Fishing report: End of runoff nears on many area rivers – Billings Gazette


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Fishing report: End of runoff nears on many area rivers

Potomac angler Christine Sorensen landed this 28.5-inch walleye while fishing at Fort Peck Reservoir recently. 

Lane Sorensen photo

BILLINGS — With rivers on the way down and becoming fishable again as the end of runoff nears, it is one of the most exciting times of the year for anglers.Much like early in the season and opening dates, there is anticipation. Now anglers can once again fish lakes, reservoirs and their favorite rivers more effectively with flows dropping.In other news, there has already been some action on grasshoppers at places such as the Cody-area lakes and the Yellowstone River in the Livingston section.Here’s this week’s fishing report: Top picksBig Hole River — The river has been fishing very well. We have salmonflies from just above Jerry Creek down to Divide Bridge. You will see Golden Stones, PMDs, Yellow Sallies and caddis hatching river wide. It is dry fly season and we have been enjoying it. We have been fishing double dry fly rigs or dry-dropper rigs most of the day. Stonefly activity has been the best from Jerry Creek down to Maiden Rock. Below Melrose you will find more fish keying on PMDs and Yellow Sallies. We have had some good streamer fishing in the evening or early mornings. Don't be afraid to chuck a few streamers in the shallow riffles during the daytime. Recommended patterns: Flutter Bug (Black/Orange, 4), MFC Water Walker (Brown/Orange, 4), Chubby Norman (6), Pat's Stone (Brown/Black, 6), Deep Cleaner (Black/Brown, 4), Chubby Chernobyl (Gold, 8), Purple Haze (12), Jig Lightning Bug (12), Jig Duracell (12), Bloom's Caddis (12), Slider Bugger (6), Sparring Partner (Brown/Yellow, 6). — Sunrise Fly Shop, Melrose.Bitterroot River — The Bitterroot continues to fish well. We are just starting to see some dry fly fishing on the main river with Goldens, Yellow Sallies, PMDs and a few Green Drakes. Cloudy days are what we hope for, but it looks like we’ll have bright sun this week. Golden Stone dries with a dropper will be a good way to get into fish in the sun. Henry’s Fork Goldens, Golden Chubby, Bullethead Golden and Kurt’s Egg Laying Golden with a Perdigon, Jig PT, Jig Prince or Iron Sally is a good way to prospect for fish. A few PMD sippers are out there and a Tilt Wing Dun, Brindle Chute, P-Haze or Extended Body PMD (14-16) will get those fish to eat. Presentation matters; drag free drifts for these sippers. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — The reservoir is fishing well for walleyes and crappies. For walleyes and crappies, use crawler harnesses. The best color seems to change daily, however, white and chartreuse generally work well. The walleyes and crappies are at depths of 5 to 15 feet of water. Northerns are biting as well. Shore anglers are still getting into catfish presenting crawlers or stink bait. — Crooked Creek Marina.Stillwater River — Get your rafts and head here for some exciting fishing. With flows down to 2,200 cfs the river is tough to wade fish but, from a boat you can cover water and find fish easier that are in calmer water along the bank as well as being able to hit eddies behind boulders in the middle of the river. Fish are eating stoneflies and caddis. Patterns we’ve found successful have been orange Stimulators (10), Headlight Caddis, BH Caddis Pupas olive and Trina’s Montana Prince. Dries: Orange Stimulator (10), Gee's Supafly Stonefly - Golden Stone (8), Headlight Caddis (12). Nymphs: BH Sparkle Pupa - Olive (14), Trina’s Montana Prince black (14), BH Iron Mans (14-16).  Streamers: Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow-Sculpin, Slump Busters black, Krystal Flash Bugger-black — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Columbus.Yellowstone River, Livingston — The 'Stone was very productive last week. It’s not many years we get to see it clear up this early. Fishing has been very good throwing caddis along the banks, mixed with some attractor mayflies. Hopper-dropper rigs have good midday, along with some good streamer fishing. We are starting to see some big bugs popping around. We will keep you updated on the progression of this hatch. Should be a good one! — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman. MontanaAckley Lake — Action has slowed a bit for rainbows and tiger muskies. Upper Carter Pond continues to produce rainbows. Lots of perch are being caught at East Fork Reservoir. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Beaverhead River — Water levels are at 833 cfs as of Monday. It is fishing well up high on Zebra Midges, Psycho May and red and pink San Juan Worms. