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River Reports


Fly Fishing Report and Forecast May 17, 2022

149% Snowpack -- Wow!  After enjoying a week of steady and dropping flows, we are now beginning to see the bump in flows we have all been expecting. 

Fishing this past week has been good, and if fishing in the middle of May is factored in, then it has been great!  A few days this week will have significant warmer temps at night.  The advent of spring runoff has begun.  We will end the week with slightly cooler temps and rain showers.  We are excited about the possibility of good water levels throughout our summer season, as long as we get a measured release and not the big blowout of last May/June. 

Caddis in the evening and Blue Wings on cloudy days, with a smattering of March Browns have been the dry fly action --usually middle afternoon to evening. Nymphs are the way to go in the morning or until you see a couple of boils.  Anglers still need to seek fish in the slow backwater channels, inside seams, and just below the shelves where we consistently find them in higher flows.

The Swing Bite has been pretty good, but it takes cloudy weather to help.  Finding fish where you can get a good swing has been the primary challenge, but once you do find them, stay on them as fish are still grouped up.  The Missouri River continues to fish well with Soft Hackles becoming the primary way of getting that tightline grab we enjoy so much.

The summer forecast is optimistic primarily based on the strength of the snowpack.  Wade safe, watch for obstacles, strainers, and floating debris.  Be alert and expect river conditions to change quickly as the week progresses.  Be protective of redds and safely enjoy what remains of this last window of fishing before the snowpack begins to release.  Better fishing opportunities will come once the rivers have stabilized in June.  We are eagerly anticipating our next hatch of Salmonflies.



Fly Fishing Report and Forecast May 9, 2022

Our snowpack is excellent at 115% as of May 8th. This is great news for our summer season. Following last year's historically low water conditions, we are certainly excited about this summer's fishing opportunities.

​Fishing this past week has been tough, rising water has driven fish deep and into difficult to access lies. Fish are not aggressively chasing bugs--yet. That will come soon as our Salmon flies make an appearance in June.

​If you fish, go deep with pink worm patterns with tungsten beads, your favorite big stone nymph, and perdigons (size 14) in a March Brown pattern. Watch for obstacles and moving timber and stay safe.

​This is a great time to fish the Missouri! Steady flows, aggressive fish and changing weather; a great Montana combination.

​The Swing bite here in Western Montana has been equally slow for the same reasons as the one-hand game but remains strong and consistent on the Missouri River. Buggers, soft hackles, and bright streamers are all taking fish. Tips remain the primary, but in the afternoon break out your Scandi and a poly-tip or a tapered leader and swing in the film to chase those exciting surface boils and grabs.

​Safe fishing this week. Get your chores done, June is coming quick!

​TO Team


Fly Fishing Report and Forecast May 1, 2022


Our Snowpack is better than good at 110% and our rivers are holding steady for now.  We are anticipating another week of good fishing conditions.  The Bitterroot has fished consistently well for the past few days with good afternoon hatches of March Brown (Amolitas) and BWOs. Fish size #12-14s for the March Browns and size #16 for the Blue Wings. Purple Haze, Copper Haze, and cripple patterns have all produced. You may still find fish looking for a Skwala, but largely that hatch has passed, and the fish are looking at mayflies.

As we progress through this week into next, remain vigilant for new obstructions, floating debris, and changing conditions as warmer temps increase river flows and spring runoff affects fishing opportunities.

The Swing bite has picked up on our local rivers and fish are more aggressively chasing streamers, small buggers, and soft hackles. Tips remain the main technique, but Scandi and other dry lines are coming to the fore as fish are chasing soft hackles in size #12 and #14. The Swing bite on the Missouri has remained excellent and with low water, steady flows, and this year’s high fish count the Missouri has been a great destination and is really producing well. Light Tips and small buggers, Scandi Lines with poly tips or tapered leaders, and soft hackles in the afternoon are taking fish.  Patterns we use include Thin Mints, Olive Woolly Buggers, Intruders, Sparrows, and Carey Specials.

Enjoy this late window of good fishing conditions and, as always, remain safe and courteous on our rivers. TO has all your flies, supplies, and gear as well as availability for guided trips.


Fly Fishing Report April 11, 2022

The action on top for Skwala patterns has been good and consistent. Typically, between 12-1 pm, activity has begun in the slow water near structure on the bank. Later in the afternoon there are more fish looking in the tail-outs and inside seams.  Target the slow water and foam lines near large structures (wood, boulders, and rocky points).

The main river has fished well while the Upper Bitterroot and the West Fork have also produced some nice days.  Fish are targeting both Skwala patterns and March Brown patterns. The nymphs remain effective until the dry bite is on.  If you see a Skwala adult, it is on!

