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Fishing report: Cooler water means anglers can sleep in

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Fish on

John Kemmick lands a grayling caught on a dry fly at Lost Lake in the Beartooth Mountains recently.

BILLINGS — Right now is the the best of both worlds for anglers.

On most area rivers, fishing will begin to pick up late in the morning or midday when the water warms up a little. That means anglers don’t have to wake up to the buzzing or music of an alarm clock. 

Some are taking advantage of a unique fall opportunity. When archery or bird hunting slows or when they want a change of pace, they’ll take a break and head to a nearby water and fish.

Here’s the weekly fishing report:

Top picks

Bighorn River — Fishing continues to be very good. Mornings have been slower, but by 11 or so, the bugs have been showing up and getting fish on the feed. PMDs are about done, but pretty strong hatches of black and tan caddis and pseudos have fish looking up. Nymphing with Pheasant Tails, Frenchies, Split Case PMDs, Perdigons and small Pseudo Nymphs continues to attract big fish. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. 

Gallatin River — A great option. There is still some slight Hopper action, but the bite is slowing down. Mornings can be a slow start with the cold water temperatures, so a full nymph rig with a Rubberlegs or Mega Prince is a great option until the baetis start hatching. Dry fly action has been good in the late mornings with Pseudo Baetis Emergers and dries continuing throughout the day and the afternoon/evening hours with Rusty Spinners, Caddis and Spruce Moths. Smaller streamers are also working well, try a tan Sculpin or Sparkle Minnow. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Glacier National Park — At Avalanche Lake, Hidden Lake and upper Two Medicine Lake, fish Royal Coachman and black Woolly Buggers. On the North Fork of the Flathead River, the bite is changing to orange Elk-Hair Caddis, orange Parachute Madam X or Stimis. Parachute Adams and Parachute Black Gnats will work when the hatch is coming off. Prince Nymphs and October Caddis Nymphs will also work. The Middle Fork is fishing the same as the North Fork with the cooling temperatures. — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.

Lake Koocanusa — Mature kokanee salmon are swimming to the creeks and starting to spawn. Overall, kokanee fishing is slow. Rainbow fishing is getting a lot better. The native rainbows running 6 to 20 inches are biting small plugs or bait near the shore. Good tactics for the native rainbows are presenting PowerBait, crawlers or really small spoons and spinners. Smaller Rapalas will also work. For the bigger Kamloops rainbows that run 5 to 15 pounds, fish a bigger dark-colored plug at depths of 70 to 100 feet. — Koocanusa Resort and Marina, Libby.

Madison River, Upper — With all the recent storms and cloud cover the streamer bite has been awesome in the mornings. After the morning streamer bite has subsided, a full dropper rig has been the best bet. For droppers, anything small and flashy will get the job done: Green Machines, $3 Dips, Purple Deaths, Goblins, Copper John, Prince Nymphs, Perdigons, Worms, Shop Vacs, black and brown Rubberlegs, and your favorite Caddis Pupa are all good bets. Quite a few big brown trout have been caught very early in the morning on big streamers. Streamer color has been variable lately, but typically black and olive are great colors on cloudier and rainy days and yellow and white are our favorites for sunny days. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.


Ackley Lake — Trout fishing has improved. Try using a half crawler and let it sit. One could also try casting spinners or spoons. A few anglers have been trying for tiger muskies, but the bite has been slow. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Beaverhead River — Flows are dropping. The moss is clearing and the clarity is getting better. Fishing should pick up with the appearance of BWOs. The weather is favorable for fishing. At Poindexter Slough action is good using attractor dry flies. Try Ants and Grasshoppers. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Closer to the state line, some fat bass were biting. The fish are suspended. Try pitching cranks in the mid-water column. Swimbaits are also working. The sauger bite should be kicking in soon. Fish closer to the state line for sauger. — Scheels, Billings.

