Top 5 Dry-Fly Patterns for Spring in NW Montana


The classic Parachute Adams worked great for imitating early-season Baetis, according to Tim Linehan of Linehan Outfitting Co.

photo via Orvis.com

Spring fishing is approaching quickly here in the northwestern corner of Montana. For the most part, the front end of the pre-runoff season is all about pulling streamers. But as soon as we hit the middle of the month and water temperatures start ooching into the middle 40’s, the dry-fly fishing will light up. Here are five top dry flies for our region that are consistently recognized as the fuel that feeds the trip to trout town.

1. Parachute Adams, size 18. Never leave home without it. The early season can feature fantastic hatches of Baetis/blue-winged olives. Baetis love cool daytime temps, a bit of precipitation, and dark days. They often hatch consistently from the Bitterroot to the Kootenai river during midday. There are some great Baetis patterns out there, but I’ll fish a Parachute Adams more often than not, since it sure helps to have that white post when fishing such a small fly.

2. March Brown Quigley Hackle Stacker, size 14. Hackle Stackers are sparsely tied and delicate flies that match the March brown hatch particularly well. March browns are quiet emergers, appearing during mid-day as water temps warm, and they don’t mind a little more light (as opposed to Baetis). Hackle Stackers are light on the water, have a slim profile, and fish well on 5X tippet.

3. Ameletus Brown Drake Sparkle Dun, size 12. Ameletus are the first truly large mayfly hatch of the season here in the northwestern corner of the state. Sparkle duns, with their characteristic Antron trailing shuck, are the just the ticket in the case of Ameletus. They’re big bugs, a bit more animated than March browns when hatching, and you can even fish them with a small twitch.

4. Bear Back Skwala, size 10. The Skwala stonefly hatch is by far the most significant hatch in the northwestern part of the state. These bugs are big, active, and if you hit a period when they’re flying or ovipositing eggs, the action can be outstanding. The Bear Back Skwala is a bit of a low rider and gives a fairly slim profile, which is more imitative than some other patterns.

5. Olive Stimulator, size 10. Stimulators are the Chevrolet of stonefly patterns, but tried and true they most certainly are. They land lightly, are easy to see, and in this case also represent a natural Skwala very well.

There are hundreds of patterns that cover the four major northwestern Montana hatches, but these five will get the job done as well as any.

Tim Linehan is the owner of Linehan Outfitting Co. on the Kootenai River in Troy, Montana.

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