Fly casting

Fall fly fishing is in high gear as trout heartily feed in preparation for a long, cold winter.

After the dog days of summer, fishing is once again heating up at reservoirs around the region as temperatures have cooled.

In the Crooked Creek and Big Dry Arm stretches of Fort Peck Reservoir anglers have been doing well. And trout fishers have been reeling in big fish at Martinsdale Reservoir and Hebgen Lake.

With cooler temperatures, nymph fishing has generally improved, but fly anglers have also been able to continue to use Hoppers when the weather warms.

Here’s The Gazette’s weekly fishing report: 

Top picks

Big Hole River — Blue wing olives are here. On cloudy days the hatch can be exceptional with lots of good fish looking up. If you pay close attention to the rise forms, you’ll see a difference between whitefish and trout. The trout are the ones sipping, while whitefish usually splash or at least make a larger commotion. Look for some great streamer fishing for big browns. We like Zonkers, but the Big Hole is a place to toss some of the 4- to 5-inch, big articulated streamers. One of our favorite techniques is to drop an egg pattern off the back of a white Zonker (2-4) and dead drift it though the runs.  We should have a few days left for Hopper fishing but the big October caddis are hatching, so an orange PMX (10) will do wonders. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Northerns and walleye are biting. Fish near the weeds at 25 to 35 feet and bottom bounce just above the weeds for best results. Anglers can’t keep smallmouth off their line either cranking or jigging. Perch have become bait robbers, but that isn’t always a bad thing as there are some big perch being reeled in. Lake trout anglers are doing well between Haxby Point and the dam. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — Anglers did well through Saturday, but a storm on Saturday night slowed things down on Sunday. Bottom bounce or jig anywhere from 2 to 25 feet below the boat for walleye, crappie, bass, little perch, drum, catfish and northerns. Or pull plugs for northerns and walleye. A chunk of worm seems to be the best bait for walleye. The minnow bite could turn on at any time. The surface water temp was 67 degrees on Sunday. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Hebgen Lake — Days have been beautiful. High temps are forecast to be in the 60s this week, with night lows in the 30s. This will bring the fish up more. Lake water surface temps were in the high 50s as of Monday. There is something about the color orange as gold and orange spoons continue to be the most productive lure. Big trout are coming out of the lake these days. — Kirkwood Marina.

Martinsdale Reservoir — Fishing is hot and heavy. Anglers fishing from shore and boat are catching trout running between 3 to 5 pounds. Try worms and garlic marshmallows from shore. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.


Ackley Lake — With archery season, there isn’t much fishing pressure. Trout fishing is slow. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Beaverhead River — We can’t say enough about the great fishing here this season. The water is still up, but we should see it start to drop this coming week. Yuks and Girdle Bugs are still producing, but don’t hesitate to chuck a big Zonker. The BWOs are popping and the fish are up on them, but only in a few places. As the water levels drop, we’ll see more activity on them. Fishing soft hackles under a hopper has been productive. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn River — We are facing some of the toughest fishing conditions so far this year. Bighorn Lake has turned over 4-6 weeks ahead of schedule. Typically we see these river conditions in mid to late October when more guys are thinking about hunting instead of fishing. Flows have remained stable again this week and were at 3,008 cfs as of Monday. Flows should remain at this level for awhile. Water clarity has not improved and has gotten worse. It is presently at 1-2 feet as there is quite a lot of algae growth in the reservoir. The water temperature has remained in the mid-60s even though the reservoir is cooling off. 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 this last week, 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 — At Barry’s Landing, brown trout, sauger, walleye and smallmouth are biting crawlers or minnows. Try either jigging or drifting the bait. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Boulder River — Fishing is good, especially in the national forest. On cloudy days the blue-winged olives are starting to turn up. Small terrestrial imitations like Hoppers, Ants and Beetles are good bets on the sunny days, particularly with a small dark beadhead nymph. We like the size 16 and 18 black Copper John and Beadhead PT. In desperation, try to nymph fish a red San Juan Worm. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Rainbow fishing continues to be slow, but anglers are catching a few, trolling and from shore, using worms near White Earth and the dam. Walleye action has been fair around the Silos and Goose Bay trolling worm harnesses tipped with worms. A few perch are being caught by anglers while searching for walleye. — FWP, Helena.

