Many conversations I have with clients generally start with the question, "When is the best time to fish SW Montana?" A general answer is: whenever you can get here.
But I wanted to dive a little deeper and give a thorough answer as to why there are many different "best times" to fish our area.
Our season starts in April and goes through the first week in November. Both April and November are what we consider our "shoulder" season as the weather can be variable and you never know what you are going to get from rain, snow, or sunburn.
The Bozeman area has many different types of rivers to fish from—small streams to giant tailwater to various freestone streams. We generally count on snow melt and run off to arrive around the second week of May. Depending on many variables, this can last 4-6 weeks. During this time many of our freestone rivers are unfishable due to high muddy water, even in fishable conditions. We concentrate on many of our tailwater rivers during this time as they remain clear and very fishable.
Starting near the end of June, the Freestone streams begin to drop and clear up considerably. We then begin to see the beginning of our famed Salmonfly hatches. From about the 2nd week in July, all our area rivers are fishable and we are in "all hands on deck" mode.
From July through September we experience the busiest of our season and are fishing all our areas rivers. Great hatches of caddis and mayflies in early summer transforming to more terrestrials and foam attractor patterns into September. Generally after Labor Day the big crowds have dispersed and I enjoy a little break from the busy summer.
From late September through October the brown trout become very aggressive, and we tend to target these trophies with streamers and bigger flies. November can be a great month to fish as many of the locals are out chasing big game and birds around the hills, but weather can also play a factor the later you fish into the month.
There are many great opportunities to fish throughout the year. Each season has a variety of variables and the fishing quality will change with these variables. A significant point to remember is that a good fishing guide is intimately aware of these variables and will consider them in making a selection on where to fish.
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