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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 10/07/2020 (36428 reads)
fall fly fishing


Fall fly fishing in the the region offers plenty of great opportunities. The cooler weather offers anglers some solitude of fly fishing while many are caught up with other fall activities. A little bit of preparation can be a rewarding opportunity for those who can make the time.

Reproduction plays an important part of the trout lifecycle during the fall months for both brook and brown trout. Brook trout, native to the US, usually begin to spawn during late September through October. Brown trout typically start spawning in October through late November. I have seen this go later too.

During the spawn coloring on the trout will intensify especially in the males. Females will often create gravel beds for the fertilized eggs called redds. It very important to be careful of these sections on streams when you see redds and not to kick them up when walking. Probably best even to leave trout overtop redds alone and give them a chance to protect the eggs.

Often the water in the fall is low and gin clear. Spotting trout on a redd is pretty easy to see as in the photo to the left. The trout will sit over top of a small group of rocks that they have knocked around and they often will have a little more cleaned up look as if someone kicked up the spot. Take a little time before marching into the stream to check on the conditions. Good advice for any day.fall fly fishing

As the trout begin to change so does the entomology or insect life in the stream. Activity will be different from region to region, stream size, earlier summer water temperatures, and geology. The fall provides a more limited selection of insects and often anglers enjoy bringing a more modest selection of flies and imitations. Some of the more popular collections include: Slate Drakes, BWO, Caddis, midges and terrestrials. Typical nymphs and streamers are very successful smart choice as well.

I like Dave Weavers suggestions for even looking for rainbows behind the redds feeding on eggs. Some small simple egg patterns can produce some pretty good results for these rainbows. The most common color for natural trout eggs are cream, pale orange and pink.

The full and fast spring streams can take a new characteristic once September arrives. Low clear water can create a challenge for some anglers, but stealth and patience can provide many rewards.

With summer holder over trout and newly stocked trout in many streams there should be ample opportunity for solitude and fish in autumn. Check out the PaFlyFish forums and stream reports to learn more about what is happening in your area.






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Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 09/11/2020 (3888 reads)

autumn02
Below Ramcat Run (acrylic on canvas)
article and images by
Dave Weaver (Dave_W)



Large Pennsylvania streams and rivers in October and November can provide an interesting grab bag of fish that might munch our flies, and big weedless streamers are the way to go. For many Pennsylvania fly fishermen, October and November are months when they return to stream trout fishing, if they ever left. In particular, years such as this one magnify this effect as we have spent what seems like many months waiting for rain and cooler temperatures and are especially eager to get back out for trout. Some fly fishers gave the river bass game a go-round during summer, but soon are back on trout streams as the days get shorter and colder. Few die hard fly fishers stick with bass by late October. Try checking out a mid- sized or larger bass river in late October: a fly fisher is a rare sight.

Spin fishers, by contrast, know that late autumn fishes well on the big rivers. Bass are still active and walleyes, pike, and muskies are on the prowl. In addition, many of the larger streams and mid-sized rivers have transient populations of large, wild brown trout in the “transition zone” – that is to say the lower reaches of what normally passes for trout water (or where it is stocked) that transitions into a warm water fishery. These fish drop back downriver during the autumn, or migrate out into rivers from colder tributaries. To be sure, these trout are hard to find, cagy, often nocturnal even in colder periods, and are a specialized game. Nevertheless, they are part of the mix. Some very large browns fall to spin guys fishing tubes and swimming plugs for bass and walleyes during the colder months here in Pennsylvania every year.

autumn01Chances are, there are some big rivers near you that you might consider fly fishing in the coming weeks. Larger tailrace rivers such as the Delaware, Potomac, Lehigh, Youghiogheny, or Allegheny have trout in their upper reaches, but gradually these rivers transition to warm water species downriver and are associated with smallmouth bass, walleyes, and muskellunge. With colder temps in autumn, large trout will sometimes migrate downriver into these areas associated with warm water fishes.

Larger trout streams or “creeks” such as the Little Juniata, Frankstown Branch, Raystown Branch, Swatara, Mahoning, Clarion, Schuylkill, Tionesta, Shermans, Conodoguinet, Penns, Pine, Shenango, and other similar streams all are popular for both bass and trout. Moreover, about half of these creeks have muskies or tiger muskies. Smaller waterways such as these are prime spots to target bass, trout, and even muskies in late autumn. Even the West Branch Susquehanna is coming to be associated with stocked trout in its upper reaches these days in addition to its much-improved (now superb) warm water fishery downstream.

On waters such as these during the late autumn colder temps and shortening days put big river smallmouth bass in an aggressive mood. Big browns, and muskies are on the prowl as well and they’re not looking for a size 18 dry fly, they want a meal! Chubs, fallfish, shad, suckers, big sculpins, madtoms, and shiners are on the menu and these baitfishes have had a season to grow and are large, typically several inches in length and often much larger. This is the time of year to throw big streamers with at least a six-weight rod. Oftentimes, an eight- weight is better. A floating line works fine although if you’re working deeper rivers with current, a sinking line will get you in the strike zone.

autumn03Any large streamer can work, but I like articulated doubles using soft materials and deer hair. Clip the hair in a large spun head that pushes water. Deer hair can make a fly more buoyant and wind resistant, but such sparse, spun deer heads also produce a fly that has a nice side to side, erratic swimming pattern when stripped and stopped. This side to side swimming pattern is deadly. Generally, for this game I like flies in the four to seven-inch range or larger if you’re hoping to target toothy critters. Twenty-inch brown trout, or smallies in the mid-teens, are fish that can easily inhale and swallow six-inch prey species. I like double hook flies since trout and muskies often seem to seize the fly mid body and often need a trail hook for solid hook-ups. Bass, by contrast, only need a single hook at the front of the fly for good hook up ratio as bass are head hunters. Colors are a matter of preference, but the old wisdom about “dark day, dark fly” holds true in my opinion. Black and chartreuse is tough to beat in stained water.

A major challenge to this season is leaves and weed break-up. In late September, many rivers see a break-up of grass beds and this results in a lot of junk in the water column. By early October, much of the weed break-up is done, but leaves start to foul the water column by mid-month. By late October, leaves can make fishing nearly impossible in some places, especially on windy days. To contend with this, you will want a fly tied weedless so as to pull through the leaves. The flies depicted here are examples of typical streamers I’d reach for on autumn rivers. The key is a decent weed guard design. I prefer mono loops tied in at the hook eye, as can be seen. For larger patterns such as these, fifty pound mono works best. I generally put a weed guard only at the lead hook and not the trail hook. You’ll still catch some leaves, but weed guards will at least allow you to fish fairly effectively where conventional flies would immediately foul. Experiment and find a design that works for you – just keep the fly at least four inches long. Bigger is better.

October and November are great months for fly fishermen in Pennsylvania. Target the transition zone on larger creeks and rivers and you will have a genuine shot at multi-species if you throw big streamers. To be sure, smallmouth bass will be your most likely catch, but large brown trout and muskellunge are out there too. Just the other day, I was wading a favorite pool on a mid-sized creek and could see a brown trout, a three-foot-long muskie, and several smallies in the mid-teens. . . all within casting range. Catching all three species in a day would be uncommon in my experience, but the possibility exists if you’re at the right time and place. So, tie up some big weedless streamers and get out on a big creek or river this fall. The trout guys will be nowhere in sight and many of the summer bass fishing regulars are sitting in a tree stand. You’ll probably see few anglers. Double haul that big streamer out, strip it back through the leaves, and hold on when you see that big swirl or feel that pull. You may even have to fight the fish to surface before you’ll even know what chomped your fly. A motivating experience during a great time of year!
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Published by Alex Ciocca [drakeking412] on 08/14/2020 (825 reads)
I figured it appropriate to name this trip report after one of my favorite musicians' work (Frank Zappa) and since this was in fact a mini recon trip on “moving to Montana soon”. The trip was with my lovely girlfriend Rachel to Bozeman, Montana, and the surrounding areas of Southwestern Montana including several of the large Gold Medal rivers and a handful of smaller lesser known tributaries. The plan was to camp at five different locations for a total of seven nights in the mountains and two nights in Bozeman proper giving us ample time to explore the area hiking and fishing as well as soak in some of Bozeman (which really means soak in a bunch of good beer).

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We left Pittsburgh early Wednesday the 22nd and arrived into Bozeman around noon their time after a nice and stressful airport travel day. We rented a Toyota 4Runner and it was nothing but a dream the whole trip. If you’re on the fence on what to rent out there, opt for the full-sized SUV every time. We immediately headed North towards Fairy Lake and it really only ever takes about five minutes out of the terminal for me to remember why I love the West, the mountains are instant and the views incredible. After a ~45minute drive we arrived at Fairy Lake and found a site at the free campground just above the lake. I was able to sneak in an hour or two worth of fishing and landed my first ever Yellowstone Cutthroat on a size 16 gold chubby. My girlfriend and I had a really nice time pestering fish with chubbies and hoppers until the rain chased us back to camp for a light dinner. I’ll add that this night was the worst camping experience I might have ever had. The wind and rain was so strong that our tent pulled off the stakes and shifted a little around us and I might have woken up a dozen times or more. All in the pursuit right?

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On the first full day, we hiked to Sacagawea Peak which is worth spending the time (and energy) doing if you're in the area. It’s about 2000’ over about 3 miles so it sure is a hike, but well worth it.

The following day we were supposed to hike the Fairy Creek trail but the rain was threatening again so we decided to pack ship and head to the Gallatin area and boy am I sure glad we did. People talk about the Gallatin as having small fish and it’s just a stop along the way but it was more like a Penn’s Creek to me. It had lots of deep runs and riffles and some pocket water too and really reminded me a lot of the section above Cherry Run. Not to mention this first day on the Gallatin was good, I mean really good. I broke off what might end up being my largest river fish of the year and landed some extremely gorgeous browns and sizable wild rainbows. The fishing combined with the views you get makes you instantly forget you’re next to highway 191 where trucks are doing 70+. Rachel landed a nice rainbow on a chubby and was thrilled to begin to get a hold on this fly fishing thing, she’s even asking for her own net now too! We fished a little of the Gallatin again the next day but the real prize was just to the South through the resort town of Big Sky but just before West Yellowstone, The Madison River.

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We decided to set up camp first then try to catch the afternoon and PM bite down between the lakes. I chose this spot after talking to some people who said it is deeper in this area and more nymph friendly and since tight line is my strong suit nowadays it was an easy decision. Once we rumbled down the pitted dirt road we were met by the gorgeous valley views complete with Golden and Bald eagles soaring and chittering overhead. I’ve still yet to see one catch a fish so that is still on the bucket list but we also saw a pelican which was pretty cool (you’ll note in the pelican photo there is a pink innertube in the rear of the photo, a mother and her teenage children tried to “float” the Madison, they didn’t make it far).

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The fishing on the Madison was much tougher with my dry fly action coming on rusty spinners and caddis while Rachel was able to raise fish bank-busting on yet again a chubby in peacock and gold variants. The bug activity was small but there were PMDs and caddis zipping around and you could hear lots of terrestrials buzzing in the grasses but none came to the water even with the wind gusts. I also did decently well nymphing taking fish on a double bead stone, thread body nymphs, and the dreaded mop. The water here was no joke and not for the faint of heart. It is cold and it is fast so fishing it was a little sketchy at times but the bottom is a gravel substrate so no big surprises while wading thankfully. I landed some nice rainbows, a fairly large cutbow and please hold your applause, my largest whitefish ever! I ran downriver for that fish and my girlfriend will never let me live it down, that’s ok whitefish unlimited for life. While we were in the area we hiked up Cabin Creek which is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Yellowstone Cutthroat in the Madison River drainage basin with 98% of them residing in the upper reaches of the creek. The upper stretch was essentially isolated from downstream invasive rainbows by a series of steep waterfalls when the earthquake occurred in that area and they also constructed a fish wall to further prevent access. I didn’t fish it as we were just hiking but I wish I did because it sure was beautiful, oh and we ran into a grizzly. No spray was needed, both parties just needed a change of pants.

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On Monday we had our float rip scheduled with Fins and Feathers of Bozeman and our guide was Jake. He was the son of a Central PA transplant and had been out our way to fish so we instantly had things to talk about. The conditions were excruciatingly bad with a HOT high sun and not a cloud all day. We struggled to get eats other than willing whitefish eating Rachel’s nymph rig and the occasional small dry eat. We were able to drum up a little bit of hopper action though later where I landed a nice 18” rainbow and Rachel landed her personal best 16” wild brown trout on, you guessed it, a chubby. The Yellowstone was a gorgeous river though and had tons of great views making up for the slower fishing and the beer was cold too.

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Next up on the list for a couple of days was an area that many people recommended and that is the Hyalite Creek and canyon area. This turned out to be some of the most fun fishing and exploring I’ve had in a long time and while Montana may be known for the Gold Medal stretches and places like Three-Dollar Bridge don’t forget about the small feeder streams. It was extremely fun plinking 6-16” rainbows on a single caddis, I was at 17 fish (all rainbows) in two hours and some change before I stopped counting and the fish were in all the places you would have expected making it nice and easy too. If you fish that small drainage well you can in a single day catch a brook, brown, rainbow, greyling, and Yellowstone and westslope cutthroat. I was close just missing the westslope and the greyling and I sure tried getting the greyling out of the reservoir one of the days but just kept finding big Yellowstone cutthroat and beautiful brook trout. While we were there we checked out Pallisade Falls which is one of those Bozeman area must see type attractions. It’s just a short hike up a paved path, is ADA accessible, and worth visiting if you’re in the area with some family or just looking to fill some time. I’ll add that the camping options are very abundant in the Hyalite region and are extremely family-friendly.

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The final day and a half were spent checking out the Bozeman area since it’s on our list of destinations to move to. We hit seven different breweries and checked out a couple of the smaller shops too. We got lunch at a phenomenal breakfast/lunch Mexican place called La Tinga, be sure to look them up if you’re out there and had dinner at the scenically located MAP Brewing. We also had a to-die-for meat lovers pizza called the T-Rex at Bridger Brewing that had not only bison pepperoni but meatballs and the best fennel sausage I’ve ever had (I stole a piece of Rach’s sausage and nearly started WWIII).

Overall we really liked the area but we didn’t feel a magic spark coupled with the fact that the population is rising quickly and housing cost is skyrocketing. Our next target is Missoula which we heard is a little more our speed and still fairly cheap to live in with great fishing nearby. The trip was a solid 10/10 though with great fishing throughout and tons of gorgeous scenery to be had. Montana was exactly what I expected and exactly what we needed with all the craziness going on in our own lives.
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Published by Matt [wbranch] on 07/24/2020 (1064 reads)
By Matt Hanist

I've met hundreds of guys and gals while fly fishing these past sixty years. Everyone I have met and chatted with has been pleasant and I enjoyed our break from fishing.

Livingston, MT 1970


The person I remember most was at the time my fly fishing idol, Joe Brooks, author of many of the earlier books about fly fishing and he has had a column in Outdoor Life for many years. Two of my favorite books, that led me to my early adventures in Montana are: Complete Book of Fly Fishing and Trout Fishing.

Nelson's below Flume


I first fished the Beaverkill in July of 1965 after reading an article Joe Brooks had written in Outdoor Life. I vividly remember standing in Horseneck Brook riffle, the riffle above Cairns Pool, and tying on a #12 Hares Ear nymph and casting it across into the current and letting it swing below me. I didn’t know very much about the subtleties of a drag free drift then but I had the idea the fly needed to look natural. After a few minutes I was rewarded with a strike and I landed my first Beaverkill brown trout on a fly. That first brown trout got me hooked on fly fishing and Mr. Brooks’ books became my constant evening companions.

I used to live in Clifton, New Jersey and every Saturday morning I would drive up and fish all day until dark and then drive the two hours back to New Jersey. Later on, I started to rent a trailer on the Willowemoc and would drive up after work on Friday and spend the weekend on the Beaverkill and Willowemoc until after 4:30 then drive over to Kellam’s Bridge on the Delaware for the evening rise. I used to dream about Joe Brooks’ adventures in Montana on the Madison and all the Livingston spring creeks and was wishing I could figure out how to get out there. I was single and was working as an R&D machinist in Clifton, New Jersey and when June came around I went to my boss and told him, “I’m giving my two weeks notice.” I had decided to quit my position and drive out to Montana for the summer. Well the manager of the company didn’t want me to leave so he offered me my two weeks paid vacation and another two weeks without pay. I thought that was fair so in early June of 1967 I packed all my gear and the few flies I had and drove my 1966 Pontiac GTO out to Livingston, Montana.

Fat Cutbow


I stopped in a Dan Bailey’s fly shop and asked him where I could find some technical dry fly fishing. He told me about Armstrong and gave me directions on how to get there and he sold me the flies that guys were using there at the time. This was a few years before the landmark book by Swisher & Richards Selective Trout and the new concept of no-hackles, compara-duns, and hen wing spinners. Mr. Bailey sold me a dozen #16 and #18 heavily dressed Light Cahills and a few other flies that looked nothing like the Ephemerella Infrequens (now renamed dorothea) mayflies that were emerging everyday from 1:00 to 6:00.

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That first year in Montana on the spring creeks proved difficult and while I caught quite a few trout, I think much of my success was because I already had gained some dry fly skills on the Catskill rivers and the Delaware. It also helped that at that time Armstrong had not yet gained the huge popularity and pressure it was about to receive with the advent of the articles in the fly fishing magazines and word of mouth. Basically, the trout were wild and aggressive and eager to eat trimmed Cahills and any dry fly or nymph that had any resemblance at all to a PMD.

After I returned to New Jersey all I thought about between trips to the Catskills was returning to Montana and the spring creeks. I’d decided to quit my job and spend the entire summer in Montana. I went out and bought a one-year-old Volkswagon Campmobile and loaded it up with a bunch of fly rods, reels, extra lines, all my flies, and my fly tying material and headed out at the end of May. After a few weeks of intense dry fly fishing, I had took a break and drive down to Yellowstone for some easy cutthroat fishing.

Matt at Spring head


When I returned to Armstrong, I was having a pleasant morning and when I looked upstream, I saw Mr. Joe Brooks just standing there watching me. Talk about pressure! I caught one or two more and he called down to me, "You seem to be having a very good day, what are you using?" Imagine my idol asking me what I was using!

Matt at Island


We chatted and I told him I was spending the summer there and he asked me if I had my fly tying equipment and if I did would I tie him a dozen loop wing emergers. I said, "Sure Mr. Brooks, where can I give them to you?" He said he planned to fish Nelson's in a few days and I could meet him there and give him the flies.

So I tied them as best I could and met him on Nelson's. When I gave him the flies he asked me "How much do I owe you?" I said, "No charge." But he insisted I take some payment so I said: "Hmm, $10.00 is fine."

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I'm the hippie in the middle of the picture and my good friend is on my left. Mr. Brooks’ wife, Mary, took the picture. The rainbow was caught on Nelson's the day I gave him the flies.

Oh, we are all using cane rods: Mr. Brooks had an Orvis, my friend and I were both using Leonard "Baby Catskills" seven-foot #4.
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Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 07/04/2020 (4131 reads)
Mid summer into mid autumn is prime time for small stream, warm water fly fishing. While this summer (2018) has, so far, been unseasonably wet and cool here in southcentral Pennsylvania, mid-June has traditionally been the time I start to look to local creeks for bass and panfish. The main game are smallmouth bass, rock bass, and red-breast sunfish. Many of these creeks also have largemouth bass, carp, fallfish, green sunfish, bluegills, hatchery trout, crappies, even pickerel and walleyes. However, red-breasts, rockies, and smallies are prevalent in most of the creeks I fish, with red-breasts ruling the roost. Green sunfish are equally widespread and sometimes are present in numbers best described as swarms, but they’re generally too small to target.

Redbreast


Many fly fishers, if they’re not focused entirely on trout fishing, look forward to the summer bass fishing season. Wading or boating the Susquehanna or other bigger waters is indeed a great experience, but many of these anglers overlook the little local creeks close to home. While the rivers are a motivating place to fish in summer, if you don’t live near one, or otherwise are waiting for levels to drop and clear, something that can take several days after small streams have cleared, don’t overlook warm water creeks close to home. Most of these streams I frequent are typically twenty to fifty feet wide and comparable to what I’d consider medium sized trout creeks that one would fish with a 4WT.

Many of these streams are downstream sections of Approved Trout Waters. Agricultural valley streams can be productive too. Some are tributaries of bigger rivers and may play a role in bass spawning in springtime. One thing to note about access: land owners whose properties these creeks traverse, are often less familiar with anglers on their property as landowners who have trout waters on their property. Nevertheless, I have found that, if you ask nicely, you are likely to get permission. In my experience, streams with some gradient and traditional riffle to pool structure fish better than slow-moving waterways, which are often soft bottomed and tough to wade. These streams with current also hold more and bigger fish, especially red-breast sunfish.

This is simple fishing. For gear, I usually wet wade these creeks as they often fish well at mid-day during the summer. I recommend long wading pants rather than shorts as these streams often have dense vegetation along their banks and lack trails due to lack of fishing pressure. Spare your legs and wear pants or waders. I usually use a 7WT fly rod but trout gear is fine and sometimes I’ll use one of my tiny, five-foot brookie rods. Normally I like bigger sticks since I’m roll casting big flies and big strike indicators. Basic poppers and nymphs cover most bases. Plain old Wooly Buggers or Clouser Crayfish are deadly too. No need to go fine on the tippet. I almost never go lighter than 10lb test line and often use 12-14lb test. Stronger tippets will allow you to rip flies out of vegetation.

These streams often hold very dense fish populations, although not typically large ones. One of my favorite local creeks that I’ve fished for decades has produced countless smallies for me, but the biggest I’ve ever caught there was fifteen inches. Creeks are a numbers game with respect to bass. Sometimes a big smallie, or even a largemouth, will show up, but these are rare. While smallies are the main bassin game, there is another favorite creek of mine that, for some reason, has far more largemouths. Rock bass are often present too. Look for rockies around woody cover in the slower, deeper pools. Smallies and red-breasts are more likely to be in the main channel under current where chunk rock is present. In my experience, rock bass are less likely to rise to poppers and are much more susceptible to being caught on nymphs and streamers. Ditto with red-breast sunfish. You’ll get plenty on top, but if you’re mainly after these panfish you will probably get a lot more of them subsurface. Sometimes I’ll fish upstream with a popper and catch bass. On the way back downstream, I’ll fish subsurface with a buggy nymph or small crayfish pattern and slay the sunnies and rockies. Oftentimes, you will find a particular big rock or log that always seems to hold fish and you can pull multiple fish out from around or under it. Such hotspots usually remain productive year after year.

I’m convinced that the fish in these creeks are seasonal transients. This varies and I know some creeks where bass winter over. However, in most of the creeks I fish, the bass and sunnies usually migrate out in autumn, sometime around first frost. By this time, it’s time to go elsewhere and I switch to the big rivers or trout fishing. In the springtime, usually by late May or early June, the bass and panfish return to the creeks. Prime time is July to September. Some years with low flow conditions in springtime, such as 2016, I seem to find fewer bass and panfish in these creeks in summer. Better flows seem to pull more fish up into these creeks. I have found small bass and sunfish in the tiniest of creeks, some just a foot or two wide that dry up in warm years. These creeks aren’t worth fishing, but it is testimony to how far up into the watershed these fish can migrate.

Don’t overlook small streams in summer for easy going fly fishing. You can catch dozens of hard fighting fish in an afternoon and often some decent sized bass in the eight to twelve inch range. Many of these creeks rarely see an angler – maybe some kids with inner tubes and fishin poles. If you have a kid or a dog, bring them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a creek filled with scrappy bass and red-breast sunfish - a great way to spend a hot, lazy summer day.

You can see more of Dave Weaver's great artwork at www.rodandbrush.com

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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 06/04/2020 (26716 reads)

By Brian McGeehan

As a Montana fly fishing outfitter – the majority of my time from November through April is spent helping our guests plan trips for the following season. Montana is a very large target with a huge variety of fisheries so it can be a daunting challenge to folks visiting for the first time. When Dave Kile asked me to put together a guide for planning a trip our way I decided to break it into two parts do to the breadth and diversity of what Montana has to offer and what different people want out of their trip.

One of the aspects of trip planning in the Big Sky state is that we have such a huge variety of different rivers, streams, still waters and spring creeks. Each type of fishery has different peak seasons, different character and different tactics that are best used. This post will focus on anglers that want to do the majority of their fishing unguided. Montana is arguably the best state in the west for planning a DIY trip for several reasons. Thanks to the stream access law, anglers in Montana have access to private land along streams and rivers. This means that as long as an angler gets to the river corridor from a bridge or other public access point you can fish on private property without trespassing. Secondly, we have a lot of public land in Montana and surrounding areas like Yellowstone Park so finding water to access legally is pretty easy. Finally, the huge variety of fisheries means that there are a lot of smaller waters that are ideal for wade fishing.

Madison River, Montana
Madison River, Montana


Where to fish?
Pick up any coffee table fly fishing book that showcases famous waters around the world and Montana rivers will be heavily represented. Anglers from around the world are familiar with the Yellowstone, Madison, Missouri, Bighorn, Beaverhead, Gallatin and many others. Where do you begin if you are planning on fishing on your own? DIY anglers need to be cautious about planning their trips around the most famous rivers which are generally also the largest. While the Yellowstone is one of my all time favorite rivers in the world – it is also a huge fishery that is very difficult to wade in most stretches of the river. Even smaller rivers like the Beaverhead can prove frustrating since it is a meadow style river and at higher flows is next to impossible to wade fish without a boat to hop from run to run (but at lower flows is manageable). Some large rivers like the Madison have sections that are wading friendly and other sections that are very challenging to read without prior river knowledge. Other fisheries are very hard to access without permission from ranchers and offer very little private access. Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are a few locations that an angler fishing without a guide should consider. They all offer good public access and manageable wade fishing.

Bighorn River
The Bighorn is a very large river, but at lower flows (spring and late summer) there can be very good wade fishing. This is also a very easy river to float and if you plan in advance you can rent a drift boat for a reasonable price. The Bighorn has astronomical fish counts and the trout are big – most in the 17-19” class. The downside is that it is also relatively crowded (at least by Montana standards) since most of the fishing is done in the section just below the dam at Fort Smith.

Gallatin River
The Gallatin is a small mountain freestone river with high trout counts. It starts just inside of Yellowstone Park and flows for about 30 miles through the Gallatin Canyon which is mostly public forest service land with easy road access. Fishing from boats is not permitted and the river is very easy to “read”. There are numerous pull offs along the canyon section and the fishing isn’t very technical. Most of the trout are less than 15” but the population is very healthy. The only time that wading is difficult is during the run off period in late May and June.

Rock Creek
Rock Creek is located about 45 minutes from Missoula and is similar in size to the Gallatin. Like the Gallatin there is ample National Forest land with public access. Trout are medium sized but the river is beautiful and finding public water is not a problem.


Rock Creek Montana
Rock Creek


Ruby River
The Ruby River near Sheridan is a small mountain stream that turns in to a medium sized meadow river. The Ruby in the National Forest offers lots of public access for smaller trout. Below the reservoir it enters ranch country and the only access is from bridges and a few state owned parcels but fishing can be good for decent sized trout at the lower access areas.

Upper Bitterroot
The Upper Bitterroot and its tributaries offer good public access and a some National Forest fishing but avoid run off.

Upper Madison River
The legendary Madison River has some locations that are best floated but there are a few areas that attract out of state wade anglers. The first is the section between Hebgen and Quake Lake – this is an especially good fishery in the spring and fall. The next section is the wade only area from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge with good access at Reynolds Pass and Three Dollar Bridge. Finally there is an access point to another wade only area called the Channels at Valley Garden. The Channels can be tough to get around, however, do to dense willow stands along the banks. The Madison from Lyons Bridge to Ennis and then again from Ennis Lake to Three Forks can be non descript and difficult to read and fish without a boat.

Backcountry Streams and Lakes
For those that like to backpack – there can be terrific alpine lake fishing in remote wilderness areas. The most expansive area for hiking and fishing is the Beartooth Plateau near Red Lodge that offers thousands of mountain lakes and a few good streams. Other smaller ranges also offer good fishing for the adventurous angler. Most alpine lakes are stocked periodically by air but all streams and rivers in Montana are wild trout by law.


Montana Backcountry
Montana Backcountry Stream



Yellowstone National Park
Although only a small portion of Yellowstone Park is in Montana, the Big Sky state is the main entrance to the park at locations like West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cook City. Yellowstone is wade fishing only by regulation and offers lots of great streams and rivers. Generally spring and fall fishing is best in the West and South side of the Park and summer fishing is best in the Northeast section (with numerous exceptions). Although there is ample road access – anglers that are willing to hike will be rewarded with lightly pressured trout.

Livingston Spring Creeks
The legendary spring creeks near Livingston include DePuy, Nelson and Armstrong. These are on private ranches and require advanced reservations. Rod fees are $100 in peak season and $75 in shoulder seasons. These technical waters are easy to wade and have thick hatches. They are similar to Pennsylvania limestone streams in many ways. Plan on booking rods a year in advance (or more) for dates in mid June to July for the PMD hatch. DePuy has the most rods per day and is the last to fill up. You need to reserve a year in advance or more for Armstrong or Nelson for mid summer dates.

When to Come
This is one of the most commonly asked questions that we receive from anglers planning trips to Montana. If you are planning on fishing on your own it is probably a good idea to avoid run off when the snowpack is bringing levels up. This is a great time to book a guided trip but fishing on your own is much tougher in late May and mid June if you don’t have a boat and don’t have intimate knowledge of the rivers or access to private water. DIY anglers can have great luck in the spring before run off in late April to Mid May. Another nice window is just after runoff in late June and early July. Mid August is tougher on the public waters because the fish have seen a lot of flies but is a great time to target the back country if you like to hike. Late September and October is also great for fishing on your own since the waters are lower and you can fish some of the public waters in Yellowstone and outside the park for fall run browns.

Brian McGeehan is a Pennsylvania native and has been guiding Western rivers in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado for 19 seasons. He is a licensed Montana outfitter and owner of Montana Angler Fly Fishing based in Bozeman, MT. Brian will follow up with some more advice in a follow up post “Part 2: Planning a Guided Fishing Trip to Montana”. Here is a quick map to some of the streams.






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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 05/19/2020 (12521 reads)
green drake I was looking through my photographs from last year and found a Green Drake snapshot, which is one of my favorites. Green Drakes (Ephemera guttulata) are one of my favorite flies to observe, too.

I say observe as I usually find myself on Penns Creek fishing while a huge Green Drake hatch is coming off and I am doing anything, but catching a lot of trout. The mixed hatches that occur during this time of year are exciting and frustrating as many angler's would agree.

So this year I am going to stop practicing the fine art of talking to myself during the hatch and I might even throw on a sulphur or a should I dare say a emerger on during the madness?

The Green Drakes can starting showing up around May 20th and are complimented by the Coffin Fly spinners which provide equal splendor during this time of year. So sit back and get ready to enjoy the show.






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Published by Joe Dziedzina [Dizzy] on 05/03/2020 (23576 reads)
The Sulphurs are here!
With the best hatch of the season fast approaching, I thought it might be helpful for some of the “Newbie’s” to post a few words on the Sulphur Hatch to get them off to a flying start this month… so if anyone has anything to add in the way of tips, tricks, details, etc. PLEASE feel free to chime in!

The months of May and June here in southeastern PA bring forth the greatest event of the fly-fishing season… the SULPHUR HATCH. These yellowish mayflies are actually made up of three (3) different mayfly species; Ephemerella rotunda, E. invaria, and E. dorothea. Most streams in SEPA hold all three (3) species which can be good AND bad. It’s good because it extends the sulphur hatch from 1st/2nd week of May through much of June (most seasons)… and it’s bad because there are subtleties that the fish notice and key on (sometimes) and if the angler does not adjust, he (or she) could be in for a long evening. The good news though, is that the “bad” is well within your control.

First a quick overview of the three (3) players, in order of emergence;
Ephemerella rotunda: Duns have a medium yellow body color with slight “olive cast” to them… the largest of the three by a hair, could be as large as a size 12 hook size, but a size 14 will do (a true “tweener”)… often hatch out of very swift water (just below riffles)… hatching usually begins around Mother’s Day and lasts 2-3 weeks… hatch most often in late afternoons (4-6 pm)

Ephemerella invaria: Duns have a yellowish/orange body color … best imitated with a size 14 hook… often hatch out of slightly slower flows than rotunda’s… hatching usually begins around 3rd week in May peaking around Memorial Day (slowing down in June)… hatch most often in early evenings (6-7 pm)

Ephemerella dorothea: Duns have a pale yellow body color … best imitated with a size 16 hook (sometimes 18)… often hatch out of slower pools… hatching usually begins in last week of May and lasting well into June… hatch most often in evenings (7-8:30 pm), sometimes right at dusk in a quick “blizzard” of activity.

Believe it or not, there are other “yellow” mayflies hatching during these same times as well, but those listed above make up the Sulphur Hatch as most anglers know it. As you can see there are differences between the three and it will save your sanity to have the proper sizes/colors to cover the gamut. At the very least I would carry size 14 dry fly’s in sulphur yellow to cover the rotunda/invaria and size 16 pale yellow imitations to cover the dorothea (some anglers use a Light Cahill for this). To compound the mayhem, in addition to the over-lapping hatch activity, trout will often key on a certain “stage” of emergence from drifting nymphs, to struggling emergers, to floating duns… and just when you think you have THAT all figured out, there could be spent spinners on the water as well!

If you show up to the stream in the mid afternoon and no fish are rising and no insects are on the water (or in the air)… you could be in for some fast action by tying on a Pheasant-tail nymph (size 14-16) and fishing the riffles and runs. Prior to emergence these nymphs will fill the water column as they struggle to reach the surface. Trout will be gorging on them and you will often see flashes in the stream as fish slash from side-to-side engulfing drifting nymphs by the mouthful.

Once a good supply of duns are on the surface the trout will come up for them and the real fun begins with dry flies… fish staging in faster water will be easier targets as they have precious little time to inspect your offering. Trout holding in slower pools will be a bit tougher, but may be larger and you should still dupe them easily with a stealthy “down & across” approach. If the fish refuse your floating dry, try tying an emerger pattern or weightless nymph about 6” off the back of the dry. This will take fish that are targeting these hapless naturals. Some of you may have heard people say that the trout are easier to catch at the beginning of the sulphur hatch but get smarter as the weeks wear on? These are the guys that don’t adjust to the dorothea activity and are missing out big time. The difference in a size 16 or 14 hook may not sound like much, but place the fly’s next to each other and you will see why the trout key on one or the other. Just pay attention to what is on the water and you’ll be OK.

The last piece of the puzzle is the spinnerfall. Again, this can be as frustrating or as rewarding as you want to make it. Personally I take my largest “dry fly caught” trout every season during the spinnerfall. It’s an easy meal and one that large trout rarely pass up. As you survey the stream take notice of the presence of any swarms of “dancing” mayflies over the riffles. These will be egg-laden females preparing to drop their cargo into the drink before dying and dropping in themselves. The males in all likelihood have already fallen, spent from mating activity. During sulphur season this activity most often takes place during the early evening if not right at dark (maybe early morning if air temp’s are too high for mating flights). These mating swarms start out high above the stream surface and if you happen to notice flocks of insect-eating birds (swallows, swifts, nighthawks… maybe bats) high above, you can be pretty sure that a spinnerfall is about an hour away. Sounds complicated but it is surprisingly simple… for this activity I carry just one fly—The Rusty Spinner—in sizes 14-18. Look for subtle risers, often times near the tail ends of pools, just “dimpling’ the surface and float your imitation right down into the waiting jaws of a heavy brown. If rising fish continue to ignore your floating dun, tie on a Rusty Spinner and 9 out of 10 times you will be surprised at the response.

Always keep in mind that ANY and ALL of the above described activities could be going on… sometimes simultaneously! Just be observant, let the trout tell you what they want, and you will enjoy your cigar and cold beverage a LOT more back at the parking area… this I promise.

*NOTE* The referenced taxon above is a bit outdated as the society of entomologists (or whoever they are) have decided that E. invaria and E. rotunda are now the same species (E. invaria)… also they have added a second dorothea to E. dorothea (E. dorothea dorothea). This info is strictly for the angler’s that are over-obsessed with details (like ME for example)… the trout still eat them the same as they always have.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 04/21/2020 (861 reads)
After days of rain and all the big water is flooded out, the smaller backwoods streams are a great place to explore. They can be fun to venture to try out on a nice day as well. George Daniel takes some time to share some of his tactics for small streams. Check out as he shares ideas on gear, techniques, and how to approach all s smaller stream as to offer.



Many of you are already familiar with George Daniel. If not you should, as he is one of the most knowledgable and genuine anglers to follow in fly fishing today. A Pennsylvania native, George is an author, speaker, guide, US National Fly Fishing Champion and most recently the director/lead instructor for the Pennsylvania State University Fly Fishing Program.

You can find George here: Website, YouTube Channel, Instagram
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Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 04/13/2020 (1220 reads)
In sad news for the fly-fishing community and the Cumberland Valley in particular, Ed Shenk passed away this week. He was 93.

Ed was one of the last of a well-known generation of Pennsylvania fly fishing innovators from the Greatest Generation. He is often mentioned in the same breath with Charlie Fox, Vince Marinaro, and other central Pennsylvania fly fishers who were central to advancing the sport in the mid-twentieth century. Like Fox and Marinaro, Shenk is best known for his association with the Letort, our state’s best-known stream for the development of innovative fishing methods.
Ed Shenk

Many of us knew Ed and fished with him. While he could be opinionated, Ed was always willing to help and was eager to share his knowledge and experience. An innovative fly tier, Ed has long been associated with a variety of well known and still productive patterns, in particular the Letort Hopper, Letort Cricket, Shenk Sculpin, and Shenk’s White Minnow among others.

He was a guru of short fly rods and was handy at building custom glass rods. This short rod school has made a lasting impression on many of us who still love to fish with rods under six feet long, almost a sort of rebellion against the new fad for longer rods.

Ed was particularly skilled at targeting large trout with streamers, sculpin patterns in particular. This too affected many of us. I remember an article by Ed, “Sculpinating Trout” from (I think) Fly Fisherman Magazine in the mid-1980s. When I recently told Ed that that article had hooked me on sculpins, still one of my favorite flies, he was delighted and surprised someone would remember an article from back then.

Ed published a book, Fly Rod Trouting (Stackpole, 1989) that should be in any Pennsylvania angler’s library. In it, Ed recounts what is, I think, Pennsylvania’s greatest fish story: Old George. This was a great trout Ed pursued for a long time in Letort, finally catching it in 1964.

Image courtesy PA Fly Fishing Museum.
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