Fishing Spruce Moths on the Gallatin River
Spruce moths got going a little later than usual this season, but this week they have been thick in the Gallatin Canyon. Learn more about fly fishing when these bugs are around below!!
The bugs look like caddis – they’re moths after all -- but they act more like stoneflies. They aren’t actually aquatic insects but end up on the water. Spruce Moths hatch in evergreen trees and aren’t the best flyers. When they hit the water, they cause a commotion, flapping their wings in a struggle to regain flight.
This generally causes fish to respond aggressively. Trout pounce on these critters like, well, trout on salmonflies or grasshoppers.
Some of the thickest Spruce Moth hatches in the area occur in the Gallatin Canyon. The bugs are just starting to show themselves. You’ll see them buzzing around tree branches and falling into the river for much of the rest of summer. Keep an eye on the naturals after they hit the water’s surface. You just might see a trout explode on the light-colored fly.
Artificial flies in size 12 and 14 tend to match the size of the naturals. You generally want something that floats well, so you can twitch it or skate it a bit to elicit the violent strikes. We like the Fat Head Moth and a Tan Twisted Baby. Even a trusty Elk Hair Caddis or Lime Trude should get some eats. We stock all of these patterns at our Bozeman Fly Shop.
Because Spruce Moths can flutter all over the place, trout will look for them in all types of water, unlike some hatches where you need to target banks or pools downstream of riffles. Drift your flies right along the bank, twitch them through riffles or skate them through slow runs.
Even if a fish passes on your fly for a natural, don’t feel bad. Spruce Moths are a pest that are killing trees throughout the West.
Other nearby waters that see significant Spruce Moth falls are Quake Lake, the Madison River, and just about any other streams lined with spruce or fir trees.