Welcome to the latest edition of the TOTF Fly Fishing Newsletter! As the weather warms up and the rivers come alive, it’s time to grab your gear and embark on exciting angling adventures in the beautiful Bozeman area. In this edition, we bring you the most recent updates, tips, and a new section on things to do in and around Bozeman to help you make the most of your trip to beautiful SW Montana. So, let’s dive right in!
Spring has sprung here in SW Montana, and the surrounding landscape is greener. The run-off is in full swing. The season’s snowpack of >130% is showing itself, with the flows a bit higher than last year. Generally, check destinations before heading out. Rivers that are not dam-controlled will be slightly angry regarding flow and clarity. As the run-off increases, tailwaters, spring creeks, and lakes are the best places to go. Temperatures are seasonally a bit cooler, warming in the afternoons, and overnights are still low enough to keep the water on the cooler side.
Check with us for the latest conditions around your expected trip—more below for each river destination.
The run-off has begun on the Madison, and flows are higher than usual for this time of year. However, the fishing from Quake Lake to Palisades FAS is still fair to good. The West Fork is bringing in muddy water. The water on the Madison from Quake Lake to the Palisades fishing access site will be off-color, but don’t let that intimidate you. If you are fishing below the West Fork of the Madison, you will be confined to the east side of the river and the center down to Palisades FAS.
Starting on May 27th, NorthWestern Energy increased flows out of Hebgen Lake to assist in flushing the fine silt in the gravel beds to improve the spawning areas. This Madison River Flushing Flow Program is designed to augment natural river flows with surplus water in good snowpack years to correspond with the West Fork and other tributaries to match the flows with clearer water. The flow increase is scheduled to continue throughout May. Conditions dictate fishing in the slower water and buckets below the surface; patterns of stoneflies, baetis, caddis, and worms are all producing well.
The lower Madison is doing well. The snow melt has Cherry Creek doing its thing and adding color to the river. The fishing below the Beartrap Canyon from Warmsprings downriver has been hit or miss. River flows are up, and clarity is not an issue.
The Mother’s Day Caddis hatch came off on schedule but was shut down by the colder-than-average temperatures for this time of year. We are also seeing some March Browns, Blue Winged Olives, Skwalas, Midges, and a few PMD’s.
5/31/23 CFS at Kirby Gauging Station 3,170 and dropping. Water temperature at 3:45 pm MST, 51° F
- Pats Stonefly nymph, black with olive legs – size 8-4
- Pats Stonefly nymph, olive with brown legs – size 12-8
- Psycho Prince in green, purple, and yellow – sizes 16-14
- BH Prince – size 16-12
- Lightning Bug, purple & gold– size 14-12
- $3 Dip, brown – size 16-14
- BH Serendipity, olive and brown – size 14-12
- San Juan Worms, red & orange – size 6-2
- Adams & Parachute Adams – size 18-14
- Purple Haze – size 18-16
- Flushfloater Stone Skwala – size 10
- American March Brown – size 14
- Griffith Gnat – size 22–18
- Double Screamer, black/olive, and silver – size 4
- Tips-up, white – size 4
- Bow River Bugger, olive – size 8-4
The jet boat section below Hauser Dam near Beaver Creek or the drift boat section below Holter Lake is fishing very well. These rainbows are feisty and acrobatic and are putting on a good show. On the Mighty Mo, the most common nymphs are Baetis, Midges, Sow Bugs, and Scuds. Suckers are in full spawn, and trout are slurping up any of their yellow or green eggs as they wash downriver. On overcast days, we see Baetis hatching, and if the wind isn’t blowing, you can find heads up feeding on them. We are starting to see a few PMD’s (Pale Morning Duns)- stay tuned as this hatch is about to get really good.
5/31/23 CFS below Hauser Dam – 8,150. CFS Below Holter Dam – 8,180. Water temperature at 3: 45 pm MST, 56° F
- Soft Hackle Sow Bug, pink and tan – size 16-12
- Lighting Bug, pink & purple – size 16-14
- Firebead Ray Charles, grey, pink & tan – size 16-14
- Pill Popper – size 16-14
- Perdigon – Purdee John Brown– size 16-14
- Tailwater Sow Bug – size 16-14
- Green Machine – size 16-14
- CDC Baetis Emerger, green & purple – size 16-14
- San Juan Worms, red & orange – size 6-2
- Egg patterns, orange, yellow or green – size 16
- Adams – size 18-16
- Parachute Adams – size 18-16
- Purple Haze – size 18-16
- Griffith Gnat – size 22—18
- Biot Midge, black – size 20-18
- Antonio’s Quill Midge – size 20-18
- Morgans Midge – size 20-18
- Kreelex, gold/silver – size 4
- BH (bead head) Wooly Bugger, black – size 8-4
- Sparkle Minnow, olive – size 4
- Zirdle Bug, olive – size 8 (dead drift as a crawfish pattern)
The Stone is very angry and not fishable. Flows are 1.5x to 2x the highest flow we deem safe to fish. With the snowpack and current conditions, we may have to wait until the middle-late June before we can get a boat on the water.
