Fall in Montana: Saving the Best for Last

Fall Brown Trout 1

After a strange season characterized by high water and late hatches, October looks like a great time to be on the
rivers of southwestern, Montana.

photo by Toby Swank

We’ve been stuck in a lingering Indian summer here in southwestern Montana, which has just added to the irregularity of the 2011 season. Things started off later than usual, thanks to heavy snow last winter, only to be followed by one the wettest springs on record. Anglers and guides across the region were scrambling around parts unknown in search of fishable water throughout most of June and July, only to be treated with some of the best late-season water conditions we’ve ever seen. The season is starting to wind down, and it looks like we will finish up the year on more familiar ground—so long as the weatherman is reasonably correct with his latest forecast.

Fall Brown Trout 2

As nights cool, big brown start chasing streamers in the low light of morning and evening.

photo by Toby Swank

Fall is a time of transition, which can make for some real boom-or-bust days on the water around here. So much is changing that it is impossible to make accurate predictions about where the best chances for success can be found. The brown trout are becoming more aggressive as they start to move into spawning areas and pair-up for what lies ahead. Cold nights cool the water and bring a return of hatching insects, which become more important to feeding trout than their steady diet of hoppers and ants over the last month or so. And then there is the return of quietness on just about all the waters in the region, and Montana looks more and more like we all envision it to be.

Fall Brown Trout 3

Great water conditions might make this one of the best Octobers in recent memory.

photo by Toby Swank

The forecast looking ahead is for some cooler, unsettled weather characterized by mild days and cool nights, with a little moisture along the way. As the weather becomes more like fall and less like summer, we’ll soon see the trout chasing streamers early and late just about every day with intermittent periods of rising to small mayflies in between.

Locals and seasoned travelling anglers already know that October in Montana is one of the last best-kept secrets of Western trout fishing. While some folks might be out chasing feathers and fur, I’ll be looking on the Madison and Yellowstone…looking for gold!

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