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Guide to Fall Fly Fishing in Montana

Angler with a brown trout on a fall fly fishing trip in Montana

Fall Fly Fishing with the Montana Angling Company

Fall fly fishing in Montana is a favorite season for anglers. Open waters, quality dry fly fishing, excellent streamer fishing, and picturesque snowcapped mountains, lit with a blaze of fall colors, are a few of the reasons why. Fall is also one of the best times of the year for anglers to target trophy brown trout on our Montana rivers, as flows drop and our wild trophy trout go on the feed. Anglers willing to commit to hunting for these predatory trout with streamers are often rewarded with truly world-class fly fishing.

Anglers planning a Montana fly fishing trip in the fall will enjoy blue ribbon fly fishing on all of the rivers in Bozeman, MT as well as the Missouri River and other nearby rivers. The Yellowstone River and Missouri River offer some of the best fly fishing of the year during the fall months of September, October, and November. The fly fishing in the fall is well suited for anglers of all skill levels, with productive dry fly fishing and streamer fishing that is accessible and rewarding for beginner and seasoned anglers alike.




What to Expect

Anglers fly fishing in Montana in the fall should expect consistently favorable conditions on the water, but expect the possibility of variable conditions on any given day. This means to pack appropriate gear for both summer and winter weather, as fall weather is generally tough to predict. By the 20th of September, summer-conditions generally begin to fade and anglers will find cooler weather becomes more common through the month of October, with the strong possibility of early season snow by November. Waders and warm layers are recommended along with sun screen and sandals.

The fly fishing in the fall is much more predictable than the weather. Regardless of daily conditions, anglers can expect blue ribbon fly fishing. Hopper and terrestrial fishing continues to be productive through the first half of September and into October on warmer years. Fall hatches of Blue Winged Olives (BWOs) and caddisflies start by the end of September and only improve through the month of October.

Solitude is generally plentiful on our Montana rivers throughout the fall months and anglers can expect wide open rivers on a daily basis by the 1st of October. There is likely no better time to plan a streamer-focused or dry fly fishing-focused Montana fly fishing trip, for anglers that crave solitude, than the second half of October.

By November anglers should be prepared for winter weather and often inclement conditions on a daily basis. For those willing to fly fish through it all, the rewards for fly fishing in November in Montana are plenty, but best suited for experienced anglers familiar with fly fishing in the cold. The fall streamer bite often peaks in mid-November as pressure becomes minimal and the biggest of our wild brown trout come out to hunt.


Where to Fly Fish in Montana

Blue ribbon fly fishing can be found on all of our Montana rivers during the fall months of September and October, with limited but productive options available for anglers in November. The Yellowstone River and Missouri River are the best destinations for anglers planning a fall fly fishing trip in Montana. Anglers will be treated to consistently great fly fishing throughout the fall season on both of these rivers, and can expect some of the best dry fly fishing and streamer fishing of the year. Strong hatches of BWOs, caddisflies, and localized hatches of callibaetis and fall drakes make for productive days spent dry fly fishing. The Madison River, Jefferson River, and Blackfoot River are other fall favorites for anglers on float fishing trips.

Wade fishing the rivers of Yellowstone National Park and other smaller rivers and streams in Montana is also a great option on a fall fly fishing trip. Low flows and cool water make for productive days on the Lamar River, Slough Creek, and Soda Butte Creek in Yellowstone through the end of September, and equally productive fly fishing on the Madison River and Firehole River in October. The annual fall-run of trophy brown trout into the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park is world-famous for the opportunity to catch some of the largest wild brown trout in the United States.

The Paradise Valley Spring Creeks also offer excellent fly fishing from late-September on through the end of November. The creeks experience similar hatches of BWOs that anglers will find in the Spring, but more technical and demanding conditions. Large brown trout often move into DePuy, Armstrong, and Nelson Spring Creeks during the month of October and a strong hatch of BWOs will give anglers the opportunity to sight fish to trophy trout will #18-22 dry flies on the creeks.


Fall Fly Fishing Tactics in Montana

Anglers fly fishing in Montana during the fall can expect success while employing a wide variety of fly fishing tactics. Dry fly fishing and streamer fishing are often the choice tactics throughout the fall, but anglers can also expect quality nymphing on most of our rivers. Fall weather often means that hatches and fish activity don’t peak until late-morning or early-afternoon which encourages late starts but also demands subsurface presentations early in the day. Streamer fishing in the fall is productive for both quantity and quality of trout. Anglers willing to hunt our rivers with streamers are often rewarded with some of the largest catches of the year in the fall.

Fall dry fly fishing in Montana is generally ‘match-the-hatch’ fly fishing that varies depending on the month, daily conditions, and by river. Early in September and often into October, extended summer conditions make for excellent terrestrial fishing with hoppers, ants, and beetles all remaining effective. The terrestrial fishing generally tapers off by the 20th of September, as cooler nights make for less activity. Hatches of BWOs and caddis start to ramp up through the month of September, generally peaking by mid-late October. The BWO mayflies vary in size significantly and anglers should be prepared with a variety of emerger, cripple, dun, and spinner patterns #14-22. The fall BWO hatch on the Missouri River can be some of the best dry fly fishing of the year, with large pods of rising fish found on a daily basis. Isolated hatches of larger mayflies can be found when conditions are right on certain waters. The fall drake fishing on the Yellowstone River and tributaries including the Lamar River can be excellent on overcast days in late September and October.

Streamer fishing in the fall is often the main attraction for many anglers on a fall fly fishing trip. While the action can vary significantly from day-to-day depending on conditions, anglers willing to put in the long days on the water committed fly fishing baitfish, sculpin, and other streamer patterns are rewarded with truly trophy trout. Great streamer fishing can be found on all of our Montana rivers, but our larger rivers with good numbers of brown trout including the Yellowstone, Madison, Missouri, Blackfoot, and Jefferson Rivers offer the best fly fishing.

Nymphing is productive year-round on our Montana waters, and the fall is no exception. Good hatches of mayflies and caddisflies make for excellent nymphing both pre- and post-hatch. Flows are generally low in the fall and our rivers run clear, making for often technical conditions that command smaller flies (#16-22) and lighter tippets (4x-5x) than anglers often fish earlier in the season. Understanding the hatch dynamics is key to successful nymphing in the fall. Anglers should be prepared to adjust on a daily basis depending on local conditions.


Fall Fly Fishing Trips in Montana

Fall fly fishing trips in Montana are a favorite of our long time anglers and Montana fly fishing guides. Quality fly fishing and consistent solitude make the fall months a great time for a Montana fly fishing trip and offers anglers a authentic experience on our blue ribbon waters. The fly fishing is well suited for anglers of all skill levels, with rewarding opportunities and unique challenges for both beginner and seasoned anglers.

Bozeman, MT is the best destination for a Montana fly fishing trip early in the fall, with the best fly fishing from September 1-October 15. The Yellowstone River, Madison River, Yellowstone National Park, and Paradise Valley Spring Creeks are the primary destinations for anglers on a Bozeman fly fishing trip in the fall with our fly fishing guides.

The Missouri River and nearby waters are the best destination for a fly fishing trip later in the fall from September 20-October 31, particularly for experienced anglers that prefer technical dry fly fishing. Strong fall hatches of BWOs, caddisflies, and midges make for challenging but rewarding fly fishing on the Missouri River. The streamer fishing on the Missouri River and nearby Blackfoot River can also be excellent.

Our outfitter handles all bookings personally. We work with anglers directly to book the best Montana fly fishing trips. Our Montana fly fishing guides are all seasoned professionals with the experience to make your next Montana fly fishing trip, your best one yet.

Anglers interested in booking a Montana fly fishing trip during the fall months are encouraged to book now or contact us for more information.