Pro Tips: 3 Keys to Spring Fishing in Montana

Written by: Tim Linehan, Linehan Outfitting Co.

Joanne Linehan shows off a gorgeous Kootenai rainbow landed in sunny spring weather.

Although most anglers visit Montana in the summer, spring trout action here in Big Sky Country can be terrific. During late March and April–and before snow melt really starts–Montana rivers can offer some great, uncrowded fishing. The weather can be iffy, but for the most part daytime temperatures are in the 40s and 50s and conditions are perfectly good. Here are three tips to help you find success on the water in springtime.

1. Look for trout in slower water

This angler on the Bitterroot River is focused on the slow water on the inside of this seam.
Photo by Phil Monahan

Focus on off-current areas, around structure, in deeper water, and in the tailouts of pools. Don’t expect to find fish in riffles or fast water.

2. Slow down

Strip streamers slowly, and allow them to swing at the end of the drift. Use patterns with a lot of undulating fibers.
Photo by Phil Monahan

In cold water, the fish are lethargic and less apt to feed aggressively. If you’re casting dry flies to rising fish, make sure you get an accurate drift, since trout usually won’t travel very far to feed. If you’re stripping streamers, slow everything down so the trout don’t have to chase as hard.

3. Get Deep, Stay Deep

Use nymphs that will get deep fast and stay there, such as those featuring beadheads and wire underbodies.

When you’re nymphing, make sure you get your flies down and keep them in the strike zone as long as possible. In order to conserve energy, trout will be pinned to the bottom in deeper water and pools.

Spring is a great time to visit Montana, as there are fewer tourists, motel rooms are cheaper, and guide schedules are more open. Whether you’re a DIY fly fisher or you want to work with a pro, you’re in luck. You just have to be willing to deal with a bit of uncertainty and the potential for less-than-ideal weather. Trust me: it’s worth it.

Tim Linehan is the owner of Linehan Outfitting Co. on the Kootenai River in Troy, Montana.