Fall Montana Guided Fly Fishing | What to Expect – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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Fall Montana Guided Fly Fishing | What to Expect

Fall fly fishing in Montana can be finicky, much like the weather. However, we use a variety of fishing techniques this time of year and will be hunting large brown trout.

Fall is a Great Time to Fly Fish in Montana

The colors of our wild brown trout change with the leaves. This transition usually occurs around the end of September or the beginning of October. The days get shorter, we have to scrape frost from our windshields and change up our fly fishing tactics.

Although volatile, fall is a beautiful time of the year in Southwest Montana. We have surpassed the height of tourist season, and hunting season has opened. These factors extremely decrease the amount of traffic on our local rivers.

While there are some dry-fly opportunities, we will be doing most of our fishing subsurface. A typical day will start at 8:30 or 9 a.m. You'll meet your guide, complete some paperwork and have a quick chat about what you're expecting to get out of the day. Certain stretches will be better for beginners and other stretches provide better streamer fishing.

Preparing for Fall Fly Fishing in Montana

The weather will be the biggest factor when it comes to where we fish and what fishing styles we incorporate. Some days will be 70 and sunny. Others will be below freezing and snowy sideways. Pack layers and rain gear. If you have boots and waders bring them. Otherwise, we can provide you with a set. Early in the fall, we will generally nymph fish until we break for a streamside lunch. If the sun comes out and gets the riverside insects active, we will try fishing terrestrial patterns -- grasshoppers, beetles or ants -- on the surface in the afternoon. This is the last opportunity of the season to throw a size 10, foam dry fly.

If the weather is crappy or the sun doesn't make an appearance, we will stick to subsurface fishing as we continue our eight- to twelve-mile float. Scuzzy weather often leads to a decent afternoon BWO hatch. These bugs are small, size 18 to 22, and the fish will be spooky. Bring your best reach cast and some patience when working a pod of fish rising to BWOs. Your guide will have four to six rods in the boat, so switching fishing styles is quick and easy.

Brown Trout in the Fall

We can't talk about fall fishing without mentioning brown trout -- salmo trutta. During the fall months, the browns are getting ready to spawn. Their usually gold-colored bodies transition to shades of deep orange. The males develop a kype jaw. While already the most predatory species of fish in our rivers, browns get more territorial in the fall as they prepare to produce the next generation. This allows us to throw large, articulated streamers in hopes of pissing off one of these monsters to get a violent, reactionary strike.

Fall Fly Fishing Strategies

Streamer fishing is fun, exciting, boring, disappointing, heartbreaking and rewarding all at the same time. You're not going to catch as many fish as you would nymphing. You are going to work way harder, throwing large flies on a sinking line and stripping it back toward the boat. You'll get depressed when you see a shark appear from an undercut bank to chase your streamer and turn away just as your anticipating the eat. But, eventually, you'll hook up with a pretty nice sized trout. Or you'll catch an eight-inch fish that has a huge appetite and start chuckling. Most of our staff love streamer fishing. It can be tough and frustrating, but each cast and strip renews the hope of landing a trophy trout.

Fall fly-fishing in Montana can be as finicky as the weather. We will have some tough days and some great days. But it's always a pleasure taking in the snow-capped peaks, colored-up foliage and nearly empty rivers. Give us a call at our Bozeman Fly Shop or book online for your next fall fly fishing adventure.