Montana Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing in Montana
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This is going to sound weird, but I’m obsessed with fly fishing in Montana. I don’t get exposed to mountains and valleys much in Michigan, but after over 20 trips to MT you learn the routine.

When to Fly Fish in Montana

Late summer and into fall is my favorite. Two reasons, first – the tourist season is winding down and the “obsessed folks” like me start wandering dirt roads, second – river temperatures are dropping with the cooler nights and the stream levels are dropping.

Many lodges also start offering reduced rates starting in late September and into October. The weather will start to get more unpredictable as colors start changing in fall so [ack layers if you’re going to fish at this time.

Planning to make the most of any Montana fishing trip can be intimidating so I’ve got a guide describing the seasons. Check out When to Fly Fish in Montana.

Flies and Hatches for Montana

Each of the river guides: Madison, Clark Fork, Yellowstone and the Big Hole have hatch charts and a listing of my favorite flies. I’m going to recommend learning just a little bit about bugs. Some basic life cycle understanding and ways to match the bugs you’re seeing with what’s in your fly box will help catch more.

Check out my article: Fly Fishing Entomology (Bugs that Catch Fish) some of the things I’ve learned about bugs have saved a day on the river.

Hatch Chart for Montana

Fly NameSizeStart DateEnd Date
Salmon Fly4June 20July 10
Yellow Sally Stone14July 5August 5
Elk Hair Caddis16April 20August 15
Blue Wing Olive18April 1August 15
Trico20July 20September 20
Midge (Gnats)20March 1November 20
Grasshoppers10July 15September 20
Black and Red Ants16May 15September 15
Mice (Night Fishing)6July 1September 30

Foundational Flies for Montana

  • Terrestrials like grasshoppers in size 8 or ants in size 18
  • Stonefly like the Golden Stone in size 8. A must have from May to July
  • Caddis, I’m pretty traditional and carry Adams and Elk Hair in sizes 12 – 18.
  • Midge, carry both dry and nymph. My go to is a Griffith’s (<-YouTube Link) for dry in size 18-20 and size 18 Zebra midge as a nymph.
  • Pheasant Tails and San Juan Worms in a variety of colors and sizes.
  • BWO, it seems like blue wing olives are a must have as well. I’ll often turn to these when nothing else is working, but I still see fish rising

Guide Pro Tip: Every river has it’s “moods” and until you can get in tune with what’s happening visit a local fly shop and ask a couple questions about the hot flies. (and buy some flies) Another great way to build a fly box is to start out with a collection. I did a YouTube video HERE on the Ventures Fly Company 40 pcs Collection (<-Link to Amazon)

Flies for Colorado
Flies for Montana

Favorite Guides and Fly Shops in Montana

I completely understand that fly fishing any new water can be intimidating.  Here’s the trick, get somebody to help.  Even after over 30 years of fly fishing I still hire guides.   Why?  You can learn more in a day with a guide than you can in 30 trips on your own.

If you’re looking for a true “Montana” fly fishing experience, check out Montana Angling Co. Max and the team can help planning a perfect trophy fish trip. Great guides, helpful information on where to stay and “insider” knowledge of the Yellowstone river and more. Short cut link – Montana Angling Company

Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop in Missoula is a full-service shop.  With the Clark Fork approximately 300 yards from the shop you could say the Clark Fork is their “Home Water” Providing everything from flies, gear, guides and even lodging.  Check out the multi-day packages.  Missoula has a lot of water beyond the Clark Fork to fish.

  • In West Yellowstone a must visit fly shop is Jacklins. For the area they have some of the best guides.
  • In Bozeman MT, Montana Troutfitters is a solid choice if you’re starting you Montana adventure.

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