Gearing Up for Late-Spring, Early Summer in Montana

Written by: Kurt Dehmer

Dehmer 1

Early in the season, you’ve got to be willing to adapt to the changeable weather and
water levels to score beautiful trout like this rainbow in Montana.

photo by Kurt Dehmer

Early season fishing in Big Sky Country means lots of things to lots of people. To experienced anglers, it means being prepared for sunburn or frostbite, epic days with too many fish to count or a full-on skunk fest. Late spring snowstorms are not rare in this region, and neither are clear sunny days in the mid-seventies. While some of the best conditions for great fishing exist this time of year, so do some of the worst. The trick to successful early season fishing in Montana is flexibility and adaptability.

Do not get your heart set on any one specific body of water, for conditions can change rapidly, and it is always better to have the option to travel someplace else where the fishing could be better. Bring along the appropriate clothing and gear, since nothing will ruin a day faster than a case of hypothermia. Lastly, in the early season keep a positive attitude and be prepared to travel. . .a lot. There are thousands of acres of dirt between Montana’s tailwater fisheries, and other than lakes, they are oftentimes the best places for early season action.

In every angler’s kit there are a few clothing items that will make a spring outing much more comfortable: 

  • Good quality rain jacket 
  • Mid–weight wool or fleece jacket or sweater 
  • Mid-weight synthetic long under-wear top and bottoms 
  • Heavyweight wool or synthetic blend socks 
  • Good quality pair of polarized sunglasses 

For early-season fishing, there is really need for only one rod. A five or six weight will work great. If lake fishing is on the menu, it isn’t a bad idea to bring along a spare spool set up with a sinking line. Early-season flies usually run on the big side, and nymphs, streamers, and worm patterns are the norm. If you’re lucky enough to hit things just right, there can be some fantastic dry-fly fishing, as well. Caddisflies as well as numerous species of mayflies will hatch if the water and weather conditions are ideal.

Kurt Dehmer is a guide at Lone Mountain Ranch, in Big Sky, Montana

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