to 35 feet of water. A few walleye are being caught while fishing for perch. — FWP, Helena.

Martinsdale Reservoir — PowerBait, marshmallows and worms are all working. Cowbells are good from the boat. A blue and silver Krocodile will work from boats. The Musselshell River is still fishing well and should continue to do so through fall. Hoppers, Woolly Buggers, Mosquitoes, Light Cahill, Coachman and Muddlers are good choices. — Ray’s Sport and Western Wear, Harlowton.

Stillwater River — Flows are below 500 cfs, so the lower river is floatable but still skinny in spots. There’s no need to get out too terribly early this time of year, as with cooler days and mornings, water temperatures are chilly. Dry fly fishing has continued to be good once the day warms up. Smaller size Hoppers, Jack Cabe, Chubby and PMX are good choices. Royal, yellow, orange, purple and olive are good body colors. Also try the Micro Chubby in purple, tan and gold. They’re also hitting smaller dries like the Purple Haze with a good presentation, even with no actively rising fish. Try trailing a smaller Purple Haze or Parachute Adams off of a spotter fly. Fish have hit a dropper nymph, like a Prince Nymph, Hare’s Ear, Batman, red Copper John or Pheasant Tail. If fish are hitting the big dry, particularly tight to the banks, leave it off as it allows for better accuracy. Straight nymphing or streamer fishing is probably the way to go early before things warm up. For streamers, try the Grinch or Electric Goldfish.  — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — First thing in the morning the water is cold and the best bet is to fish a nymph on a long dropper off of a large dry fly, straight nymph or streamer fish. By later in the morning as things warm up, fish will start to look for the dry fly or Hopper. There can be some excellent topwater action during this early fall time. Rubber leg nymphs like a Hare’s Ear, Prince, Batman or Fox Squirrel (12-14) are making good droppers. For Hopper patterns, tan, peach, purple, pink and olive body colors are good choices in a Yellowstoner Chubby or Fat Frank. Small parachute Hoppers in a double-dry setup with a larger lead Hopper pattern are a good afternoon option. Fish are also eating the small dry like a Purple Haze when fishing likely holding water. The Micro Chubby in purple, tan and gold are good choices. Tricos may still be out by midmorning on some days, so go down a size or two on a Purple Haze or Parachute Adams as a trailer 12 inches or so off of a larger spotter fly as a double dry setup. Look for risers in the slick flats and foam lines. There can be some big heads coming up. Also, on cooler, drizzly, rainy days, there could be some BWOs coming off as well as a good streamer bite. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.


Ackley Lake — Fishing pressure is light, partially due to the weather. Jake’s Spin-A-Lures from shore might entice trout. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Beaverhead River — Streamer fishing has really picked up. Even on the sunny days the fish are chasing, but of course the best times are going to be early and late and on stormy days. The river is still around 600 cfs, but come Oct. 1 they will start to drop it to winter flows, which are going to be 190 cfs.  Some anglers are having a hard time, but remember when there is this much water coupled with the abundance of bug life trout are tuned up to bad presentations. So the more you know, the more you’ll catch and the larger they’ll be. Hoppers are still around, but changes are coming so look to fish more nymphs and small dries. At Poindexter Slough, for small stream fishing for large trout, it would be hard to find a better fishery. BWOs are hatching so small nymphs like Pheasant Tails and Aero Baetis (18-20) are just the ticket. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn River — River conditions have actually improved a bit over last week but are still far from being good. Water clarity has gone from 2-3 feet to 6-7 feet, yet there is still some grass breaking off and floating downstream. Flows have remained stable again this week and were at 3,000 cfs on Monday. Flows should remain at this level for awhile. The water temperature has dropped to the lower 60s. Fishing was slow last week with the fluctuations of weather patterns and this week looks much the same. The trico hatch has ebbed and flowed again, mainly due to the fluctuations of the air temperatures and weather. The hatch begins before 7 a.m. and the spinner fall happens from roughly 8 a.m. till 10 a.m. on most mornings. Morning winds have been making it nearly impossible to predict good days or bad days. Best patterns have been the Trico RS2 CDC, the Trico Perfect Spinner and the Drowned Trico (all in 20). The black caddis hatch is pretty much over with little action reported. Nymph fishing continues to be slow. The only productive nymph fishing has been on fairly large Bighorn Orange Scuds (12-14) trailed by a Psuedo nymph (22). — Bighorn Fly and Tackle Shop, Fort Smith. 

