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Getting Started  Getting Started
Fly Fishing Getting Started - Types of Trout

Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 07/13/2017 (4794 reads)
Fly fishing anglers can pursue many types of freshwater fish in the region including bass, carp and sunfish. Undoubtedly, fly fishing for trout is by far the most popular. Millions of brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout are stocked in the Northeast every year. Aside from state and local club stocking efforts, all three species can be found naturally reproducing with varying degrees of success as well.

Trout flourish in waters that sustain fertile, cooler conditions year-round. Pollution has had an obvious negative impact on the success of wild trout populations. Many streams with high acidity or low levels of pH in mining regions have had a difficult time sustaining trout populations. Brook trout especially are the most tolerant of these conditions however their presence was greatly diminished during the twentieth century by deforestation and subsequent warmer water temperatures. Pollution spills that wiped out the insect life have been equally as devastating to trout populations. With improved conservation efforts and time, wild trout are making a strong comeback.

Better water conditions provide improved fertility in a stream so that young trout can feed on plankton, small crustaceans and insects. Mature trout will eat insects, fish, salamanders, crustaceans and even small mammals. Fly fishing for trout requires a keen knowledge of habitat, trout food and the fish. There are differences on how to fly fish for wild vs stocked trout.

Let's take a look at some of the general characteristics you’ll find with the three most common trout found in the northeast region for fly fishing.


Brook Trout - Salvelinus fontinalis
Brook Trout photo by 3wt7X

Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)
Brook Trout are the only stream trout native to the region. Generally brook trout are found from northern Georgia along the Appalachian Mountains and then north into Maine. They are also found in the Great Lakes–Saint Lawrence system over to Hudson Bay region. During the 19th century brook trout were first introduced throughout the western US. They are the official state fish for New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

A typical wild brook trout can be 6"-18" inches dependent on habitat, nutrition and age. They are typically the smaller of the three commonly found trout. Brook trout spawn during the fall starting in late September thru November. Of the annual stocking in Pennsylvania by the PFBC less than 20% of the annual stocked trout are brookies. Fly fishing for wild brook trout in small mountainous streams is it’s own pursuit by many.

Habitat: Brook trout generally live in small to moderate-sized streams, lakes, and ponds. They thrive in cool temps (34-72 degrees), clean and well-oxygenated water conditions.

Identification: body coloring is generally dark brown-green, the upper body and top have a wavy or a marbling pattern called vermiculation that extends onto the dorsal fin, the sides and belly shade is lighter, body is marked with light colored or yellow spots with smaller red spots surrounded by a blue halo and white leading edge on pelvic and anal fins.


Brown Trout - Salmo trutta
Brown Trout photo by 3wt7X

Brown Trout (Salmo trutta)
Brown trout are not a native species to the United States and they were introduced from Europe during the 19th century. They have become very successful across the country in many streams and lakes. Wild brown trout are typically larger than the native brook trout and are commonly found 12"-18". Larger brown trout can be found up to 30 inches and some can live well past 15 years. In Pennsylvania, about 1/3 of all streams stocking by the PFBC is with brown trout.

Habitat: Brown trout can be found in a wider range of water conditions. They prefer water temps from 50-60 degrees but can sustain themselves into the lower 70's. They are typically a little less tolerant of low pH conditions as compared to native brook trout.

Identification: body color is surprisingly not brown in color with black and often red spots on the sides, the lower belly section is yellowish, the tail fin typically has no spots.


Rainbow Trout - Oncorhynchus mykiss
Rainbow Trout photo by 3wt7X

Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Rainbow Trout are native to the Pacific coast of California to Alaska. Pennsylvania and other east coast states introduced rainbows during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The average size range for rainbow trout is 10"-14" inches, with some individuals reach 20+ inches. Opposite of brown and brook trout, wild rainbow trout spawn in the spring time. There are only a few naturally reproducing populations of rainbow trout on the east coast, but the species does very well in hatcheries and is the predominate species used in stream stocking. In Pennsylvania over 50% of the stocked trout are rainbows.

Habitat: Rainbows, much like brown trout, are a little less tolerant of low ph conditions. It is even suggested they can tolerate temps up to 75 degrees.

Identification: dark-greenish to silver back, red-pink stripe along lateral line, blackish spots on sides, head, dorsal fin and tail

Beginners can follow along and learn more in the Beginners Forum.

