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

Early summer is peak time to fly fish Montana. Bugs are hatching in force, kicking off our summer of dry-fly fishing.

Early Summer Fly Fishing in Montana

Once our local rivers, drop and clear, magic happens. Numerous species of bugs are hatching, and the trout are looking to the surface for their next meal. We call this "post-runoff" fishing, which, in a typical year, starts soon after the summer solstice. Our guides will focus on dry-fly fishing, but the nymph fishing is also at its peak.

On the Madison and Gallatin Rivers, runoff is usually wrapping up around June 20th. It usually takes the Yellowstone River another couple weeks to drop to a fishable level. When this happens, our summer hatches begin in force.

A Typical Day on the River

You will meet your guide, who comes prepared with lunch and soft drinks, around 8 a.m. Then it's a 20- to 60-minute drive to the river. Our guides will choose a section of river to float based on your expectations and what is fishing the best. We have more than 200 river miles to choose from.

At the boat ramp, the guide will assess what bugs are hatching and choose flies accordingly. This is also when beginners will receive a quick fly-fishing 101 lesson that includes casting and fighting fish.

Early Summer Fly Fishing Strategy

Throughout the day, multiple types of aquatic insects will hatch, including stoneflies, mayflies and caddisflies. The famous salmonfly and goldenstone hatches occur around the beginning of July. These are the largest insects that hatch from our local rivers. The often-overlooked Yellow Sally stonefly hatches throughout July, mostly in the afternoons. Mayflies, including Pale Morning Duns, Green Drakes, Brown Drakes and Flavs, will also be emerging this time of year. Anchoring on a pod of trout rising to PMDs is quite an experience. The fish can be picky, and our guides will have dun, emerger and spinner patterns to help you match each stage of the hatch. Caddis will be around throughout the day, though typically the fish start to key into them in the evening.

If the fish are being snotty, and not rising, they will surely be eating nymph patterns below the surface. This is a great way for beginners to get the feel of fighting fish on a fly rod, and for putting the highest numbers of fish in the boat.

Throughout the day, your guide will be changing your flies to match the natural insects the fish are keying on, which can change rapidly this time of year. Around noon, you'll take a lunch break, and scarf down a deli sandwich, pasta salad, chips and a cookie.

Oftentimes the afternoons provide great fishing. Stoneflies tend to get more active as the air temperature rises. It is rather common, to get a late-afternoon thunderstorm, so make sure you bring your rain jacket. You will likely not need waders and boots, because you will be in the boat most of the day, and the water temperature will be in the sixties. Some type of water friendly shoes or sandals can be beneficial; however, our guides are great at allowing you to keep your feet dry if you choose to wear socks and gym shoes.

After floating 10-14 miles, we will hit the take-out ramp in time to make it back for a dinner reservation. For the hardcore anglers, your guide can point you to a wade-friendly stretch of river, where you can hunt fish rising to caddis as the sun dips below mountain peaks.

Early summer fishing in Montana is a magnificent time of year for anglers of all abilities. We are starting to fill up, so be sure to book your reservation soon, by visiting our website or calling our Bozeman fly shop.