Montana Fly Fishing 4 min read

Fly Fishing Montana In April: Tips & Tactics

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

February 13, 2024

fly fishing Montana in April

Fly fishing Montana in April? While most dream of the height of summer on the river, with trout rising to salmonflies and PMDs, Brian McGeehan sees April as an underrated gem for Montana angling.

As the owner of Montana Angler, McGeehan has witnessed the diversity of insects that emerge to kick off the season, providing consistent action across the state.

Though conditions vary day-to-day as temperatures rise, early season anglers can take advantage of steady hatches. Midges dance in the morning hours before small Baetis mayflies emerge in the afternoon.

The famed March brown may also put in an appearance. Later in the month, be on the lookout for trout rising to caddis as they prepare to lay their eggs on Mother’s Day.

With this bounty, McGeehan has learned the prime waters. He is willing to share his intimate knowledge of where and when different rivers shine as the insect buffet rotates.

An added bonus is the solitude – fewer anglers mean you may have miles of river to yourself, allowing you to stealthily stalk rising fish undisturbed. While summer crowds will come, April remains a well-kept secret for prolific trout fishing before the hordes arrive.

April marks the commencement of spring fishing patterns in Montana, offering anglers a mix of challenges and rewards. The state, known for its vast and scenic landscapes, ushers in a period where fishing conditions can swiftly transition from snowstorms to sunny skies.

Anglers are advised to monitor weather patterns closely, as the right conditions can lead to remarkable fishing experiences. This month is significant for the hatching of aquatic insects, contributing to heightened fish activity. Thus, knowledge of insect hatches, river water levels, and temperatures is critical for a successful outing.

The larger rivers, such as the Madison and Yellowstone, are recommended for their optimal conditions during April. These rivers are particularly enticing before they become swollen with run-off in mid-May. Smaller streams may still be too cold, making them less ideal.

Areas like the Gallatin River and the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks are notable for their clear waters and reliable insect hatches, which can yield excellent dry fly fishing opportunities on overcast, drizzly days. Understanding the distinct characteristics of each river, including hatch patterns and the influence of weather on fishing prospects, can significantly enhance the fishing experience in Montana’s diverse waters during the month of April.

Key Takeaways

  • Monitor weather and hatching patterns to capitalize on prime fishing conditions in April.
  • Focus on larger rivers for consistent fishing before runoff, seeking areas with significant hatches.
  • Overcast and mildly rainy days can be opportune for successful dry fly fishing sessions.

Insights on April Angling in Montana

Montana’s April ushers in the spring fly fishing season with potential for superb catches under favorable conditions. Shifting weather patterns—from brisk snowfall to balmy sunny days—offer variety to anglers.

  • Weather Impact: April’s erratic climate influences angling strategies.
  • Insect Activity: Observing insect hatches is crucial for April success.
  • Water Conditions: Monitoring river levels and temperatures is key.

River Recommendations

Anglers in Montana during April may encounter winter-like conditions on some days, but the promise of excellent fly fishing opportunities is compelling for those adaptable to varying weather. Here are a few of the top destinations to consider for fly fishing southwest Montana in April.


Yellowstone River Livingston Montana

Yellowstone River

The longest river in Montana is Yellowstone, which presents unique challenges to the angler considering a fishing vacation to this famous destination.

Ideal Conditions: Near-perfect water levels throughout April until mid-May.
Noteworthy Hatches: Midge hatches in early April; Blue-winged Olives on cloudy days; March Browns and Mother’s Day Caddis by month’s end.
Big Fish Opportunity: Larger Mayflies towards April’s end could yield sizable catches.

Gallatin River Montana

Gallatin River

The Gallatin River is one of the top fly fishing destinations in Montana. It is located in the beautiful Gallatin Valley in south-central Montana.

Optimal Conditions: Expect low and clear water due to persistent snow pack holding.
Best Hatch: Blue-winged Olives increase as April advances.
Ideal Weather: Overcast and drizzly days intensify BWO hatch and are optimal for dry fly fishing.

