Hitting the Sweet Spot

Late-spring fishing spots in southwest Montana.

Now that the rivers are coming down, it's time to fish. The waters around Bozeman are still high, but there is fishable water close by.

The Beaverhead and Poindexter Slough
It may be a bit of a drive, but Dillon is home to some of the best fishing in the state. The Beaverhead River is open the entire year downstream from Pipe Organ Bridge (upstream from Pipe Organ opens in late May), and it’s loaded with good-sized rainbows and browns. With low to moderate flows, it’s often a good choice when other rivers are high and muddy. Nymphing with standard tailwater patterns will produce fish, and the streamer bite can be red-hot this time of year. While you’re over there, check out Poindexter Slough. It’s one of the few public spring creeks in the state.

Below Ennis Lake
Closer to Bozeman, the lower Madison provides plenty of good options. The first half-mile or so of river below Ennis Lake is very popular, and for good reason—rainbows stack up below the dam to spawn. Look for big browns eating eggs in the deeper runs below the spawning redds. If you’re looking for more solitude, try accessing the river at Grey Cliff or Cobblestone. The river braids out nicely down there and holds a surprising number of good fish. 

The Missouri River below Toston is generally overlooked as a trout fishery, but in the spring it gets a good run of lake fish moving out of Canyon Ferry to spawn. Streamers, San Juan worms, and egg patterns are your best bet. There are rumored to be some big pike lurking down there, too.