Montana Fly Fishing Season Stillwater Anglers

How To Navigate The Montana Fly Fishing Season

The fall is when the fly fishing season starts to slow down, but Montana is blessed to have fishing opportunities available all year long. Typically the Montana fly fishing season follows an annual pattern. The early season is dominated by insect hatches, and though the hatches vary, they still follow a pattern. These hatches are mainly based on both water flows and temperatures. The sequence of aquatic hatches is always the same, and at Stillwater Anglers, we are very aware of how the seasons work from season to season.

Here is a brief guide to help you navigate the Montana fly fishing season so that you know when and where to fish. 

2020 Montana Fly Fishing Season Guide: When and Where to Fish

Let’s start by discussing the fly fishing season in Montana and then give a brief overview of where to fish. 

The Montana Fly Fishing Season

April-Mid May

Typically Montana fishing trips start in the spring before the runoff. You’ll see the March Brown hatch, and the Mother Day Caddis hatch that provides excellent fishing in early and late spring. 

Late May-Early June

In late May and early June, you’ll most likely be seeing the snowmelt and the runoffs, so make sure you’re checking our River Reports before you head out on the river. 

Mid June-Early July

As soon as runoff finally subsides, there’s a beautiful window that has the best fishing during mid-June to early July. The fish are hungry and you’ll have no time catching trout, plus the weather is great during this time of year. 

Early July-Late July

This is another time in the Montana fly fishing season that is very popular for Montana anglers because the weather is ideal and the rivers are typically in great shape. This time of year has great hatch cycles and dry fly fishing really kicks into gear here. You’ll find opportunities all across Montana. 

Late July-Mid September

Late summer and early fall means that the rivers start dropping and aquatic hatches wind down. This is the time of year when expert anglers can work on their craft and get into more technical fishing. 


October is the time of year when you can go big or go home. The fall run produces really large brown trout during this season all along Montana rivers. This is also a great time if you want to have a little more alone time on the rivers, as tourist season is over.

Fish The Stillwater River

We’ve said it before, and we’ll most likely say it again, but the Stillwater River is anything but still. The Stillwater River has significant whitewater, large drops, and a very swift current. This river begins high in the mountains of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area and flows more than 20 miles through the wilderness. As it leaves the wilderness area, the Stillwater River flows for another 45 miles through a mix of canyons, prairie, and forest til it meets up with the Yellowstone River near Columbus, MT. Though many anglers might prefer The Yellowstone, many locals love the Stillwater for its opportunity to catch rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout.

Fish The Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River begins at Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park, but we’ll focus on the part of the river that leaves the Paradise Valley in Livingston and then turns in an easterly direction, where it starts to flow through the plains and foothills that lie to the north of the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains. The scenery on this river creates a beautiful float trip. 

There is a load of access points to the Yellowstone River. We love the Yellowstone River because it transforms as it goes. Flowing from steep canyons and narrow bouldered corridors where the river’s cold waters move downstream. Each of our guided floats takes place on an amazing stretch of river as it begins to broaden and the waters start to slow down. Our expert anglers love this section because it’s not as crowded during tourist season, though you might see a few local anglers. 

It also meets up with another one of our favorite rivers, the Stillwater River, and provides a cold and clear influx of water and fish too. You’ll be sure to find a mix of native Rocky Mountain Whitefish, large rainbow trout, and brown trout. 

Fish The Bighorn River

All of our guides love to float the calm waters of the Bighorn River, which is about 2 hours from our Fly Shop in Columbus, Montana. Similar to many rivers in Montana, the Bighorn River is a tributary of the Yellowstone. There are very few public shallow wading access areas, so we access most of the fishing by boat. The best spot is a 15-20 mile stretch of the Bighorn which begins just past the Yellowstone Dam. It has world-class fishing which is a mix of Browns and Rainbows. The Bighorn is perfect for both beginners and advanced anglers. 

Fish The Boulder River

The Boulder River begins at the confluence of South Fork Boulder River and Basic Creek and is flanked by the Absaroka Mountains and the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Area. The first 30 miles of this river runs through public land and fishing access is excellent. The upper current has a very fast section, but also excellent pools and solitude for any angler. Downstream from its origin, the Boulder River flows through Natural Bridge Monument, a beautiful waterfall. The current does start to slow after thirty miles below Natural Bridge, the Boulder River reaches the Yellowstone River near the town of Big Timber, MT.

Book Your Guided Trip 

Ready to book your trip? We have amazing guided trips to The Yellowstone River, The Stillwater River, and The Bighorn River – plus a weekend lodging package for a fun fly fishing getaway.

Reach out to us today if you have any questions about the Montana fly fishing season, and feel free to browse all of our guided trips. We would love to show you an amazing Montana fly fishing experience.