Montana Rivers


What to Expect in June

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

June can be good or frustrating--or both--depending on the state of runoff. If it was a high snowpack year or a cold spring, runnoff could still be a factor or even be just beginning. Or it could be over. Or in between. It's an iffy month--learn to deal!

Anglers still need to pay careful attention to river levels and weather conditions, both of which can be monitored via Westfly's river levels and weather pages. Also, pay attention to levels in tributary streams; sometimes rivers are in good shape above the confluence with a major trib, but are not fishable below the confluence. For all of June you should always check with a local source before loading your rig with fishing gear and heading for a river.

Boaters should use extra caution on rivers that are just dropping into shape because there may be hazards in unexpected places. High water will wash cottonwoods and other trees into the river, and you could come around a tight corner and be confronted with a sweeper. Check with a local source to get the latest word on river hazards.

In a "typical" year (whatever that means), nymphs will work best for the first couple of weeks in June, and after that the dry fly fishing should be rolling. Nymphs presented near the bottom usually work best under high water conditions, but sometimes a large attractor dry fly can bring a trout to the surface if the water's moving slowly. If you find yourself on a river with high, turbid water, work the backeddies and the edges near the bank.

The primary hatches this month are salmonflies, golden stoneflies, yellow sallies, a few remnant blue-winged olives, green drakes. Near the end of the month, some pale morning duns might be hatching. Caddis are also a big factor in June, and midges can be important.

If you find yourself on a fishable river that hosts a strong population of salmonflies that haven't completed their hatch cycle, you need to know the state of the hatch. If it's early in the hatch cycle, the nymphs will work best. Salmonfly nymphs are most active at dawn and dusk, so that's when they are most likely to get knocked loose and drift in the current--and when trout will be waiting for them. But that doesn't mean you can't catch fish all day, either. It just tells you when you'll probably do best. Cast your fly below riffles, among boulder fields, and through drop-offs. Kaufmanns Stoneflies, Rocky Nymphs, Rubber Legs, Bitch Creeks--they all work.

When salmonflies are ready to hatch they crawl out of the water and the adult emerges from the nymph, dries its wings, and flies to bankside vegetation where it utters the insect equivalent of "Hey, Baby, Baby." In their relentless pursuit of the opposite sex, adult stoneflies often fall or are blown out of the trees, land in the water, and are devoured by trout.

So if you cast a MacSalmon, Clarks Stonefly, Low Ball Stonefly, Stimulator, or similar fly near shore and just downstream or downwind from overhanging vegetation--especially in the afternoon when the bugs and the wind are at their most active--you may catch a fish.

Evenings and afternoons are usually the best times for fishing adult patterns. Egg-laying females are the real prize for trout, and egg-laying flights are usually strongest in the evening hours, sometimes right at sunset.

Note that just because the adult salmonflies are out, it doesn't mean trout are taking them yet. Trout are creatures of habit and they can be slow to make the switch from nymphs to adults.

One hint: if you buy your salmonfly flies, buy them early (ideally, last month) because the fly shops only stock-up once and won't re-order until next year. If you wait too long, all you'll find are empty bins or flies that are the wrong size, pattern, etc.

Everything that's been said for salmonflies applies to golden stoneflies, except they follow the salmonflies by about two weeks.

A stonefly that can make an appearance in late June is the yellow sally. Some size 16 patterns should be carried.

Green drakes may be important on some streams in early June. Before the hatch, a Poxyback Green Drake can catch fish when drifted through a run with a slow to moderate current. This fly has a shiny back, based on the fact that top of the thorax of most mayflies gets shiny just as it is ready to emerge. Use this fly before the hatch. During the hatch, use the Green Drake Paradrake or Green Drake Cripple. Wait until a trout rises to a natural insect so you know where it's lying, then cast to that fish. Blind casting will only put the trout down.

Pale morning duns hatch in profusion on some rivers, and while trout get very selective on them, it's not a difficult hatch to match. Often, trout will switch from nymphs to emergers to duns, lingering longer on each stage than most anglers expect. A size-18 Parachute PMD or Sparkle Dun works just dandy when trout are on the rise. On very clear, slow streams you should switch to a CDC Cripple, PMD Cripple, or No Hackle with a pale yellow body. In this latter case you'll probably need to use a 6X or 7X tippet and a downstream presentation so the fly reaches the trout before the leader. No Hackles don't hold up very long; two or three fish, and the fly is too shredded to use any more.

You can might find remnant hatches of blue-winged olives. These late bloomers tend to be big (for a blue-winged olive). A few size 16 and 18 Parachute Baetis, olive Sparkle Duns, or Baetis Cripples should be in your fly box. If they hatch at all, it will probably be on a cloudy day.

Caddis continue to be important. Most June hatches are matched by size 14-16 patterns.


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