Water, Water, Water – Fly Fishing Season is When?


It’s fly fishing season in Montana. Or it’s supposed to be! As spring gives way to, well, more spring here in Western Montana, fly rods sit collecting dust.  Fishermen and fly fishing guides around the state are watching in disbelief as waters rage and snow continues to mount on our hills and peaks.  Perhaps I’ll be reborn as a bum with a taste for back-country skiing and not trout, or have the money for both, or…I’m getting way off topic.

This is supposed to be a post about filling those fly-boxes that remain empty after our long winter.  Come on admit it.  You didn’t even tie a quarter of the flies you romantically planned on tying.  I had visions of my hunting dog curled up next to my L.L. Bean moccasin-covered feet, a glass of single-malt scotch at my side, a fire roaring mightily in the background, and me hunched over my vise as snowflakes (no two alike they say) fall slowly to the ground.

I don’t like scotch, and my craftsmen-style bungalow doesn’t have a fireplace, but that’s not the point.  I got lazy, too many evenings turned into “thirsty Thursdays,” and I’ve already depleted the swath of san juan worms that actually looked pretty full in my box.  To my credit, I do own a hunting dog and moccasins, though.

So, what to do while we wait for the waters to receed?  Organize your tying desk — or build one — and go support your local fly shop by buying a bunch of thread and tinsel and fur and feathers and get to work.  We are talking about making lemonade from lemons ladies and gentlemen.  So our season is gonna be a little late.  Boo-hoo.

Skwalla and March Brown fishing was other worldly this year, and when the water does finally drop, there will be miles and miles of unmolested trout — fat from weeks of earthworms, salmonfly nymphs, cows from the upper Clark Fork, and who knows what else, floating down river.  And what’s more, the fishing will be good — very good — although your dreams of the biggest fish in the Blackfoot rising in brown water to smash your big orange fly will probably have to wait till next year. But won’t it be sweet?

Here’s a brief list of things fly fishermen can do during this year’s mud season to occupy time.

1. Tie flies
Hunt morel mushrooms
Fill sandbags on Tower St.
Take up gardening
Go fish the Missouri

And take heart — fly fishing in Montana will eventually be a reality again.


Enjoy this blog? Be sure to visit our Make it Missoula fishing page. If you enjoy Western Montana lakes and rivers, you might also enjoy our page on Missoula kayaking and rafting.


Bryce McLean:  (Right) I was born and raised in Montana, and have been fly fishing here for almost 20 years.  I first learned to fish on the Missouri River, but when I was 10 my family moved to the Bitterroot Valley. I have been fishing the Bitterroot River ever since.  This will be my second season guiding the Missoula area rivers, which I consider to be some of the best trout fisheries on planet earth.

Matt Devlin:  (Left) Matt is originally from Annapolis, Maryland and learned to fool trout on the technical waters of the Gunpowder River.  He has fished in Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Main,e, Michigan, Indiana, North and South Carolina, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Idaho and Montana.  He thinks about flies and fishing a whole lot.