The Yellowstone River is big and muddy, and is likely to get even bigger and muddier before it starts to drop and clear. Throughout the state of Montana, and particularly in the Yellowstone watershed, we received a huge amount of high-mountain snow this past winter. All of that snow needs to melt and make it through our rivers and towards the ocean, which means that our runoff is likely to last considerably longer than usual. It could be mid-July (or possibly even later) before we are able to safely float and fish the Yellowstone River. The same will be true of the majority of “freestone” (undammed) rivers in the state of Montana, though conditions will vary from watershed to watershed.
What’s the angler to do who is planning to fly fish in Montana from late May through July? The options may be limited, but there will be options. Read about a few good ones below, though be forewarned that there are a number of variables in play, in particular the local weather patterns between now and July. Some of these waters may or may not be fishable, depending on when you are planning to be in our area.
The three private spring creeks that are just up the road from Sweetwater Fly Shop (DePuy’s, Armstrong’s, and Nelson’s) are generally not affected by snowmelt and runoff, as their water is emerging straight from the ground. The only exception would be if they experience major flooding from the nearby Yellowstone River. The creeks can be challenging fishing, but our guides know them well and can help you “learn the ropes.” Click to read more about our guided trips on DePuy’s Spring Creek and Armstrong’s Spring Creek, and read more about fishing strategies for the creeks here.
The spring creeks’ landowners do charge a “rod fee” for fishing access and also limit the number of anglers who can fish on any one day. They tend to be quite popular (and therefore fully booked) during the summer months, so please give us a call right away if you’re hoping to get on one of them during that time.
Several cattle ranches in our general area have ponds or small lakes on their properties that they allow anglers to fish (for a fee, of course). Like the spring creeks, they also limit the number of anglers per day, so call us for reservations as early as possible and plan to be flexible with your dates. The ponds are stocked with various trout species and those fish tend to grow large (some get huge). The trout are often eager to take streamers, nymphs, and dry flies. We usually fish the lakes from a drift boat and our guides would be happy to pass on their knowledge of lake fishing techniques. Because the fishing pace is less “hurried” than on a river float, the lakes are a great place for novices to hone their fly fishing skills (and have a good chance of landing some nice trout in the process). Call us right away to schedule a guided fishing trip on one of these gems.