Bitterroot River — Very low and really great for wade fishers. You can still float, but it’s boney and you’ll do some scraping. The fishing has been good and we are seeing Tricos, mahoganies, BWOs and hecubas, as well as hoppers, ants and beetles. It’s fall dry fly time. The sun is coming back out later this week which will mean tougher fishing conditions in low, clear water, but they’re still looking up. Tricos are the toughest game in town and a Dun or Spinner (18-22) with light tippet and a drag free drift are a must. Mahoganies (14-16) and a CDC Dun, Tilt Wing Dun or Copper Haze is a good bet. BWO (18) and an Adams, P-Haze or Flash Cripple have been good. Hopper-dropper in the afternoon will get fish when they aren’t coming up. Streamer fishing has been so-so, but should get better as the water continues to cool off. Let’s hope for more clouds, too. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Blackfoot River — The water is cold in the mornings, so no need to rush out there unless you want to be the first one on. We are starting to fish October Caddis nymphs and even getting a few to take the dry. This will continue to get better, so make sure to have them in your box. Tricos are out in certain spots as well as a few BWOs on the cloudy days. Rainy, cloudy weather makes for the best fall fishing. Hopper-dropper setups in the afternoon are a must with Anderson’s Bird of Prey, Jig PT, Spanish Bullets, Rubberlegs and San Juans. Streamer fishing will continue to get better, but for now stick with small streamers swung deep in the runs. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Boulder River — Fishing has been tough with the weather. The best tactic is a Shuck BWO. In the earlier hours use a nymph rig setup or a streamer. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — The weekend’s poor weather kept most people off the reservoir. Those venturing out caught some walleyes out from the Silos while using bottom bouncers with red, purple or white spinner blades and a worm in 12-17 feet of water. Rainbow and perch fishing was slow, as well as fishing from shore for all species throughout the reservoir. As reservoir elevations continue to drop, ramps will become unusable. For the latest ramp information go to the BOR website at: — FWP, Helena.

Clark Canyon Reservoir — In the fall, anglers usually start to see fish cruising the shorelines. Try slow stripping streamers. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Clark Fork River, Missoula  Starting to fish well. We are seeing some more bugs like tricos, hecubas, BWOs and mahoganies. The clouds have really helped, but those clouds look like they aren’t going to last. Fish will still be looking up, and hopefully bugs will still be hatching. Look for tricos to start around 10-11 a.m. Have duns and spinners (18-22) ready. Mahoganies (14-16) and BWOs (18) will happen midafternoon or so. Duns and Cripples have been working best for these mayflies. Try a Hopper-dropper when the sun comes out with mahogany droppers like brown Spanish Bullets and Jig PT.  Streamer fishing has been hit-or-miss, but stick with smaller jigging streamers like Mason’s Junior, Baby Gonga’s, Flash Minnows and Sparkle Minnows. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

Cooney Reservoir — Last week all the boat ramps on the reservoir were closed due to the low water levels. Water temperatures were in the low 60s, and clarity hasn't improved. The shore anglers are having success catching trout. Worms on the bottom or yellow PowerBait seem to be working the best. One group caught a few casting a gold and yellow Panther Martin. — Cooney State Park.

Deadman’s Basin — Anglers are catching some trout and there was a report of a smaller (approximately 20 inches) tiger muskie being reeled in and released. From boats anglers were casting and retrieving Rapalas. At Castle Rock Lake by Colstrip anglers are catching bluegills. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Flathead Lake — Action has been hit-or-miss. Jigging tubes has been the best method for lake trout. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.

Flathead River, above the lake — Parachute Adams, Griffith’s Gnats, black Woolly Buggers, and black Girdle Bugs will all work. — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.

Flathead River sloughs — Anglers are doing well using spinner baits for pike. — Snappy’s, Kalispell.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Walleye fishing is just starting to pick back up. Northern pike and bass fishing is still going well, with some of the bass being really big. The bigger northerns being caught are running 30 inches. For bass, pitch jigs to the rock points. For northerns, pull crankbaits or run a bottom bouncer and worm harness. Anglers are fishing at depths of 15 to 30 feet for northerns. No news on any chinook salmon being boated in the Dry Arm yet. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — The bite remains very slow for most species. A few pike have been caught. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Anglers are starting to catch northerns in the morning pitching spoons up shallow. Overall, fishing is fair to medium. Pike and bass anglers are doing well. Walleye action is still slow. — Hell Creek Marina.

Fresno Reservoir — The reservoir is starting to be filled. The last we heard small boats could be carried down to the reservoir and launched. Fishing pressure has been light. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Georgetown Lake — Water temperatures at midday are 60 degrees. The water is clear. Try Hoppers, Ants, Beetles, Callibaetis nymph, Parachute Callibaetis, and Micro Caddis. — Flint Creek Outdoors, Philipsburg.

Hauser Reservoir — Rainbow action continues to be good throughout the reservoir. Shore anglers are having success at the Causeway, Black Sandy, Riverside and York Bridge while using floating jigs with night crawlers or PowerBait. Boat anglers trolling crankbaits or cowbells and Wedding Ring combos from Lakeside to the dam are finding trout as well. Walleye and perch fishing has been slow, but a few are still being picked up in and around the Causeway Arm while pitching jigs/vertical jigging or trolling crawler harnesses near points or weed beds. — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — Action has started to slow down quite a bit. There are still some callibaetis in certain areas with fish on them but the window is getting narrower and narrower by the day. Launching a larger boat is also pretty tough right now with the low lake conditions. Looks like we have a few warm days left, so if you're wanting to get out on Hebgen do it now. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Holter Reservoir — Rainbow fishing has been good in the canyon near the Gates of the Mountains, from Black Beach to Split Rock and around the sand banks across from the Boat Loft. Trolling cowbells with spinner rigs and crawlers has been the best tactic. Walleye fishing has been slow and a few perch are being picked up while jigging near Log Gulch and the BLM boat docks. — FWP, Helena.

