Aliyah Craig

Three-year-old Aliyah Craig went fishing with her Papa Ron, Nana Carri and sister Attison and caught this walleye on a bottom bouncer in about 6 feet of water near Crooked Creek on Fort Peck Reservoir.

Last week, anglers were excited about the salmonfly hatch on the Big Hole River. This week, fly-fishing enthusiasts have more reason to be excited as the salmonfly hatch is expected to start on the Madison River near Ennis.

Montana Troutfitters reported on Monday that with the predicted weather and the nymphs already staged, the hatch is going to happen soon.

At Fort Peck Reservoir in the Hell Creek area anglers are also doing well. Closer to Billings, walleye are biting at Cooney Reservoir.

Here’s The Gazette’s weekly report:

Top picks

Beaverhead River — The river is fishing well for some of the largest trout in Montana. The hot fly seems to change daily, but the start of the PMD hatch will get the fish on the same page. Warmer weather should kick off the best fishing of the year with the start of the PMDs as well as Yellow Sallies. The Beaverhead also has a smaller population of larger Golden Stones, and anglers shouldn’t shy away from larger dries in the afternoon as the weather warms. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Big Hole River — Over the weekend there were still some salmonflies hanging around in the water above Divide. Golden Stones were scattered downstream and provided excellent dry fly fishing opportunities without the crowds. Expect the river to fish really well over the next week with cloud cover and mild temperatures. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Madison River, Upper — It fished well last week. It was running at 1,850 cfs on Monday with water temps averaging around 50 degrees. Down lower, fish big Stones, big Caddis Pupa, and streamers. Keep an eye out for caddis popping throughout the day and into the evening. An olive Elk-Hair Caddis will get the job done for the rising fish. The West Fork is still dumping a little bit of mud, but we believe the bulk of it is over. Clarity is still fine all the way down until town. Nymphing has been the most consistent producer with Worms, Stones, and smaller mayfly nymphs being the best options. There are also some caddis up this way so keep an eye on the soft water and you may be rewarded with some great dry fly fishing. Look for the salmonfly hatch to start in Ennis this week. With the weather forecast as of Monday, and the nymphs already staged to go, it is going to happen soon. Do not head this way without a few big orange dries in your box. Be mindful when wading, even at low flows. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Overall it is fishing well. Walleye were in 8 to 13 feet of water. The bigger fish are at depths of 15 to 20 feet. Try jigging or bottom bouncing. Pike were in the weed beds, from the shallows to 14 feet. Pitch spoons or spinners or pull Rapalas. The smallmouth are in 4 to 12 feet of water. Target the rock piles. — Hell Creek Marina.

Hauser Reservoir — Rainbows are being caught from shore and boats at Riverside below Canyon Ferry Dam. Shore anglers are drifting jigs with a worm while boat anglers are trolling cowbells or spoons. Walleye are being caught at the Causeway Bridge and in the Causeway on jigs with a leech. — FWP, Helena.


Ackley Lake — It was a very rainy weekend and fishing was slow. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Anglers are catching some bass. Try a minnow or a leech with a jig. On the Barry’s end there is a lot of debris in the water, so be careful boating. — Pryor Creek Bait Co., Laurel.

Bighorn River — Flows are on the rise and the river is currently running at 11,000 cfs. The bump in flows has raised the water temps into the mid-50s, which has brought on some great fishing. With the high flows there are still dry fly opportunities, but nymphing and streamer fishing is your best bet. Nymphing has been excellent, and the streamer fishing is really turning on. We don't expect flows to be up for long. The best patterns this week include: Scuds, Carpet Bug, Jellybean Sowbug, Softhackle Ray Charles, Wire Worm, chenille Two Tone Worm, Sparkle Minnows and any other shiner type or white streamers. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. 

Boulder River — The river is running clear and high. Fish slow/fast water seams. Cold water is keeping the fish in the slower flows; fish a nymph rig with Golden Stone nymphs and Prince Nymphs and Worms. No dry fly action yet, but it shouldn't be too far off. Use caution wading as the flow continues to be swift and strong. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Rainbow trout continue to be caught from shore near the Silos and throughout the north end of the reservoir on jigs tipped with worms. Walleye and a few yellow perch are being caught throughout the reservoir trolling worm harnesses, crankbaits, and Slow Death rigs in 10 to 30 feet of water. Walleye and perch are being caught from shore throughout the reservoir using jigs tipped with worms or leeches in 5 to 25 feet of water. — FWP, Helena.

Cooney Reservoir — The water temperatures are between 59 and 60 degrees. People are catching walleye with leeches at a depth of 2 feet near the willows. — Cooney State Park.

