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Posted on January 26th, 2021 in Fishing Tips

By far my favorite river to guide in early spring is the Yellowstone. It is clear most of the time in this period, though warm weather can muddy it for a day or two as low-elevation snow melts, especially when the warm weather is accompanied by rain. When this occurs, the lower Madison is a great option. Further afield, the Missouri below Holter Dam is always great in early spring, and sees less traffic at this time than it does a few weeks later.

The major downside of early spring is the weather. “Spring” in Montana is not like spring in warmer places. It might be 15 degrees in the morning. It might snow all day. Worse, it might spit a mix of drizzle and snow. The wind often howls. It might also be 80 degrees and turn the rivers filthy with early snowmelt down from the mountains. Floating can therefore be rather uncomfortable when the weather is bad, and it can be unproductive when it’s “good.” The somewhat variable water and weather conditions carry over to the fishing: it’s not consistent. Sometimes it’s great, but it can be tough too, especially if you’re after big numbers of fish rather than larger fish.

During early spring, half-day trips are better choices most of the time. This is especially true in March. Later in April, and especially in the few days of May before the runoff hits, the water warms and the fish get more aggressive, meaning full days are also a great option. Regardless of trip duration, we won’t meet early. There’s seldom any need to be on the water before 10:00AM.

Float Trips in Early Spring

Posted on January 26th, 2021 in Fishing Tips

Early Spring Float Trips: Introduction

Early spring float trips are the best-kept secret in area fly fishing. Larger rivers fish very well at this time as the trout wake up from the long winter. Some dry fly fishing is possible, but the real draw is targeting big fish using subsurface tactics.

Angler crowds are minimal, the big fish are on the hunt, and there’s even a shot at dry fly fishing when it’s warm (or skiing at Bridger Bowl or Big Sky on off days, if it’s cold). What’s not to love?

The weather and water conditions, mostly. It might be bitter cold and snowing, it might be warm with howling winds. The rivers might be crystal clear or they might be chocolate brown with an early taste of the spring melt. These are the dice you roll when you book an early spring float trip. Not daunted? Read on.

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