Montana Rivers


What to Expect in February

Note: This What-To-Expect is from Westfly's Legacy pages and may not accurately reflect the current fishing at this venue.

If your goal is a day of delicately presenting a dry fly to eager, top-feeding trout--this is probably not your month. There might be some action from midge hatches, and on warm days you might see a hatch of blue-winged olives. For the most part, however, nymphs and streamers will pick up most of the trout.

That said, February can be a transitional time, and it's possible that by the end of the month you might see more blue-winged olive hatches if the days are bit warmer. At that time, a few rivers might also see hatches of Skwala stoneflies. Golden stonefly and salmonfly nymphs will become more active in late February, and some of them will slip into the current and be ingested by a waiting trout. Whitefish will still be spawning in some rives, and trout will pick up drifting roe.

See below for some flies that should be in your box.

Midge imitations. Brassie, CDC Bubble Brassie, or Copper John to imitate the larvae; Sprout Midge or Griffiths Gnat if trout are taking adults on the top. Carry these in sizes 18 and 20. The larval patterns are the most effective. Dead-drift them right on the bottom.

Blue-winged olive imitations. Pheasant Tail or gold-ribbed Hares Ear nymphs; CDC Baetis or Baetis Cripple emergers; Parachute Baetis or Sparkle Duns to match duns; and Rusty Spinners to match the final stage (usually not important in winter, but be prepared). You'll encounter size 16-20 insects, but most are a middling size 18. These flies will be very important on warmer days in late February. Look for top-feeding feeding fish in backeddies and slow runs. Nymphs should be presented right on the bottom in the slow-to-moderate runs.

bbbEgg Flies. Small pale yellow flies are the best; they imitate the roe of spawning whitefish. Dead-drift them on the bottom.

Baitfish imitations. Matukas, Egg Sucking Leeches, Muddlers, Clouser Minnows, etc. Usually these work best when fished from a boat because you can cast to the bank, but the boat is not essential. A sink-tip line is an aid because you need to get the fly near the bottom. Cast, let the fly sink, and retrieve slowly. This is not exciting fishing, and you'll be lucky to pick up a fish or two a day. But each fish could a brown trout that tops five pounds.

Standard Nymphs. Prince nymphs, Copper Johns, etc. A popular winter tactic is to cast a size 8-10 Prince with a Brassie, Copper John, or Pheasant Tail on a trailing leader tied to the Prince's hook bend.

bbbStonefly Nymphs. These can be effective in January, but they are more useful from mid-February on. Carry Rubber Legs, Kaufmanns Stoneflies, etc., in size 6-10. Black, tan, dark brown are good color choices on rivers with salmonfly or golden stonefly populations.

Here are some more winter-fishing tips: Think about hitting the water when a warming trend comes along; Always take extra clothes in case of a dunking; Check the regs for every fishery; Most fish will be found near the edges and in deeper pools, backeddies, slow runs, and pools below riffles.


Other Months

What to expect in 


Other Rivers or Lakes