By Ennion Williams Grizzly Outfitters
Montana sportsmen have to make tough choices in the fall. The myriad options include chasing large trout with streamers and dry flies, hunting trophy elk in the mountains or setting up duck blinds on one of the region’s many lakes.
Every year, I choose fly fishing. Brown trout start their annual spawning routine at summer’s end, and during this time they can be tempted with a stripped streamer or dead drifted crayfish. Hatches of blue winged olive mayflies will cover the river surface and provide excellent dry fly opportunities.
This fall’s fishing should be as good as ever. Most of the rivers are running a little below average, but recent cooler temperatures have brought them out of the summer doldrums.
August was hot this year, so we saw limited grasshopper activity along the banks of the Madison and Yellowstone. With the cooler weather, the hoppers are now becoming more active and hopefully will improve through September.
In the Big Sky area, we focus on the Gallatin River and making the short journey to the Madison River in the park.
Since early September there have been hatches of blue winged olives on cloudy days on the Gallatin; these should increase as the month progresses. On sunny days, attractor patterns and ants, beetles and grasshoppers will catch fish in the canyon and especially up in the meadows inside the park. If you’re looking for larger rainbow and brown trout, you can also toss a large streamer into the deep pockets of the Gallatin, both in the canyon and lower river sections.
During September and October, the brown trout will start their spawning run up the Madison River. Large browns out of Hebgen Lake will move into the river, followed by rainbow trout looking for an easy meal. Wait for the fall storm fronts to hit the region, and then get out early to chase these big boys in the river.
The Yellowstone River will also fish well through the fall. Hatches of blue winged olives and gray drakes will appear on cloudy days. Otherwise, the best bet for a large fish will be with streamers. Large streamer patterns pulled through the deep runs can provide larger brown and rainbow trout.