Take note of the incoming weather.  We are having a significant weather event this week with cold and snow and high winds, so remain safe, tie some bugs, and hit it again after this weather passes.

Remain vigilant for rising water and debris towards the end of the week and this weekend. The long-range forecast for next week looks good and we should have a banner week on top, as fish become aggressive as the water warms.

The swing bite has been ok--not great yet. Tips and streamers have been the most consistent. As the water warms next week and Skwala Nymphs move to the shoreline, we expect the swing bite to improve, and we expect grabs on March Brown patterns, PT Soft Hackles, and the like.

Stay safe, remain courteous, and we will see you on the river after this weather system passes.

TO Team


Fishing Report April 6, 2022

And here we go!

The best of the Skwala hatch is here and the Bitterroot is fishing well. Aside from the last couple of days of major barometric events, the fishing has been steady and the fish are looking up.

This week we have been fishing a single dry only and we expect that to continue. However, if you need to get subsurface, start using your favorite March Brown Nymph pattern as a dropper. The March Brown is appearing in spots along the river and will become prolific soon.

Skwala patterns in size 10 and 8 remain productive, but don’t overlook small patterns early in the day as the fish have been feeding on the Nemoura stonefly. Flows have been dropping and should remain steady although we might see a bump after Friday's expected high temps. On Saturday, we will see another cool down.

Fish slow water on the inside seams and near concentrations of wood located under banks. These will remain your prime target areas.

The swing bite has improved and is going to get better through the month. While tips and streamers remain the go-to, we are starting to throw Scandis. Fish higher in the water column with Buggers and large wet flies for the Skwala, as well as wet flies in size 14 for March Brown nymphs.

As always, watch for obstacles whether floating or wading and stay safe. Spring season is in full swing, so reach out to us in the shop for all your fishing needs or for guided trips.

TO Team


Fishing Report JULY 17, 2021

We are seeing afternoon water temps rise on the main rivers above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. So now is a great time to go up high and fish the endless creeks and tributaries in western Montana where the water is colder, and the fish are not stressed from pressure or high water temps.

We are noticing a lot of caddis activity on the surface in the evening and under the surface for most of the day. When fishing the creeks, I like to bring a dry fly rod and a tight line nymphing rod. Comb over the hole with your dry first using a Caddis Variant size 12-16 then get down deep with two heavy nymphs. You will be amazed at the size of fish holding down low. Lately a Peeping Caddis and a heavy 3mm Tungsten Hare’s ear has been the ticket. Think Caddis factory!!

With how dry it has been, you should get ready for a great hopper season. Start keeping a few hopper patterns in your box and try them out now!

We all know how great grip and grin photographs are and for proof seekers this is important. However, in July and August especially, try keeping the fish in the water at all times and release them as quick as you can. Instead of grip and grin shots, try getting fish in the water shots -- either in your net or on the surface of the water. This helps ensure that the fish remains safe and unharmed. Let’s work together to keep Montana the Last Best Place to fly fish for all anglers.

If you are looking for a great walk and wade experience, call the shop and book with one of our guides today. We would love to introduce you to some of the untamed water that surrounds us in western Montana.

Tight Lines,

The Total Outfitters Crew


Fishing Report June 28, 2021

The Bitterroot is in good shape and casting dry flies right now is the ticket. We are seeing Green and Brown Drakes as well as Yellow Sallies and the Golden Stones are out in abundance. You’ll find PMD’s in the morning and evenings, but the trout are preferring the bigger drakes it seems.

Casting a single dry such as #12- #14 Brindle Chute or Purple Haze is very effective. Tandem dries are also a good bet starting with a Plan B or Bullet Head Golden and followed by your favorite May fly pattern. When it seems that the dry fly bite has slowed be persistent and present your fly in the likely spots such as seems, and around structure. Trout like the edges where two currents come together. Drop offs and nervous looking water and inside bends of the river always hold trout! The Dry Dropper game is very effective as well. Lots of anglers use the Chubby Chernobyl to suspend their nymphs from. Jig head nymphs in Pheasant tail and Hares’ ear and all types of Peridgons are very effective when presented in a drag free drift. I like a nymph with a pink or orange hot spot!

Temperatures for the next week will approach the Century mark so get on early and keep the fish wet. Play the fish to the net as quickly as possible. We do not need to love these fish to death so handle them as quickly as possible!

Swing by the shop to get the latest information and gear for your summer time fishing!


Fishing Report June 13, 2021

The Bitterroot has largely dropped into shape and is fishing well. It remains fast, so look for the inside seams, shelves and structurally protected lies for fish. We have seen the Salmon Flies progress along the river, and they are now present on both forks.

