Fishing Report Updated May 8, 2023

This Montana fishing report is valid from May 8 through May. ALL of our fishing reports pages were updated today, though most of them won’t be very helpful since almost all nearby flowing water is dirty.

After a generally cold April, spring sprung with a vengeance in the last few days of April and we are now in full-fledged spring runoff everywhere. Fishing opportunities nearby are thus limited and will be for a while. We are slightly cooler now than we were last week, and will remain cool through the week. This will help bring a short fishable (at least marginally fishable) window on most rivers near Livingston, but it won’t stop runoff. After it warms again, the party is over until late June.

The Yellowstone River is chocolate mud and will remain too dirty for dry fly activity. We might get a window midweek that allows for nymphing with stoneflies and big San Juan Worms.

The Boulder and Stillwater Rivers will come into shape in a couple days (and may be already) and stay there until late week. After that, heavy rain and high-elevation snow will blow them out again—there’s a chance of flooding just east of the Stillwater. Fish stonefly nymphs and streamers.

The lower Madison River is the best game in town right now, but it’s still not ideal. Cherry Creek is pumping in enough mud that it’s strictly an “worms and junk” show downstream of its confluence. Upstream, there’s still enough clarity for some limited dry fly fishing to BWO and March Brown hatches (cloudy days required). Not many caddis yet, but they will pop very soon.

The Missouri River is a long way to drive, but it’s fishing well for boat anglers and fair for waders. Flows are high and will get higher which makes things far harder for the “bankies.” Sowbugs and fire-bead junk flies produced best on a couple guide trips we had below Holter last week, with some pockets of BWO nymph action and a few risers. The river is too muddy below the Dearborn. Little Prickly Pear Creek is also dirty, but not muddying the whole width of the Missouri too badly. The Hauser Tailwater aka “Land of Giants” should fish similarly, but based on the number of redds still occupied below Holter, there’s a greater chance you’ll want to fish eggs below Hauser. Note that 75% of rainbows below Hauser are stocked, so it’s a little more kosher to fish redds there than it is below Holter where all fish are wild. The higher the river gets below both dams, the more likely you’ll need to fish San Juan and Wire Worms.

Montana Small Streams are all blown out and will be until at least mid-June.

Montana Public Reservoirs are now good bets. Stick to the small ones if you don’t have a boat. Fish leeches and chironomids for trout, or hang mini jigs under bobbers on long leaders for perch. Testing our power boat on Dailey Lake, last week, there were lots of nice perch in 7–10 feet of water. We could see them the lake was so clear.

The Paradise Valley spring creeks are the best flowing water bet nearby, but they’re $80 per day and may be fully booked by “river refugee” guide service clients displaced by the early start to runoff. Still some BWO and egg eaters. Expect both to last until the next warm/dry spell, then for the creeks to enter the May and early June “midges and this and that” doldrums that last until the PMD start getting active in mid-June.

Private Lakes are unquestionably the best option right now for those willing to pay the $80–120 access fees. Some chironomids are hatching, but not enough to target with dries. Also the first trickles of Callibaetis. That said, leeches and chironomid pupae are definitely the best flies right now. That’s all the fish would eat on a Thursday guided trip on Sitz Ranch. Fishing wasn’t off the charge, but two anglers did get about 20 trout between them averaging around 17 inches, with two in the 20″ class and none smaller than about 14 inches.

Most Other Montana Waters within several hours of Livingston are muddy right now. The main exception is the Bighorn River. It may be slightly less crowded than the Missouri, though only barely.

Yellowstone Park’s fishing season is closed until May 27. The intense early runoff means the Firehole River and maybe the Gibbon should be fishable on the opener, something we were doubting a couple weeks ago.

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