3 Weekend Fishing Trips You Should Make This Summer

Friday May. 30th, 2014

The temperatures are starting to warm up and the smell of the neighbors BBQ will greet you when you return home from work. Bozeman shines in the summer, it comes to life during the summer. New faces can be seen wandering Main Street and restaurant patios become a meeting place after a long day of work. Here are three weekend trips that are a must for anyone in Bozeman this summer.

Yellowstone National Park
If you haven’t made it into the park to fish, you’ve been missing out. Whether you’re looking to throw dry flies on the Lamar for rising Cutthroat, or you want to charter a boat and troll for Lakers on Yellowstone Lake, The Park has it all - with the beautiful scenery and wildlife to match.  

During the spring, the Madison and the Firehole rivers are the first to experience hatches of BWO’s, PMD’s, Caddis, and even Salmon Flies. This is dictated by the warmer waters originating from the Old Faithful Geyser Basin that heat up the Firehole and consequently the Madison. Once July rolls around, these waters warm to the point that the fish will move out until the temperatures return to normal in the fall. Thankfully, once these rivers become too warm to hold fish, the dry fly fishing picks up everywhere else! The earliest of the dry fly action will be found on the Gibbon, while this small river generally produces palm sized trout, it is still a blast to target them on dries early in the year! There is plenty of camping in the park, or you can set up camp on Hebgen Lake and fish the evening hatches along its shores.

On the north end you have the productive Soda Butte and Slough Creek as well as the Lamar River and the powerful Yellowstone River. While Soda Butte and Slough Creek garner most of the attention from anglers during the spring and summer, the Yellowstone River is often overlooked because of its difficult access and the physically demanding hikes that make up the Grand and Black Canyons. The Yellowstone produces some of the best Cutthroat in the area. Fishing heavy water with oversized dry flies for even heavier trout is something every angler should experience. If you can time your trip with the Salmon Fly hatch in the spring you’ll really be in for a treat. There are a few backcountry campgrounds around the Canyons as well as “full service” campgrounds with bathrooms and other amenities.  

Alpine Lakes
Every mountain range has at least one or two lakes nestled under their jutting peaks, while some ranges have hundreds. Alpine lakes offer the opportunity to disappear for a few days into absolute solitude. Most lakes are stocked periodically by Fish Wildlife and Parks with native Cutthroat trout ( find complete stocking information) .  

These fish don’t see a lot of pressure and getting them to eat usually doesn’t take much. Small terrestrials such as ants and beetles, caddis, and small attractor dry flies are a few patterns that usually do the trick on top.  Leech’s, buggers, and small attractor nymphs such as prince and pheasant tail nymphs will work if the fish don’t want to feed on top. The trout will usually cruise in pods along the shelves and transitions between shallow and deep water. Wait until you see a group approaching, cast ahead of them to where you think they’ll be and wait!  
I’m not big on eating trout but on these backpacking trips I do enjoy keeping one or two and making a great meal out of them. Pack in some tinfoil, butter, and lemon pepper for a tasty treat after a long day of hiking!  

There are tons of different lakes you can hike into in our area. Hyalite offers up an easy 5.5 mile overnight trip to Emerald and Heather Lakes, where you can find Cutthroat and Grayling that are very willing to take a fly.  If you are more experienced, the Spanish Peak Trail system has some great loops with lakes spread throughout the hike. Jerome Rock Lake offers up a beautiful location to spend the night. With all of these be bear aware and make sure you have bear spray on you at all times!

Overnight Float Trip
One of my favorite things to do over the summer is a multi-day trip on one of our local rivers. Memories of fire cooked brats, bacon and eggs over the camp stove, and Moscow mules out of coffee cups make me want to trailer the boat up right now and head out for a few days! There’s nothing like going to bed under the stars with the sound of rushing water lulling you to sleep, only to wake up on the river with a full day float ahead of you. There are plenty of campgrounds or sandy points of small islands that are big enough to spend a night on. Spending a few days on the river allows you to fish at first and last light when fishing is at its best.  
The Lower Madison offers up some nice overnight floats between Warm Springs and the highway before it joins the Gallatin and Jefferson to make the Missouri. In the end the Yellowstone may be best suited for a multiple day trip.  The amount of water you can cover when you don’t have to be off and back home in time for dinner is astounding. The difference in both trout holding water and your surroundings will change as you make your way down Paradise Valley, through the Livingston town stretch, and down towards Big Timber. The fish will even change with the different sections of river; as you make your way down through Livingston you’ll start picking up more Browns than ‘Bows or Cutthroat. Large mansions will give way to old farm homes and barns, and the amount of boat traffic will be less and less.  

If you haven’t awakened at first light on the river with the sun casting shadows of Cottonwood trees overhead, its various pools and riffles, don’t wait another summer. Get out there this year and enjoy the moments nobody else gets to experience.

Jake Adelman is a fisherman from Bozeman. He can be reached at Montana Troutfitters where he works.