Mid-Winter Report

In This Newsletter

  • Lodging options.
  • Fishing report.
  • Snowpack to date.

Lodging Options

Here at Trout On The Fly, we recognize each of our clients’ unique tastes and needs when it comes to lodging, and this article intends to help you make the best decision regarding your lodging options.

When we receive an inquiry about booking a fishing trip, the conversation ultimately leads to lodging. The following questions have been outlined to help you make an informed decision regarding your lodging needs.

  1. What is your budget?
  2. Do you want to cook for yourself?
  3. Do you want to eat out for every meal?
  4. Do you want an all-inclusive experience?
  5. Do you prefer a bed and breakfast?
  6. Would you prefer a vacation house?
  7. Are you more comfortable with a motel/hotel?
  8. Are you traveling in an RV or wish to stay in a tent?
  9. Which location do you prefer?
  10. Do you want to stay by the riverside or in town?
  11. What is the size of your group?


Depending on our clients’ reasons for lodging, we recommend sites suitable for their needs. If you are traveling in an RV or a travel trailer, your lodging option would depend on whether you want full hookups or no hookups. Similarly, if you are tent camping, whether you want a location with shower facilities or a primitive site would influence our lodging recommendation for you. Moreover, the location is an important deciding factor; for instance, if you are scheduled to fish in the Madison River near Ennis, MT, we recommend a location close by, NOT near the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park. Another critical factor is mobile phone coverage; if you are not in a location with good mobile phone coverage, you and your guide will not be able to contact each other. If you are at a campsite with no mobile coverage, we will make arrangements beforehand when and where to meet your guide.


All the areas we fish are equipped with hotels or motels, located at a reasonable driving distance away from the exact location where we plan to fish. Depending on where you’re fishing with us, we can provide several recommendations.

Hotels and motels are affordable options for single anglers or couples. Although these are not the best options for large groups, sometimes they are the only option. Nevertheless, this is a great option if you plan on eating out for breakfast and dinner every day. Lunch is offered in all our full-day guided fishing trip packages.

Suppose you are scheduled to fish in October for fall run-up rainbows and browns on the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park. In that case, instead of staying at a hotel in Bozeman or Ennis, MT, you could choose to stay in West Yellowstone, MT. October is a winter month here in Montana, which means the roads can be terrible on any given day. We don’t want you traveling long distances from October through April to fish with us. On this subject, another thing to consider when renting your car from October through April is to make sure you have an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle. One of my longstanding clients and his son booked a mid-October fishing trip with us; they had two days planned on the Madison River in YNP and two days on the Missouri River jet boat trip. When I picked them up for their first day, they had a rear-wheel-drive two-door convertible Camaro! I was appalled that the rental car company would even rent a car like this in October. And, of course, the weather deteriorated, and the roads turned icy and snow-packed. This made travel much more nerve-racking than it should have been.

Bed & Breakfast

Like the local hotels and motels, B&B’s are a great option for single anglers or couples who wish to enjoy a good breakfast in the morning. When booking bed and breakfasts, one important thing to be considered is how early your guide wants to get you on the water. If the answer is before 7 am, we would recommend against staying at a B&B since you won’t be able to enjoy the scheduled breakfasts at the facility.

As mentioned before, we provide lunch on all our full-day trips. We would make recommendations in the area for restaurants for dinner if you planned on staying at a bed and breakfast.

Vacation House

Renting a vacation house has become quite popular over the past several years due to Airbnb and VRBO. These vacation rentals can accommodate large groups or single anglers. They are located in town with amenities, on rivers or lakes, or in the mountains.

The wonderful thing about a vacation rental is the home-like atmosphere that makes your stay feel personal and inviting. The little things such as being able to hang your wet waders at the end of the day or having a washer and dryer available so you can enjoy time with friends and family instead of wasting time at the laundromat. Vacation houses are great if you want to cook in, eat out, or enjoy a combination of both. Here at Trout On The Fly, we can even arrange for a chef to come in and cater to you and your group while you are out fishing! The chef could talk with you about the meal you prefer—from prime rib to encrusted walleye. This would be a great option if you wish to savor a two-course gourmet dinner, including appetizers, on a budget.

Between our recommendations, Airbnb and VRBO, we are confident that you will find the right vacation house for your needs. Book early to spend your time at the vacation house you desire!

All-inclusive Lodges

Despite the welcoming feel, one might sense through the name that all-inclusive lodges are not for everyone.

The pros are that it is a one-stop-shop option—you show up, and everything from meals to housekeeping is taken care of; you just sit back and enjoy your time with family and friends and let the staff take care of you. However, this option is on the high end when it comes to budget. If it is your first time traveling to a new area, an all-inclusive lodge can give you the peace of mind you always looked for.

