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Spring Fly Fishing is Here

By Charlies P. Graham 4/11/2016 5 minutes

Spring has sprung!

Well, it's that time of the year, bugs are hatching, fish are eating and hopefully you've dusted off those waders. And, if you're trying to figure out which fly box to grab, you'll have to know what you're imitatating, so here's a quick guide to spring hatches that may help you out.

What to Use this Time of Year

Spring_Sprung.pngMidges - 
Always present and hatching throughout the entire season, midges are an available and abundant food source for trout. And, while they may not be such an important source of nutrition in the summer with the abundance of larger insects, they make up a large part of a fish's diet in the winter and spring. For below surface, zebra midges, black beauties and a number of other, smaller, subsurface midge patterns can be effective. 16's - 18's are fine, you can go 20 if you really want ... Exact imitations are not as important here, both because of the size of the naturals as well as the lack of fishing pressure. In fact, since the naturals are present in such large numbers, fishing a fly larger than the naturals can help it stand out and get more eats.

The same applies if you see some rising fish; just cause their rising on 20's, don't be afraid to tie on a sz. 16 or 18 and see what happens. And again, just like the nymphs, you don't have to be super specific with your fly selection - we're not in Colorado! A Parachute Adams should do ya just fine. Or any variety of, for example, Purple Haze, Split Wing Adams, etc ... in the really calm, almost still bank water and the back eddies for noses coming up on those tasty little treats. For tippet, 4x on your dries will be good unless they are really spooky and you may have to go to 5x (I sure hope not!) For your nymph rigs, 3x or 4x will be fine depending on the size of fly you are fishing and the willingness of the fish.

Read More Tips for Successful Nymph Fishing

Mayfly's -
Right now, it's all about Blue Winged Olives. These are the first mayfly's to start hatching and the only insect larger than a 22 that a fish has seen in the last six 6 months. You're gonna be looking for classic mayfly water here. Shallow to mid depth, gravelly bottomed, slow to medium paced runs. Mayfly's love overcast, drizzly, "I don't really wanna go fishing" kind of days, and Blue Winged Olives are no different. Lucky for us, there's plenty of those kind of days in a good 'ol Montana spring. So grab a rain jacket and quit being such a weenie. Fly selection will be a little more important with BWO's than midges - not much more, but a little.

The most tried and true Blue Wing (and general mayfly) nymph is the Pheasant Tail (there are so many variations of this fly, there aren't enough websites to list them all.) The standard bead head flashback P.T. is always a good bet. I tend to prefer a little curve in the hook or even a little bubble of Antron or similar material right below the eye of the hook. This gives the look of an emerging BWO and may fool a fish that doesn't want to let his food fly away. A little tip - everyone has so many bead head this, flashy that ... try fishing a non-bead, non-flashback P.T. the next time you encounter some pickier fish eating Blue Wing nymphs. Even try putting on a non weighted Pheasant Tail if you see noses just breaking the surface in still, foam back eddy's. They'll eat it as an emerger or cripple it, just to see it when it gets eaten. Hmm, maybe if I tied it below a Parachute Adams?...🤔. However, if these pickier fish decide that a Pheasant Tail isn't the fly du jour, try tying on an RS-2, Micro Mayfly, Lightning Bug or a Delektable Beatis Spanker in sizes 14-18. And, if that doesn't work, I've got a Rapala around here somewhere...

Read More The Fly Shops of Ennis, Montana

Stonefly's - 
While we do have a while before those big mutant Salmonfly's start hovering around like hummingbirds, we start to see the Skwala around the middle-to-end of March. Usually, size 6-8 brown or dark olive imitations such as the Girdle Bug or the Delektable Hurless nymphs, may Improved-Clinch-Knot be well suited for this spring Stonefly. Even a larger prince can come in handy this (and every) time of the year. Even though we won't see adults for a while, Salmonfly nymph's are starting to wake up a little, so don't be afraid of fishing a sz. 4 black Girdle Bug.  

This is where the classic big nymph to small setup come in handy, regardless of which type of Stonefly nymph you are fishing. Put your indicator 1.5 to 2 times the depth of water and attach a Stonefly nymph with either 2 or 3x. Tie an improved clinch knot off the hook shank of the Stonefly nymph and use an improved clinch knot to attach 18-24 inches of 3-4x tippet to a smaller Midge or Mayfly pattern. However, if you do decide to fish that sz.4 Girdle Bug, drop your indicator down a little extra, since that's a heavy bug! Now, if you are lucky enough to see some Skwala Dry's in the air, get some darker colored Chubby Chernobyl's out and give them a whirl.

