Fly Fishing Montana in October
October provides anglers with true fall fishing. Colored up browns chase streamers, rainbows dominate the deep dancing water and feed heavily on aquatic forage, fall in the Big Sky country provides great fishing and the finest scenery of the year.
The Nuances of October Fly Fishing in Montana
While October might seem like it is getting a little too close to winter to come to Montana to take a fishing trip, many of our return October guests won’t try other months! October is truly fall in the Big Sky with yellow and orange leaves swaying in the gentle fall breeze. The rivers of southwest Montana have reached their lowest flows, and water temperatures hover in the mid 40’s concentrating fish in smooth, dancing water. We see good, but sporadic dry fly fishing on some of our freestones, but the subsurface fishing, particularly the streamer fishing, is good to outstanding depending on the day.
October Fishing Options:
The smaller freestones like the Boulder and Stillwater River have been long vacated by those piloting larger rafts creating strongholds of fish that haven’t see much pressure. With the reduced flows big holding pools emerge around every bend and to the aft of every riffle. Depending on the time of day the trout will move up and down the length of the pool and riffle providing very good fishing to the wade angler. In between these spots prospecting with streamer patterns can be highly productive. On years where October is simply a continuation of August, which happens often, we can see an October hopper bite that interest a fair number of fish on warmer days. However, as a whole, our October fishing on the smaller freestones is a mixture of boat and wade fishing with an emphasis on subsurface fishing techniques.
The Paradise Valley Spring Creeks provide such a beautiful venue to take fall in. The snow capped Bearthooth mountains seem to grow in size and stature with every light snow fall event. Positioned in lush, riparian habitat fall seems much more vibrant than the evergreen and high prairie scapes that surround other rivers. Hatches of midges and baetis keep fish looking to the water’s surface throughout the month. The creek also experiences an influx of brown trout seeking prime spawning habitat. These bruiser browns aren’t use to their new environment and are highly susceptible to our specialized spring creek tactics. Additionally, we find a good number of rainbows moving into the system to eat eggs and the innumerable aquatic invertebrates that call the spring creeks home. This is all on top of a robust population of resident spring creek fish.
The Yellowstone River blossoms under fall conditions. With clear water, moderate water temperatures, and a consistent flow these fish transition to the extremes. Larger sources of food like sculpins and crawfish dominate some diets, while other diets consist of midges in various colors and sizes. The Yellowstone provides great fishing opportunities from Gardiner through Columbus, totaling about 150 miles of floatable river. The river varies greatly along this track. The upper river can be highly productive this time of year, while the lower river can offer up days where there were more 20 inch fish than 15 inch fish. It is always a question of what conditions were dealt and what stretches are going to conducive to good fishing with the conditions. Regardless of the stretch we float the river is void of people, ripe with fish, and beautiful.
The Madison River might be one of my personal favorite October fisheries. Everyone has folded their tents and returned home. The river has cooled off to the mid 40’s relocating fish into the deeper, dancing water. Here the fish feed throughout the day and with fervor in the afternoon on free living caddis, midges, sowbug, and baetis. Floating the famed $3 Bridge section provides great subsurface fishing, however, this is one of the best dry fly opportunities in southwest Montana. On virtually any cloudy October day anglers can expect to find dry fly opportunities along the length of these fabled waters. While this is no secret, by floating the section we can easily access water not accessed by other wade fisherman. Lower on the river, near Ennis, we find some of the best wade fishing in all of trout fishing. Buckets, riffles, runs, and cut banks abound.
Private water fisheries can provide some October opportunities, but we generally don’t bet on it. Due to their elevation, we see much cooler, wetter weather as a whole. If the conditions are right the fishing can be incredibly engaging trying to work streamers into every little log jam and undercut bank. But when winter takes a hold in the high country its time to pack up and seek out these other fisheries that are fishing at their peak.
In October we see an average high of 58, shocking to most, and an average low of 28 with around and inch of precipitation. Due to the temperature variance betwixt daytime and nighttime we start a little later and fish until the sun dips and the air cools.