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — A lot of little smallmouth are being caught. The trick is getting the bait down deep quick enough to catch the bigger ones. Live crayfish are the ticket. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Boulder River — BWOd are hatching during the cloudy days and can make for a lot of fun. When sunny, try a small Hopper with a black beadhead Copper John or beadhead Pheasant Tail dropper. Try a streamer, working the current lines and tailouts. We like beadhead olive and black Buggers as well as small Bow River Buggers. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Rainbow trout fishing has been slow, but anglers are catching a few fish trolling cowbells near the Silos and Goose Bay. Walleye fishing has been fair around the Silos and Goose Bay trolling worm harnesses, tipped with worms, and from shore using jigs near Duck Creek Bay. A few perch are being caught by anglers while searching for walleye. — FWP, Helena.

Clark Canyon Reservoir — Stillwater junkies should be fishing here. With the weather change the fishing has turned on. Midges, Leeches, Callibeatis, and Zonkers. Try the south end, but don’t hesitate to try the west arm. It’s time for some of those monster browns that don’t show until this time of year. If you’re driving by the dam try tossing a big streamer on the west side.  We’ve seen some huge browns over the years in this area at this time of year. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Cooney Reservoir — Anglers could still catch walleye and perch from shore floating crawlers on jigheads. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Deadman’s Basin — No new reports. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — A few northerns and walleye were boated last week, although fishing pressure is light. Smelt would work for northerns. The marina will close for the season Sept. 30. Reservations are welcome for hunters and fall anglers. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — A few chinook salmon have started to come into the bay. For the chinook salmon in the marina bay, pitch crankbaits. Lake trout and walleye action is good. The lake trout are being caught at 100-120 feet with downriggers and spoons. For walleye, pitch jigs or use crawler harnesses and bottom bouncers in 20 to 30 feet. A Shiver Minnow or Johnny Darter are good jigs. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — No new reports. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Walleye fishing is still slow. If the sun shines the northerns will bite in 14 to 18 feet, with some pike a little shallower. The smallmouth bite is decent with fish scattered from the shallows to 18 feet depending on the day. Pitch tube jigs or drop shot for the bass. One could also use swim baits. — Hell Creek Marina.

Fresno Reservoir — Below the spillway has been a good option using spoons or crawlers and chartreuse marshmallows for northerns or walleye. At Bear Paw Lake some big trout, northerns, walleye and bass have been reeled in. — Stromberg Sinclair, Havre.

Gallatin River — Temperatures are dropping significantly into prime trout fishing ranges. In the upper sections you will start to see BWOs on cloudy days, and nymphing has been strong. In the valley Tricos are great in the morning, shifting to Hoppers as soon as the weather heats up. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hauser Reservoir — Rainbows are being caught while trolling cowbells around White Sandy and the El Dorado dredge piles. Rainbows are also being caught from shore at the Causeway Bridge and below Canyon Ferry Dam on worms. A few walleye are being caught below Canyon Ferry Dam on jigs with a worm. — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — While the callibaetis are certainly dwindling on the lake there is still some good fishing. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Madison RiverLower — The river is cool and has really come into good shape. Baetis are out and about in the afternoons and fish are taking notice. When fish are not rising try running a Hopper-dropper or a double nymph rig with a Crayfish and a small Mayfly nymph. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison River, Upper — The flow was 983 cfs on Monday. There is still enough water to get through most sections without too much scraping on the bottom. With these colder nights we are starting to see the Hopper/terrestrial bite dwindle. We are starting to see lots of fall baetis everywhere. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Missouri River, below Holter — Baetis are starting to appear. There are still caddis. Run a CDC Caddis (14-16), along with Baetis. A purple Para Wulff is working. Nymphing is fine, but streamers are working. There are definitely weeds in the river. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Shore anglers are banking catfish on crawlers or dough bait. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Nelson Reservoir — Walleye are in 20 to 30 feet of water. Jigging is a good method. Some perch have also been reeled in from the same depth. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Rock Creek — The streamer bite is ferocious right now. Shop staff fished it this past Sunday and the "Bugger bite" was there most of the day. As our weather continues to transition into fall, this style of fishing will only get better. Should we get some warm afternoons, there may still be some dry fly fishing, but for the most part put your Hoppers, Caddis and Mayflies away and tie on a streamer. Recommended patterns include Sparkle Minnows in pearl, sculpin and brown trout colors, The Grinch, Krystal Flash Buggers in black, olive or brown as well as Slump Busters in black, natural or olive. The Kelly Galloup streamer patterns like Mini Sex Dungeons, Zoo Cougars and Boogie Man in similar colors are all proven and effective streamer patterns. Most of your streamer patterns can be fished in a size 4. Remember to fish your streamers on shorter, heavier leader (0X-1X). Streamers can be dead drifted, stripped, or swung. All of these techniques work, so even if you are not an accomplished streamer angler it is time to learn this technique and enjoy yourself. As brown trout begin to stage and spawn over the next six to eight weeks, their territorial instincts take over and they become very aggressive toward minnows and baitfish patterns. That's why when you put a Bugger in a trout's face right now they just can't help but give it a good old whack. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Billings.