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Anglers are getting into bass on Ned rigs with a TRD Tail or a craw. Walleye fishing is quiet. Some anglers are catching carp on flies. Try throwing beetles and Cicadas. Crappie and trout fishing is quiet. The trout moved deeper with the hot weather. — Scheels, Billings.Bighorn River — The Bighorn is low and very clear. There is some moss below Three Mile access still. Nymphing has still been good with MacGrubers, Quills, Zebras, Rootbeer Midges, Carpet Bugs and Small Ray Charles. There is not much for dry-fly fishing, but there should be PMDs soon. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. Blackfoot River — The Blackfoot is fishing well and the dry fly fishing is starting to get more and more consistent. All the bugs are hatching at this point. Salmonflies on the upper Blackfoot, Golden Stones, PMDs, caddis and a few Green Drakes are on the entire river. The bright sun will make for tougher dry fly fishing this week, but they’ll still look up, especially for Goldens and salmonflies. Make sure to have all versions of both and some droppers like Perdigons, Jig PTs, Rubberlegs, Tungsten Sallies and Princes. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Boulder River — The river is still high, but it appears to be dropping daily now and has good clarity.  Fishing has been good with Golden Stone nymphs, Prince Nymphs and San Juan Worms. As the flows decrease, look for Golden Stone dries, Yellow Sallies, Caddis flies and PMD dries. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Walleyes are being caught between White Earth and Hole in the Wall and around the old river channel between Ponds 3 and 4 while trolling bottom bouncers with gold spinners or gold or perch crankbaits. A few rainbows are being caught between the Silos and Pond 4 while trolling bottom bouncers with a worm. Shore fishing has been slow for both rainbows and walleyes. — FWP, Helena.Clark Fork River, Missoula — There is a tree down just below Clinton across the entire river and it’s in a sketchy spot and hard to portage around. We suggest staying out of the Clinton to Turah stretch for now until the water drops and it’s safer to get around the tree. The river has dropped into great fishing shape. Caddis, Goldens, Yellow Sallies, PMDs and a few Green Drakes are out. Bright sun makes of tough dry-fly fishing, but you’ll see some risers out there. PMDs like Tilt Wing Duns, Brindle Chutes, Para-Wulffs or P-Hazes (16-18) will get those sippers in the eddies. A Golden Stone dry like a Kurt’s Golden, Rasta Golden, Henry’s Fork Golden with a Perdigon, Jig PT, Jig Prince or Rubberlegs dropper is a great prospecting rig. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Cooney Reservoir — The surface temperature at Cooney last week was in the upper 60s. We're starting to see more irrigation runoff coming in the inlets, so the water clarity isn't great on the southwest end of the reservoir. Trout fishing has slowed down a little; people are catching a few small trout by trolling spoons. The walleye bite is on soft plastics or leeches in 2 to 14 feet. The weed beds that have grown to 3 to 4 feet have been productive for perch. Small jigs tipped with a worm or a leech around the weed beds produced some nice perch. — Cooney State Park.Deadman’s Basin — Fishing is slow at the basin. Some 1- to 2-pound rainbows have been reeled in at the Broadview Pond. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.Flathead Lake (North) — Fishing has been slow. At Bigfork harbor, fly anglers anchored in float tubes or using kayaks are catching cutthroats, but a reminder to release the cutthroats. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead Lake (South) — Overall, fishing is poor. Perch fishing should start anytime with the hot weather. In the Big Arm/Elmo area anglers are doing fairly well with silver jigs and dead sticking a whole fish. Shoreline anglers are catching cutthroats, but a reminder to release the cutthroats. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, above the lake — The river is still high. As the river drops, fishing will improve. Anglers looking for fun or having young children who want to catch fish can get into baitfish here. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, below Kerr Dam — The river is super high, but target the banks or the main river channel. Anglers are catching some nice rainbows presenting crawlers with a heavy weight. Some northern pikeminnows are also biting. Anglers are also catching a few smallmouth. Anglers could also hook into pike. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River sloughs — Anglers are doing consistently well for perch, crappie, pike, and bass. At Church Slough, some cutthroats and lake whitefish are biting as well. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Anglers are bottom bouncing leeches at depths of 8 to 20 feet and doing well for walleyes. — Rock Creek Marina.Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Anglers are catching some fish, but it’s not a runaway. Walleyes, pike and lake trout are biting. For lake trout, target 80 to 100 feet and use jigs or troll with downriggers and spoons. The walleyes are at depths of 10 to 25 feet. Pull leeches and crawlers. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — A lot of little walleyes are biting. The occasional bigger northern is being boated. — Hardware Hank, Malta.Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — The reservoir is fishing well. Anglers are running all the way to Sutherlin and Snow Creek. Use orange and white jigs and half a worm and pitch to the banks in the late afternoons. Early in the mornings, walleyes, northerns and bass are near the banks. In the mid-mornings, the walleyes are at depths of 15 to 20 feet. — Hell Creek Marina.Fresno Reservoir — No new reports as not many anglers were out this past week. With the heat, most people on the reservoir are pleasure boating. — Bing N Bob's Sport Shop, Havre.Gallatin River — In the last week, the Gallatin has greened up nicely. The flows are still running a bit strong, so be careful wading. Fishing caddis and mayfly attractors has been good along the banks, along with nymphing being productive through inside runs.  — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Georgetown Lake — Look for Calibaetis hatches in the early morning. Other hatches are midges and damselflies. Try an indicator 20 inches above a Chironomid. Drop a Hare’s Ear nymph (14) 12-14 inches below the Chironomid. Check the regulations for the closure on the south and east shoreline area, which is open beginning July 1. Water temperatures at midday are 60 degrees and the water is clear. The best time to fish is the mornings and evenings. — Flint Creek Outdoors, Philipsburg.Glacier National Park — The North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead River are clearing and dropping and anglers are starting to catch fish on both flies and lures. For lures, use fluorescent orange Panther Martin, or a ¼- to 3/8-ounce Thomas Cyclone spoon in gold, copper or fluorescent orange. Orange, yellow or chartreuse Stimulators, Gray Wulff, Parachute Adams and black gnats are working. On the lakes, the Egg-Sucking Leeches, Parachute Black Gnats, Parachute Royal Coachman, Hare’s Ears, and beadhead Prince Nymphs are working. On Lake McDonald, for those who want to rent a boat, lake trout are biting. Spoons are the ticket. A red and white Dardevle with a copper or bronze back is working in a ¾-inch size. Blue Flatfish in a T5 size are also working. Going-to-The-Sun Road is still closed as of Sunday.  — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.Hauser Reservoir — Boat anglers are finding some nice rainbows while trolling blue or perch  crankbaits or cowbells and Wedding Ring combos from the White Sandy and Black Sandy area to the power lines. Shore anglers are finding a few rainbows near Riverside Campground while using PowerBait or night crawlers and marshmallows. The walleye action has been great lately in Lake Helena, the Causeway arm and in the White Sandy and Black Sandy area. Trolling bottom bouncers or 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 hours — FWP, Helena.Hebgen Lake — Fly anglers are doing well on nymphs, Chironomids, and Pheasant Tails. Spin fishers are using Kastmasters and other spoons. Not many are using Rapalas, but Rapalas usually produce. The lake is at 90% capacity. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.Holter Reservoir — Boat anglers are finding some nice rainbows around Split Rock, the Oxbow Bend area, the South Village and around the Gates of the Mountains. Pulling blue, silver or firetiger crankbaits or trolling cowbells and Wedding Rings tipped with crawlers has been working well. A few walleyes 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. Some anglers are finding perch around Cottonwood Creek while pitching small jigs tipped with crawlers. — FWP, Helena.Lake Frances — Fishing is mediocre. Try crankbaits or a jig and a leech. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Lake Koocanusa — The lake is coming up about a foot a day, and the water is still kind of cool. Salmon fishing is decent. Rainbow fishing is good in the mornings and evenings, but has slowed a little. For salmon, use a silver-colored flasher as the water is still a little dirty due to the rain. Pan size rainbows are being caught in the coves, using black or brown Rooster Tails or Mepps. — Koocanusa Resort and Marina, Libby.Lake Mary Ronan — Kokanee fishing has slowed, but perch fishing has picked up a bunch. For perch, use a firetiger Wanna-b. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Madison River, Lower — Flows have been fairly stable and fishing has been good. If floating, be sure to call a shuttle in early. On calm days, we have been seeing a variety of bugs. Caddis, PMDs, Yellow Sallies and stoneflies are all on the menu. There may be a few salmonflies in Bear Trap Canyon, as we had reports of them up this way on Saturday. On overcast days, the dry fly bite can be very productive. When the dreaded wind is mellow, a dry-dropper rig is a great option. Try a Chubby or Water Walker with an atrractor mayfly nymph underneath. Fish are spread out quite a bit, 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 —  From Ghost Town access to Beaver Creek is closed due to bears feeding on a moose carcass they took down in the river. The upper has been fishing great overall. The West Fork has been pumping mud into the Madison 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 rubber legs, 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 conditions. There has been some nice fish coming on the streamer, with cloudy days better overall.  Streamer color has been variable, but typically black, olive and white are our favorites. We have had reports of anglers getting better streamer action near Lyons Bridge and below. The sweet spot seems to be the Three Dollar area with excellent streamer, dry and nymph opportunities. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Marias River — It is still high and muddy. Anglers are catching catfish and a few sturgeon in the Loma area. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Martinsdale Reservoir — Fishing is pretty slow. — Mint Bar, Martinsdale.Missouri River, below Holter — At the moment the river is fishing well. There is quite a bit of fishing pressure. The flows are at 3,150 cfs as of Monday and water temps are 59 degrees. There are caddis and PMDs out. Nymphing is good. A lot of the new Pedigon patterns are the ticket nymphing-wise. For dry flies, try Corn Fed Caddis and Crippled patterns for PMDs. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.Missouri River, Fort Benton — The river is still dirty and fishing is slow. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Nice catfish and sturgeon are biting. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Nelson Reservoir — Fishing is pretty slow. It is getting really difficult to launch a boat because the water is way low. Some are putting in off of gravel bars, but for bigger boats it is difficult. — Hardware Hank, Malta.Noxon Rapids Reservoir — The water clarity has improved and there isn’t much debris anymore. Last week a 29- and 14-pound pike were caught. Try using smelt. — Lakeside Motel and Resort.Pablo Reservoir — A few bass are biting. The best bass fishing is at Kicking Horse Reservoir. Anglers are also catching pike at Kicking Horse. Crappie are biting at the outlet of Kicking Horse. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Rock Creek (East) — The creek is at half of what it should be; this is very concerning looking forward into July. For now the waters are staying cool and fish are active. Most fish are keyed in on Caddis Pupas throughout the day. Caddis hatches are happening in the morning and as the sun drops behind the tree line. Patterns we’ve been fishing have been BH Sparkle Pupa-olive, BH Caddis Pupa - Olive and Headlight Caddis. For dries: Chubby Chernobyls in gold or royal (8), Headlight Caddis (14) in green, Elk-Hair Caddis (16). Nymphs: BH Sparkle Pupa, BH Rubberleg Prince (14), BH Caddis Pupa (14). Streamers: Complex Twist Bugger-black, Crystal Flash Bugger in black, Slump Buster-black. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Red Lodge.Rock Creek (West) — The creek is fishing great with salmonflies all the way at the very upper end.  Golden stones and Yellow Sallies will be on the menu this week with the bright sun. There are a few PMDs and Green Drakes out. Have your bug box full of all of these bugs. There’s caddis in the evening as well. It’s bug soup out there! Golden Stones and Droppers is a good way to get into fish. Fish tight to the banks. As the creek drops, you’ll see fish move into more summer holding water. The creek is closed to fishing from boats/vessels July 1-Nov. 30. Then it’s all for wade fishers. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Spring Creek — Fishing well with flies or spinners. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Swan Lake — Last week, the lake was muddy. When it clears, fishing for lake trout should improve. Our go-to method is with a jig and a plastic Twister tail. Tube Jigs work well. Rattle-D-Zastor or Led-a-gators will work. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Tiber Reservoir — The bite was very slow, maybe because of the storms over the weekend. One could try a jig and a leech or a jig and a minnow. Crawlers on Smile Blades is another option. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.Tongue River Reservoir — Overall fishing is decent. Anglers are catching some walleyes and bass. Crappie fishing is slow. An occasional northern is being caught. Anglers are targeting 15 to 20 feet of water. The water levels are about to crest and water temps are in the low 70s. — Tongue River Reservoir State Park.Yellowstone River, Big Timber —Runoff is progressing at an advanced rate with quite low flows for this time of year. Fishing is getting better each day as water levels drop. Streamer fishing has been good and dry-fly season is just around the corner. Try Golden Stone dries with Pheasant Tail, Prince or Hare's Ear nymphs as a dropper. Golden Stone nymphs and San Juan Worms have also been effectively fished below a strike indicator. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.Yellowstone River, Huntley — The river is coming down. Fishing for catfish continues to be good with minnows, cut bait and worms. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.Yellowstone River: Intake — As of Saturday, some fishers and a few persistent paddlefish were hanging around at Intake. Five paddlefish were harvested on Saturday with four being caught at Intake and one at Sidney. Overall, 683 fish have been processed at Intake with an overall harvest estimate of 837 paddlefish for the entire yellow tag area through Saturday. — Intake Paddlefishing/Yellowstone Caviar Facebook site.Yellowstone River, Miles City — Water levels are starting to go down. Anglers are still catching catfish. The smallmouth bass and sauger bite is still slow and the water is still dirty. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.WyomingBighorn River, Thermopolis — The river is really mossy and hard to fish. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Boysen Reservoir — Walleye action has picked up and there have been a few reports of crappies coming in. The Wyoming Walleye Stampede Tournament is June 26-27. — Boysen Marina.Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Boat anglers are doing well and water clarity is fair. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Clarks Fork — The river is dropping, but flowing at 2,700 cfs as of Monday. — 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, 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). There has been some hopper action. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Lake DeSmet — Most fish were caught by boat anglers trolling with cowbells and PowerBait. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  Lower Shoshone — The river is off color, but anglers are still getting into fish. Use darker flies and streamers along the edges. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.North Fork of the Shoshone — The upper river is fishable. The water levels are starting to come down and clearing up. Use stoneflies with a North Fork Specials, Bloody Mary or Hare’s Ears droppers. There are some jig flies that would work well for droppers. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.South Fork of the Shoshone — The river is flowing at 2,000 cfs as of Monday but is fishable. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — Anglers are still catching some fish presenting worms. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.Yellowstone National Park — The Firehole and Madison rivers have experienced some high water temperatures lately, and it looks like the fishing on these two bodies of water will be put on hold until most likely September, when colder nights will help cool things down. The Gardner River is also a great option and you can expect to see caddis, PMDs, and in the days to come most likely salmonflies. For our sleeper bet of the week, take a look at Cascade Lake. An easy two-mile walk will get you into some nice little Yellowstone cutthroats and grayling. So, if you're looking for something a bit different give this a shot. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at john.let[email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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