We all get the streamer bug pretty hard in the Fall and with all the chases and aggraessive grabs really whats not to like about it? The trend in the last few years amongst streamer guys is using the biggest fly possible to target the biggest fish in the river. Now there is nothing wrong with that and the pay off can result in a monster trout but sometimes it pays off to focus on the smaller size streamers as well.
The Moose of the Madison
One of my favorite animals in Montana is the Moose. They're just so big and ungainly looking you can't help but like them. They're also incredibly ornery. I love to see them out on the river, but you do have to be careful. An angry moose could really ruin your day.
Everyone here at the shop has seen a lot of moose this year. There's been a couple of them hanging out in Valley Garden on the Upper Madison all summer long. We've seen them on the Lower Madison, up by Varney on the Upper, I even saw one on the Yellowstone last month.
Here's a few of them we've seen this year:
Last winter Peter and I went a little crazy with the color blue. We tied lots and lots of streamers with it, nymphs with it, I even tied a couple dry flies with it. We had all kinds of blue materials in the shop on the tying wall. Some people thought we were crazy. We sure didn't.
Blue is one of those colors you don't see too much of outside of the steelhead market. Will it work for trout flies? Sure, why not. Everyone thought that purple was just a fad and a crazy color that couldn't possibly catch fish. But people tied flies in it and sure enough it stuck around. Today everyone knows about the Purple Haze. There aren't any bugs that come to mind off the top of my head that are purple. What makes it work so well?
My personal theory is that fishing colors that trout don't see all the time really makes a difference. Purple worked so well when it first came out partly because no one was fishing purple flies. If you look in fly bins at a Western trout focused shop, you likely won't see much blue. That's one of the reasons I tied a lot of flies in it.
While it may not be officially fall yet, it sure feels like it in town. The light has that fall-ish quality to it and even the air feels more crisp and fresh. The past few days we've seen our first real "fall" storm move through the area too. Temps dropped down into the 30s and 40s and it rained for a couple days. This muddied up the Yellowstone and the Gallatin, but it also put some of the first snow of the year in the mountains...
Fall gets a lot of people around here thinking about bugling elk, flushing grouse, but most importantly big, healthy, angry brown trout. As the browns start their spawning season they become incredibly aggresive and will chase down a streamer pattern with abandon. Streamer fishing gets the blood pumping and fall is the best time of year for it. Break out the 8-wt, sink tips, and big flies.
Fall also offers some of the best dry fly fishing of the year. The Blue Wing Olives are thick in most places and can be just great. For years, this has been my personal favorite hatch. My dad and I would always go to the Firehole River in YNP and fish the Baetis for a few days. The fish weren't huge, but it was always a lot of fun. In a lot of places you can bring an 8-wt for streamers and a 4 or 5-wt for dries and keep yourself busy all day long.
Guide Season recap
Getting into the late Summer season we start to see less crowds on the river, big fish, and my favorite small mayfly's tricos, psuedos, and baetis. It has been an absolutely incredible season on Montana's waters with great fishing, great people, and great times. It's easy to let it all fly by in a blur but towards the end of the season when i get a day off it's nice to reflect on what i've seen/learned this year.
Earlier this year we were all worried about how the summer was going to treat us. Snow pack was low and temps were high, which usually means a pretty lean summer. While most of the area rivers have been lower and warmer than "normal", a cooler and wetter July and August have really helped a lot in maintaining fishable levels.
We even had Hoot Owl Fishing Closures on the Lower Madison, Jefferson, Lower Gallatin, and a couple other local waters. Due to some cooler nights which have in turn lowered the water temps, these restrictions have been lifted! There are still some places in the state closed, but nothing we normally fish out of Bozeman. Things are coming into shape pretty well.
Late August is generally kind of a slower period for fishing. The hatches slack off and the water conditions make fish wary. But that doesn't mean that fishing isn't any good. Some of the largest fish we've seen caught this year have been in the past couple of weeks. Here are a few examples:
Late August means one thing for sure: Hopper Season. While there are grasshoppers around most of the summer, August is the best month for fishing them. Lots of things can contribute to a good (or bad) hopper year. Summer moisture is a big one, as is temperature. On hot, dry years the hoppers will congregate down by the river. On years like this one where we have had a lot of rain over the summer and things are still pretty green and healthy, the bugs are more spread out. How aggresively farmers use pesticides and such does make a big difference as well.
Our guides and anglers through the shop have been reporting that this year isn't great, but isn't too bad either. If you fish a hopper long enough you will likely get a fish to eat it. But it's not just the gangbusters off the wall action of some years. Natural colors such as tan and yellow have been working better, and the larger sizes are the way to go right now. One of our guides has been fishing a size 4 or 6 and doing much better than the 8s and 10s.
The larger hoppers are a much better choice if you are going to be fishing a dropper with your dry. Hoppers make a great choice if you want to fish a double fly rig. They are big and bouyant and easy to see. Modern foam hoppers are not only very visible and bouyant, but they are a lot more durable than traditional hair and feather styles. Fish generally hit hoppers with abandon and can chew flies up fast.
Hoot Owl Closures Lifted
These cooler nights we've been fortunate enough to have lately have cooled the rivers down enough that FWP lifted the Hoot Owl Restrictions on the Lower Gallatin and Lower Madison yesterday. It means that we can now fish those stretches all day long. As a reminder, the Gallatin from Sheds Bridge in Four Corners down to Three Forks was closed from 2pm to midnight due to high water temps. The Lower Madison from Ennis Dam to Three Forks fell under the same closure.
It's been a strange summer from a weather standpoint. But it could have been a lot worse and things are dropping back into really good shape right now. It's only going to get better as we move into fall.
Earn Your Success
Fishing this time of year can be a challenge. By now, the trout are wise to the most popular methods, especially in the easy to get to spots on the water. The biggest thing an angler can do to increase their success rate is to think outside the box. Sometimes, the crazier the idea, the more success it might lead to.
The Big Fish of Summer
It has been an incredibly busy year here at The Bozeman Angler. All of you, our customers, have made this great year a success. There is still some summer left, but already we are seeing a general slowing down of traffic through town. In late August the tourist traffic slows a bit as kids go back to school and the fishing slows down a bit with warm, low water. There is still a lot of great fishing to be had, so come make the most of it.
Not only has it been a busy and good year here in the store, but it has been a really good year out on the water as well. This summer has seen some great fish. Lots of really nice big trout have been caught, and are being caught every day. Here are just a few: