The Joys of Montana’s Early Season

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When the conditions are right, early spring dry-fly fishing in Montana can be outstanding, with big fish coming to the surface.

photo by Toby Swank

Although early season here in southwest Montana can really be anytime between January and June, we typically start to get excited about things around now. April is a time of transition around here as rivers rise and fall, dirty up and clear, and water temperatures warm into the 40s only to drop back well into the 30s after every snowfall. When you hit it right, though, there’s hardly anyplace better to fish for trout than right out our backyard this time of year. Rising fish, beautiful surroundings and solitude on a big western river are all things pretty easy to find around Bozeman in April.

Cloudy days this time of year bring out the bugs, and it’s not unusual to have some steadily rising trout feeding on blankets of midges and BWO’s for a few hours when the conditions are right. Sure, the nymphing is pretty reliable right now, and you can get some great streamer fishing in most days, as well, but it is that slow, confident rise that gets the locals’ hearts pumping and the motivation to put away the skis for the year.

We’ve still got a ways to go until we know how the 2012 season will play out in terms of the runoff, but things are looking great right now. Most of the river drainages in and around Bozeman are at 90% or so of their long-terms average in terms of snowpack, so we should be in for a much more “normal” year that we’ve seen in a while. So, until early May, we should continue to have some great early season conditions and then things should be coming right as the rivers begin to drop in clear by mid-June.

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When trout start rising, it’s time to put away the skis and string up
the fly rod, before runoff kicks in and muddies the waters.

photo by Toby Swank

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