Additional Online Resources
http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/fishfacts/
http://www.fish.state.pa.us/pafish/fishhtms/chap15trout.htm
http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7016.html
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 04/17/2017 (12052 reads)
A mayfly hatch is the grand finale in the year long seasonal play that returns annually for trout and anglers.

MayFly StagesThis show begins the previous season with mature female mayflies, called spinners, laying their eggs on the surface of the water(video). The eggs shortly hatch into small larvae and quickly change into nymphs.

The nymph phase of the mayfly is the longest and will last just about one year. Different species of mayflies can be found in different parts of a stream. Some prefer the faster water and rocks, while others are only found at the end of pools in deep mud. During this time a nymph will grow and molt regularly. Molting is when the mayfly breaks out of it's old skin and a larger one is exposed underneath to protect it during the next growth cycle. During the final molting these leftover soft shells are referred to as shucks.

The emergence stage out of the water can be a quick and dangerous time for these transitional nymphs. Trout can find and aggressively feed on these insects that normally may be hiding or burrowing at the bottom of a stream. Once ready to leave the water the hatch begins. The emerger swims to the surface film molts their skins and expose there wings.

Green Drake Spinner aka Coffin FlyThe cloudy, grayish wings they emerge with give them there name: dun. The duns sit on top of the water and prepare its wings for flight. On top of the film of a stream they ready their wings for flight. This can take seconds or minutes depending how fast the mayfly can take flight. During this phase, mayflies often can been seen in great numbers sailing down the stream with trout striking on an easy food source. Once the dun escapes the water, it will head for the trees for several days.

While maturation occurs during this stage a dun may molt several more times until it becomes a spinner (Green Drake spinner aka Coffin Fly pictured left). As spinners they have no mouths to feed, male and female mayflies will seek each other out only to mate. The females will quickly lay her eggs back at the water starting the cycle over again.

The cycle ends when the dead and dying mayflies drop to the stream. The spent wing spinner is the one final opportunity for tout to feed on the last stage of this great yearlong production provided by the mayfly.

To learn and discuss more about mayflies on the site head over to the Hatch and Entomology Forum. Beginners can follow along and learn more in the Beginners Forum.

A great online site to follow and get deep into the latin is Troutnut and his Aquatic Insects of our Trout Streams. A must read!!







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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 03/16/2017 (9679 reads)
Streamers and Wooley Buggers
One of the great things about Paflyfish is the tremendous knowledge and sharing that is done especially in the forums. Tom "afishinado" Ciannilli, like many, regularly contributes to answering questions in the Beginners Forums. As the early trout season is about to get started he offered some great advice on A Dozen Top Flies. A very subjective topic, but for anglers just getting started, Tom's picks are are spot on.

Tom's selection is broken into six sinking flies for subsurface fishing and six surface dry flies. For some flies a range of sizes are important to have your fly box. The selection and success of fly and size will always depend on stream and conditions. I would suggest having more than about three of each of these to get started. Nothing worse than having a successful day with a fly and then not to have a backup if you loose it.

For any fly fishing angler starting to fill out their fly boxes these 12 types of flies will get you started on most any water for several months. You can join along with further questions in Tom's thread here in the forum.

A Dozen Top Flies by Tom "afishinado" Ciannilli
(notice I didn't say the dozen top flies...but if I had to select 12 flies, these would be in my box)

Sinking Subsurface Flies:

Wooly Bugger – Size 8 in dark olive w/ a black tail is my go-to. Having some black or white ones and a few a little smaller or bigger would be ideal. Fish anytime / anywhere – drift and/or strip.
Hares Ear Nymph – size 10 – 16 w/ and w/o beads. Natural is my favorite, but a few in olive or black would round it out. Fish anytime / anywhere – dead drift
Pheasant Tail Nymph – Size 12 – 16 w/ and w/o beads. Fish anytime / anywhere – dead drift
Green Weenie – Size 12. Fish anytime / anywhere – dead drift
San Juan Worm – Size 12. Fish anytime / anywhere – dead drift
Soft Hackle – Size 12 – 16. Pheasant tail, Partridge and Orange, Partridge and yellow, peacock to name a few popular ones. Dead drift, swing, hang or strip. All will catch fish.


Floating flies:

Blue Wing Olive (BWO)– Size 14 – 18 (early and late season mayfly hatches)
Adams – Size 10 – 18 (for dark mayflies)
Sulphur – Size 10 – 18 (mid-season light-colored mayfly hatches)
Beetle and/or Ant – Size 14 – 18 (Spring - late summer)
Griffiths Gnat - Size 18 - 22 ( For midges - very small insects - all year round)
Elk Hair Caddis – Size 10 – 18 in Tan, Black and Green for caddis hatches and/or stonefly hatches all season.

