Fishing DePuy Spring Creek
DePuy Spring Creek is a world famous trout fishery in the Paradise Valley along the Yellowstone River. The creek bubbles up from springs that start on the O’Hair Ranch upstream and flows into the Yellowstone River. The views of the Absaroka and Gallatin mountain ranges are fantastic from the creek. Water temperatures are a near constant 52 degrees, which keeps it from freezing during winter and getting too warm in the summer. The stable environment makes for great aquatic insect habitat and prolific hatches of mayflies, midges and caddis. The creek has populations of brown, cutthroat and rainbow trout along with the occasional brook trout. DePuy is an important spawning tributary of the Yellowstone River due to its pristine spawning habitat, stable water flows and temperatures. DePuy’s has diverse water types from runs, riffles, pools, deep water, and long glides. There is also a large pond in the middle of the creek that offers fishing from the bank or even a float tube. This is one of the iconic Montana fly fishing destinations around Bozeman and is one that every angler should take the time to fish when condtions are good.
A Great Winter Option
DePuy Spring Creek rod fees drop down to $40/rod during the winter months. It’s more affordable and the fishing is less technical than during summer. It’s also nice to fish in warmer water when the rivers are full of slush and ice. There are warming huts along the creek, so you can take a break by the fire to warm up the fingers and toes on those really cold days. You can check availability online at the Depuy Spring Creek website.
Hatches can occur at anytime during the year on Montana spring creeks. Matching the hatch is especially important on spring creeks as the water is clear and the fish are sensitive to things like fly pattern, leader drag, and overall presentation. Fish can be extremely spooky and selective due to the crystal clear water found in the creek, so a stealthy approach and careful presentation is key. Smaller tippets such as 5x and 6x are the norm here, but you can get away with 4x during the winter when fishing pressure is not as high as it is during summer.
Midges will make up the bulk of the hatch activity during winter months, so midge pupa, emergers and small dries are standard fare throughout winter.
Baetis mayflies are the major hatch during springtime and again in the fall. Cloudy, humid days are best conditions for baetis to hatch. It can be very important to select flies that imitate a particular stage of the insect’s life cycle. During a pre-hatch period the fish will often key onto emerger patterns, or they may only be looking for spinners patterns during the spinner fall. Dun patterns can be used when fish are feeding on adults. A common technique is to drop emerger patterns, or lightweight nymphs behind a dun pattern such as a Parachute BWO.
Pale Morning Dun mayflies start to come off sometime in June and stay steady until mid July before they start to slowly taper off. Emergers, cripples, duns, spinners and cripples are all important parts of the PMD mayfly lifecycle. Spinner falls generally occur late evening or early morning.
The first caddis hatches of the season normally get going sometime in April and various caddis species can be found hatching all through summer. Caddis like riffle water where you’ll often find the thickest hatches. As the caddis begin to hatch, pupa and soft hackle patterns tend to be most effective. Adults will be around for several hours and in the evening the egg layers will come back to the water during the evening.
Terrestrials such as ants, grasshoppers, crickets and beetles are also key food sources that make for dry fly fishing throughout summer.
Nymphing on the creek is going to be the best way to get them when there isn’t a hatch. Aquatic insect life includes, mayfly, caddis, midges, sowbugs, scuds, leeches, small fish, fish eggs, damselfly nymphs and various aquatic worms. More delicate nymph rigs need to be used in spring creeks. Using a small strike indicator that doesn’t disturb the water is important. Nymph patterns without bead-heads also tend to be more productive. You might use a heavier nymph as lead fly instead of using splitshot, but often the fish will take a smaller, lighter nymph trailer. You can also strip with smaller streamer patterns such as leeches and small baitfish patterns. Large streamer patterns tend to be frowned upon, as they often spook the fish off pretty quickly.
DePuy Spring Creek is a vital spawning tributary to the Yellowstone River. Rainbow trout begin to spawn as early as February going through April. Cutthroat trout spawn later in spring usually during May and June, while the brown trout spawn in October. It’s especially important to not walk in the creek during these times. It kills the eggs that are in the spawning redds, and also can kill the aquatic insects along the bottom.