Cooney Reservoir — The lake turned over but walleye were still biting crawlers on crawler harnesses or jigs. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Deadman’s Basin — Fishing should improve as we head into fall. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Fishing was hit-or-miss over the weekend with a lot of wind. There weren’t a lot of anglers out; however, those who tried did catch a few fish. For chinook salmon, fish in front of the dam in 80 feet of water. The lake trout are in 80-125 feet of water. Walleye and pike fishing was a mixed bag. The walleye are running at depths of 30 to 40 feet. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — It is fishing well. Some anglers are pulling crankbaits and some are Jigging Rap for walleye. The minnow bite is starting. Smallmouth and northerns are also on the bite. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Folks are still bringing in some walleye, but not too big. Anglers are still doing pretty well with smallmouth, and pike are still in shallow water and grassy areas. Lake trout are still fairly deep, around 90 feet, and the salmon bite is really slowing down now. Hell Creek State Park.

Fresno Reservoir — Most outdoorsmen have turned their attention to hunting, so it is quiet at the reservoir. — Stromberg Sinclair, Havre.

Gallatin River —Temperatures are dropping significantly into prime trout fishing temps. Fish Nocturnal Stones and Tricos in the morning, shifting to Hoppers as soon as the weather heats up. A Chubby-dropper is still a great option. A tan/black Chubby (10-14) with a smaller Flashback PT or Hare’s Ear is a great option. Lightning Bugs, Spankers, and Prince Nymphs will work. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hauser Reservoir — Rainbow fishing is slow with a few trout being caught from shore at the Causeway Bridge and Riverside while using worms or marshmallows. Boat anglers are finding a few trout while trolling cowbells around the White Sandy/Black Sandy area. A few walleye are being caught in the Causeway and below Canyon Ferry Dam on jigs with a worm. — FWP, Helena.

Holter Reservoir — Rainbow fishing is good while trolling Rapalas or cowbells around Cottonwood Creek and Split Rock. A few rainbows are being caught from shore at Departure Point while using worms and at Gates of the Mountains using Woolly Buggers. Perch fishing is good around Cottonwood Creek, Mann Gulch and Willow Creek while using jigs and worms in 12 to 20 feet of water. A few walleye are being caught in the Gates of the Mountains canyon on jigs and worms. — FWP, Helena.

Madison RiverLower — The water 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. Be aware some of the fish in this river are beginning to stage for spawn early in the fall. Let the spawning fish produce fish for the years to come. With that, watch where you are walking. Avoid stomping through spawning gravel. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison River, Upper — As of Monday, the flows were at 1,090 cfs and the water looks fantastic. There is still enough water to get through most sections without too much scraping on the bottom. Hoppers, Ants, and Beetles have been the most consistent surface producers. Nymphing is always a good backup option. Running smaller nymphs like a Serendipity, Green Machine or Prince Nymph can be a great tactic this time of year. Some big fish are being caught on streamers, and the bite will only get better as we continue into September. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Missouri River, below Holter — Trout are starting to take streamers on cloudy days. Thin Mints are working well. Perch patterns are a good choice. For nymphs, a red Two-Bit Hooker is producing. Between the dam and the Wolf Creek bridge a Zebra Midge is working well. Quasimodo and MFG are other good choices. For dry flies, a Purple Chubby will work. Also try a purple Para Wulf (16-18), or a Bloom’s Purple Para Ant (14). Caddis are coming off. Fish an Elk-Hair Caddis or a Corn Fed Caddis (16-18). On cold days, we are starting to see midges. The water temp was 61 degrees and the flow was 4,610 on Monday. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Some walleye are being caught jigging a minnow or jigging plastics at the PN Bridge. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Nelson Reservoir — It is fishing well. Some anglers are jigging minnows and getting into walleye. Some really fat 10- to 12-inch perch have been boated. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Rock Creek — The creek has begun its transition into fall fishing. Cooler temperatures this week, as well as slightly shorter days will hurt the dry fly fishing but ramp up the streamer and nymph fishing. As the brown trout begin their fall staging and spawn, streamers can really get them moving and reacting. Recommended streamers include Sparkle Minnows in pearl, sculpin or brown trout patterns, Krystal Flash Buggers in black or olive, The Grinch, Slump Busters in black, olive or natural as well as Kelly Galloup signature Streamer patterns like Mini Sex Dungeons, Zoo Cougars and the Boogie Man. If you stick to black, olive or white for a streamer pattern it should work just fine. If you want to drift a bobber during the fall, recommended nymph patterns include Rubber Legs, Girdle Bugs, a Bitch Creek or North Fork Special in black. Most stonefly nymphs can be fished in sizes 8-12. Additional nymphs include Copper Johns in red, chartreuse or purple, Montana Prince in blue, Batman, Hare's Ears, or Pheasant Tail Red Fox Squirrel (12-16). As the dry fly fishing begins to slow, use a simple Elk-Hair Caddis in tan (14), Parachute Adams, or a Purple Haze in similar sizing. A Pink Pookie Hopper (10) going into fall can still be effective on a warm afternoon. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Billings.

