October Fly Fishing in Montana: Go Big or Go Home

Fly fishing October in Montana

To the adventurous angler, October fly fishing in Montana yields some of the best action of the year. Sparse fishing pressure, cooler temperatures, and a slew of fall hatches makes for happy fish and happier anglers. While Missoula’s rivers boast great fly fishing all year round, the fall season, and October in particular, can produce some of the most epic fly fishing in Montana.

Cooling Off and Heating Up

If there’s one good thing about summer winding down in Montana, it’s that October fly fishing is right around the corner. The water conditions dramatically change from the end of summer into fall. Many factors contribute to the difficult late summer conditions, including hot temperatures, low flows, and irrigation demands. October, on the other hand, is significantly cooler and sees more precipitation. This means more cool, clean water in our rivers, which results in happier and healthier trout.

Despite the temperatures, many fall insect hatches contribute to epic October fly fishing in Montana. Small, black mayflies called “tricos” hatch in abundance from September through early October. Mahogany mayflies, October caddis, Hecuba, and BWO mayflies often occur simultaneously, if not directly after the peak of the Trico hatch. It’s common to see all of these mayfly hatches occur throughout a single day. It’s a dry fly angler’s paradise.

Not for the faint of heart, October streamer fishing in Missoula can be nothing short of epic. Throwing big flies for aggressive, worked-up brown trout beckons many to the rivers this month. Trout pushing 20+ inches will chase streamers out of dense cover or deep buckets. All you need is a few streamers, a sinking line, and a dream.

Check out our blog Top 5 Streamers for Fall Fly Fishing for our favorite flies for October Fly Fishing.

fall streamer fishing for trout

October Fly Fishing Tactics

October is arguably the best time of year to catch big trout using the various fly fishing techniques. Nymphing, dry fly fishing, and streamer fishing can all lead to success. Where certain tactics may perform better than others during certain months of the year, October fly fishing is unique and dynamic.

Trout move into different parts of the river from season to season. As cool fall nights become more consistent, look for trout holding in deeper buckets or tailouts – places where they have easy access to food without working too hard. Nymphing heavy stonefly nymphs, prince nymphs, and pheasant tails is a great way to reach those fish holding deep. Trailing your first nymph with a smaller, lighter mayfly nymph or perdigon gives trout two options.

Don’t be deterred by the colder weather when dry fly fishing in October in Montana. Morning water temperatures are often too cool to produce insect hatches at first light. Instead, wait until later in the day to see consistent dry fly fishing. Trico spinner falls typically occur between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m., with mahogany mayfly emergers following suit.

To fish these risers effectively, long leaders and light tippet are required. These trout will not eat a bad drift! To prevent this, work on your reach cast to ensure a delicate presentation. Our Montana fly fishing guides will always be prepared with a delicate dry fly rod rigged up in the boat for when these dry fly opportunities present themselves. Saving time when the dry fly fishing turns on is crucial, as it typically appears during a small window throughout the day. Don’t be caught with your pants down when the dry fly fishing turns on!

Finally, be prepared with the right gear to fish streamers effectively in October. You will often hear streamer geeks refer to getting their flies “in the zone.” In October, the “zone” is deep holding water where aggressive trout lurk. Look for deep shelves, swirling eddies, and structure like logs and other debris. Trout in these areas are either looking for big meals or looking to keep other fish out of their territory.

Either way, getting these aggressive fish to chase requires the right streamers and the right equipment. Sink tips or versileaders fished on 6wt. or 7wt. rods allow you to fish bigger flies, and heavier lines to handle large fish with ease. Our favorite lines are the Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan Sink Tip and the Airflo Streamer Max Short. These lines will get your streamers deep without losing connection with the fly, helping you make quick hook sets on aggressive strikes.

Rods like the R.L. Winston Alpha Plus are designed to cast big flies that your standard 5-weight can’t handle. Much like small dry fly fishing, streamer fishing in October requires the right tool for the job and these rods won’t disappoint.

October fly fishing on the Blackfoot River

Where to go October Fly Fishing in Montana

There is no shortage of places to go Montana fly fishing, and there are several rivers that fish exceptionally well in October. Missoula is conveniently located minutes from four renowned freestone streams. The Clark Fork River, Bitterroot River, Blackfoot River, and Rock Creek showcase unbelievable scenery, wildlife, and fishing in October. Anglers can expect much lower flows that lend themselves to wade fisherman looking to access otherwise unreachable stretches on foot. At the same time, there is plenty of water available to float this time of year. It’s the perfect medium for wading anglers and floaters. Anglers can also expect to see few, if any, other people on the water in October. Montana’s prime tourism season is over, and many locals are either in school or hunting. There’s nothing quite like having a stretch to yourself this time of year.

If you haven’t experienced fall fly fishing Montana, there’s no better time than the month of October. With a wide variety of fly fishing techniques and rivers to choose from, there is no shortage of excitement and breathtaking scenery. Give us a call or stay up to date by checking our weekly fishing reports. To truly experience our rivers in October, book a Missoula guided fly fishing trip. Our guides will take you to see breathtaking scenery and get you into great trout fishing in the process.

Have questions about October Fly Fishing in Montana or fly fishing in Missoula? Our expert Missoula fly fishing guide staff in our Missoula fly shop is happy to help!

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