5/31/23 CFS at Livingston gauging station – 17,000. Water temperature at 3:45 pm MST, 52° F
The lake is fishing well. Start and finish your day fishing under a strike indicator with a Leech and a Chironomid nymph. Short leash, about 3′ from the indicator to the bottom fly. There is no rush to get on the water as the water temperatures are still very cold. Late afternoons and evenings have been more productive if the wind stays at bay. Another great technique this time of year is casting a crawfish pattern to the bank, letting it sink, and slowly retrieving it back to you. When fishing at Hebgen Lake, location is paramount. Our guides use motorboats, an advantage over a drift boat or wade fishing. This allows us to safely motor to different sections of the lake to find the feeding fish and is not as dangerous as being in a drift boat when the wind and waves pick up.
- Icecream Cone, red – size 16-12
- Jumbo JUJU Chironomid, red or zebra – size 16-12
- Near Nuff Crayfish, brown or olive – size 6
- Balance Leech, olive or Black/red – size 10
As always – check ahead of the weather conditions and flows to enjoy a safe and productive time on the water. You can always consult with us here at TOTF – for guided trips or if you just want to go it alone. We have a vast stable of seasoned guides that provide us with real-time information on the waters in the area.
The opening day of the fishing season in YNP is 5/27/23. October 31 is the last day of the fishing season in YNP. Unlike Montana, YNP has fishing hours from sunrise to sunset.
Opening day in the Park always coincides with run-off. However, some locations will fish well during this high-water period. We will mainly focus on the west side—rivers like the Firehole, Gallatin, and Gibbon Rivers. Check in with us for current conditions and be safe while these rivers are high.
A friendly reminder that the Park does not allow felt bottom wading boots.
You can purchase your YNP fishing permit online; no need to wait for a licensing agent to open up to get you on the water. Click HERE to buy online.
A reminder: All of your guided fishing trips on the Northeast corner of YNP are two-day minimum. This means your guide will meet you at a convenient location for you and the guide. For any trips on the West side of YNP, we will accommodate single-day trips.
Things to do in and around SW Montana
Beyond popular belief – there are other things to do in and around Bozeman besides fishing, especially for folks coming out with families or wanting something to do in the evening after a long, productive day on the water.
This month we will highlight some of the breweries in and around Bozeman and design a mini tour of five breweries our clients have stated they enjoyed.
Bozeman is home to a vibrant craft beer scene, with several exceptional breweries offering a wide range of delicious and unique brews. Embark on a self-guided tour or join a guided brewery tour to explore the flavors of Bozeman’s breweries. Here’s a suggested itinerary for a brewery tour in Bozeman:
- Outlaw Brewing: Start your brewery tour by visiting Outlaw Brewing, a small and cozy brewery known for its creative and unique brews. Explore their rotating tap list, featuring experimental and seasonal beers that showcase their passion for pushing the boundaries of traditional brewing. From barrel-aged ales to fruit-infused sours, you’ll find many flavors to delight your taste buds.
- Map Brewing Company: Next up on your brewery tour at Map Brewing Company, located on the outskirts of downtown Bozeman. Enjoy their spacious outdoor patio with stunning views of the surrounding mountains while sipping on their handcrafted beers. Map Brewing offers a variety of styles, including IPAs, stouts, and seasonal brews. Don’t miss their flagship IPA and try their rotating selection of small-batch releases.
- Mountain Walking Brewery: Next up, where beer meets innovation. Step into their rustic taproom and embark on a flavor adventure. Discover their boundary-pushing creations, from barrel-aged marvels to wild ales and sour beers. Each sip unveils a complex and unique flavor profile. Experience the artistry and passion behind every pour as we redefine traditional brewing. At Mountain Walking Brewery, you’ll elevate your beer journey to new heights.
- Bozeman Brewing Company: Next on the tour is Bozeman Brewing Company, one of the oldest breweries in town. Step into their spacious taproom and sample their lineup of classic and innovative brews. From their popular Hopzone IPA to their refreshing Hefeweizen, Bozeman Brewing Company offers a variety of flavors to satisfy every palate. Take a brewery tour if available to learn more about their brewing process and history.
- Bridger Brewing: Head to Bridger Brewing, a local favorite known for its exceptional pizza and outstanding beer selection. Pair their hand-tossed pizzas with a flight of their award-winning brews. Bridger Brewing offers diverse styles, from hop-forward IPAs to rich and malty ales. Try their creative seasonal and specialty brews, which often incorporate local ingredients.
Here is a Custom Map of these breweries.
Note: Please check the operating hours and availability of tours at each brewery, as they may vary. Consider using a designated driver or arranging alternative transportation to ensure a safe and enjoyable brewery tour experience. Brewery liquor licenses differ from regular licenses.
Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news!