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Montana Fly Fishing in March

March in Montana is a special time for anglers. It is the official start of the New Year’s Montana fly fishing season. Fishing licenses must be renewed and the anticipation and excitement for another great year of fly fishing in Montana peaks. Rods are dusted off, drift boats excavated from piles of snow, and new flies from a winter’s worth of fly tying finally get called into action. The grasp of winter eases by the first of the month. Anglers can count on some great early season fly fishing as our rivers thaw and hatches begin.

Highlights

March fly fishing in Montana is early season spring fishing at its finest. Our rivers are empty, trout are hungry, weather is cool, and the fly fishing can be outstanding. Midge hatches can make for great early season dry fly action in Bozeman, MT on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks and the Missouri River. Streamer fishing on the Yellowstone River and the Madison River can be some of the best of the year. Wade fishing on the Gallatin River can be highly productive. On warmer years our larger rivers our free and clear of ice and our Montana fly fishing guides can be found on the water daily.

What to Expect

Anglers fly fishing in Montana during the month of March should be prepared for any and all conditions. Best case scenario spring comes early and the weather is cool, wind is mild, and all of our area rivers are accessible and fishing great. If winter hangs around longer than expected, weather can be down right arctic, with sub-zero temperatures and freezing wind. Usually it is somewhere in the middle.

The quality of the fly fishing in March is largely impacted by daily weather. Anglers treated to calm, overcast, and cool weather will be treated to truly fantastic fly fishing. Windy, freezing, and sunny will be tougher. You’ve got to go to know, but we recommend always checking the forecast before leaving for a days fishing in March to know what you are getting into.

Where to Fly Fish in March

Anglers can count on great fly fishing on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks, the Missouri River, the Gallatin River, the Yellowstone River, and the Madison River during the month of March in Montana. Wade fishing is excellent on all of these fisheries and generally by the 15th of the month enough boat ramps are clear of snow and ice to float at least some sections.

The Paradise Valley Spring Creeks arguably offer some of the best fly fishing of the entire season in Montana during the month of March. Large numbers of trout migrate into DePuy’s, Nelson, and Armstrong Spring Creek during the winter months from the Yellowstone River, with peak populations found in the DePuy’s Spring Creek during the month of March. This can make for some truly great days spent fly fishing, regardless of weather conditions.

The Missouri River is the best option for float anglers during the month of March in Montana. Due to the lower elevation of the Missouri River tailwater compared to Bozeman area waters and strong early-season hatches, the access and fly fishing on the Missouri River is generally better than our other Montana rivers. Midges, scuds, and sowbugs are king in the early spring on the Missouri River and the nymphing and streamer fishing can often be excellent. Dry fly hatches are consistently sporadic during the month of March, but good enough to satiate any anglers dry fly fishing fix.

The Yellowstone River, the Gallatin River, and Madison River are generally accessible the fly fish by the 15th of the month and anglers can expect a wide range of conditions. These rivers are higher elevations and subject to winter weather through the end of the month. When it’s good it’s good, but when it’s tough it can be really tough. While we wouldn’t plan a March fly fishing trip solely around the fly fishing on the Yellowstone and Madison Rivers, they can be a nice treat in addition to the great fly fishing on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks or Missouri River, if conditions permit.

March Fly Fishing Tactics

Nymphing and streamer fishing will generally produce the best results for anglers fly fishing in Montana in March, but the fly fishing tactics anglers will find the most productive will vary depending largely on conditions. Calm and warm days can make for some good midge hatches and dry fly fishing to follow. The window to capitalize on these hatches is often limited, but offers anglers the potential for some great early season dry fly action.

Nymphing in March will largely consist of deep rigs fished through slow runs and pools. Tandem rigs consisting of a larger #4-8 stonefly or worm followed by a small mayfly or midge #16-22 will be the most productive on the Yellowstone River, Madison River, and Gallatin River. Tandem nymph rigs consisting of a #10-16 scud, sowbug, or pink attractor followed by another of the same will be your best bet on the Missouri River. Midges are king on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks. Target slower moving water and make sure your flies are getting to the bottom.

Streamer fishing in March with small, flashy, baitfish and sculpin imitations can be productive on all of our local fisheries. On the Missouri River, Madison River, and Yellowstone River anglers willing to commit to streamer fishing can often find true trophy trout. Sink tips or full sinking lines are recommended to get your fly down and keep it down in the zone. The trout in March can predictably be found in the same lies: slow, deep runs and pools. Anglers should target these zones for the best action.

Dry fly fishing in March is overall limited, can anglers willing to hunt for heads can often find some great early season action on the Missouri River and the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks. Midges are the primary hatch during the month of March in Montana. Look for calm and warm days for the best chance at finding a good hatch. The spring midge fishing is often not particularly technical as the trout have forgotten that some flies fight back. Renegades, Buzzballs, and Harrop’s Hanging Midge #16-20 should have you covered.

March Fly Fishing Trips

Due to the variable nature of weather during the first half of the month of March, we would not recommend planning a March fly fishing trip to Montana if you are a traveling angler unless cold weather and the possibility of cancellation due to angler safety doesn’t bother you. However, if you are a local angler or find yourself in Montana during the month of March and good conditions present themselves, a day of guided fly fishing with our fly fishing guides makes for a fun and productive day.

By the 15th of the month, anglers can count on reliably good conditions, particularly on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks and the Missouri River. This isn’t to say weather can’t be tough at times, but anglers can count on good fly fishing regardless.

Our Winter Special Fly Fishing Trips run through the end of the month, so anglers booking trips in March will enjoy our special winter rate for all March fly fishing trips. Our Montana fly fishing guides are well rested after a long winter by March and are always eager to spend a day on the water with anglers. Anglers interested in a March fly fishing trip with the Montana Angling Company are encouraged to contact us for more information.