Spring Fishin’

by Connor Erickson

MSU’s Fly Fishing Club gives some tips for the spring season. 

Spring in Montana: the season where snow rears its ugly head every few days until June, and a time when the thought of getting out on the river tops all else. Spring fishing can be one of the most magical seasons ‘round these parts, and if you haven’t, you should probably get started. Here are some tips and tricks from the MSU Fly Fishing Club to get you going.

First, a few common terms to know:

Nymphing: Using subsurface imitations under a bobber.

Streamers: Patterns that imitate small fish or crayfish.

Redds: Areas of clean gravel where fish do the nasty.

Swing: In reference to the fly where it is cast across a current and allowed to catch the current and “swing” out.

Strip: Taking line in by hand.

Dead Drift: To ensure that flies are fished at the same speed as the. current.

Tungsten Putty: a malleable putty used to add weight to line.

Split Shot: Small fishing weights.

Next, lets talk about why you should stop making excuses and get out on the local water. The fish have had a long winter, and food has been scarce. As we get warmer days, the water temperature in the rivers will rise, triggering the emergence of insects as well as Rainbow spawn. Why is this important? Because, fish get more active and become easier to catch on the fly. It doesn’t take much. A good reason to start fishing is it provides a welcome break from the monotony of school, and gives you a great chance to enjoy the outdoors. Spring is a great time to fish as most people are still skiing or daydreaming about the prospect of coming here in the summer. If you want that honey hole all to yourself, now’s the time.

A different kind of spring rainbow

A different kind of spring rainbow

Now that you’re imagining open water and hungry fish, lets talk about what gear you’ll need. We’ll assume that you’ve got a fly rod setup and waders but if you don’t, head to Bozeman Family Fly and talk to Matt (the owner) who can hook you up with everything you need to get started. There is even a student discount.

Fishing Paradise Valley

Fishing Paradise Valley

For flies, it’s time of the year when it’s less daunting to get the selection right instead of looking at a box and wondering if trout even notice the difference. Pat’s Rubberlegs in black or olive fished 4-5’ below an indicator (also known as nymphing) with a midge trailer can be deadly. If that doesn’t work, try switching the midge out for the trusty ol’ San Juan Worm. Pro tip: if you’re not occasionally catching the bottom, you’re not deep enough. Don’t be afraid to add some tungsten putty or split shot. Wind too fierce? Take a Wooley Bugger and swing it across a fast current into slower water and slowly strip  it in. To keep your hands warm, use nitrile gloves as they’ll keep water out, and don’t be afraid to layer up as it’ll extend your day on the water.

A good ol' brownie

A good ol’ brownie

Don’t know where to start looking? We love to fish the mouth of Gallatin Canyon if we only have an afternoon to fish. Look for slower currents and drop offs. For a place a little further out, the upper Madison can yield great results at any fishing access above the West Fork. Please watch out for redds and do NOT fish or tread on them.

Montana State Fly Fishing Club is on Facebook. Come to one of our meetings where we can outfit you and take you out on the water!