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Fishing report: It's hopper time!

Fishing report: It's hopper time!

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Hopper season is on for dry fly anglers, providing the opportunity to toss large flies that are easy to see and can result in some fun top-water action.

BILLINGS — Hoppers are out.

Grasshoppers can be found in people’s gardens and yards around town. At times, hoppers seem to be everywhere.

Grasshoppers are also plentiful around many of the area’s rivers and streams and have been finding their way into the water where hungry fish await.

So, if you haven’t yet it would be wise to stop by the local fly shop and stock your fly box with some of the different hopper patterns available to match the many different types of hoppers out there bouncing around.

You may even want to try using a hopper-dropper and can check into nymphs to use with the setup.  

If you haven’t already you may just become of the anglers who have been having success luring trout by floating assorted hoppers through the holes and riffles.

Here’s this week’s fishing report:

Top picks

Beaverhead River — The smoke is acting as an artificial cloud cover and the haze has helped to prevent direct sunlight from warming the water up as much. The upper 13-mile tailwater section isn’t under any restrictions. The fishing is, and has been, quite good all summer. That being said, treat fish gently. Flows from Clark Canyon Reservoir are dropping slightly each day from some big water, making the fishing easier for both float fishing and wading anglers. Strong hatches of PMDs are out each morning followed by yellow Sallies at midday. Some fish are being caught on Hoppers in the lower half of the upper river. The upper Beaverhead remains as good or better of an angling destination as any river in the state. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn River — Fishing is really getting going on the Bighorn. There are no closures or hoot owl restrictions and shouldn't be for the remainder of the summer. Water temps are getting into the low 50s by midday and more PMDs and caddis are making an appearance. Nymphing has been very consistent with Carpet Bugs, Ray Charles, Split Case PMDs, Frenchies and Pheasant Tails. A few fish are being caught on Hoppers. We expect dry fly fishing to really get going this next week. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. 

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — The walleye bite continues to be good around the river mouth and Pond 4, Pond 1 and Confederate. Most anglers are using green or orange spinner blades with a bottom bouncer and worm harness. There are spotty reports of perch being picked up while using walleye rigs. Shore angling is slow with an occasional walleye in Beaver Creek Bay near White Earth and around the Silos. A few rainbows are being caught while trolling cowbells or silver spoons from White Earth to Hole in the Wall or around Confederate. An occasional rainbow is being caught from shore at the Outhouse and Shannon. As a reminder, the new walleye regulation is 10 daily, one over 15 inches; possession is twice the daily limit. — FWP, Helena.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Fishing has been pretty darn good for walleyes, pike and bass. Worms are the top bait. Most anglers are bottom bouncing. Yellow and orange are the top colors. The depths are 17 to 27 feet. A majority of the big walleyes are being caught south of the marina. Fish are being caught north of the marina, too. The Circle Walleye Chapter is sponsoring a kids tourney this weekend. The following weekend is the Fishing for the Cure tourney. — Rock Creek Marina.

Holter Reservoir — Some fat rainbows continue to be picked up early in the mornings on the lower end of the reservoir. Trolling cowbells and Wedding Rings tipped with crawlers at least 20 feet down in the water column has been working well. Some anglers are still catching an occasional rainbow during the late evening hours while using crawlers on a floating jig from shore. Some anglers are finding some trout while fly fishing from a float tube near the Gates of the Mountains. A few perch and walleye continue to be picked up. Most are being caught while vertical jigging in the canyon near the Gates of the Mountains and near Cottonwood Creek and other points or weed beds in the middle and lower sections of the reservoir. Perch or green jigs tipped with leeches or crawlers have been working well for perch and walleyes. — FWP, Helena.


Ackley Lake — Some small rainbows have been reeled in during the early mornings and evenings. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Anglers have been catching smallmouth bass, but the bite slows down at noon because of the heat. Paddle tail swimbaits or Wacky Rigs would be an option. The top-water bite could be an option early. — Scheels, Billings.

Bitterroot River — Get out early and off early is the name of the game. Fishing has been good, but watch water temps. The lower river is getting up there so stick with the upper stretch where the water is staying much cooler. There are some yellow Sallies still around, as well as PMDs. We are starting to see nocturnal stones as well as small hoppers, ants and beetles. It’s about terrestrial time so get your box ready with a few. A Chubby, Water Walker, Rogue Stone, Fat Freddy or Plan B with a PMD dropper, 20 Incher or San Juan is a good prospecting rig. PMD spinners are another good option. We are also starting to fish attractor dry flies like Royal Wulff, Stimulators, P-Hazes, Humpies and Hippie Stompers. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Blackfoot River — The Blackfoot has lower water temps than other rivers, but you still need to get on early and off early as the lower river water temps are getting up there. Fishing has been good and we are seeing consistent dry fly fishing in the mornings. A few PMDs are around and we are starting to see some spruce moths. Hopefully we will get some good spruce moth fishing this year. Fish are also eating attractor dries like Hippie Stompers, Royal Wulff, Stimulators, Grumpy Frumpies and Humpies. A bigger foam bug like a Chubby, Water Walker, Fat Freddy or Plan B with a PMD Dropper, 20 Incher, Jig Prince or San Juan is a good prospecting rig. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Boulder River — Fishing well above and below the Natural Bridge. Fish Hoppers and Golden Stones below the Natural Bridge and small attractor patterns and mayflies above. Be careful with the fish in the lower stretches as the afternoon water temps are in the low 70s. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Clark Fork River, Missoula  The Upper Clark Fork from Rock Creek up to Warm Springs is on hoot owl restrictions. Fishing is closed from 2 p.m. to midnight. This is due to warm water and low flows. Below Rock Creek there are no restrictions. The Clark Fork is fishing, but the water temps are getting up there so being done fishing by 2 p.m. is recommended. Fish early in the morning. PMDs are out in the mornings and we are starting to see some nocturnal stones. If you see fish sipping, they are eating PMDs (either duns or spinners). Make sure to have both in your box (14-16). Fishing a nocturnal stone like a Black Chubby, Fat Freddy, Rogue Stone or Water Walker with a PMD nymph dropper has been good. Pink Worms are on the menu again. Attractor dry flies like P-Hazes, Wulff, Hippie Stompers and Micro Chubbies are another good bet. There is still a tree down below Clinton. There is a right channel that you can take around the tree right now, but as the water drops it will get hard to do. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Cooney Reservoir — The water temperature this past week was in the low 70s. Most people are out early in the mornings or at night to avoid the heat. Trout fishing has been good for shore and boat anglers. Shore fishers were using worms and PowerBait. Trolling Thomas Cyclones worked well along the face of the dam. The walleye bite has moved to deeper water. Groups found success casting Jig Raps or Rip-N-Glide minnows along rocky outcroppings or trolling bottom bouncers with a jointed Rapala. Perch are biting on leeches or worms along the weed edges in 15 to 20 feet of water. — Cooney State Park.

Deadman’s Basin — Fishing is poor here. Anglers are launching smaller boats, but trying to launch bigger boats is not recommended. Fishers are still doing fairly well at the Broadview Pond. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Flathead Lake (North) — Mid-north around Shelter Island and south toward Rollins the whitefish bite has kicked in. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Flathead Lake (South) — Around Elmo and the Big Arm area, the whitefish bite has started. The whitefish are feeding on small perch fry. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Flathead River, above the lake — Early in the morning should be good. There should be a lot of insect hatches. Further north, or right below Hungry Horse Dam on the South Fork or above Hungry Horse Dam should fish well. One might get into bull trout. Check the regulations for the rules on bull trout. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Flathead River, below Kerr Dam — Anglers are having stellar days catching smallmouth bass. The smallmouth are excellent eating. Anglers are using crawlers, spoons, crankbaits, Wacky setups and Rooster Tail spinners.  — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Fishing has been pretty slow with the heat. A few chinook salmon have been caught around the dam, Duck Creek and the Pines. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — No new reports. — Hardware Hank, Malta.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Some anglers did well at the tourney and others not as well. The walleyes are there if you find them. Most of the walleyes are fairly shallow, being caught at depths of less than 20 feet. Try pitching Shiver Minnows. The key is locating the walleyes with your fish finder. Smallmouth bass are biting like crazy while the pike bite is kind of tough. — Hell Creek Marina.

Gallatin River — Even with the recent restrictions, the Gallatin in the canyon up into Yellowstone Park still has good water conditions. Lots of oxygen is created for the fish in the riffles above Big Sky and down through the rapids in the canyon. In the early mornings and evenings, try a Nocturnal Stone with a Caddis or Spruce Moth. As the high sun rises try a terrestrial (Hopper, Ant, Beetle) with a small flashy beadhead nymph dropper. You will still see some PMDs and the last of the yellow Sallies in certain sections, so these would be a great option as well. If you are looking to nymph, try a McCunes Sculpin dead drifted with a tan Pat’s Rubber Leg or any small flashy nymph of your choice. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Georgetown Lake — Keep those fish wet. Water temps are pretty warm up there. The damselfly hatch is thick and fish are eating them with reckless abandon. Fish a Callibaetis Spinner after they stop taking damsels. The traveling sedge is out at dark, but the hatch has been very hit-or-miss this year. — Flint Creek Outdoors, Philipsburg.

Hauser Reservoir — A few rainbows are being picked up early in the morning or late in the evening while trolling cowbells and Wedding Ring combos between the dam and York Bridge. Most anglers are using lead core line and have at least three or four colors out while trolling. Most walleyes are being picked up in the Causeway arm and in the White Sandy and Black Sandy area. Successful anglers have been pitching jigs/vertical jigging near points in 25 feet of water or less. Green or orange jigs tipped with leeches are working well. Shore anglers are picking up a few walleyes and trout from the Causeway Bridge while using floating jigs and leeches/crawlers. As a reminder the new walleye regulation is 10 daily, one over 15 inches; possession is twice the daily limit — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — Lake levels are dropping. Kirkwood Marina is the only place on the lake where one can launch boats. Woolly Buggers are a good choice. Trolling spoons or Rapalas is another option. Run a little deeper than normal. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.

Kootenai River — Flows from Libby Dam were 8,000 cfs last week and the water temperature at Libby Dam was 54 degrees. Hatches are midge, caddis, PMDs and nocturnal stoneflies. Patterns: Zebra Midge, Parachute Adams, Yellow Haze, Parachute PMD, Rosenbauer's Rabbit Foot emerger, KPPT, Water Walker, Purple Haze, purple Chubby, red Chubby, Bugmeister, X-Caddis, Caddis Pupa, Bloom's Caddis, tan Sparkle Dun, purple Chubby, BH Prince, soft SJ Worm, BH Pheasant Tail, BH Rubber Legged Stonefly, big streamers in white, pink and olive, Circus Peanut and black conehead Buggers. — Linehan Outfitting, Troy.

Lake Mary Ronan — Perch fishing has picked up in front of the state park and west toward the old lodge. In front of Camp Tuffit is a good spot, too. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Madison RiverLower — With low flows and extremely hot temps, it’s probably best to leave this river alone till things cool down in September. If you do decide to fish the lower, go very early in the morning, use barbless hooks, get fish in as soon as possible, and do not take fish out of the water as this exponentially increases mortality. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison River, Upper — The upper is a great place to be right now. Even with the recent hoot owl restrictions, temperatures have remained in the safe zone for trout. There have been nocturnal stone sightings, therefore, fishing a black and tan Chubby with a Caddis in the early mornings has been very productive. In the midmorning to early afternoon (before 2 p.m.), the hopper-dropper rig is the hot ticket. For droppers, anything small and flashy will get the job done: Split-Case PMDs, Green Machines, $3 Dips, Purple Deaths, Worms, Shop Vacs, black & brown Rubberlegs, and your favorite Caddis Pupa are all good bets. There have been some big fish coming on the early morning streamer bite recently with cloudy days better overall. Streamer color has been variable, but typically black and olive are great colors on cloudier and rainy days and yellow and white are our favorites for those sunny days. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Martinsdale Reservoir — Water levels are low and fishing is tough. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Missouri River, below Holter — A jigged Nightmare (14-16), and a jigged Napoleon are working. With the smoke cover, a perch pattern or Thin Mint will work. As far as dries, it’s hopper-dropper season. A purple Chubby Chernobyl with a nymph under it will produce. There are still the occasional PMDs. Green Machines and Zebra Midges will work. Purple Para Wulff and Caddis are options. There are hoot owl restrictions from the bottom of Holter Dam to Cascade. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Nelson Reservoir — Anglers are still able to launch smaller boats, but bigger boats are tough to launch. The state park is the best place to put in. Some medium-sized walleyes are being caught and quite a few small northerns. Anglers are pulling crawler harnesses. — Hardware Hank, Malta.

Noxon Rapids Reservoir — The water temperature was 71 degrees on Monday with at least 10 feet of clarity. All species of fish are being caught. Walleyes are being caught on deep-diving crankbaits and bottom bouncing rigs. Pike are being caught on inline spinners and Rapala crankbaits. Walleyes are running at depths of 12- to 25-feet plus. The pike are at depths of 12 to 15 feet. Some pike are still in the shallow weed beds. The bass are at depths of 2 to 3 feet in the weeds to 15 to 20 feet in deep weed beds. The bass, a mixture of smallmouth and largemouth, are healthy and averaging 2 to 5 pounds. Use a variety of soft plastics or crankbaits for bass. Fish are starting to develop their summer patterns. On the surrounding creeks that feed the reservoir, trout are being caught on inline spinners. — Lakeside Motel and Resort.

Pablo Reservoir — Anglers are catching bass using dark-colored plastics. Try a Gary Yamamoto. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Rock Creek (East) — Flows were 196 cfs on Monday. So far there are no hoot howl restrictions, but make sure to check for updates. Hoppers, hoppers, hoppers. Trout are aggressively eating a smorgasbord of hoppers in all sizes and colors. Our crew has been heavily fishing More or Less Hoppers (12) in peach and pink and you’ll find the boss man fishing Pink Pookies. Underneath those patterns run Trina’s Montana Prince in blue (12-14). If the hopper bite is slow, especially in the almost cooler mornings, Purple Crazes and Parachute Adams (16-18). Streamer bites are hot right now, fish small Crystal Buggers and Grinches. Dries: More or Less Hoppers, peach (12), Morrish Hopper tan (10), Hippie Stompers red or royal (14). Nymphs: Montana Prince tan (16), Hare’s Ears (14), Tungsten Zebra Midge red (18). Streamers: Complex Twist Bugger-black, Crystal Flash Bugger in black, Thin Mint. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Red Lodge.

Rock Creek (West) — Fishing well. Early morning has been the best time to fish, especially with dry flies. Attractor dries like Stimulators, Hippie Stompers, Chubby, Royal Wulff and P-Hazes have been good. Dropping a small PMD nymph off the back will double your chances. We are starting to see some spruce moths. Make sure to have some in your box. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Spring Creek — The grasshopper bite is starting to pick up, as well as action on dry flies and nymphs. The small area reservoirs are getting pretty warm and mossy. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Stillwater River — The river was running at 642 cfs on Monday. We do have hoot owl restrictions on the lower Stillwater from Absaroka down to the confluence of the Yellowstone River. Get up high; old Nye or above has been excellent. Hopper eats have been great lately. Fish are taking smaller Hoppers as well as some Stoneflies and Caddis. Dries: More or Less Hopper (8), Pink Pookie (10), Purple Craze (12). Nymphs: Rubberleg Copper John (12), BH Wonder Woman (16), Lucent Pheasant Tail (14) purple. Streamers: Slump Busters black, Grinch, Thin Mints. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Columbus.

Swan Lake — No new reports. When the whitefish action kicks in on Flathead Lake, most area anglers head there.  — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Yellowstone River, Big Timber — The Yellowstone is fishing well considering the high temperatures and low flows. Try Golden Stone dries and Hoppers for best action. Try to keep the fish in the water, especially in the afternoon. Hoot owl restrictions are in place, no fishing between 2 p.m. and midnight. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — Flows continue to drop. For catfish, cut bait seems to be best. Bass are hitting jigs with night crawlers. Walleyes are taking jigs with minnows and crawlers. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — Hoppers are the main game over here. Some fish are still swiping but if you have the right hopper fly there are some big fish already looking for them. Yellow or light pink seem to be two colors the fish have been most interested in. Running a dropper has been effective to get into fish between dry fly eats. The high sun can definitely change the dry fly bite, but smoky days are giving fake cloud cover. Some fish are keyed on a short dropper imitating an emerger. Some fish are hugging bottom and the best way to get into them is a full nymph rig. Sally and PMD nymphs are getting steady action. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Yellowstone River, Miles City — Anglers are still catching smallmouth, sauger, walleyes and catfish. Try jigging with a crawler or a minnow for smallmouth, sauger and walleyes. A few guys caught some sturgeon using cut bait. Try worms or cut bait for catfish. The river is really low. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.


Bighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend  The lower than usual water at Horseshoe Bend has opened up a lot more shore fishing opportunities and people are catching channel cats and bass in front of the fishing dock. The north narrows and Crooked Creek are producing channel cats as well. The state line and back are producing decent sauger with a lot of bass. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — From the dam to town is fishing fine, but once one gets on the north side of Thermopolis it is too hot to fish. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Try trolling some plugs, Rapala style, off the rocky points for trout and walleyes on both the south end and north end where the rivers come into the reservoir. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.

Clarks Fork — Fishing well. A lot of small fish are being caught. Try a hopper-dropper or dry-dropper. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — Water temperatures are warm. If one fishes at sunrise until 10 a.m., the water temps would be cool enough to fish. Damsel nymphs and adult Damsels are working. Terrestrials, like Ants and Beetles, are working. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lake DeSmet — Rainbow trout fishing from the bank is good with purple pink PowerBait. Use Panther Martin spinners from the boat. A brook trout Rapala trolling at 2.2 mph is effective. Cowbells with a worm harness are producing fish at depths of 10 to 15 feet. The kokanee salmon are hitting green and pink flashers and dodgers with a Wedding Ring harness tipped with house made shoepeg corn, available at the Lake Stop. Fish at depths of 30 to 40 feet for salmon. For lake trout, target very deep water and use large jigs. Troll with 6-inch rainbow Rapalas. For walleyes, use floating jigs and a leech with a slip bobber in 10 to 15 feet of water. From boat, jig with perch swimbaits or troll with Walleye Delight crawler harnesses and bottom bouncers. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  

Lower Shoshone — Fishing really well. Woolly Buggers, black streamers, Hopper-droppers, dry-droppers and tandem nymph rigs are working. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Shoshone — It is fishing pretty well. It has been off-color, and water levels are dropping and the flows were 540 cfs on Monday. Be careful while floating with these flows. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

South Fork of the Shoshone — Conditions are good to walk and wade. Flows were at 283 cfs on Monday. Royal Trudes, Parachute Adams, Klinkhammer, or yellow and red Humpies would work. A tandem nymph rig with a beadhead Pheasant Tail and Bloody Mary deep would work.  — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — Both of the lakes are really low. We wouldn’t advise launching on the lower lake as it would be sketchy. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.

Yellowstone National Park — The Yellowstone River fished well last week and we are pleased to be seeing quite a few smaller fish in the 10-12 inch range, which is a good sign for the health of the ecosystem as a whole. Green drakes, PMDs and caddis are on the main menu, but don't be afraid to throw a few bigger patterns like a pink Thunder Thighs Hopper (10) and a Purple Chubby (10). Green Drake Sparkle Duns (12), Missing Link Caddis (16) and a Hi-Vis Rusty Spinner (16) are a few more flies that you'll not want to be without. Slough, Lamar and Soda Butte are still fishing, though the water is low. The prime time to fish this area will be from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and you'll want to have terrestrials with you. Longhorn Beetles (10) have been killing it in this area along with Donkey Kong Hoppers and Arrick's Para-Ant. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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