Maps to Montana's Rivers, Streams and Creeks
For maps to Montana fishing access locations, please click on on the following link:
Montana Fishing Access Maps
Click on any of the rivers on the list, and the link will take you to Google Maps for a closeup view of that area and directions on how to get there. A big thanks to Doug Haacke for building and providing this link for everyone's enjoyment and convenience!
Winter Fly Fishing by Chris Fleck
For those hearty souls willing to brave the elements, some excellent trout fly fishing opportunities are in the offering. Crowds are virtually non-existent, the scenery and wildlife are plentiful, and hungry trout can be had. The first thing is checking your local regulations. Most of our area freestones and of course the Horn offer year around trout or some good whitefish fly fishing. Also, don’t forget that the new license year begins on March 1st.
Mild winter days, specifically afternoons, can provide some good fishing opportunities. Local fly shops should be able to provide more information not to mention internet forums. Even if you can dress warmly enough, the ice on the guides make casting nearly impossible, to avoid this use silicone spray or other lubricant (PAM) on your guides. Entering, and exiting the river can be extremely dangerous at this time of the year. Extreme care should be taken when wading in general, one slight misstep, can send you into the river. While dangerous year round, the threat is multiplied by the cold air and water temperatures in the winter. A spill in the water in the winter can be life threatening. Daylight is also much less, making it more difficult to see the river bottom while wading. So step cautiously and always fish with a partner. It’s also a good idea to take along a change of clothes. It’s probably best to get out during a nice period of dry weather, with mild afternoons. It’s rarely worthwhile to fish in the early morning, but in the winter, if you can get a fogged over morning with nicely rising afternoon temperatures that reach in to the 30's, you have a day to hit the water!
Winter trout fly fishing requires some adjustments. Plan on primarily subsurface fishing with nymphs. However, the warming afternoons like I mentioned above will often produce nice hatches of Blue Wing Olives and midges inmost locations. Streamers also make excellent winter flies. Don't forget that like trout, small fish and nymphs metabolism is slow as well, and they are apt to stick to the bottom, and out of the main current. Winter fishing usually means low and clear water. It may be necessary to use a size lighter tippet than normal, because fish seem more easily spooked. Trout's metabolism makes them want to seek out pools near the bank that are warmed by the sun, so they are more vulnerable. Also remember that due to the slower metabolism, the fish will be sluggish. They often will bite gingerly, and as trout, may often go after several small insects in one mouthful. They are not likely to chase food down as this will burn more calories than they will take in. Thus a fast retrieve of a streamer will not be as productive as it might be in warmer weather fishing. Small pattern nymphs are very effective, but they usually need to be fished deep, and in front of the fish. If there is no obvious surface feeding going on, dead drifting nymphs is a good first option. If no luck, try swinging or slowly retrieving streamers. Mend the line as soon as it hits the water to ensure a drag free drift and wait for the gentle take. Landing fish should be quicker due to their lower energy (and the very, very cold water). Handling the fishing cold weather and water conditions may require more care than normal. One must also ensure that the fish is 100% revived before its release.
Winter fly fishing can be an enjoyable experience. The key is to dress properly and the necessary adjustments to tactics and techniques to account for the cold water conditions.
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