Note:
Mayflies have an upright wing and look like sailboats on the water.
Caddis have wings shaped like a tent over their body.
Stoneflies have wings that fold flat over their bodies.






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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 01/02/2017 (21196 reads)
Fly Fishing Getting started


Paflyfish is a popular spot for fly fishing anglers in the region for many good reasons. There are all sorts of great conversations and information shared in the forums on a host of different topics. We are very fortunate to have so many folks not only provide information online in the forums, but help out beginners at clinics and instructional jamborees. Also there are some darn smart anglers on the site coming from all walks of life. The site is filled with thousands of great post and threads that offer any angler any opportunity to expand their fly fishing opportunities. This section will be a dynamic page for beginners to find an index of information to get started with fly fishing. As relevant blog posts and threads are collected they will be added for quick and easy topics.

Take the Journey

Types of Trout

Trout Food
Trout Food Overview
The Mayfly Stages of Life 101
Mayfly Sex Identification 102
The Caddisflies
Stoneflies
Green Drakes: May Madness
Meet the Hendricksons

Gear
What Fly Rod and Fly Reel to get?
A Dozen Top Flies
Knots and the DBK
Trip Packing

Seasonal Information
Getting Ready For Fall Fly Fishing
Conquer the Cold: The theory of bigger being sometimes better
Getting out for some fall fly fishing
Try Some Winter Fly Fishing
How to Dress for Winter Fly Fishing

Forums
Beginners Forum
Fly Fishing Locations
Fly Tying
Stream Reports

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
PFBC Map Gallery
PFBC Comments and Feedback
Buy a PA Fishing License

Additional Online Information
Fly Fishing Hatch Chart
USGS Real-Time Streamflow Data & Mobile
Troutnut.com
Report a spill
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 12/05/2016 (5065 reads)
Winter fly fishing can a be a very rewarding time to get out on the water. The most important thing to an enjoyable day of winter fly fishing is dressing for the weather. After decades of winter activities like hiking, hunting and fishing you would think I would know better, but one of my worst days fly fishing was because I forgot my wool socks. Not so smart with my cotton socks. So let's take a look at the best approach wintering up for a day of fly fishing.

You've heard it before, but I'll say it again. Layers, layers, and more layers. The most important thing are the correct layers.

Feet
Alright Captain Obvious we know cotton socks don't work, so the best bet is a two layer approach with your feet. I first put on a thin polyester wicking sock. Overtop of the polyester sock I use a classic ragg merino wool sock. Bigger can be better, but make sure you can still get into your boots comfortably. If your socks are too thick and your feet are too tight in the boot this will not help keep you warm. What you are trying to accomplish is wicking away the perspiration from your feet with the polyester sock to the wool sock.

Legs and lower body
Again layers are the way to go. Keeping your legs and lower body warm while in the water is a non- negotiable. A few years ago I ended up getting a pair of Simms Guide Mid Pants. These pants are made of fleece and provide greater insulation than cotton. I would imagine you can get a decent pair of tapered fleece pants online that will do the trick. I like the tapered pants as they bunch up less at your ankles when you get into your boots. Often I'll wear a pair of light polyester long pants overtop of the fleece pants. A few ways to approach this but I'd avoid the cotton sweat pants.

Upper body
I generally have a three layer approach to the upper body. I use synthetic polyester base layer for wicking. I like the Under Armour mock longsleves. Offers a good base from the arms to the neck. The middle layers are your main insulators and going to keep you warm. A couple layers of fleece or wool always work for me. I found a great fleece shirt at Walmart for $10 a couple of years ago and is my goto whenever I head outside. A good down vest can work too, but you don't want too much bulk. The number of layers and type is really up to you and the temperatures you expect to encounter.

Finally for your upper body is a good outer shell. The key is something that will keep the wind from getting to you. With the layers you have already put on, a big winter coat is not best step here. A winter windstopper shell that is water repentant is the answer. This is the place I would invest my money. I have an older Simms windstopper jacket that works great and think I spent $200 at the time. With layering this jacket works from October thru April for me. Today I would look at the Simms Bulkley Jacket ($300) or Cabela's Guidewear WindStopper Jacket (on sale for $110, but not water repentant). Specific fly fishing wading jackets are usually cut short in length and make it easier fitting into your waders. Once you are dressed and have your waders on you want warmth, but also upper body mobility too.