Deadman’s Basin — Action is steadily improving from the boat and shore and the basin is full. Anglers continue to reel in rainbow trout at the Broadview Pond. Try PowerBait on the south end. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — It is fishing well for walleye and pike. Fish in 12 feet of water. Crankbaits are working for both species. Try perch pattern or chartreuse crankbaits. Purple Flicker Shads will also work. Some are bottom bouncing worms at the same depth. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — In the Ghost Coulee area the walleye, smallmouth, crappie and drum are all biting. Try bottom bouncing worms for walleye. Color doesn’t seem to matter. Northern pike fishing is slow. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Lake trout action is really good in 70 to 100 feet of water. The best tactic for lake trout is using spoons. The walleye and pike bite is a little on the slow side. For walleye target the warmer water. Walleye are consistently being found in 10 feet of water. Try bottom bouncers and crawlers. You can also pull crankbaits or pitch jigs. Some smallmouth are being caught by pike and walleye anglers. Try fishing near the rock piles and pitch jigs; cast a crankbait or drop shot a minnow or plastic. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — Walleye fishing has been good for 16- to 24-inch fish. Bottom bouncing with a Slow Death Hook and a worm has been the most productive method. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Gallatin River — The Gallatin is looking good above the Taylor Fork and fishable all the way through the canyon. The water is pumping hard, so be careful. The fish will be pushed right up against the banks and in the softer water pockets. Make sure your big Stones, Worms, and Mayflies are ready to roll. The name of the game is big and heavy to plunge those deep, soft pools. The fish in this river haven't seen pressure for close to a month. For the next few weeks each day the river will look better than the last. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hebgen Lake — Lots of trout were caught over the weekend. Trout are still biting about 30 yards off the north shore, about 9-25 feet down. Trout pattern, silver/alabaster with worms and gold/red spoons brought in a lot of fish. A 4-pound brown trout was caught just off the shoreline near the Kirkwood Marina jetty. The lake is now 1 foot to full pool, so water levels are not an issue for anglers and boaters now. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.

Holter Reservoir — Shore fishing for rainbows is slow. Boat anglers are finding rainbows while trolling cowbells or crankbaits in the lower reservoir from Split Rock to the dam. Walleye and perch are being caught on jigs and worms around Cottonwood Creek, the clay banks and Log Gulch. — FWP, Helena.

Jefferson River — The river had a window where fishing could have been OK. However, the water is starting to warm up substantially. The moss is getting bad and the fish are in survival mode. This one may be best left alone until fall. That being said, the Big Hole and Beaverhead are fishing extremely well. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison RiverLower — They have been slowly dropping the water levels with the colder temps, and on Monday the flows were right around 2,000 cfs. This is still slightly high and will most likely make wade fishing a bit tougher than normal. The temperatures have also dropped to 57-60 degrees. For the week to come it looks like we will have a resurgence of summer weather that should bring the caddis and PMDs back. The fish will be feeding on dries moreso in the mornings and evenings, but along the banks there is action with a small Chubby or an Adams throughout the day. With the current drop in flows nymphing will be your best bet. The crayfish bite has picked up with fish holding over the weed beds. Look for fish in the shallow water where transitions between the buckets are. Fish are also hanging on the banks looking for March brown nymphs, Caddis Pupas and crayfish. Now is the time to fish as this river heats up quickly, especially with low flows. We may only have a week or two more before temperatures get to lethal levels for the fish. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Martinsdale Reservoir — Anglers continue to catch trout from bank and boat. Use hammered nickel or hammered brass cowbells from the boat. From shore, try crawlers and PowerBait. — Ray’s Sport and Western Wear, Harlowton.

Missouri River, below Holter — The flows are at 6,090 cfs and the temperatures were at 58.5 degrees on Monday. On cloudy days, Thin Mints or a perch pattern will work for streamers. Sowbugs are still effective. Little Green Machines and PMD Split Backs are good choices. A purple Para Wulff is a good dry fly. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Anglers continue to catch catfish. Use crawlers or minnows. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Nelson Reservoir — Fishing has really picked up over the last few weeks. A bottom bouncer and worm harness has been the go to. Target 16 to 28 feet. Jigging a leech or a minnow has also been productive. Walleye, perch and a few large crappie have been caught. Those seeking bass have been catching fish casting spinner baits near shorelines. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Rock Creek — Rock Creek continues to be in the throes of runoff. It has dropped considerably over the last week although it would still be considered high, fast and dangerous to fall into. We recommend anglers check out the Main Fork, Lake Fork and West Fork of Rock Creek. Though these tributaries of Rock Creek will also be moving in regards to stream flows, they should offer more opportunities for pools and soft trout holding water. Should you locate water that looks fishable, recommended nymph patterns include red or chartreuse Copper Johns, Montana Princes in blue, Batman, as well as San Juan Worms or Pat’s Rubber Legs. Most of these nymphs can be fished in sizes 8-14. Dry fly patterns in the early summer include a Purple Haze, Parachute Adams, tan Caddis or a Royal Wulff. All of these dries can be fished in sizes 12-14. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Billings.

