Time for some swingin'

There’s a reason springtime in Montana is considered among many veteran guides to be the best season to come tight to a trout on a fly rod. Heightened energy demands for spring spawning drives rainbows to eat hard. Magnum kype-jawed browns start peeking out from cutbanks looking for sculpins and chunky stonefly nymphs. And when the stars align, the trifecta is complete when the sun comes out and the wind dies down to make for some truly magical Montana fishing.

Ennis is starting to get that familiar buzz again, which is exciting. This week gave us a few of those rare spring days with exceptionally pleasant weather with great fishing. But we also had a day or two when the wind was nuking and just getting your fly where you wanted it was a huge victory. The one constant was the fishing and tall tales of trophy trout being told at the G Bar. It’s been consistently good to great lately, with the nymphing game strong right now. Skwala stonefly nymphs are becoming common sites on boulders at 8 Mile and Burnt Tree. Mayfly nymphs are scurrying around on water logged debris too.

My 4-year-old daughter Emmylou suggests a beadhead G-String worm and an egg, for all those 12 and under, at the Lion’s Club Park kid's pond for trophy brood stock trout. Her second tip is to remind yourself to not forget about the fly rod as you enjoy a quick swing or three at the swing set while your bobber sits unattended in the pond. This is inevitably when they will strike, she says. Focus! Your dad will likely be upset with you as his rod creeps into the deep end.

Flows at the Varney gauge have been slowly sneaking up this week starting at 1,400 CFS to 1,580 now. I don’t think it’s going to be trending down for a while. The extra bit of flow has already filled in some side channels, which has encouraged trout to seek refuge from hastier currents. With the water getting swifter and deeper, focus on finding that slower water especially near fast water seams. Trout can expend less energy in these calmer waters but still take advantage of the constant churning food buffet in the main channels.


We had fun this week with every method of fly angling, catching fish on medium sized chubbies, swinging crayfish and sculpin streamers in the channels section, and nymphing with split shot weighted, big girdle bugs and worms up high. It still seems like the largest concentration of fish are located in deeper pools thigh deep or bigger. This is usually a good time of year to nymph one of your more favorite streamer patterns. Obviously, trying to nymph a giant Circus Peanut would be challenging, so try using something like a Sheila or Trevor under a bobber.

Another one of our favorite tactics right now is swinging and stripping. Fishing that is… Personally, I like to swing streamers while constantly moving downstream at a slow pace, covering as much water as possible with my streamer following a different line with every swing. A big across-current cast, followed by a quick upstream mend (to allow your fly to get down) and slow short pulling retrieve as your fly swings down and across is a great way to become acquainted with a hard charging rainbow right now. Maintaining a tight line connection to your streamer is critically important with this retrieve. You want to feel him immediately before he makes you for a scam and ditches your conehead.

Looking to get out on the water but don’t have a boat? Give us a ring, we’ve got a rental fleet of rafts and kayaks to get you away from crowded boat launches.

Speaking of boat launches, every boat launch on the upper Madison is open with the exception of Ennis, which took on some major damage to the entrance road this winter due to the ice gorge. It’s going to require significant road and grade rehabilitation to get the entrance back in working order. This might not happen very soon given the giant chunks of ice still remaining. We’ll keep you posted.

Photos: Justin Edge (www.justinedgephoto.com)
Angler: Parker Redmond