Last week smoke from various wildfires around the West settled into the mountains around Missoula, creating low light conditions all day long. Imagine fishing at dusk the entire day with trout looking up in spots they would ordinarily be tucked tight into cover by mid-afternoon. The air has cleared already, with bright blue skies again leading us to the cooler weather approaching as we fish into September.
Nocturnal stones were confused with the light conditions and many of the guides reported seeing them flying around during the day. Due to their comparable size with salmon flies, nocturnal stones are quite a sight to behold flying around in the middle of the afternoon. Most floats around Missoula, an angler can find wet stonefly shucks at the waterline right now on rocks, logs, and bridge pilings.
Trico’s are not consistent enough to have daily dependable headhunting lately, however the hatch should continue to build into blanket spinner falls in the next week.
Some of our area rivers have had small flow bumps lately, and there is a direct correlation between the rise and suspended particulate in the water. If you reach the ramp and the water looks dingy this time of year, manage your expectations. Trout do not like high bright sun, and off color water. If you catch the color change before beginning to fish, it may be worth relocating to zones where the water looks right to you. Trust your Spidey-sense, if your gut says to move after looking at the water listen to it.
Streamer fishing lately has been solid, with trout showing a preference for mid-sized flashy patterns. Heavy current for streamers has been best, with a ripping retrieve. The hopper bite timing depends on your chosen river. In the colder water zones it is better in the late afternoon and into the evening, with the slower water closer to town giving up the best hopper eats right out of the gate in the morning then tapering off as the afternoon progresses. Try alternating between the dead drift and twitch. The trout will let you know fairly quickly which presentation they prefer that day.
Creative anglers may also want to play the skated Cranefly game on sections of river with dirt banks.