Winter is back in Montana for the next 5-7 months. Most of the locals are the hill in BS for another powder day…….West Yellowstone narrowly missed getting pounded with the snow. Shit, we needed it.
While November can feel like Winter, there is not one angler/hunter/outdoorsmen that would say November is winter…..winter-like, maybe, but not full on Winter. Winter fly fishing is cold, the days are short and the dry fly fishing is minimal. On the Upper Madison and Gallatin, it’s bobber time. Tie on a rubber leg, epoxy back stone, prince, a zebra or something reddish-pink and success will be at your doorstep. Fish those pockets, the deeper ones, and keep an eye out for the midges to start rolling down the surface. If Mother Nature decides not to wave up the wind, then one can actually have some great dry fly fishing on the Madison and Gallatin in December. January is questionable for the dry fly game, but February brings back some warmer air, longer days and insect activity.
Wind is a big factor effecting winter fly fishing at this altitude. Air temperatures rank high as well, but any day the wind blows in winter, pretty much keeps the angler at home.
Remember this – Hebgen Dam is still under construction, so once the lake freezes up, the water below Hebgen is frigid. This effects the insect activity and can make the trout more lethargic than normal. However, the fishing is still pretty darn good on the warmer days. My rule of thumb for heading out is 20 degrees and no wind….some days, I just go any way and throw in the skis just in case it’s too cold to fish.