The other stuff
Fingerless gloves or mittens are a must. Plenty of good options made of wool, fleece and polyester. Leave the ski gloves for the slopes. Last but not least is a wool hat.

You really should try all this gear on before you go to the stream. Adding a few more layers may cause some difficulties getting onto your fly fishing boots and waders. The holidays don't help either. No sense having all the right gear if you can't fit into your waders. I enjoy my fly fishing backpack this time of year with layers I am taking off or adding on. Finally, even if you don't think you'll need it, bring an extra layer to leave in the car.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 09/21/2016 (3104 reads)
Fall fly fishing in Pennsylvania offers anglers an awesome opportunity to enjoy cool, colorful days on some spectacular streams. Anglers will appreciate the solitude of fall fishing while others are busy with different fall activities. There are plenty of streams across the state with trout and hatches to keep you busy on familiar waters and even going after some streams you’ve been thinking about.

Fall Fly Fishing


Just like in the spring, you’re looking for trout and good water. There are plenty of streams that have naturally reproducing trout as well as stocked waters by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). However, the PFBC only provides very limited stocking on select streams during the fall, which starts at the end of September through the beginning of October.

Hatches
As the weather begins to change, so does the entomology or insect life in the stream. Activity will differ from region to region, stream size, 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, BWOs, Caddis, terrestrials and egg patterns. Typical nymphs and streamers are always part of the mix.

Where to Fly Fish?

Stocked streams and Special Regulation Projects
About 40 streams are stocked after the start of fall by the PFBC. The amount of trout is not close to the spring stockings, but offer increased angling opportunity to some of the more popular Special Regulation streams across the state like Tuplehocken Creek, Ridley Creek, Oil Creek, Neshannock Creek, Little Lehigh, Little Pine Creek, Bush Kill, Kettle Creek and Laurel Hill Creek, to name a few. The full list of fall stocked lakes and streams can be found here in a PDF. Some private clubs and Co-operative Nurseries also provide some stockings beside the PFBC, but these details are not publicly released.

Rainbow Trout
Something from the PFBC


Class A Trout Streams
Class A Wild Trout Streams are designated by the PFBC as: “Streams that support a population of wild (natural reproduction) trout of sufficient size and abundance to support a long-term and rewarding sport fishery. The Commission does not stock these stream sections.”

Wild Trout
Something a little wild


There are hundreds of these streams across the state. Some of the more popular streams are Penns Creek, Little Juniata and Spring Creek. There are hundreds of streams across the state in this category, and a full PDF listing can be found here. Not all Class A stream sections are on public land so always ask permission from land owners when approaching Class As or other wild trout streams.

The wild trout in these streams behave and act differently than their pellet raised brothers. You’ll find these trout having lived a season or two and are well adjusted to their environment. They have survived the heat of the summer, floods, predators and have seen hundreds of anglers casting all kinds fly’s past them. Anglers who know the waters, conditions, and entomology of the fall will be rewarded for their knowledge with some fun but challenging trout.

Wilderness Trout Streams
“Wilderness Trout Streams are a sub-group of wild trout streams; some Wilderness Trout Streams also have a Class A designation based on meeting a minimum biomass threshold. Under 58 Pa. Code §57.4, it is the Commission’s policy to manage wilderness trout streams where stream remoteness and populations of wild trout combine to offer sport-fishing opportunities for anglers in a wilderness setting.” – PFBC. Often these remote wild trout stream areas share use with Hunters so always carry some blaze orange with you to help you to be recognized by hunters.

Holtwood Brook Trout Stream


These streams offer anglers a unique experience of often remote and out of the way streams with wild trout. Hopefully, anglers who make their way to these streams are rewarded with native brook trout in some great settings. These are often small feeder streams and those no-name streams you roll past getting to bigger, more popular stocked waters. These streams should be treated with great respect due to their fragile and unique environments. However, these streams are not all in the remote mountains of the state, but can often be found just around the corner of your home if you search a little.

Anglers with a sense of adventure, stealth and respect can have a lot of fun with little gems scattered throughout the state. Generally, we ask that you not even post a stream report for these special streams to keep the traffic and adventure optimal.

For more detailed designations on all the wild trout waters from the PFBC, anglers will enjoy the PDF publication - Pennsylvania’s Wild Trout Streams.