Madison River Yellowstone

Madison River

The excitement is palpable. You are going to be heading to Montana to spend some time fly fishing and getting back to nature. The Madison better be on your bucket list!

Divided River: Upper river heats up later in April, while the lower stretch gets a head start with warmer early-April temperatures.
Hatch Patterns: Early season hatches more active on the lower river. Upper river sees robust Blue-winged Olive hatches on warm, cloudy days.

Missouri River Montana

Missouri River

The state of Montana is not shy of angling options and fly fishing the Missouri River is top of the list.

Unique Ecosystem: Resembles a vast Spring Creek with weed beds and active insect life.
Ideal Weather for Hatches: Overcast skies can trigger dense Blue-winged Olive hatches.
River Feature: One of the largest trout rivers providing consistent fishing opportunities.

Paradise Valley Spring Creeks

Armstrong, DePuy and Nelson’s Spring Creek are privately owned spring creeks near Livingston, Montana that provide superb fishing in April.

April Conditions: Spring feed resulting in consistent water temperatures that promote vibrant hatches.
Key Hatch: Blue-winged Olives flourish in inclement weather.
Creek Characteristics: Intimate settings with abundant weed beds.
Best for Bad Weather: Sloppy snow and drizzles create outstanding fishing conditions.

Temperature and River Conditions

In Montana, the arrival of April marks the commencement of spring angling patterns—conditions that anglers find highly advantageous when they align favorably. While the weather can fluctuate rapidly, with snowy conditions one day and warm, sunny conditions the next, these variances play a key role in fishing prospects.

Temperature and Hatches

Temperature: Fluctuating water temperatures contribute to fishing conditions.

Hatches: April brings some of the most prolific hatches, improving prospects for anglers.

  • Early April: Expect notable midge activity in the late morning on warmer days.
  • As April advances, blue wing olives and Baetidae mayflies proliferate, especially during overcast weather.
  • Toward April’s end, larger March Brown mayflies can instigate surface feeding from sizable trout.

River Conditions

  • Water levels in rivers demand careful monitoring.
  • Larger rivers such as the Madison provide stable fishing during April.
  • Smaller streams, still influenced by mountain snow, could remain cold.
  • Rivers like the Yellowstone are likely ideal for fishing in April, with perfect water conditions before turning high and murky in mid-May.

Early Season Hatches in Southwest Montana

Early April Midges

  • Weather dependency: Emergence’s may occur in late mornings when the weather warms.
  • River recommendations: Larger rivers like the Madison are optimal.
  • Insect activity: Expect midge hatches on balmy days.

Mid-April BWO’s

  • Best Hatch: Blue-winged olives, known locally as ‘Bas’.
  • River recommendations: The Gallatin River, with stable and clear conditions, is a hot spot. Spring creeks are also a prime location with moderated water temperatures and ample hatches.
  • Spring creeks advantages: Controlled groundwater temperatures and abundance of weed beds support large hatches.
  • Optimal Conditions: Best hatches occur on cloudy days.
  • Fish behavior: Notable movement to the surface by larger fish.

Late April March Brown Mayflies

  • Visibility: These mayflies can lead to conspicuous fish feeding on the surface.
  • Strategy: Utilizing dry flies during warm days can be particularly effective.

Mother’s Day Caddis

  • River recommendations: The Yellowstone River provides ideal conditions for this hatch.
  • Timing: Late in April, anticipate an increase in activity.

Montana in April is a fly fishing paradise!

  • Early April: Big rivers like the Yellowstone offer the first big hatches. Look for March Browns as it warms up.
  • Late April: Warmer days bring caddis flies, perfect for targeting big fish in stable rivers like the Yellowstone.
  • Spring Creeks: Stable temperatures and hatches make them great all month, especially on cloudy days with Blue-Winged Olives.
  • Missouri River: Think giant spring creek! Expect hatches and good dry fly fishing when it’s overcast.

Key takeaway: Adjust your fishing based on river conditions, hatches and weather for an unforgettable April in Montana!

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Montana.