Spring Creek — Hoppers are working. Nymph fishing is good; a PMD or beadhead Pheasant Tail will work. One can always use a gold or silver Panther Martin. The creek is clear. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Stillwater River — Flows have dropped below 500 cfs, making things pretty skinny in spots, but should bump back up a bit as irrigation ditches are shut off. Dry fly fishing has continued to be good once the day warms up by midday/early afternoon. Smaller size hopper imitations like a 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 been on 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.

Tongue River Reservoir — Fishing is hit or miss. Anglers are catching a few northerns and bass, but it’s a waiting game. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — Early in the day try 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. Rubber leg nymphs like a Hare’s Ear, Prince, Batman or Fox Squirrel (12-14) are making good dropper nymphs. 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 set up with a larger lead Hopper pattern is 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, as well. Tricos are 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. If float fishing, note that the road at the Indian Fort FAS at Reed Point remains closed. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — Water levels are now low. It is getting harder and harder to navigate. If in a boat please use extreme caution. Guys are reporting big bass. Numbers seem to still be lower than average, but the size makes up for it. Use a jig and a Twister tail. Walleye action east of Custer is great as crankbaits and jigs are working well. The catfish bite has been one of the best in recent years with cutbait being the bait of choice. —

Yellowstone River, Livingston — Water conditions are excellent. Fishing is best with streamers in the morning and a Hopper-dropper in the afternoon. — Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop, Livingston.


Bighorn River, Thermopolis — Fishing is OK. Water temps are still warm, but in the canyon try a crayfish pattern or Hopper. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Boysen Reservoir — Perch fishing is good using a jig and crawler. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Fishing is good. Anglers had been catching lake trout by Gibb’s Bridge and walleye on the south arm by the dikes. Plenty of anglers are also having success on the North Fork and South Fork of the Shoshone using dry flies. Try grasshopper, stonefly, ant, mayfly, mosquito and BWO imitations. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.

Clarks Fork — It has fished well. There are a lot of whitefish and some rainbow trout. Smaller nymphs, like North Fork Specials, Pheasant Tails and a Bloody Mary will work, as will a Copper John. Or, try a small Hopper. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lower Shoshone — It is fishing really well on an assortment of flies. Anything from San Juan Worms to Pheasant Tails and Prince Nymphs will work. Anglers are starting to see some green and gray drakes on the water. — 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 PMD and baetis in the evening. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Yellowstone National Park — On the Madison there are a few of the lake-run fish in the system, but not too many. So far the Shakey Bealey has worked, as has the old copper Zonker. Concentrate your efforts in the lower part of the river for fresh fish moving in. On the Firehole, White Millers have been coming off in the late morning/early afternoon hours with a good number of fish up. Cloudy days should see good emergences of baetis. The baetis will be small, so be sure to have Sparkle Duns (22-24). The White Miller soft hackle and White Miller Razor Caddis have been best when the caddis are present. On Lamar, Soda Butte and Slough, the water is getting quite low but anglers have had success. Terrestrials are still working, along with Drake Mackerels and Green Drakes. Keep an eye out for baetis if we have cloudy weather. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.



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