Kootenai River — Kokanee salmon are running at Grave Creek. For the main river fish Parachute Adams, Mahogany Parachute and Peacock Elk-Hair Caddis. Orange Stimis will work for the October caddis. Standard natural Hare’s Ears or Prince Nymphs are good wet flies. — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.

Lake Frances — Fishing is slow. Boaters must launch on the east end by the dam due to low water. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Lake Mary Ronan — Perch fishing should still be good. Rainbow action should be kicking in. Anglers might be catching a few kokanee. — Zimmer Bait and Tackle, Pablo.

Madison RiverLower — Hopper season has slowed down considerably; be looking more toward smaller dry flies, just using the Hopper as an indicator fly. Try running a Rusty Spinner or a BWO. For sub-surface, a small flashy beadhead nymph or a small tan turkey Crayfish are currently the best options. There is a minimal streamer bite starting, but weeds are beginning to be an issue. Also, play around with where you are putting your flies as we have seen them being caught in all types of waters depending on the time of day. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Marias River — The river is low. A few anglers are floating it, but fishing is slow. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Martinsdale Reservoir — Fishing is slow. — Mint Bar, Martinsdale.

Missouri River, below Holter — The flows were 3,050 cfs and water temps 60 degrees on Monday morning. Nymphs are doing well. Streamers are also producing. There are some pseudo around and callibaetis. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, below Morony Dam — At the big eddy below Morony Dam, use salted minnows for catfish. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Fishing is starting to pick up. Try a live minnow, dead minnow or a crawler. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Nelson Reservoir — A few anglers are pulling bottom bouncers and quite a few people are starting to jig and catching 14- to 16-inch walleyes. Target 20 feet of water. A few small northerns have also been reeled in. Firetiger is a good pattern. — Hardware Hank, Malta.

Noxon Rapids Reservoir — The water temperature has dropped. Fall weather and steady rain cooled the temperature to 62 degrees on Monday. Bass are moving into the mouths of creeks and some are being found in the creeks. Try a variety of lures from spinnerbaits, crankbaits and small soft plastics to get outside of weed edges. Pike are biting inline spinners, regular spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Trout can still be caught at the backs of creeks on inline spinner baits. Walleye are biting deep-diving crankbaits and bottom bouncing rigs on main lake bluff walls outside of creeks. Perch and bluegills are still being caught on night crawlers. — Lakeside Motel and Resort.

Rock Creek (East) — Flows are running at 105 cfs as of Monday with water temps in the low 60s during the morning. Temps should be staying cool this week and there have been a lot of small mayflies hatching in the evening. Pale Morning Duns have been a key fly in the evenings. Small streamers have been great. Present Thin Mints and Grinches tossed into deep water or back eddies. Dries: Amy’s Ant in purple, Crystal Stimulator-yellow (12), Dave’s Callibaetis (14), Sparkle Dun (20), Trina’s Carnage Green Drake (12), Purple Craze (14). Nymphs: Tungsten Copper John-chartreuse (14), Tungsten Jig Hare’s Ear (16), JuJu Midge (18), MT Prince X-Mas (14), Trina's BubbleBack Emerger BWO (18). Streamers: Thin Mints, Grinches, Slump Buster-rust (6), Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow-light olive (6). — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Red Lodge.

Rock Creek (West) — Fishing great right now and fall is in the air. Cold nights mean you don’t have to get out at sunrise any longer.  We are seeing October caddis, BWOs and mahoganies. Cloudy days really bring out the BWOs (18) and mahoganies (14-16). October caddis (10-12) is happening later in the afternoons. Make sure to have some of all these if you want to be successful. Hopper-droppers are still on the menu until we get a few really hard freezes at night, even then fish will look for them. Streamer fishing will start to pick up with fish being more aggressive as the water temps stay cool. Brown/yellow are our favorite streamer colors. — Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, Missoula.

South Fork of the Flathead River — It is still fishing well on orange Stimis, Parachute Adams and Griffith’s Gnats. Prince Nymphs and October Caddis nymphs are working. Bitch Creeks are also working. — Arends Fly Shop, Columbia Falls.

Spring Creek — Clear and fishing well. The Hopper bite is probably slowing down with the cooler temperatures. The best action would be on little black nymphs or beadhead nymphs. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Stillwater River — The river was running at 350 cfs on Monday, with water temps staying cool. Hopper fishing has tapered off. The upper stretch, such as Moraine fishing access and Old Nye have been the places to go. Look to fish Purple Crazes (14)  throughout the day. The streamer bite has been great with Kory’s Grinch being the ticket. Dries: Purple Rainy’s Grand Hopper, Purple Haze (14), Dave’s Parachute BWO (16), blonde Wulffs (16). Nymphs:  Lucent PT Purple (16), BH Holo Batman (14), Blooms Zirdle-purple (8), Half Back (8). Streamers: Coffey's Sparkle Minnow-smoke/purple (4), Craven's Dirty Hippie -rainbow (6), The Grinch (6), Thin Mint (8). — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Columbus.

