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Fly Fishing Montana in April

If you asked local anglers and guides, " When is your favorite time to fish, in Montana?" You would be hard pressed not to consider an April trip after hearing their responses. In April, spring has arrive and the fish are eating. 

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The Nuances of April Fly Fishing in Montana

April provides anglers with the same opportunities as March, but with more consistent weather and warmer water temperatures. April sees the first measurable insect activity on  the  area freestones. Fish feed longer and harder as the water temperatures continually push ever higher as runoff looms at the start of May. We see a variety of hatches, constantly good nymph fishing, and good to excellent spring streamer fishing. 

 

April Fishing Options:

 

The smaller freestones provide fine angling options top to bottom. On rivers like the Boulder and Stillwater, we see both midge and baetis hatches regularly. We also observe hatches of skwala  stoneflies and march browns.  The most exciting insect activity is that of the Mother’s Day Caddis which gets going in the later half of the month. We easily navigate these rivers in our custom built, low water rafts and have access to the best of the spring fishing. Generally, we start a little later in the morning and enjoy the late afternoon fishing on these rivers. 

 

With the longer days and warmer weather, the dry fly opportunities and fishing in general further take off on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks. Good hatches of midges and baetis will captivate the dry fly angler. Increased fish activity below the surface engages the nymph and streamer anglers alike. Streamers on the Spring Creeks? YES! As these rainbows move closer to the spawn, they can’t help but eat a well presented leech. Additionally, there are a fair number of migratory browns from the Yellowstone that have a hard time refusing a leech as well. 

 

The Madison River sees the same great fishing that the other area waters see, but a huge influx of rainbows from Ennis Lake is also observed. These fish are larger than the resident fish and on the prowl for food. The Madison also sees the most consistent and predictable Mother’s Day Caddis hatch. Some of the best dry fly fishing we see all year is in the evenings below the mouth of Bear Trap Canyon. Additionally, the upper river does provide good fishing both from the boat and on the wade. 

 

The Missouri River provides the best boat fishing of any of the rivers in Montana. April and May are our absolute favorite times to be on the Mo' as the river is clean and the fish feed predictably. With over 30 miles of quality trout water, opportunity abounds on this premier tailwater. As a whole, we largely nymph this time of year, however, the techniques we use differ greatly depending on time of day. For anglers that want to hunt large fish in shallow water, we will do longer floats away from the crowds. The short rigs allow us to look for fish keyed primarily on midge pupae and larvae.  We usually find a few rising fish when we employ this strategy. For maximal numbers, we lengthen out and fish closer to the dam through the deeper runs. 

 

The Yellowstone provides a few different opportunities in April.  The river's large, resident brown trout are always vigilant as they need large meals to regain body condition from the icy winter and are susceptible to a well placed streamer. The cutthroats of the river seem to be looking up whenever we get an overcast day, providing some great days of dry fly fishing throughout the upper reaches of the river. In April, we will fish the Yellowstone from Gardiner to Columbus depending on weather and the goals of the trip. 

 

April Weather:

In April we see an average high of 54 with an average low right around freezing. We receive and average of 1.4 inches of precipitation. These precipitation events generally help our fishing as they bring in low pressure systems driving the bug activity higher.