Choosing Your Fishing Season

To many, there is simply fly-fishing. There’s no particular season, there’s no particular species, there’s simply a lifestyle.

It’s not necessarily about the number of fish caught, nor the size. It’s not whether I hooked into the biggest brown I’ve ever seen, or making the perfect cast to feeding fish. It’s not even about the atmosphere, the beautiful Montana sky, the free-ranging cattle looking on as you successfully snag the bush behind you; nor about the fresh mountain air, the fellowship, or the knowledge gained from your experienced guide. Simply put it’s about all of it.And since we know that not many have had the life-long blessing of living in God’s country (Montana) we’d like to cover the aspects of the different seasons here at the Bar Z Riverside Ranch, as to help you decide the best possible time you’d like to visit according to your, your families and your fishing buddies likes, and dislikes. To every season there is different weather, different fish feeding more abundantly, different hatches, and an overall different experience. Read on and find out what we mean.

Spring : March, April, May

Spring Weather:
Generally speaking, Spring weather here in Montana can either be called “late winter” or “early summer” all at the same time. Depending on the severity of the previous winter, there can be cooler temperatures and even snow fall through late Spring but lessening as the season progresses. Since this season boasts of the majority of Montana precipitation – mainly rain in the valleys and some snow in the mountains, the white Montana winter slowly turns to a magnificent green, and all of the images in your head of what Montana must look like come to fruition as the pines paint the mountain sides green and wild flowers dust natures floor all the colors in the spectrum.

Spring Fish:
To say there’s a lack of fish during anytime of the season, besides maybe the late run-off (snow melting and bringing dirt into the rivers – mud) would be leading anyone astray. The Bar Z Riverside Ranch as seen on the fishing page, has in abundance of brown trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout, all of which can be caught year long.  However, Springtime will have many active Rainbows, Brookies and Browns. During the early Spring, Rainbow trout and Brookies spawn which makes a great time to catch these fish in an aggressive and hungry state making some really active fishing. Big browns can still be found around the ranch during the Spring as well.

Spring Flies & Hatches:
On the Smith River, Streamers can be used year round. During the Spring you’ll see a wide array of hatches, here’s what you can expect to see here at the ranch and the flies we typically use to match the hatch.

Bar Z “Go To” Fly : PMX
- This is a must have in your fly box when fishing the Bar Z.

Hatch : Mayflies
Fly : Blue Wing Olive : Size16-20

Hatch : Caddis Hatches
Fly : Elk/Deer hair or Goddard Caddis : Size 14-18

Hatch : Salmon Fly hatch
Fly : Salmon Fly Patterns : Size 4-8

Hatch : Midges
Fly : Midge Pattern : Size 18-22

Hatch : Mosquitos
Fly : Mosquitos : Size 16-20

Hatch : Calibaetis
Fly : Calibaetis Pattern : Size 14-20

Hatch : Gray Drake
Fly : Gray Drakes : Size 12-16

Spring Overview:
Spring at the Bar Z Riverside ranch is an exciting time to fish. Fish are eager to feed and can be very aggressive, especially when matching the fly to the appropriate hatch. Although terrestrials can be found here all year, this is the time where we see the most dry fly action as there’s so many different hatches that occur, so for you dry fly fisherman, this is the time for you. On top of that Spring brings young wildlife all over the ranch. Whether it’s newly born Mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, or the abundance of birds and rodents you’ll have plenty to see. Fair to good weather, lots of fish and as always a great time.

Summer : June, July, August, September

Summer Weather:
Montana has, by and large, beautiful summer weather. This is generally pretty standard throughout the entire state, too. Generally, from June through September, it tends to be generally dry throughout Montana, with sunshine the norm, with only a few days of clouds and light rain. Yet, despite the sunshine, temperatures are generally not too hot. Thunderstorms occur during the summer months, however, they aren’t especially common. Generally, more thunderstorms occur in the eastern half of Montana than in the western half in the summer, although the mountains can have some fantastic lightning storms.

Summer Fish:
From the middle of July to the last week of August, the best water to fish on the ranch are small free stone streams. For example Sheep Creek is a great stretch of water to fish during the summer as its pocket water and cliff pools house some very aggressive fish. For earlier and later parts of the summer months the Smith River is a great option and you’ll find some of the bigger fish on the ranch feeding in deeper pools and cut banks. Compared top the free stone streams, the Smith is a little more technical but typically yields bigger fish.

Summer Flies & Hatches:
During the Spring you’ll see a wide array of hatches, here’s what you can expect to see here at the ranch and the flies we typically use to match the hatch.

Hatch : Mayflies
Fly : Blue Wing Olive : Size16-20

Hatch : Caddis Hatches
Fly : Elk/Deer hair or Goddard Caddis : Size 14-18

Hatch : Midges
Fly : Midge Pattern : Size 18-22

Hatch : Mosquitos
Fly : Mosquitos : Size 16-20

Hatch : Calibaetis
Fly : Calibaetis Pattern : Size 14-20

Hatch : Gray Drake
Fly : Gray Drakes : Size 12-16

Hatch : Grass Hoppers
Fly : Hopper Patterns – Size 4-10

Hatch : Beetles
Fly : Beetles Patterns – Size 10-16

Hatch : Ants
Fly : Ant Patterns – Size 12-18

Summer Overview:
Summer can be the most active season to fish The Bar Z. The free stone streams, being tucked back int he forest have good shade and keep the water cooler during the hot summer days and keep the fish active. “Marathon Days” area regular occurrence in the summer months during some of our largest hatches. If you’re looking to fish the Smith we would recommend either very early in the season or late in the season and in the early mornings is best.

Fall : Late September, October, November

Fall Weather:
Fall weather in Montana begins usually sometime in late September and will run into November. During this time, weather can be highly variable – with weeks of Indian summer weather followed by cold rain which is then in turn followed by snow. During the fall, it becomes normal to see the weather cool off fairly quickly and even see some snow flurries at times.

Fall Fish:
To me Fall means Big Browns. Browns spawn in the fall, so we will usually see a spike in the larger fish caught out of the Smith River. Rainbows and Brook Trout can still be caught and will be caught on the Smith, the Browns will just be more aggressive. On Sheep Creek and other streams the fall can still be a good time to fish. You won;t see as many hatches as summer, but find what they’re eating or tie on nymphs or terrestrials and you’ll have a good time.

Fall Flies & Hatches:
Since Fall is all about the Browns, terrestrials and streamers are very affective flies on the Smith during the spawn. Since the fish are more aggressive, anything coming across their spawning beds is deemed intruder and they’ll get it out of there. Dry flies can still be seen as the weather cools but the hatches seem to slow down. Below I mentioned a fly I didn;t above that can be used on the ranch as well.

Hatch : Pale Morning Dunn
Fly : Dunn Patterns – Size 16-22

Overview:
Fall is a great time to be here. Not only are the Browns spawning on the Smith, but everything about Fall is Montana. The frosted trees of the cold early mornings, the bugling elk echoing through the valley and the yellow and oranges give the foliage a beautiful Fall palette.

Winter : December, January, February, March, April (sometimes)

If you’re interested in fishing the Bar Z Riverside Ranch during any of the seasons mentioned above give us a call at 406.570.5519 or fill out our Information/Reservation form and we’d be happy to answer any questions you have about your next trip to The Bar Z Riverside Ranch and God’s Country.

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