Tiber Reservoir — Fishing is slow for all species. — Roberts Bait & Tackle, Great Falls.

Tongue River Reservoir — Some perch, walleyes, smallmouth bass and a few largemouth bass were caught last week. Try fishing the points to the south. However, some anglers are able to catch fish on the shoreline at Sand Point. Water levels are very low and below winter levels. Anglers can still launch a boat, but exercise caution when boating on the lake. — Tongue River Reservoir State Park.

Yellowstone River, Big Timber — Action has been good when it’s not windy. Hopper fishing is pretty much over. Fish are still looking for stoneflies. Fish a shallow nymph rig with a Rubberlegs and a smaller Pheasant Tail or Prince Nymph. Look for rusty and trico spinners early. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — Hopper season is coming to an end; it has been sporadic if anything. Sub-surface will be your best bet with any variety of small soft-hackle droppers or you can go a little bigger with a Rubberlegs, Zirdle, Goblin or Mini Zonker. Be looking for the streamer bite to be on soon. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Yellowstone River, Miles City — The water level is still low. Clarity is good. We talked to some anglers who did well on walleyes and sauger using crankbaits (5-7). Perch and firetiger patterns seem to work well. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.


Bighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend  Sauger and channel catfish are being caught in the north narrows to the Montana line from Horseshoe Bend. The lake level remains launchable from Horseshoe Bend, and the courtesy docks will remain in place throughout September. The slide areas off the canyon walls are producing smallmouth bass as well south of the Montana line. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — Fishing well on small Midge Pupa. BWOs are also working, as are Scuds and Sowbugs. Streamers are working really well. The water temps should start to fall with the colder weather. The daylight hours are making the fish feed better in the mornings and midday. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Fishing remains slow. One could try jigging soft plastics deep. White, orange or black would be good colors. Deer-hair jigs are another option. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.

Clarks Fork — On the lower river you’ll see hoppers, ants, beetles and some drake activity. Up higher you’ll see some gray drakes, small caddis, micro caddis and BWOs. Up high the hoppers may have gotten frosted out. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — East Newton is fishing well on Chironomids fished deep. We are seeing some hopper, caddis (14-16) and midges. Fish the Caddis, Midges and Hoppers dry. A Mini Leech is working well if you stay above the weeds. Luce is fishing well, particularly in a float tube in the middle of the lake. Luce is catch and release and flies and lures only. Hogan is fishing well. Spinners and lures are also working at Hogan. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lower Shoshone — The river is trying to clear. There is 2 feet of visibility. Use beadhead nymphs. North Fork Specials, Pheasant Tails and Hare’s Ears are working. Your favorite streamer would work. There are some fall caddis and BWOs coming off. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Shoshone — Fishing well. Water temps are in the happy zone for trout. Fish are crushing Hoppers. Gray drakes and BWOs are hatching. There are some fairly-good size caddis (12-14) flying around. Try brown and orange Elk-Hair Caddis or little Stimulators. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

South Fork of the Shoshone — Like the North Fork, the South Fork is fishing well with water temperatures in the happy zone for trout. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Yellowstone National Park — The Firehole was flowing at 198 cfs late last week, which is down from an average of 260 cfs for this time of year. Water temps continue to drop each day as we have had some cool nights, but if you’re below Midway Geyser Basin your window of opportunity will most likely diminish around 1 p.m. White miller caddis are out and you'll want White Miller Razor Caddis (14-16), along with a few Baetis Sparkle Duns (20) just in case. Swinging flies has been the best bet overall and Micro Beeleys (16), Orange and Partridge (16), Peacock & Starling (17) and White Miller Soft Hackles have served folks well. The Madison in the park has been picking up and has been pretty darn good for some folks. With each passing day we are seeing more and more fish move into the system and we are hoping for a little weather to exacerbate this movement. While many anglers have been getting fish on the swing and by stripping, the most productive method has been nymphing. If you’re swinging Blew on Blue's, Yellowstone Soft Hackles, Lucky Bucky's Shakey Beeley's and September Songs have been great choices. For streamers, Prospectors in black, Mini Intruders (8), Mark's Goblin and Olive Sculpzillas have been the way to go. For nymphs, Radiation Baetis (16-18), Spanish Bullet's (16), Rubberlegs (8-10) and Guide Dips (16-18) are what you'll want to carry with you. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

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


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