Stillwater Anglers Montana Fishing Season

When is the Montana Fishing Season? Everything You Need to Know

Ask any Angler in Montana, and they’ll tell you that they think the Montana Fishing Season is all year long. Which might be true, if you’re a dedicated fly fisherman who isn’t afraid to brave some of the colder temperatures in the winter. Here we dissect the best time of the year for some great fly fishing, and teach you what to expect with the changing seasons!

Everything You Need to Know About the Montana Fishing Season

Some bodies of water are open year round and some are seasonal. If you’re unsure, be sure and check the regulations. The typical fly fishing season for anglers is between March and November (though we already know it is possible to fish year-round). Though it really depends on the weather, and we all know how much that can vary here in Montana, let’s break down the peak Montana fishing season for you.

Spring (March, April, May)

By late March and early April, temperatures are slowly but surely starting to rise, which means the fish are starting to become more active and the insects are starting to hatch. This is when rainbow trout are looking to spawn also. Overall, the early season is dominated by aquatic insect hatching, which varies depending on water flows and temperatures.

This is a good opportunity for dry fly fishing, and finding nice and quiet alone time out on the river, as the season is just getting started.

What To Watch For: Have you heard of the Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch? There comes a time in late April-mid May when caddis has a blanket hatch and it could produce some of the best fishing of the year! There are also explosive hatches of baetic and march brown mayflies.

Summer (June, July, August)

The height of summer is a very dynamic time for the Montana fishing season. Water levels rise, temperatures rise and fall, and hatches change by the week. This is typically a favorite time for Anglers because not only are they getting to enjoy the sunshine and summer weather, the fishing gets a little more technical.

Summer is always a great time for guided fishing trips, because the weather is nice, and you get to go off the beaten path that has been neglected with all that Montana snow. Experienced and beginning anglers alike can see high catch rates, as long as you’re smarter than the fish!

What To Watch For: Once runoff subsides on any river, there is usually a two or three-week window of magical fishing. The fish have forgotten about predators and they are hungry, which means you can fish with virtually any fly and guarantee a good catch!

Fall (September, October)

The fall season is what we call go big or go home season. Typically there is an opportunity for targeting bigger fish as this is spawning time for brown trout, and they are much more aggressive and territorial. The fall season also provides a good opportunity to get some action on lower elevation rivers that are too warm in the summer.

This is another time where popular areas get less crowded and the weather can be hit or miss. You have to be a little smarter with the flies you use, but overall you might snag some giant trout. Don’t forget to take a photo to keep you motivated when it gets too cold to fish!

What to Watch For: Since the fishing season is starting to wrap up here, this is a great time to fish the spots you might avoid normally, or a chance to book a guided trip, where experienced anglers can show you their favorite spots!

Bonus: Winter Fly Fishing Tips

Sometimes fall extends well into November, and sometimes it feels like Winter is hitting us full force around Halloween. If you’re a die hard catch and release fisherman and aren’t afraid to take on the snow and cold, we get it! You might be able to find some spots where the fish are eager to bite if you’re willing to be patient and try several areas. Or if you just need an escape from the hustle and bustle of life, even if you don’t catch anything, that is understandable, too!

Here are just a couple quick tips for fishing in the winter Montana fishing season:

  • Expect the worst weather, and be prepared for it! That means extra layers, scarves, hats, gloves, a blanket in the car, dry shoes, etc. Better to be over prepared than underprepared, right?
  • Don’t expect the catch of a lifetime. Honestly, we just don’t want you to get your hopes up for catch after catch, especially if the river is nearly frozen.
  • Bring someone with you! This is crucial. Do not go off on a winter adventure by yourself. Take a buddy, and let other people know where you’re going, just in case something happens.

Bottom Line

The Montana fishing season is amazing all year round. There are always going to be good days and bad days, and sometimes it’s all based on luck (opportunity meets preparation). If you’re chomping at the bit to start this year’s season, call us at the shop. We’ll tell you if we think it’s safe to go out, or even worth your while.

Have any other ideas about when the best time fly fishing time is? Let us know!

By Stillwater Anglers General Fly Fishing Articles