The cons of an all-inclusive lodge can sometimes outweigh the pros. Most all-inclusive lodges are highly structured. This means that breakfast is served at a set time, the guides show up at a set time, and appetizers and dinner are at a set time. This does not provide the flexibility which people look for during vacations. So, if you are here for the fishing, this may not be the best option. For example, the best fishing timeslot can be at 6 am in late-June–early July, the all-inclusive lodge may not the best option. Similarly, if you are targeting rising fish at 4:30 pm, just when the appetizers are served—at 4:30 pm—then this may not be the best option for you.

If you are willing to spend thousands of dollars on your Montana fishing vacation, choosing your lodging can be as important as picking your outfitter and guide. Lodgings get booked just as quickly as great fishing guides. Hurry and fish out your lodging of choice!

Fishing Report

Weather conditions have been unseasonably warm lately which has allowed anglers to get out and enjoy some of the open water.

Madison River – Location, location, location! Walk-n-wade fishing between Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake. Wade fishing below Earthquake Lake at Raynolds Bridge, $3 Bridge, Pine Butte, and the West Fork. Wade fish below Ennis Lake are going to be your best options for open water.

Recommended Patterns

  • Nymphs/Emergers
    • Pats Stonefly nymph, black with olive legs – size 8-4
    • Palamino Midge, black – size 18-16
    • Mercury Black Beauty – 20-18
    • #3 Dip, rust-brown, olive – size 16-14
    • San Juan Worm, red and orange– size 4-2
    • Egg Patterns, orange, pink size 16
  • Dries
    • Biot Midge, black – size 20-18
    • Antonio’s Quill Midge – size 20-18
    • Griffiths Gnat – size 20-18
    • Morgans Midge – size 20-18

Missouri River – If you follow our social media pages, you are aware that we could get the jet boat in on Upper Holter Lake so we could fish below Hauser Dam in the Land of Giants on January 16th. We had to break some ice with the boat in the first 100 yards leaving the Gates of the Mountain Marina. The ice was 3/8″ – 1/2″ in thickness. We were the only boats on the river and the lake that day. There were a few wade angles that walked in from below the dam. The fishing was good! The better fishing was located in water that was 4-6’ in-depth and moving about walking speed. For a majority of the bigger fish landed was located where the river meets the lake, stripping a black wooly bugger VERY SLOWLY. The great thing about fishing from our jet boats is that we can fish the same productive water over and over again.

We were able to float the Mighty Mo from Holter Dam to Craig, MT on January 15th in the drift boat. Our fishing was not as productive as the jet boat section of the Missouri on 1/16/21. Like the jet boat section, most of the fish were in deeper, slow-moving water. Once you recognize the structure of water the fish are holding in, you can row past the non-productive water to the holding locations and focus your time there.

Both the drift boat section and the jet boat section of the Missouri River did not produce any consistent rising fish for us to target. If you plan to fish the Missouri this winter, I would make sure you have your midge dry flies with you.

Recommended Patterns

  • Nymphs/Emergers
    • Soft Hackle Sow Bug, natural and pink – size 16-14
    • Firebead Ray Charles, grey, pink & orange – size 16-14
    • Rainbow warrior – size 18-16
    • Mighty Midge, red– size 20-18
    • San Juan Worm, red, orange & pink – size 6-2
    • Egg Patterns, orange & pink – size 16-14
  • Streamers
    • Kreelex, gold/silver – size 4
    • BH Wooly Bugger, black – size 8-4
    • Thin Mint – size 10-6

Ruby River – Fishing the Ruby in the winter is an excellent option for a few hours during the warmest part of the day from 11-3 pm. The flows are manageable to wade around within the ordinary high water mark without trespassing (click HERE for Montana Stream Access Law). Usually, there is little to no competition out there, and there is a high chance you will fish to rising fish.

  • Nymphs/Emergers
    • Palamino Midge, black – size 18-16
    • Mercury Black Beauty – 20-18
    • Disco Midge, red – size 20-18
    • San Juan Worm, red and orange– size 4-2
    • Egg Patterns, orange, pink size 16
  • Dries
    • Biot Midge, black – size 20-18
    • Antonio’s Quill Midge – size 20-18
    • Griffiths Gnat – size 20-18
    • Morgans Midge – size 20-18

 Snowpack to Date:

Since our last report on December 16th, the snowpack in the higher elevations has barely moved up. We are not too concerned about these numbers yet. March and April months can bring heavy wet snow to bump our much-needed snowpack up to average amounts.

Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news!