Spring Creek — It rained all weekend and was cool and there weren’t many hatches. One could try Panther Martin, Mepps or Blue Fox spinners. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Tongue River Reservoir — The water is cooling off a little bit at 65 degrees. The water is down to winter levels. Boats can still be launched at the boat ramps and the docks are still in and should be for the remainder of the month. Bass fishing remains good and there have been regular crappie catches. At least two big pike were reeled in this week, along with a couple of heavy catfish. Some fat perch and walleye were also caught. There will be electricity and water available at the campsites through the end of the month. Crankbaits are a good choice for pike and walleye. — Tongue River Reservoir State Park.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — Anglers are catching bass and catfish presenting minnows or crawlers. Sauger and walleye are just starting to hit. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — It’s fishing well and there is beginning to be a transition from Hoppers and Ants into Baetis and streamers. It is time to break out the sub-surface patterns. The upper river and valley have been the hot spots the last few weeks. There are still a few fish willing to look up for the bigger, foamy dry fly, but the bite is inconsistent. Additionally, with cooler temperatures, we are starting to see the afternoons fishing best. Prime time has been about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.


Bighorn River, Thermopolis — Once the waters cool a little bit fishing should improve. Fish are rising in the evening. Throughout the day and early morning there isn’t much activity. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Boysen Reservoir — An occasional trout or walleye is being picked up, but for the most part fishing remains slow. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Lake trout and rainbows are being caught. The lake trout are shallow. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Clarks Fork — It is fishing well on a Hopper-dropper. Tan North Fork Specials will produce. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — They are fishing really well. Boatmans are working well, as are streamers. Leeches and Slumpbusters are good options, as are Beetles and Ants.  — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lower Shoshone — It is fishing well on Hopper-droppers. A Chubby Chuck (12) followed by a Bloody Mary (14) will produce. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Shoshone — It is low but there are still plenty of trout. Smaller flies, like Caddis, smaller Stoneflies and Hoppers will work. There are hatches of PMDs and baetis in the evening. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Yellowstone National Park — On the Madison in the park a few more lake fish have entered the system. Hungarian Prince Nymphs, Purple Shakey Beely's and Full Dressed Reds have been the most effective soft hackles. For streamers, consider the Sculpzilla patterns in white, black or olive and a copper Zonker. With the bright sun it's best to fish very early and again late. At Slough, Lamar and Soda Butte there have been fall baetis and good numbers of drakes along with some heptagenia hatching. A Slough Creek Baetis (22), Drake Mackeral Sparkle Duns and emergers and an olive Sparkle Dun should be in the box. Ants, Beetles and Hoppers will still bring fish up when and if the mayfly hatch is not too strong. The Firehole has certainly picked up and is fishing well. White Miller Caddis are becoming more and more prevalent with each passing day and the fish are looking for them. Swinging soft hackles such as Micro Beeley's, Partridge and Orange, Partridge and Green and Peacock and Partridge has worked well. While we have had some baetis and midges, we will need a few clouds to really get them cranking. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.



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