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SW Montana fishing report 5/9/22

The spring has been absolutely fantastic. The weather and water levels cooperated to give us a fantastic run on skwallas. This has definitely been one of the better years for spring dries. The last couple weeks, however, have been wet and cold. The mountain tops have gone from freakishly snowless, to pure white, again. Panic over low water is slowly giving way to excitement here at the shop, as our guides are envisioning a drag free June, and if we are lucky, July as well.

The Big Hole

This is the time of year that it is always hard to give an accurate fishing report because of the quickly changing conditions. The last few days with clients has been extremely difficult. With air temps rarely getting above 45 degrees, the water has been staying cold as well, stunting the stoneflies that were hatching and sending us back into full blown streamer season. The nights have been dropping well below freezing upriver from the fly shop, keeping the snow in the hills for the most part. Our current snow pack is above 100% for this time of year (based on the last 30 years). This bodes well for the summer as long as we can get a few rainstorms along the way.

Fat and happy streamer chaser on the upper river


As the river keeps rising the fish will continue to be displaced in the river channel. This is the hardest time to target trout. As the river begins to stabilize, no matter the level, the fish will find feeding lanes and once more be catchable. Steady river levels produce steady fishing, so let’s hope the river continues a slow rise with a long plateau at the top. This is a good time to go big or go home. The fish are hungry from a long winter and will take a wounded baitfish if the opportunity presents itself. I would stick to the old “go to” colors in dark water conditions. Try large white and yellow streamers with a good amount of weight, if it’s not near the bottom, it will not likely get eaten. The good news is that we have not dropped below 16 pound test yet this year (that includes the bonefish)!

The Beaverhead

The Beaverhead has had an unfortunate winter and spring. The fishing has been good, but the flows have been terrible. The dam outflow was 25 CFS for months (which is puddles up top). Usually we can fish the lower river in the spring but the west bench has been open for over a month, keeping in-stream flows at an all time low. Last week we saw the dam open to 68 CFS, which should help some of the rainbow spawn survive into the summer. For now I recommend wade fishing, but please be aware of spawning beds, and stay away from them.

All in all, it could be worse. There is still quite a bit of snow in the hills, and the fly shop didn’t burn down while we were in Andros. With the conditions changing rapidly, I would recommend calling your local fly shop for up to the minute information regarding the fishing conditions, and safe floating conditions. The fly shop is currently opening at 9 am but will be changing our hours to 8 am on May 15th. There are a few trees in the river channels below Glen, so if you don’t know, scout first.

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