Watch Out for the Redds
Reproduction plays an important part of the trout lifecycle during the fall months for both brook and brown trout. Brook trout, native to the Eastern US, usually spawn during late September through October. Brown trout typically spawn in October through late November. However, each stream is very different when this actually occurs.

During the spawn, the coloring on the trout will intensify, especially in the males. Females will create gravel beds called "reds" for the dropped eggs to be fertilized. It is very important avoid fishing these sections on streams when you see redds and be careful not to kick them up when wading. It is probably best even to leave trout overtop redds alone and give them a chance to protect the eggs.

Enjoy your fall fly fishing and add your stream report to the forum to share with others when you return.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 04/11/2016 (10912 reads)
Trout enjoy a wide array of food and insects being the more popular. While mayflies (Ephemeroptera) enjoy much of the spotlight, caddisflies (Trichoptera) are incredibly plentiful in waters across the region. Not always the preferred insect of the fly anglers mostly due to lack of familiarity.

caddisflyCaddis are a hardy insect and has thrived in streams that have been decimated with pollution. Streams like the Tulpehocken, Oil Creek and Casselman are are just a few streams known for their abundant caddis fly populations in our region. For many of these streams the caddisfly is so prolific that mayflies are an often afterthought for anglers.

The caddis behavior is a little less predictable and is certainly one of the reasons it is not as popular for many anglers. Many mayflies can be timed to within a few days and hours. The Green Drakes on Penn's Creek are revered by anglers the same way the "Swallows" of Capistrano are anticipated at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. Caddis not so much.

That is not to say great hatches of caddis are not enjoyed by anglers and trout, as there can be wonderful evenings and days with them covering a stream. Just as often there can be sporadic emergers happening with without much fanfare.

There are over 1200 species of caddis flies in the country. They range in size and colors covering the gambit of black, green, tan, cream and white bodies. The more popular Grannom hatch do arrive across much of the region at the end of April and are much anticipated by anglers and trout alike.

To get some understanding of their cycle it is as easy to do as by simply lifting a rock the next time out on the water.

caddisflyMany types of caddis larvae can be found at the bottom of the stream in self-made protected cases or roaming along the bottoms of streams. Some these species create protective cocoons made of small stones or sticks held together with silk like threads. This thread is also used to secure the larvae to the larger rocks or stream bed where they live.

As the caddisflies mature they reach the pupa stage were they hold-up inside their cases and prepare to emerge out as adults above the water. This transformation from water to wing is the most dangerous for all insects. The caddisfly rise from their cases often with the help of a small gas bubble pulling them towards the surface. Once there they emerge with their uniquely folded tent-style of wings they take flight.

The caddis return to lay their eggs either on the surface or by diving to the bottom depending on the species. Like when they emerge, this is the time when they are most susceptible to hungry trout. The cycle of life then returns as these eggs transform into the larvae again.

Like mayflies, caddis flies begin in ernest in April and are big part of many streams. Continued sporadic hatches can be found through the late Fall.

To learn and discuss more about mayflies on the site head over to the Hatch and Entomology Forum. Beginners can follow along and learn more in the Beginners Forum.

A great online site to follow and get deep into the latin is Troutnut and his Aquatic Insects of our Trout Streams. A must read!!
For further reading check out Gary LaFontaine's book Caddisflies.






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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 09/20/2015 (21936 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.

fall fly fishingOften 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.

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 Kile [dkile] on 07/29/2015 (19069 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 05/05/2015 (10026 reads)
Green Drake

Recently going through my mayfly photographs I found a nice set of pictures from the Paflyfish Spring Jam in 2010. The Green Drake (Ephemera guttulata ) hatch was in full swing that year and photographs of these mayflies was easy and plentiful. Most of the weekend was overcast and rain as normally forecasted for the Spring Jam. Emergers (subimigo) and spinners (imago) were not so much active during the day, but lined the sides of the streams in the hundred's of thousands. I am always torn between fishing and photography on days like this but glad put down my fly rod for a while and captured a lot of great shots.

With so many mayflies and photos it was easy to get so nice shots of the Green Drake spinners, which are referred to as Coffin Flies because of their white extended body. I wanted to demonstrate the differences between spinner (imago) male and female. These two Coffin Flies attached show these differences. Most notably the male has longer extended fore legs and claspers at the rear of the body. Females as seen do not have these body characteristics.

Male (left photo)
Long fore legs
Rear claspers or forceps at rear of body
Eyes on a male tend to be larger

Female (right photo)
Short fore leg
Forceps do not exist
Smaller flatter eyes






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