Spaghetti and Meatballs -
But what if they don't wanna eat a Girdle Bug or a P.T.? What are you gonna do? The worm to an egg should do it. Sounds easy enough but these fish will get fairly picky about their annelids (that's what people who are trying to sound smart call worms 😝). So, have a good variety of worms in your box. Different sizes, colors and materials. Everything from sz. 4 to sz. 14, purple to pink, chenille to wire - that way, you (and the trout) have options. As far as your egg goes, go to the bead store and then get some nail polish. Seriously.

It's Time to Get Out On the River (But Stay Off the Reds)

So, get out there while the river is empty and the fish are hungry!! REMEMBER, it is spawning season. Stay off the Reds!!! (A red is a stretch of river bottom used for spawning. Red's can be located by looking for stretches of smaller, colored, "pea gravel".) if you are walking on reds you are stepping on eggs and ruining productive spawning habitat. And, if you are fishing to fish who are laying on these reds, they will most likely die of exhaustion and your fishing karma will be done forever.



Get the latest Madison River Fly Fishing Conditions 

This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.

Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.

Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
Fishing Waters
The Madison River is arguably one of the best trout fishing rivers in all of southwest Montana, if not the entire world! It’s certainly the most talked over, written up and frequented ... morein the state of Montana – which is considered by some the capital of fly fishing. Anglers will find plenty of great access sites to wade or float along the Madison’s banks and reservoirs (including Hebgen Lake and Ennis Lake). Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, and more abound in this majestic fishing stream.

The Madison begins its course almost twenty miles into Yellowstone National Park. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.

Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hebgen Dam releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.

Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintains relatively low water levels and provides wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
3 days
Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, that's where our 3 Rivers in 3 Days comes in because that's exactly what you'll be doing, fishing three different rivers in three days! With ... moreour choice of 4 world class Montana rivers, our guides will know what rivers to fish on which days to maximize your chances for success. Don't blink, you might miss something!
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
5 hours - 1 day
Join us for a fun day of fishing on one the Madison River, one of the top rated trout rivers in the US, and a legend in southwest Montana.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
1 day
A full day float trip on Ennis Lake is a great experience. Ennis Lake offers very diverse opportunities for great trout fishing. Countless tactics and approaches work for wade and ... morefloat fishing Ennis Lake. Montana Fish Man can help unlock the Ennis Lake secrets and give you the angling tools for future success. This is a great summer season option for beginners and expert anglers alike. Fly fishing and light tackle spin fishing. For one or two people.
What do you think of when you hear "Montana?" Small towns? Cowboys? Cows? BIG TROUT?! The answer is D, "All of the above"! Montana is still the place it was 80 years ago, where a man's ... morehandshake means something and big trout thrive. Located in the "Trout Mecca" of Southwestern Montana, our location and our guide's experience allow us to guide on a number of world class rivers; the Madison, Jefferson, Ruby and Yellowstone rivers are arguably the best trout streams in the lower 48.

Whether you have never held a fishing pole in your life or if you've been fishing since you could walk, the versatile, select guides we employee at MFFT all live on, and spend all they're free time on, these select rivers. They know how satisfy ALL of our clients, from novice to pro.

But Montana is so much more than just a trout haven. With picturesque mountains, abundant wildlife and under a million people, you actually have to try to not enjoy our beautiful state. As longtime client and friend Don Patton once wrote me after a trip, "fish count is only one criteria, there are many more markers for success. We hit them all." Here at MFFT we strive to give our clients much more than just a fishing trip, we want to share our passion for fishing and our love of Montana with all of our guests and new friends.

Charles P. Graham

Owner-Montana Fly Fishing Trips

Montana Fishing Outfitter#10349


Charlies P. Graham

As owner of Montana Fly Fishing Trips, I feel honored to be an Outfitter in Southwestern Montana and a member of the Ennis community. I was born in Billings, Mt and had a rod in my hand, literally, as soon as I was born. I started fishing around the age of 13 in Colorado and moved back to Montana as soon as I learned to row a boat. I enrolled at Montana State and was lucky enough to be given a guiding position as soon as I arrived. When I first started out, I worked and rowed as hard as I could to make a name for myself. I do the same thing 15 years later, no longer to make a name for myself but to give my clients the trip that they deserve.
Everyone has different expectations for their special float trip and I will do my best to ensure that we succeed in either meeting or exceeding those expectations...However, any day you can be floating down the river instead of sitting behind a desk is a successful day!


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