It might be snowing here in Bozeman once again, but we are looking ahead to warming weather and the arrival the Blue-Winged Olive hatches of late March and April. This ever-popular Mayfly hatch typically kicks off in the spring when rain starts to hit the valley floors versus snow. The rivers around Bozeman see prolific BWO hatches during the spring as we head into the runoff season. Looking for rising fish this time of year is a great way to spend the day on the water while quickly improving your fly-fishing skills.
Blue-Winged Olives can be found in just about every water type in terms of size, current, and gradient around Bozeman. Trout tend to rise slowly to drifting adults and emergers in or near the water surface. Identifying these rising fish simply requires one to look for that tell-tale ring on the water following a classic rise. Feeding trout will oftentimes settle into a pattern of rises that becomes predictable if left undisturbed, especially during the peak emergence periods. I’ve found it best to watch a feeding fish until I understand this pattern of rises prior to targeting a specific fish. Patience here will also help the angler in selecting larger fish when the river seems to be full of rising fish.
BWO nymphs drift along the water column, emerging in the surface film as adults. Oftentimes they become stuck in their shucks during emergence and the adults stay on the water’s surface for unusually long periods of time when compared to other hatching insects. Although trout can become selective to a specific life-cycle stage of these hatching insects, a well-presented fly will usually fool a “happy” trout.
The experienced angler will have a wide range of dry fly patterns and styles when heading out to fish a BWO hatch around Bozeman. Lightly weighted nymphs, designed to be fished just below the surface like a standard, Flashback Pheasant Tail works great as a dropper or even by itself when fishing during the early stages of a hatch. Emerger patterns like the RS-2 or Batwing Emerger are patterns that many anglers go to when the more traditional adult patterns don’t seem to be getting it done. CDC Comparaduns, Parachute Adams, and BWO Thorax patterns always have a spot in my Baetis fly box as my go to, adult patterns. The most common size for these patterns is an 18, but 16’s will generally work well during heavy hatch periods and a few 20’s might be needed for that particularly selective trout.
Conditions to Look For
The best conditions for BWO hatches around Bozeman are overcast days with little wind and air-temperatures in the upper 50’s. They will show up on colder and warmer days as well, but cloudy conditions are always ideal. High humidity and moisture keep the adults on the water even longer as their wings dry prior to emergence which helps keep trout feeding for longer periods of a hatch.
Gear for a BWO Hatch
Heading into a BWO hatch with the right gear greatly increases success and reduces frustration, once a basic understanding of the hatch process and trout feeding patterns. Casting in these situations typically needs to be focused more on accuracy than distance. Long leaders with delicate tippets in a configuration of 9-12 feet in length with 5X tippets is most common. An easy-loading nine foot 5 weight fly rod (Scott G, Sage MOD, Orvis H3F) that allows for gentle presentation in the 25’-40’ range is the go-to in these situations on the larger rivers around Bozeman. A shorter, lighter weight rod is great on the smaller streams and spring creeks.
Bozeman Waters for BWO Hatches
The lower Madison and Yellowstone rivers see the most prolific BWO hatches in the Bozeman area. There are days that the hatches on the upper Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson will rival those found on any rivers in the world as well. The stretches of the lower Madison that closely follow Highway 84 between the Warm Springs FAS and Blacks Ford FAS are reliable options when the wind is down. The Yellowstone has tremendous BWO hatches in the Livingston area as well as throughout Paradise Valley. Anglers that focus their efforts on stretches of water with an even current, gentle gradient, and shallow banks tend have the most success on the lower Madison and Yellowstone river during a BWO hatch.
Fly-fishing BWO hatches around Bozeman have grown in popularity over the years as more and more anglers head out earlier in the season and stay on the water later in the fall. The guides and shop staff here at our Bozeman fly shop consider these hatches to be among our favorites to fish over during the year. Our Bozeman fishing reports are a great place to check for the current hatch status if you are uncertain as to what is going on in the area. Guided fly fishing trips that focus on dry fly fishing are a great choice in late March and throughout April on the lower Madison and Yellowstone rivers as well.
The Missouri River is fishing well and has ben seeing some 50 degree temperatures the last few days. Water temperatures are still rather cold, but the trout have to eat. Classic winter bugs like hot bead sowbugs or rainbow Czech…
The mighty Delektable Worm is a flie that not a whole lot of people are anxious to brag about but will certainly tie on instantly first thing in the morning. When the weather warms up enough to rain, these little long and…
Last weekend’s Waderpalooza wader fitting event was Fins & Feathers way of providing the place, time, and assistance to find the absolute best wader fit. Our Bozeman fly shop would like to thank everyone that attended for your participation and…