Fishing report: Dry fly fishing takes off as water heats up – Billings Gazette


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Fishing report: Dry fly fishing takes off as water heats up

Anglers fish the Yellowstone River recently. Heavy rains over the weekend have sent plugs of muddy water downstream.

Brett French

BILLINGS — With the extreme heat wave that has, and is expected to continue to bake much of the region, it is recommended to fish early or late for best success.Fishing early or late will also undoubtedly be more comfortable for anglers and give reprieve to the fish, as warm water temperatures can be lethal for trout.The preferred water temps for rainbow and brown trout is 55 to 57 degree-range; while temperatures 77 degrees or above can be lethal. Some fly fishing shops are recommending anglers carry a thermometer to check the water temperature before fishing.Several streams are under hoot owl restrictions, so be sure to check this report in addition to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website before venturing out.Also, because of low water, Crooked Creek Marina at Fort Peck Reservoir will close for the season on July 11.Here’s the weekly report: Top picksBoulder River — Fishing is pretty good on the Boulder. Fish Golden Stone dries with beadhead PMD nymph droppers for good action. Also, look for fish feeding on Pale Morning Duns in the afternoon. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Walleye fishing is good from Duck Creek to Pond 1 and Ponds 2 and 3 to the river channel in 8 to 15 feet of water. Try using bottom bouncers with red, orange or chartreuse spinners or crankbaits. Shore anglers are catching a few walleyes in Beaver Creek Bay near White Earth and around the Silos. Some perch are being picked up on the south end while using jigs and leeches. A few rainbows are being caught while trolling cowbells or gold and silver spoons between White Earth and the Silos. An occasional rainbow is being caught from shore at White Earth. — FWP, Helena.Glacier National Park — Fishing is great. The high country lakes are kicking in and the trails and passes are accessible. The Belly River in the northeast corner of the park is fishing well. Try olive Elk-Hair Caddis, Parachute PMD and Parachute Purple Haze. Royal Coachman, Renegades, Hare’s Ears, Prince Nymphs, black Woolly Buggers and Egg-Sucking Leeches, work everywhere in the park. Make sure to have some oddball flies, like a Parachute Black Gnat for a black ant hatch. We are approximately a month out for hopper season. — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.Holter Reservoir — Some rainbows continue to be picked up on the lower end of the reservoir. Trolling deep-running crankbaits, silver spoons or cowbells and Wedding Rings tipped with crawlers in deeper water has been working well for anglers after rainbows. Shore anglers are still catching an occasional rainbow while casting spoons or spinners or using crawlers on a floating jig, however, most rainbows have moved away from the shorelines with the warmer water temperatures. A few perch and walleyes are being picked up while vertical jigging in the canyon near the Gates of the Mountains and near Cottonwood Creek and other points or weed beds in the middle and lower sections of the reservoir. Various colored quarter-ounce jigs tipped with leeches or crawlers have been working well for perch and walleyes. — FWP, Helena.Yellowstone River, Livingston — The river has dropped to near 3,910 cfs as of Monday but couldn't be fishing better. The salmonflies are into Yellowstone National Park. The fish in the valley have digested their huge salmonfly meal and are back on the feed. Your best bet would be to tie on either a Golden Stone, Yellow Sally, PMD or Caddis. Depending on the day, there might be a few drakes here and there. Get your fishing in now, the river has been fishing excellent the last couple weeks. Springdale access reopened on June 27; FWP is asking all of us to avoid walking in the burned area from a spring fire. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.MontanaAckley Lake — A lot of pleasure boaters and tubers are out. Fishing is slow because of the heat and activity. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Beaverhead River — We are fortunate to have the river in our backyard. The trout producing tailwater is firing on all cylinders with cold water from Clark Canyon Dam downstream to the diversion at Barretts. The PMD hatches are becoming denser every day and the dry fly fishing is getting better. The PMD and yellow Sally hatches will build in magnitude as the month of July settles in. Expect to have plenty of company on the river. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.Big Hole River — Now is not the time to fish our area freestones, as we are seeing hot water temperatures on the Big Hole and Jefferson. The long days are not allowing the water to cool down at night. Things could get worse in the days ahead. Hoot owl restrictions have already been placed on the Jefferson and a full closure is in place on the headwaters of the Big Hole. Please check the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks website for updates on restrictions in the days and weeks ahead. We have stopped doing any guide trips on the two rivers until conditions improve. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — The smallmouth bite is still good. Some rainbows have been caught where the creek inlets are. There were plenty of people out pleasure boating over the weekend. — Scheels, Billings.Bighorn River — Fishing continues to be fairly steady. Most all of the rainbows are back on the feed and there are a lot of big fish in the system. Nymphing remains your best bet with Carpet Bugs, Split Case PMDs, Zebra Midges, Mac Gruber’s and various other Ray Charles style sowbugs. There is not much going on for dry fly fishing. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. Bitterroot River — The river continues to fish well. It is hot, so get out early and get off early. Lots of golden stones of all sizes are out, as well as yellow Sallies and PMDs. Use Rogue Stones, Yellow Stimis, Jake’s Golden Stone, Bulletheads, Henry’s Fork Golden, Mormon Girls, Outrigger Sallies, Tilt Wing PMDs, Brindlechutes and P-Hazes. Add a dropper off your golden to get more action with Jig PTs, Jig PMD Split Wing, Perdigons, Rubberlegs and Princes. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Blackfoot River — The Blackfoot is fishing great. There are still a few salmonflies up in the canyon and fishing them in the mid-river slots has been good. Drop a Yellow Sally or PMD nymph off the back. Golden stones of different sizes are out, too, and a Henry’s Fork Golden, Rogue Golden, Bullethead or Rasta Golden with a dropper is a good option, too. PMDs are coming off in the mornings and a Tilt Wing Dun, Extended Body PMD, Brindle Chute or P-Haze will get those sippers to eat. Remember presentation with a drag free drift is just as important as fly choice when it comes to PMD fishing. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Clark Fork River, Missoula — The Upper Clark Fork from Rock Creek up to Warm Springs is under hoot owl restrictions. Below Rock Creek there are no restrictions. The Clark Fork is fishing well, but the bright sun and heat is making for shy fish to come up to the dry fly. Dropper fishing has been much better, but there are still a few dry fly eats throughout the day. Early morning to early afternoon has been the best time to get out. A Golden Stone with a dropper has been our go-to rig, unless you see fish taking PMDs. Golden patterns to have right now are Rogues, Henry’s Fork Goldens, Jake’s Golden, Bulletheads, Yellow Chubbies and Plan B. Drop a Yellow Sally or PMD dropper off the back. PMDs are out in spots in the mornings, and a well-presented Tilt Wing Dun, Galloup’s Found Link, Extended Body or Brindle Chute will get sipped. There is still a tree down below Clinton. There is a right channel that you can take around the tree, but as the water drops it will get hard to do. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Cooney Reservoir — Water temperatures are in the upper 60s to low 70s. The recent rains have turned the inlets off-color. Mornings and late evenings have been best for fishing. Walleye and perch fishing has been good. Leeches or worms along the weed edges have been catching fish. Bottom bouncers with green and orange worm harnesses also did well last week. People are catching a few trout trolling Rapalas or spoons. — Cooney State Park.Deadman’s Basin — Anglers are catching the occasional rainbow while trolling. The best times have been in the early morning and late evenings. Local anglers are still going to the Broadview Pond. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.Flathead Lake (North) — Action is really slow. However, there is a chance of picking up lake whitefish in the river delta area. Target depths of 40 to 55 feet and use a Rattle-d-Zastor with a fly above it and bait both with maggots. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead Lake (South) — In the Big Arm area near Elmo, lake whitefish are beginning to bite. Some mountain whitefish are also biting. Perch fishing should be steadily picking up. In the rocky areas, anglers can also find smallmouth bass. A Wacky setup should work with a 3-inch Gary Yamamoto Senko hooked in the middle. A Smile hook setup with a crawler would be effective for perch and smallmouth. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, above the lake — Fishing is improving with water levels dropping and warm conditions producing bug hatches. Conditions should be ideal for fly anglers. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River, below Kerr Dam — The river is beginning to drop. Fly anglers are finding an abundance of rainbows, some of which are really large. Woolly Buggers are a good option. Observe the hatches, from caddis to stoneflies, mayflies, gnats and mosquitoes and match the hatch. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Flathead River sloughs — Early mornings when the water is the coolest would be best. If fishing at other times of the day, find the deepest hole you can. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Water levels are dropping, but there isn’t a problem launching boats. Pike have been aggressive. Anglers are catching some walleyes either trolling walleye rigs or jigging in the shallows. Leeches or worms are the best bait. — Rock Creek Marina.Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — Boat launching is a no go because the water levels are only 1.2 feet deep at the boat ramp. The marina will close July 11 because of low water levels and will reopen for hunting season. Call 406-366-6313 for information on cabin rentals. — Crooked Creek Marina.Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — A lot of little walleyes are being reeled in. All in all, the bite is good. Bottom bouncing with a crawler or leech is best for walleyes. Pitch Shiver Minnows or use Lindy Rigs and minnows. For pike, pitch spoons to the shorelines or pull crankbaits. Lake trout are being caught pulling spoons with downriggers or using flashers and flies at depths of 80 to 100 feet. Some are jigging for lake trout in 70 to 90 feet. A few bass are being reeled in by those in search of walleyes. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — Fishing well for walleyes. Try pulling crawler harnesses in 20 to 25 feet and you will find some bigger walleyes, but will have to sort through the smaller ones. A few northerns and crappies are also being reeled in. There are no problems launching at Fourchette. — Hardware Hank, Malta.Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Fishing has been good overall. On windier days fishing is little slower. For walleyes, try pulling bottom bouncers with crawlers or leeches. For northerns try pitching into the shallows or pull crankbaits shallow. Smallmouth are active. Try pitching jigs at rock piles. — Hell Creek Marina.Gallatin River — A hoot owl on the Gallatin from Highway 84 in Four Corners downstream to the confluence with the Missouri River, as well as a full fishing closure on the East Gallatin River from Penwell Bridge Road downstream to the confluence with the Gallatin River, and a hoot owl on the East Gallatin River from the confluence of Bear Creek and Rocky Creek downstream to Penwell Bridge (probably pump the brakes on the East for now). Salmonflies have still been spotted later in the afternoons/evenings in the canyon. Keep your eyes open for caddis and PMDs at various times of the day when conditions are right. We're also starting to see some golden stones and yellow Sallies on the river, and if you're not having success with a Chubby and a dropper, maybe consider a terrestrial like an ant or hopper pattern.— Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Georgetown Lake — Hatches are callibaetis, midges, damselflies and caddis. Suggested fly patterns are: Damsel Nymphs, Chironomids, Hare’s Ear Nymphs, Parachute Callibaetis, Drifter Midges and Goddard Caddis. Water conditions are clear and the water temperature at midday is 68 degrees. — Flint Creek Outdoors, Philipsburg.Hauser Reservoir — A few rainbows are being picked up while trolling deep-running crankbaits, silver spoons or cowbells and Wedding Ring combos around Devil’s Elbow, Black Sandy to the power lines and the dam area. Most walleyes are being picked up in the Causeway arm and in the White Sandy and Black Sandy area. Trolling bottom bouncers or pitching jigs/vertical jigging near points has been working well for walleye. Shore anglers are picking up a few walleyes from the Causeway Bridge while using floating jigs and leeches or pitching jigs from shore. — FWP, Helena.Hebgen Lake — The bite has slowed down. Fly anglers are still catching trout on nymphs. Trolling spoons and Rapalas has enticed a few trout. Lake levels are receding a little bit, but there are no problems launching at Kirkwood. Water levels are low in the Madison Arm area. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.Lake Koocanusa — Fishing has been a little slower with the heat, but anglers are still catching rainbows and kokanee. Many anglers are using flashers. Most action is on maggots for trout and kokanee. — Koocanusa Resort and Marina, Libby.Lake Mary Ronan — Anglers are limiting out on kokanee, but the fishing is a little more difficult. Early mornings seem to be the best, but some are still catching fish between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jig fishing is still the preferred method, but trolling will bring in some fish. Perch fishing is sporadic. Use a bottom weight with two Fuzz Bugs or Smile hooks above it baited with crawlers. At times, shrimp is a good choice. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Madison River, Lower — With low flows and extremely hot temperatures, it’s probably best to leave this river alone till things cool down in September. If you do decide to fish the lower, go very early in the morning, use barbless hooks, get your fish in as soon as possible, and do not take your fish out of the water as this exponentially increases mortality. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Madison River, Upper — The upper has been fishing great overall. There should still be a few salmonflies up here. We have also been seeing golden stones, caddis and green drakes. 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. Some fish are taking streamers on cloudy days. We have had reports of anglers getting better streamer action near Lyon Bridge and below. The sweet spot seems to be the Three Dollar area with excellent streamer, dry and nymph opportunities. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.Martinsdale Reservoir — There were quite a few anglers out this weekend. Lake levels are going down as water is being drawn for irrigation. Boats can still be launched. — Mint Bar, Martinsdale.Missouri River, below Holter — There has been quite a bit of traffic but overall the river is fishing well. A jigged rainbow Spanish Bullet, jigged Trench and Splitbacks are working. One can use PMDs. Caddis are out in the evening. Try a Corn Fed Caddis. Purple Chubbies and Royal Chubbies are also attracting fish. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — A few catfish and walleyes have been caught. Worms or leeches will work for both species. Bring bug repellant. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Nelson Reservoir — Fishing is pretty slow. A few people are pulling crawler harnesses and crankbaits and boating a few walleye and northerns. Water is being let out for irrigation so water levels are pretty low, but anglers can still launch boats. — Hardware Hank, Malta.Noxon Rapids Reservoir — Water conditions are great and people have been out fishing. — Lakeside Motel and Resort.Pablo Reservoir — A 23-inch largemouth bass was caught and released. Pictures of the fish make it look like it might be bigger than the state record of 9.58 pounds. Anglers are using top-water presentations, like a frog. Some are using 5- to 8-inch Gary Yamamoto Senkos. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Rock Creek (West) — This is a wade fisher’s paradise and will be the rest of the summer. Water is lower than normal and the heat is making for higher water temps than we’d like to see. The late afternoon and evening have been tough fishing because of the water temps. Get out early and you’ll have much better fishing. Golden Stones, Yellow or Lime Sallies, PMDs and Caddis are all on the menu. Fish are starting to take attractor dries as well. A good method is a smaller golden stone like a Rogue, Henry’s Fork Golden or Golden Chubby (12-14) with a Jig PMD Split Back, Perdigon or Jig PT. Try PMDs in the morning with a Brindle Chute (16), Tilt Wing Dun or Galloup’s Found Link. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.Spring Creek — A few anglers are out. Try streamers. Panther Martin or Mepps also would work. — Sport Center, Lewistown.Stillwater River — With the recent storms in the mountains the river rose approximately a foot over the weekend. On Monday the water was off-color and dirty. Anglers have been hooking up with Gold-Ribbed BH Hare’s Ears and red Copper John (16). A few fish are still being caught on the Bitch Creek (8). No report on late evening fishing. — Absarokee Fly Shop, Absarokee.Swan Lake — It has cleared up and fishing has picked up for lake trout. However, with the extremely warm temperatures fishing is still somewhat slow. The best success would be jigging with 1- to 1.5-ounce jig with cut bait and a fly above it. Trolling isn’t a bad option, as the fish are really aggressive. Most are smaller, so use smaller spoons in blue and silver. At Kicking Horse, the water is being drawn down and anglers are locating largemouth and pike, however it is hard to get the fish to strike. Ninepipe is still full of water and there is a good possibility for big bass. The low-lying areas at Ninepipe are flooded. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.Tiber Reservoir — A 31.5-inch, 10-pound walleye was caught by a young angler on Saturday. Bottom bouncing is a good method. Worms are a good bait. Fishing in the mornings and evenings is best for walleyes. A few northerns have been caught. The pike being caught are smaller. — Ru’s Tiber Marina.Tongue River Reservoir — Overall, action is pretty slow. The crappie are deep. The bass and perch are in the shallows. Off the bank, bass, perch and bluegills have been caught either sinking a worm or using a bobber and a worm. A few walleyes have been caught by shore anglers doing this as well. The best walleye fishing is in the southern half of the lake. — Tongue River Marina.Yellowstone River, Big Timber — The Yellowstone is fishing well, with yellow Sally, caddis, PMD and golden stone hatches happening on any given day. Try a streamer in the riffles or fish a Hopper when it's windy. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.Yellowstone River, Huntley — The river has come down and fishing has been slow in the heat of the day. Early a.m. seems to be best, with anglers catching some catfish on minnows and cut bait. Bass, walleyes and sauger are hitting on jigs and different plugs. The moss is starting to get bad. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.Yellowstone River, Miles City — Anglers are catching some walleyes and smallmouth. Try using crankbaits or minnows. Anglers are also taking some catfish on stink baits or minnows. Water levels are low, so anglers need to watch for debris and exercise caution when boating. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.WyomingBighorn River, Thermopolis — Anglers are having luck catching fat trout in the mornings. At 2 p.m. fishing slows. Worms and spinners are working. — White Horse Country Store, Thermopolis.Boysen Reservoir — Anglers continue to do well for walleyes. — Boysen Marina.Clarks Fork — It is very fishable up into the canyons. The flows were at 1,250 cfs on Monday. North Fork Specials a Bloody Mary or Pheasant Tails will work. Streamers, emergers and midges will also work. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Cody-area lakes — At East and West Newton, both dry flies and nymphs are working. Try a Griffith’s Gnat. Damselfly nymphs are also working. At Luce and Hogan, use nymphs. Seal Buggers and para Adams are good choices. Purple Haze is a good choice. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Lake DeSmet — Trolling worms was effective for trout. Rapalas were also a popular choice this weekend. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  Lower Shoshone — The flows were 1,235 cfs on Monday. The river has a milky color to it. Griffith’s Gnats, Pheasant Tails, Midges, North Fork Specials, Zebra Midges, and soft hackles are all working. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.North Fork of the Shoshone — The flows were 1,140 cfs on Monday. Recent rains may have dirtied the water a little bit. An assortment of dry and wet flies are working, including Pat’s Rubberlegs. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.South Fork of the Shoshone — The flows were 1,650 cfs on Monday. Purple Parachutes, Royal Wulff, Yellow Humpies and Red Humpies will all work. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — Even with the rain on Sunday and Monday a lot of anglers were out for the Fourth. Lake levels are receding, but boats can still be launched. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.Yellowstone National Park — The Northeast Corner is a great option and Slough, Lamar and Soda Butte have all been fishing. These rivers are still running a bit cool, so don't expect the fishing to be great until at least mid to late morning. Try Missing Link Caddis (16), PMD Sparkle Duns (16), Rogue Salmonfly (6), Golden Stone (10) and Grey Drake Sparkle Duns and Spinners (12). The Gardner River has been very good and you can fish this at the top end near Sheepeater Cliff for brookies or down below Mammoth where you'll find several different species including brookies, rainbows, browns, cutthroat, whitefish and cutbows. Have Sunken Stones (8), Missing Link Caddis (16), PFD Parachute PMDs (16), Jake's Yellow Sally (16) and Stimulators (14-16). Just in case, add in a Spanish Bullet (16) and a Micro Mayfly (14-16) for a dropper. — 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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