2012 Montana Fishing Outlook – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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2012 Montana Fishing Outlook

I can’t tell you how good it feels to not be spending everyday thinking and talking about snow-pack! Sure, we’ve still been talking about it, but in much more familiar terms than we have been using the previous 2 years. With most of the regional drainages in the 90-100% rang of their long terms averages, we are expecting more of a “normal” season for 2012. Here’s a quick summary of how we expect conditions to play out for the fast-approaching season to help you with planning your trip to Montana.

Early season, pre-runoff, conditions should provide for good fishing and little fishing pressure around the state through the end of April to early May. A variety of factors including additional heavy snows, rains, or a stretch of unseasonably warm weather could change the timing of the initial spring melt. Historically, things tend to get dirty and unfishable around SW Montana in early May, a little earlier than that over in the Missoula area. April, however, should be great and should be worth consideration if you’re getting the itch to head to the area for a few days!

Pre-runoff fishing is characterized by clear water and very little angling pressure. Water temperatures are slowly pushing the mercury up and fish are becoming increasingly more active. Rainbows are in the middle of spawning or getting ready to spawn so we leave them alone and focus on finding feeding fish in the larger to mid-sized rivers. Daily hatches of Midges and Blue Winged Olives bring feeding trout to the surface just about everywhere on cloudy days. As the end of April approaches, we keep our eyes out foe the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch, which can provide some out of this world dry fly fishing if your timing is just right. Either, way, it’s a great time of year to be out here and we’ve got a lot of choices in regards to where and how we fish up until the first stage of the runoff begins.

We’ll focus our efforts on the Missouri River in Craig and private spring creeks around Livingston for most of May and early June. The spring creeks are a great one day choice and offer technical dry fly fishing and nymphing for intermediate to advanced anglers this time of year. The Missouri is a big river that stays relatively clear right on through the runoff and is a great option for all skill levels. We expect the flows to be much lower than we’ve seen the last few springs up there which should translate into easier fishing and maybe even some good dry fly fishing on BWO’s and March Browns. With more normal flows expected around the state, there should also be less angling pressure as many folks should be able to stick closer to their home waters this time of year.

Things should start to clear and drop around Bozeman by mid-June on many of the small to medium sized rivers including the Gallatin, Jefferson, and Madison. The Yellowstone should be fishable by late June or early July. We’ll keep everyone up to date once the runoff begins, but this is what we are expecting at this stage based on the current snow-pack in the various watersheds. I wouldn’t hesitate to plan a trip out here anytime after mid-June as we will have plenty of options in terms of place with fishable conditions.

The summer is still a long way off, but the current snow pack is very encouraging in regards to our overlook outlook for the year. There is more than enough snow in the mountains and water in the reservoirs to keep the rivers at health levels on through the season. Barring a prolonged streak of temperatures in the triple digits and the absence of mid-summer thundershowers, we should be in great shape in late July and August.

The last couple of years have definitely made it more difficult for us in terms of helping folks pick the right time of year than we’ve been accustomed to for some time. 2012 is looking to be a great year with plenty of options for everybody from the do it yourself wade fishermen to the folks looking for a multi day float trip on a variety of rivers around the state.

Our guides’ schedule are starting to fill in July and August, so please consider making your reservations soon to ensure that we’ll be able to get you with your favorite guide. We still have plenty of room on our schedule for late June and September as well as a few openings for the Missouri in May. Be sure to take a look at all of our guide trip options for 2012 as we’ve made some changes including lower rates and more waters to fish! E-mail us for help in putting your trip together or just call the shop at 877-790-5303.