Spring Creek — It was off-color on Monday, but should clear by the end of the week if the weather cooperates. In off-color water use a San Juan Worm. When the water clears, use a Prince Nymph, Hare’s Ear or caddis pattern. Gold and red Mepps are producing. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Stillwater River — Flows dropped and cleared significantly with cooler weather, and the river is clear and low enough to be fishable and floatable. Nymphing has been the best option, with beadhead patterns like a Prince Nymph, red Copper John, Lil’ Spanker, Hare’s Ear, Batman or Pheasant Tail. It’s time to start thinking about fishing big dry flies like a Chubby, PMX or Jack Cabe with a beadhead nymph dropper in the softer, inside water. As the water warms up just a bit more a larger size Purple Haze fished as tight to the bank as you can get it can produce fish when floating. The river will likely continue to fluctuate in response to temperatures and rain events for a while. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Tiber Reservoir — Anglers are doing well. Most of the walleye and northern pike action is in 10 to 15 feet of water. Worms have been the best bait. Some are also having luck on crankbaits. Water levels remain high. — Ru’s Tiber Marina.

Tongue River Reservoir — Fishing is pretty slow from boats. The water clarity is getting better on the north end toward the dam and a few northern and crappie have been caught. Dark jigs with a leech or a minnow have been the best bet. Anglers can also try tube jigs for northerns. Shore anglers are doing OK on perch and a few bass. Water levels have receded, but remain high. — Tongue River Marina.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — Although on the drop, it is still running on the high side and off-color through Columbus. The time to get back on it will be as the color transitions from brown to a blue-green tint. It’s still likely a week or so away. In the meantime search out lakes, smaller tributaries and tailwaters until runoff subsides. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — With all the rain last week the river is high. Fishing pressure was light. The anglers who ventured out targeted pools just off the current and had fairly decent luck catching catfish. Minnows, cut bait and shrimp seemed to be working the best. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.

Yellowstone River, Livingston —With the recent cold the river has come down and flows are hovering around 11,000 cfs. This is a dangerous flow on this river, but the water clarity is enough to do a little fishing. Use extreme caution if you head this way. Work the banks and soft water with large nymphs or streamers and you may be surprised what eats in the slightly muddy water. That being said, there is still a lot of snow on the east side of the mountains; so the clarity may not last. This is a good river to keep an eye on, but if you are planning a fishing trip this week there are still better options. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.


Bighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend — Several 2- to 3-pound sauger were caught off the fishing dock at Horseshoe Bend Marina last week. The south narrows are producing channel cats on minnows. Crooked Creek Bay is producing channel cats and large crappie on minnows. Several walleye were reported being caught just south of Barry’s Landing. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — The flow was 7,200 cfs as of Monday and fishing is poor. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Boysen Reservoir — Fishing has picked up for walleye and rainbow trout. Present crankbaits for both species. — Boysen Marina.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Flows into Buffalo Bill have been fluctuating with the cool weather. Fishing has been good in the open parts of the reservoir. At Beck Lake and New Cody Reservoir fishing has been good with bait under a float. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — At Hogan and Luce, Damsel Nymphs, Woolly Buggers, small Beetles and Ants were all working. Some sedge caddis were coming off. At East Newton, damselflies were hatching. Use a dry-dropper. Caddis nymphs and Scuds will work. Water levels at West Newton are really high. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lake DeSmet — Fishing is a little on the slow side with boat anglers doing better than those from shore. Some 7- to 11-pound lake trout have been reeled in recently. A couple of walleye were caught. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  

North Fork of the Shoshone — With the cooler weather on Monday it was fishable from Newton Creek all the way to the headwaters. Stoneflies with dropper nymphs off the back were working. When warm weather returns the flows will once again increase. On Monday the South Fork of the Shoshone was running at 537 cfs and the water was fishable. But like the North Fork, runoff will return when the weather warms. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — The reservoirs are fishing well. Try using worms. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.

Yellowstone National Park — If you are itching to fish dry flies then look no further than the Firehole River. Sunnier days have brought the various caddis species out in full swing. White Miller caddis have become the most prolific caddis fly along the Firehole, although the river still has healthy populations of Hydropsyche (tan) and Glossosoma. Try Iris and X-Caddis patterns for both the Glossosoma and Hydropsyche. For the White Millers match Razor Caddis and White Miller Soft Hackle. The Madison River in the park is still a good option. Look for PMDs during overcast conditions and caddis when the sun is out. Nymphing with Rubber Legs, small mayfly nymphs, and caddis pupa patterns has been effective. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Henry’s Fork of the Snake River (Idaho) — Below Mesa Falls is in prime shape. Green drakes, Flavs, Golden Stones, PMD duns and spinners, gray drakes, and caddis are all bringing fish to the surface. This is a magical time on the lower river because drakes and Golden Stones bring the big browns out. The Box Canyon continues to be a good option. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.


Email Gazette Deputy Sports Editor John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL