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Fly Fishing Montana in September

September is the super season. Fall and summers best attributes rolled into one month where we see terrestrial and aquatic insect activity and a superb streamer bite. September has something for everyone.

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The Nuances of September Fly Fishing in Montana

If a survey was conducted throughout the “Fly Practitioners” in Montana, many guides would say September is their favorite month to fish. The first thing observed is the reduction in general tourism. Many of the summer vacationers have returned home allowing kids can start school, providing a more relaxed atmosphere in town. September also provides the greatest diversity in angling opportunities across southwest Montana. September functions almost as two seasons. Early in the month we see a continuation of the great hopper fishing that August had, but there seems to be a greater urgency in which the fish feed. They know fall is coming. Later in the month we see the subsurface fishing really pick up as the browns become territorial and look to gain body condition to prepare for their annual spawn. 

 

September Fishing Options:

The smaller freestones like the Boulder and Stillwater Rivers have been void of float traffic for the better part of a month and the fish are fresh. Utilizing our custom built rafts we navigate down these rivers with ease and access these “uneducated” trout. On warmer days we will likely start with a hopper dropper set up, but if the conditions are cooler we will start out fishing streamers and gauging fish activity. We may stop and wade fish a few runs with nymphs in the mornings as well. Once the sun hits and activates the terrestrial insects we switch to the dry fly and attempt to cover the most likely water. Do to the lower flows in September we can easily fish these rivers from or away from the the boat. It is really important to note that the streamer fishing on these rivers is highly productive and can be preformed in a number of ways. This isn’t always about pounding banks, but swinging runs and riffles as well. 

 

The Paradise Valley Spring creeks also provide an excellent venue, and match the hatch anglers rejoice at the resurgence of larger insects. While the trico and terrestrial fishing can be fun, baetis are a wonderful hatch to fish. We will see an emergence later in the afternoon with the insects becoming active mid morning. Passive and active presentations work throughout this subsurface feeding, and swinging a soft hackle produces some spectacular gabs and fish. If the baetis choose not to participate there are still terrestrials and midges to produce action to the dry fly angler. Because the aquatic vegetation is fully matured this can also be a great time to sight fish. This can be one of the most rewarding fish of an anglers career and can happen virtually any day in September on the spring creeks. 

 

The Yellowstone River is a September river. The reduction in night time temperatures ushers in cooler water temperature and the whole river responds well. While the turbulent waters we target in the latter part of August are still great options, other stretches see an increase in fish activity throughout the day. Before the first or second major weather system we see the peak of the hopper season, with breezy warm afternoons being the best fishing days. Later in the month the innumerable riffles produce good hatches of baetis on the over cast, cooler days. The streamer fishing will differ from day to day, but continually improves as the month caries on. Both the rainbows and the browns of the Yellowstone are exceptionally predatory in nature due to the large mounts of sculpin, crawfish, and minnows that call the river home. We see a lot of trophy sized fish hit the net in September and they are almost always caught on a big hopper or a streamer. 

 

The Madison River sees the same general weather and fishing trends that the other rivers see but it also sees the biggest reduction in angling pressure. The river seems to meander when thoughts of June are conjured up and the September weather ushers in some fantastic subsurface fishing. While there are dry fly opportunities, especially the far upper reaches, the free living caddis, midges, and baetis create a subsurface feeding that is worthy of our time. Like the freestone rivers that we target there is a streamer bite that continually improves throughout the month. Throughout the braided sections of the river we also observe great hopper fishing while wading. 

 

The private waters that we frequent see the changes of fall before the bigger freestones. September provides a certain ambiance that isn’t found during other times of the year. The leaves are changing color and the elk are bugling. Hoppers, ants, and beetles are all still standard table fare in September. However, the subsurface fishing is outstanding as many of these waters a prime habitat for baitfish like dace and sculpin. Fall is a neat time to experience the Western landscape, and there is no truer form than a ranch. 

 

September Weather:

In September we see an average high of 68 and an average low of 38. We see an average on 1.5 inches of precipitation. September is most similar to May weather, only we receive less rain