Net work

Water flows are still high on Montana rivers, although they are dropping as runoff from recent rainstorms fade.

Bank fishermen are still having success at Ackley Lake. Last week a 10- and 7-pound brown trout were the biggest fish reported caught from shore. Tiger muskie are also still on the prowl and anglers are reeling some of those fish in, along with trout hooked while trolling.

The Gallatin River is once again fishing above the Taylor Fork and up through the canyon, along with the lower river. The folks at Montana Troutfitters in Bozeman report that “every day without rain it gets clearer and clearer.” Other area rivers are also receding and, depending on the weather, some of those affected by runoff could be fishable late next week or by Independence Day. For more details on your favorite area streams, read through the individual waters detailed in our fishing report.   

Top picks

Ackley Lake — It is plumb full with water levels nearly to the trees. A 10-pound and 7-pound brown were caught last week bait fishing from shore. Boat anglers are hooking into some tiger muskie. Troll a Dick Nite spoon for trout. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Bighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend — Anglers are catching a lot of catfish by the south narrows on sucker meat. Walleye and a few sauger are being caught from the bank near the fishing docks at Horseshoe Bend. Try Rapalas. At the state line, anglers are reeling in bass. Near Crooked Creek, crappie are striking, as are bass. Use jigs for crappie and spinners for bass. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — A few guys are catching big walleye and lots of them. Either pull firetiger, white, or blue and pink crankbaits or pull crawlers with pink or blue Cha-Cha blades or Smile Blades. Lake trout fishing is really good and pike fishing is also producing. For lake trout use downriggers and spoons or jig 5/8-ounce jigs and big rubber baits in 60 to 100 feet of water. For pike, pull crankbaits, the color doesn’t seem to matter. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Gallatin River — It is fishing, especially above the Taylor Fork and up through the canyon. The lower river is back fishing well. Every day without rain it gets clearer and clearer. Up top work big rubber legs, Mega Princes, Buggers, and Worms. You will find a few fish on smaller stuff fished beneath a big nymph. “Bobber lobbin’ ” is still the name of the game. Add a big bobber, a few split shot, and chuck it into the soft water. The bites are quick, so be ready for the hook set. Be really careful, wading is difficult and the river is unforgiving. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hebgen Lake — Fishing has been fair, and has picked up with the improved weather. Streamers in a variety of color patterns are landing trout, as are midges in the shallower water, especially on red and black patterns. Anglers throwing spoons with brown, red and silver are catching fish. One boat on Sunday caught 30 fish in the Madison Arm. As the weather has improved more anglers are out on the water, mostly on the north side of the lake. — Kirkwood Marina.


Beaverhead River — It is fishing well and water levels are stable. Fishing above High Bridge is productive with PMD and Caddis nymphs. If the water becomes murky, use yellow and white Zonkers. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Big Hole River — On the upper river use dry flies. Big Chubbies would be a good choice. Cranefly nymphs are a good choice on the lower river. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn River — Flows are just a bit above 14,107 cfs. Water clarity remains 6-8 feet before Soap Creek dumps in. With the downpour we had Saturday evening, Soap Creek is very high and muddy and producing quite a stain. Not much fishing after that. The water temperature remained at 53 degrees as more water is being released over the spillway. Dry fly fishing is non-existent with these high flows. Streamer fishing still remains good, though not as hot as last week. Best streamer patterns have been white/pearl Zonkers, Sherick's Hatchery Smolt, and Foxy Fry (all in size 6). Nymph fishing has been very good as crustaceans are still being dislodged with the higher flows. Hot patterns include Pete's Carpet Bug tan, Firebead Soft Hackle Sowbug tan and Firebead Soft Hackle Ray Charles tan (all in 14-16), trailed behind either orange or red Gummi (Squirmy) San Juan Worms. — Bighorn Fly and Tackle Shop, Fort Smith. 

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Smallmouth bass are aggressive. A few walleye are also biting. Use minnows. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Boulder River — Fishing is OK in gentle currents close to the bank. Use a medium sized two-tone body Pat’s Rubber Leg and a Red Worm underneath a bobber that is 30 inches above the point fly. In deeper runs add some weight. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Rainbow trout are being caught from shore throughout the reservoir using spoons or worms. No report from rainbow trout boat anglers. Walleye and yellow perch are being caught trolling throughout the south end and mid reservoir in 10 to 40 feet of water using worm harnesses tipped with worms or leeches. Walleye and perch are also being caught from shore throughout the reservoir in 10 to 25 feet of water using jigs (standard and floating) or slip bobber rigs tipped with worms or leeches. — FWP, Helena.

Cooney Reservoir — Reports are it is fishing well from a boat at the dam and the inlets. At the dam, leeches have worked on bottom in about 6-8 feet of water. At Willow and Red Lodge creeks, crawlers on a small jig seem to be doing the best. Shore fishing for walleye has been OK in the Red Lodge Campground area using a leech or crawlers. Trout fishing has been OK trolling with hammered gold cowbells with a crawler. — Boyd Store and Trading Post.

Deadman’s Basin — There wasn’t much traffic there last week due to the wind. Those who did try fishing found it to be slow before they were blown off the water. A few nice rainbows were reeled in at the Broadview Pond. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — The pike, walleye and bass are in 10 feet of water and hiding in the weeds. Crankbaits, jigs or bottom bouncing with a worm harness and worm are all working. Worms are the most popular bait, but some are using leeches or minnows and having success. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — Water levels came up over the weekend and the water is dirty. Bank fishing has slowed down, but some catfish are still being caught with a few northerns mixed in. Boat anglers are running about 15 or 20 miles and trying to find clearer water. They are having some success on walleye, bass, crappie or perch by bottom bouncing or jigging with worms or leeches. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — The water is kind of murky at Fourchette. Travel east to Timber Creek. Lots of smallmouth are biting on the rocky points. Walleye are at 15 to 25 feet. Throw worm harnesses. Some big northerns are mixed in. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — The water is high and fishing is slow for all species. In the Snow Creek area a few 25- to 30-inch walleye have been caught. — Hell Creek Marina.

Fresno Reservoir — Anglers are doing really well with leeches and slip bobbers 4 to 5 feet below the boat for walleye and pike. — Stromberg Sinclair, Havre.

Hauser Reservoir — Rainbows are being caught by boat anglers around York Bridge while trolling cowbells. Rainbows are also being caught from shore at Riverside and the Causeway Bridge on jigs and worms or leeches. Walleye are being caught at Riverside on jigs and also in the Causeway while trolling bottom bouncers. — FWP, Helena.

Holter Reservoir — Rainbow fishing is good while trolling cowbells around Black Beach, Split Rock and Juniper Bay. Shore fishing for rainbows is slow. Perch are being caught around Cottonwood Creek, Oxbow Bend and Split Rock while using a jig and worm in 10 to 20 feet of water. Walleye are being caught in these same areas while using perch-colored crankbaits or bottom bouncers. — FWP, Helena.

Lake Frances — It is full. Fishing pressure is light. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Madison RiverLower — Even with fluctuating flows out of the dam, fishing has been solid. Think big — dark streamers and big nymphs under the indicator are the name of the game. Woolly Buggers, sculpins, crayfish, and Zirdles will get you into fish. Dropping a smaller yellow Sally nymph beneath these bigger patterns can be deadly. The caddis will be back out in the evenings with warmer weather. An olive caddis (16) is all that is necessary. There are also substantial amounts of yellow Sallies, white millers, and golden stones. A Chubby dropper rig worked tight to the bank during the day will get into a few fish. On cooler cloudy days, look to the soft water for rising fish. On the sunny days, pupa and emerger caddis patterns will fish. Fish are being caught in a variety of places in the river. There is still a slight color coming out of Cherry Creek, but nothing compared to what it has been. Keep an eye out for mayflies. There will be a few drakes out and on warmer evenings and PMD have been around most days. For streamers try White or a Kreelux worked tight to the bank. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison River, Upper — The river has risen to just under 3,000 cfs above the West Fork, which is no longer pumping in mud, but rather a greenish tint. It did bump slightly and is adding an extra 700 cfs to the river. The entire river has good enough visibility right now but the bump in flow has dirtied the water. Nymphing big stuff like rubber legs or streamers with smaller nymphs behind will find a few fish. Good patterns are small Pheasant Tails, Lightning Bugs, Prince Nymphs, Hare’s Ears, Serendipity, or RS2. Seek the softer water and work it until you find them. Don't be afraid of small flies if big stuff is not working. Sometimes smaller bugs can be the ticket. Also, don't overlook water you'd normally wade through. Fish often push fish tight to the banks. We have had a few reports of success throwing streamers shallow up high near Three Dollar Bridge. With the bump in flow, the low bridges are not as passable as they were. You can still get under them, but you may have to be crafty. This probably isn’t the best time to try floating the Lyons to Palisades area. This is a great time of year to do a longer stretch of river and pitch bigger streamers. Salmonflies are here. The fish are starting to eat on the surface, but the nymphs are everywhere. Varney down is the spot to be as of Monday. The fishing should get better and better over the next few days. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Marias River — It is high and dirty. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Martinsdale Reservoir — Martinsdale, Bair and Sutherlin are all fishing decent. Bank anglers are using PowerBait, worms, crawlers or cutbait. From boats, troll spinners or cowbells and spinners, flatfish or Wedding Rings. The Musselshell River is high, muddy and not fishable. — Ray’s Sport and Western Wear, Harlowton.

Missouri River, below Holter — The flow is 16,700 cfs and water temps were 60 degrees as of Monday. A San Juan Worm and a Rainbow Scud are options. On the lower river, Hare’s Ears were working. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fort Benton — High and dirty, but starting to recede. In a week to 10 days fishing might pick up. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — No new reports. The campground was closed last week due to high water as the river is high and muddy. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Nelson Reservoir — Walleye, pike and smallmouth are biting in 20-25 feet of water on bottom bouncers and worm harnesses. A lot of small walleye are biting, but plenty of eating-size fish are also being caught. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Spring Creek — It was clearing and almost fishable as of Monday. If it doesn’t rain, it will be very clear in a day or two. Nymphs work in off-color water. As it starts to clear, mayfly or caddis patterns should work. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Stillwater River — Flows stabilized around 5,000 cfs after the rains, but will continue to fluctuate in response to weather patterns. While it’s still on the high side and swift, the upper river has generally been clear enough to fish. Fish the edge seams. Nymphing continues to be the best option, with black, brown and coffee rubber leg patterns like Girdle Bugs and Pat’s Rubber Legs, or a San Juan Worm as well as similar colored stonefly patterns, along with a beadhead trailer fly like a Prince Nymph, Hare’s Ear, Batman or Pheasant Tail. In off-color water use a color contrast of darker patterns like black Buggers or the Grinch either dead drifted or stripped. It’s also time to start thinking about fishing big dry flies like a Chubby or PMX with a beadhead nymph dropper in the softer inside water. The river will likely continue to fluctuate in response to temperatures and rain events for a while yet. Look for smaller tributaries, tailwaters and lakes to fish in the meantime. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Tongue River Reservoir — The weather patterns have disrupted fishing somewhat. The crappie have moved into a little deeper water and are being found at 15 to 25 feet. Pull crappie jigs tipped with a leech or a worm and do a slow troll so the presentation is suspended. For walleye, fish in 6 to 25 feet of water and pull bottom bouncers and a worm harness tipped with a worm, leech or minnow. Trolling crankbaits is also producing. For bass, pitch crankbaits into structure. An occasional northern has been caught by walleye and crappie anglers. — Tongue River Marina.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — Although on the drop after the surge from big rains, it is still running extremely high and off-color through Columbus. It continues to be dangerous and is best to stay away from completely. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — There is quite a bit of debris in the river, but an angler could use cutbait, minnows or shrimp to try and catch a catfish. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — It is falling again, but it's not in a good place yet; stay tuned. It could be clear and fishing by late next week. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Yellowstone River, Miles City — High and muddy. An angler might hook into a catfish or sturgeon. Crawlers, cut bait or shrimp would be good baits. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.


Bighorn Mountains creeks — The water is still a little high, but the creeks are fishing OK with Prince Nymphs. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — The flow was 7,000 cfs over the weekend and there was no visibility. Fishing is slow, but a few trout have been caught near the banks on San Juan Worms or pink and chartreuse spinners. At the Boysen spillway fishing has been OK for walleye with white or black softbaits. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Fishing is slow. Anglers are going to Upper and Lower Sunshine reservoirs. More fish are being caught on the upper reservoir, but plenty of those are small. The lower reservoir is producing bigger fish. Husky Jerks have been working. Some tiger muskie have been caught at Beck Lake. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.

Clarks Fork — Rivers in the Cody/Bighorn Basin area are still flowing high, swift and off-color. We expect rivers and streams to be high but fishable around July 4th. Until rivers clear and drop, lakes, ponds and reservoirs have been the salvation. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — East Newton is fishing well on Damsel Flies, Scuds, small Leeches and lake Caddis. Spinners have been ¼ ounce. Black bodies with gold blades, like Panther Martin, are also working. West Newton is also fishing well and almost overflowing into the east lake. Woolly Buggers, beadhead Damsel Nymphs and Prince Nymphs are working. Lure and bait fishing is allowed at West Newton. Luce Reservoir is fishing well; use the same flies or spinners recommended for East Newton. Hogan is fishing well on Damsels, Scuds, Leeches, Flying Ants and small dark Beetles. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lower Shoshone — Off the chart high flows. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Shoshone — There is big water in the lower sections. However, the river is coming into shape above the Newton Creek closure. Next week, anglers should be enjoying the fishing on this fabled freestone river. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Tongue River — It is now coming into shape and starting to fish better every day. The same holds true for the South Fork of the Tongue River. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

South Fork of the Shoshone — Big and off-color. We expect this river to be somewhat fishable by the Fourth of July. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Yellowstone National Park — It's been quite the roller-coaster ride lately with water conditions and it seems as if we've now had two different runoff seasons with mass quantities of rainfall. The Firehole has fished well and we have had some great surface activity with PMDs and caddis.  White Miller Razor (14) and PMD Sparkle Duns (16) have been the go-to flies. Soft-hackle fishing has also been good swinging OCD Caddis, Starling & Peacock, Nick's Soft Hackle in brown and Pheasant Tail Soft Hackles. The Madison in the park has also been decent with PMDs, Caddis and, at times, a larger Salmonfly. Throwing a streamer has been good for several folks this past week and a Sheilia's Sculpin has fooled many browns in the Beaver Meadows section. If nymphing Pat's Rubber Legs (8), either a Flashback P.T. (16), $3 Dip (16) or an OCD Caddis as a dropper should do the trick. The pocket water from the falls to the junction is a good option to look at on the Gibbon River. Attractor patterns like our Royal Trude Cripple have worked very well, along with a Golden Stone. This is also the time we begin looking for the brown drakes in Gibbon Meadows. This is not a reliable hatch, but one that brings the big browns out and has them rising. Late evening is the time to look for the big bugs. This hatch is a gamble at best, but if encountered the rewards can be great. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

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