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Fishing report: Anglers chasing salmonfly hatch
Drift boats are scattered on the Missouri River below the mouth of the Dearborn River in this aerial view. The brown water is from the muddy Dearborn mixing with the dam-fed Missouri.
LARRY MAYER Billings Gazette
BILLINGS — Salmonflies are appearing and anglers are excited for this annual opportunity.The big bug is present on rivers such as the Big Hole, Bitterroot and Blackfoot.On Saturday and Sunday free public fishing for all is offered in honor of Father’s Day. Check the current fishing regulations for details.Here’s this week’s report: Top picksBig Hole River — The big bugs are here! We have salmonflies from Glen all the way up into the Maiden Rock Canyon. Adult salmonflies are blanketing the willows and they will start flying the next few days, which will make for some great dry fly fishing. Flows remain below average and we have past the peak flows for the spring. Water clarity is around 4 feet. You will want to find the fast water to search out the salmonfly activity. — Sunrise Fly Shop, Melrose.Bitterroot River — The Bitterroot continues to fish well. The upper Bitterroot and forks have salmonflies and will be busy with those chasing the big bug. Rogue Stones, Henry’s Fork Salmonflies, Fluttering Stones, Christiens’ Salmonfly and Rootbeer Chubbies dropped with a Rubberlegs, San Juan, Bitch Creek or Yuk Bug will get you into fish. The main river is all nymphing. We should be throwing dries soon. Until then a Rubberlegs, Double Bead Stone, San Juan, Jig Prince, Jig PT or Perdigon is the way to go.— Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Blackfoot River — The Blackfoot has dropped into shape and salmonflies have started. Salmonflies will move fast up the river with the heat, but the fish are eating the nymphs really well and are starting to look for adults. Get your big dries out and get out there while it’s going on. Salmonflies to have right now are Water Walkers, Supa G’s, Fluttering Stones, Rogues and Chubbies. Drop a Zirdle, Rubberlegs, Bitch Creek or Double Bead Stone off the back and fish tight to the willows. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Hauser Reservoir — Boat anglers are finding some fat rainbows while trolling cowbells and Wedding Ring combos around White Sandy, Black Sandy and the dam area. Shore anglers are finding a few rainbows near Riverside Campground while using night crawlers and marshmallows or PowerBait. The walleye action has been great lately and most have been showing up in the Causeway arm and in the White Sandy and Black Sandy area. Pitching jigs/vertical jigging near points has been producing most walleyes. Shore anglers are picking up a few walleyes from the Causeway Bridge while using floating jigs and leeches during the evening. — FWP, Helena.Nelson Reservoir — Anglers are doing very well for walleyes and northerns. Some are jigging, and some are using crankbaits. Most anglers are using crawler harnesses. — Hardware Hank, Malta.MontanaAckley Lake — Fishing is steady for rainbows. A few tiger muskies were also caught. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Beaverhead River — Despite well-above average flows, the Beaverhead fished well last week. We can't imagine flows will get any higher this season. Hot weather this week might get the PMDs hatching. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — A few crappie and smallmouth were caught, but action was a little slower than the previous week. Toward Barry’s Landing, the water starts getting dirty. The clearer water is toward Ok-A-Beh. — Scheels, Billings.Bighorn River — Flows are down to 1,750 cfs. Fishing has still been good with small baetis nymphs and midge patterns. A few fish are being picked up on Sowbugs. The river is still mossy below Three Mile, but there are some good wading options down there. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. Boulder River — The river is running high, but is clearing. This week's early high temperatures may increase the flows but the end of runoff should follow. Fish a worm imitation and a Golden Stone nymph or a Prince Nymph on the slow corners as the temperature of the river is still pretty low. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Walleye fishing is good around the old river channel between Ponds 3 and 4 while trolling bottom bouncers or purple and silver or perch crankbaits. Walleyes are also being caught between White Earth and Hole in the Wall. Rainbows are being picked up in these areas on the same lure and bait combos. Shore fishing has been slow for rainbows and walleyes. — FWP, Helena.Clark Fork River, Missoula — The river is dropping, but still pretty muddy to be very fishable. It should start to fish soon. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Cooney Reservoir — The water level is slowly starting to go down for the summer. Water temperatures have gone down this week to the low 60s. People are still catching a lot of trout all over the reservoir. Cowbells with a hammered brass Krocodile spoon did well. The walleye and perch bite picked up this week. Shore anglers are catching them on leeches or worms. The folks on boats were using slip bobbers with leeches, or were casting soft plastics. — Cooney State Park.Deadman’s Basin — Fishing has been pretty tough for boat anglers seeking trout. A couple different people had fun reeling in carp from shore, so one could take a kid up there and try to catch carp from the bank. At the Broadview Pond anglers are still catching bass. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.Echo Lake — Bass have started on the post spawn. Squarebill crankbaits have been phenomenal. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Flathead Lake (North) — Action is still slow. Where the Swan River empties into Flathead Lake at Bigfork harbor, anglers traditionally catch cutthroat from the shoreline this time of year. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead Lake (South) — Anglers are catching pike in the East Bay while tossing spoons or crankbaits. There is the possibility of catching perch and smallmouth bass. Anglers are still doing well off the docks in Polson fishing for multiple species. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, above the lake — The water is still a little murky, but it should be clearing. Fishing is still slow. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, below Kerr Dam — Anglers are catching smallmouth and a few pike. The water is still high, but should be dropping within the week. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River sloughs — Fishing is consistent for crappie, pike, bass and perch. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Overall, the pike bite was difficult at the tourney over the weekend. Walleye fishing is OK. Try bottom bouncing a worm harness tipped with a worm. Some fat bass were reeled in this weekend. — Rock Creek Marina.Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — Anglers are having success on walleyes, northerns, crappies and catfish. Present crawlers and leeches for all species. The northern bite is fairly shallow and the walleye are in 10 to 16 feet of water. Anglers are doing well for catfish from the shore. — Crooked Creek Marina.Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Fishing was like a roller coaster with different reports from different anglers for walleyes. Some anglers did well in the shallows with jigs and plastics or jigs and minnows, others pulled bottom bouncers with crawlers and leeches in 15 to 20 feet, while others used Lindy Rigs with minnows at the same depth. Pike and lake trout anglers did well. Most action for lake trout is jigging with a one-ounce jig and paddle tails in 60 to 80 feet. Pulling spoons with downriggers at 60 to 80 feet is also producing. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — Fishing was on fire for 7- to 11-pound walleyes, but now it is slowing very rapidly. — Hardware Hank, Malta.Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — The walleye bite is definitely picking up as walleyes are being caught outside of Hell Creek Bay. Pike fishing tends to be consistent. — Hell Creek State Park.Fresno Reservoir — The reservoir is fishing well for walleyes and northerns. There was a walleye tourney last weekend and anglers did well jigging or bottom bouncing with leeches and worms. — Bing N Bob's Sport Shop, Havre.Gallatin River — Even though flows are going down, the river is still high and muddy and it is best to hit the tailwaters till summer. If you get the itch to fish the Gallatin, take Worms and black Rubberlegs and fish off the bank. Do not wade as at these flows. It is very dangerous. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Georgetown Lake — The water is warming up, so Damselfly Nymphs are active; some adults may be present soon. — Flint Creek Outdoors, Philipsburg.Glacier National Park — Bowman Lake, Bowman Creek and Lake McDonald are fishing well. The outlet of Lake McDonald is still too fast to fish. The water on the rivers is high, but clearing. The North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead River should be fishable in two weeks. Cut Bank Creek is fishing well in East Glacier. Try Parachute Adams, Parachute Black Gnats and black Flying Ants. Black Woolly Buggers will work. Hare’s Ears and a natural Hare’s Ear Nymph are also options. The trail to Upper Two Medicine is getting to be walkable, but as of now we haven’t heard of many people going to the high country yet. Middle Two Medicine Lake, Upper St. Mary’s Lake and Avalanche Lake are fishing well. Until Going-to-the-Sun Road is open there is limited access to the high country. — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.Hebgen Lake — Anglers are trolling with Rapalas and spoons and doing well. Fly anglers are doing well with nymphs. There is some surface action on mayflies and midges, as well. Morning and evenings are the best times to fish for dry fly anglers. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.Holter Reservoir — Boat anglers are finding some rainbows on the lower end of the reservoir while trolling cowbells and Wedding Rings tipped with crawlers. Trolling near Black Beach and the clay banks across from the Boat Loft has been producing lots of rainbows. A few walleyes and perch are being picked up while pitching jigs/vertical jigging near Split Rock and other points or weed beds in the middle and lower sections of the reservoir. — FWP, Helena.Lake Koocanusa — Rainbow fishing is starting to slow down, but anglers have still caught them with the cooler, rainy days. Some kokanee are being caught, but they are on the smaller side. Trout are in the top 30 feet of water and still hitting dark colors, especially on cloudy days. Silver is working better than brass for kokanee. Anglers are using cowbells and Kokanee Killers. — Koocanusa Resort and Marina, Libby.Lake Mary Ronan — Perch have finally picked up. Kokanee fishing has slowed some. For perch, work the shorelines at depths of 15 to 25 feet. A Wanna-b in firetiger works good, as does a Smile two-hook setup or a Fuzz Bug. Crawlers are a good bait, or a small piece of perch meat. Change the perch meat often. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Lake Rogers — Really fat cutthroats are taking orange Scuds and brown Buggers. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Loon Lake — Rainbows have been restocked, providing opportunities. Worm and bobbers are the ticket. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Lower Stillwater Lake — Perch fishing is improving. Anglers are having success with Sago Tackle Scuds and Craws. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Madison River, Lower — Flows have actually been fairly stable and the fishing has been good. On calm days, we have been seeing a variety of bugs. Caddis, PMDs, March browns, Yellow Sallies and stoneflies are all on the menu. If you can get a day on the river that is overcast the dry fly bite can be very productive. Try a Chubby or Water Walker with an atrractor mayfly nymph underneath. Fish are spread out, so don't be afraid to fish some water you might typically skip. Double nymph rigs have been the best way to get the numbers typically consisting of Worms, Crayfish, Zirdle Bugs, soft hackles, Lil Spankers, and Dirty Birds. Try fishing the weed beds if you are not getting fish along the banks. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Madison River, Upper — The upper has been fishing great overall. The West Fork has been pumping mud into the river, some days more than others. Small and flashy is the name of the game if you decide to nymph; Green Machines, $3 Dips, Purple Deaths, Worms, Shop Vacs, black & brown Rubberlegs, and your favorite Caddis Pupa are all good bets. You can also have some success dead drifting a Sculpin under a bobber. Dry fly fishing has been good if you stay late in the day. An Elk-Hair Caddis trailed behind a Purple Haze has been our go to when fish are eating on top. We have had good reports of anglers doing well on BWOs near Raynolds and Three Dollar bridge when there's some clouds and low wind. There has been some fish taking streamers recently and cloudy days have been better overall. Streamer color has been variable, but typically black, olive and white are our favorites. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Marias River — The Marias is still muddy and fishing is slow. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Martinsdale Reservoir — Action is very slow on the reservoir and on the Musselshell River. — Mint Bar, Martinsdale.Missouri River, below Holter — The flows were at 3,670 cfs on Monday and water temps are 57 degrees. For nymphs, a Split Case PMD is a good choice. Most PMD nymphs will work. Frenchies have been producing, as are Gunners. A beadhead MFG will work, as well. On cloudy days an Olive Mint or perch pattern will work. For dry flies there has been some success on a purple Para Wulff (16-18) and Corn Fed Caddis. There has been quite a bit of fishing pressure, but it is starting to thin. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.Missouri River, Fort Benton — The river is muddy and fishing is poor. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Paddlefish season ends June 15. Action was steady this year. Other area options to fish are Petrolia Lake, where walleye fishing was good last weekend, and East Fork Reservoir, where perch fishing is hot. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Murray Lake — Small spoons and spinners have been producing decent limits of trout. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.Noxon Rapids Reservoir — The water is clearing up. Some debris remains. Anglers are catching pike using smelt. Anglers have reeled in several fat walleyes, along with some bass. — Lakeside Motel and Resort.Pablo Reservoir — Anglers are catching some black crappie. Shad imitations below a bobber would be a good method. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Rock Creek (West) — The creek continues to fish great. It’s still big and hard to wade fish very effectively. Just be ready to walk and look for spots. Salmonflies are all the way at the top of the creek and fish are looking for them. Try Henry’s Fork Salmonflies, Sofa Pillows, Chubby’s, Dancing Ricky’s and Christien’s Salmonfly. Goldenstones are on the menu. A Plan B, Henry’s Fork Golden, Rogue Golden, Gold Chubby and Kurt’s Egg Drop Golden will work. We are seeing a few yellow Sallies and the next cloudy day we should see green drakes. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Spring Creek — Fishing well for rainbows and browns. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Stillwater River — The water is going down and clearing. There is a big stonefly hatch occurring. Some fish have been caught on orange Bitch Creeks (10-12). Purple Haze (14) is a good pattern. — Absarokee Fly Shop, Absarokee.Swan Lake — The water is a little murky and fishing is slow. In the next week we expect the water to clear. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Tiber Reservoir — Fishing is slow. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Tongue River Reservoir — The crappies haven’t come in to spawn yet. The bass bite has been terrific. Successful walleye anglers are targeting 12 to 15 feet of water pitching orange jigs tipped with a leech, minnow or a worm. The northern fishing has been a nice surprise for everyone. On Father’s Day weekend, the marina will have food specials, including Steph’s homemade Indian Tacos at noon on Saturday. The marina has bait, including leeches, worms and minnows. — Tongue River Marina.Yellowstone River, Big Timber — It is still high, but clearing. There is a couple of feet of visibility. Anglers could catch fish using streamers, San Juan Worms or Golden Stone nymphs. After a couple of days of really high temperatures, the river should start coming down. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.Yellowstone River, Huntley — The river has started to come down. We had a couple reports of ling being caught. Catfish continue to strike scented worms and cut bait. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.Yellowstone River: Intake — Through Saturday the season total for paddlefish was 656. The largest was 117 pounds and the smallest was 16 pounds. — Intake Paddlefishing/Yellowstone Caviar Facebook site.Yellowstone River, Livingston — With 8,000 cfs flows, currently the Stone is coming into shape. Give it a couple more days till the water clears up and it should be go time. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Yellowstone River, Miles City — The river is still high, so most anglers are targeting catfish and sturgeon. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.WyomingBighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend — Anglers are catching some walleyes. Water levels are creeping up and boat ramps are usable. There is some debris around the edges of the water. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.Bighorn River, Thermopolis — Anglers are using nitro crawlers and regular night crawlers. White Miller flies have also been producing, along with March Browns (16) and yellow Woolly Worms (10). — White Horse Country Store, Thermopolis.Boysen Reservoir — Anglers are catching a fair amount of walleyes at depths of 50 to 60 feet pulling crankbaits behind planer boards. There has been a bug hatch on Boysen lately. Reports of a few crappies being caught as well. Runoff has started and the reservoir is filling up. — Boysen Marina.Buffalo Bill Reservoir — The lake turned over and is muddy. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Cody-area lakes — Fishing is fair to decent on East Newton. Water temps spiked into the mid-60s due to high temperatures. Flies to use: Midges, calibaetis mayflies and some damselflies are hatching. Trout have been responding to Parachute Adams, Rickert’s Calibaetis nymphs, Calibaetis Sparkle Dun, Damselfly Nymphs, blue Damsel dries, Hare’s Ears, Pheasant Tail nymphs, Bow-Tie midges, Calibaetis Spinners and dark bodied Smoke Jumpers, Woolly Buggers, Seal Buggers, Midge Pupae, Beadhead Midges or small bead nymphs. At Luce and Hogan Lakes there have been sightings of grizzly and black bears so make sure to carry bear spray. Scuds, Zebra Midges, San Juan Worms, Damselfly nymphs, Rickert’s Callibaetis nymphs, Callibaetis dries, emergers and spinner imitations, olive Damselfly nymphs, blue adult Damsel dries, tan North Fork Specials, smaller Beadhead Prince, Pheasant Tails, and Hare’s Ears will all work. Also effective are small balanced leech patterns, Rickert’s Lake Leeches and mid-sized streamers (4-12). We did see some hopper action over the weekend. It’s fun to fish those big flies and see the takes. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Lake DeSmet — There were a lot of boaters and anglers out over the weekend. Most were using crawlers, but several were also using PowerBait. Quite a few trout were caught. Boat anglers are trolling with cowbells. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo. Lower Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone — The flows are 3,800 cfs, high and off-color leaving the canyon due to increased turbidity in Crandall, Sunlight and Dead Indian Creek. Wading will be difficult but the river is now fishable along the edges. Some dry fly action on the warmer days with small BWOs and midges hatching. Nymphs: Beadhead Prince, Pheasant Tails, Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ears, Pat’s Stones, Spanish Bullets in black, pearl or purple and North Fork Specials (10 and smaller). Streamers, or going deep with weighted nymphs is recommended. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Lower Shoshone — Flows are 1,357 cfs. The river is fishing very well even though the water is cloudy. Water quality has remained fair below the dam, and deteriorating as Sulphur and Sage Creek enter. Nymphing is most productive with beadhead nymphs (8 or smaller). The dry fly fishing is also good when one spots rising trout. Nymphs: Tan or black N. F. Specials, Tungsten Czech Princess, Copper John, Pheasant Tails, Hare’s Ears and/or your favorite nymphs. Streamers are a mix. Buggers, Zonkers, Peanut Envy, Mini Peanut, Mouthwash and Dungeons will work. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.North Fork of the Shoshone — High temps have kicked the North Fork flows up again and the water quality has gone from clear to off-color. We expect conditions to be marginal for fishing the next week and also expect flows to rise again. Flies: black North Fork Specials with silver, red, hot orange or purple beadheads (6-12); Pat’s Rubberlegs, black Stonefly nymphs (6-10); Prince Nymphs 8-12; soft hackle jigs (10-14); black Girdle Bugs or Bitch Creek nymphs (6-10) will work very well. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.South Fork of the Shoshone — The flows are 1,870 cfs in the South Fork Valley section, 30 miles from Cody. The water is high and muddy due to the heat. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Upper Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone — The river has dropped and cleared substantially above the Crandall Creek confluence. Below Crandall Creek, the Clarks Fork becomes cloudy, and by the time Sunlight Creek runs in, it is muddy through the bottom end of the Clarks Fork Canyon to the Montana state line. Flows are still swift in many places, but the fishing should be decent, especially above the Lake Creek and Crazy Creek confluences. Wading cautiously is still advised. Smaller (8-14) beadhead nymphs or small Woolly Buggers might work. Wait until high water is over late June, early July. Bears are out; pack bear spray. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — Fish are still being caught by boat and bank anglers. On the lower, try the dam area. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.Yellowstone National Park — The Firehole has certainly been the best of the three. Consistent white miller hatches have kept the fish looking up and there have been just enough PMDs to keep things interesting. White Miller Razor Caddis, PMD Sparkle Duns, mint Hot Spot Soft Hackles and Micro Beeleys have been excellent producers. We do recommend heading in early as traffic has been tough after 8 a.m. A few Rusty Spinners (16) are also a good fly to have for the early mornings. Keep an eye on the water temperature here in the afternoon and evening, as things have been getting a bit warm on the hotter days. The Gardner River should start to fish soon. Be on the lookout for salmonflies between Mammoth and Gardiner. Try a Chubby Chernobyl (10) or Sunken Stone, and don't be afraid to drop a black Rubberlegs (6) off the back. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL
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