We are also beginning to see more Gold Stones on the main stem along with PMDs and Yellow Sallies. Fishing has been primarily subsurface. For the dedicated DFO angler there are fish to be had on top with well placed drifts.

Gold Stones in several sizes will take fish and PMDs will get some looks as well. In the late afternoon stay on the lookout for the Caddis as we have seen several fish take them in Size 14. While you don’t need a blanket hatch to be successful, you can transition to the Caddis after you have seen one.

Pat’s Stones, PT Jigs, Frenchies and Perdigons will all take fish. Obstacles are prevalent along the river, so if floating use caution and take the time to scout blind corners. The river is busy, so remain courteous and provide lots of space for the wading angler. Temperatures are warming up and the weather is good. We expect the river to drop into comfortable wading levels and will soon see Gold Stones in greater numbers. Of course, the Drakes will begin soon as well.

Visit the shop for updates and some of Chad’s special hand-tied flies and some great patterns unique to TO. Stay safe and have a great week of fishing! Conditions should be good, and the dry bite will improve daily.


Creek Fishing Report May 18, 2021

This time of year runoff is in full swing, the main rivers are muddy and high and the fishing can be a challenge. After the 3rd Saturday in May, the creeks open and are very productive here in western Montana. During runoff the creeks will also be high but there is plenty of slow pockets and deep cuts that hold fish. These fish haven’t seen a fly in a long time and with the short feeding season these fish are eager for any attractor on the surface or down below.

The other day on the upper west fork I lost count of how many cutthroats I caught on a size 10 brindle chute, you will catch a lot of smaller fish, but I’m always surprised at the bigger ones too. I recommend using a 3/4wt rod 8 foot or shorter. If you have a Fiberglass or bamboo rod these will be a match made in heaven for the creeks. If you have never caught a 12 inch cutty on a light weight rod your missing out, they fight hard and can really put a bend in the rod.

When going to a high mountain creek make sure to check your weather apps this time of year as the weather can change with little warning.

But even in high water you can pick apart the edges and pockets. All applications will work but don’t forget the fish will come up and eat a dry fly!

Total Outfitters offers full service walk and wade trips up the creeks and are great for people looking for a lot of dry fly action and beautiful scenery. Give us a call and book your Creek adventure today 406-493-1502 or book online.

Top flies right now on the creeks:

Brindle Chutes size 10-16

Caddis Variant size 12-16

Elk Hair Caddis size 12-16

Parachute Adam’s size 10-16

Yellow or orange Stimulators size 10-16

Purple haze size 10-16


Natural Hares ear size 12-16

Pheasant tails size 12-16

Pats rubber legs size 10-14

Prince nymph size 10-16

San Juan worm size 8-12

Perdigons of all kinds size 12-18

Woolly buggers size 6-10


Go small or micro


River Report for the Bitterroot April 27, 2021

Pre Run off Fishing Report

Skwala are still around but the trout have been keen to take a March Brown in sizes 10,12, and 14 lately. Brindle Chutes and Purple Hazes will fill the bill nicely for these tasty mayflies. The Skwala patterns that are still producing are the Rastaman, Half down Skwala and the Floater in the Pool. I like to keep them on the smaller size in say 12&14.

The dry fly bite starts when the mercury rises so look to throw the single dry around 2-3pm. Keep an eye out for when the bugs start to show up and soon after the trout will notice them and begin to rise to them.

This is the best time to fish as you can target specific fish. A downstream presentation is always best. Make sure there is no drag in the fly and as always your first cast needs to be your best cast. A 9ft. 4x tapered leader will work great for casting to dry fly eating trout. But until the dry fly bite starts Dry droppers are a good way to cover the water. Trout will likely take the dropper and we like to throw the always popular rubber leg as well as a variety of hares ears and pheasant tails. Don’t be ashamed of the squirmy worm as it flat out gets the job done!

The trout Spey option for fishing our local Rivers is a terrific option and the swing bite has been better this week. We were casting streamers like complex twist buggers, kreelex and thin mints to get the tight line grab. Sinking lines were the secret to getting the fly in front of the fish, however we did get a few grabs on soft hackles near the surface. Patience is the key to success and don’t be afraid to change tactics to achieve success.

With the warm temperatures forecasted this week expect to see the river rise significantly. When overnight lows are above 40 degrees we will see the river blow out and become very difficult if not impossible to fish at times. This means it’s time to head to your favorite tail water where the flows are controlled and the fishing can be epic. Or you can get behind the vice and make sure you have plenty of salmon flies tied up because it won’t be long before we are fishing the big bugs! Stay safe out there and tight lines!


River Report for the Bitterroot April 17, 2021

What a wild weather week it has been with lows in the 20s and strong winds but finishing the week the weather is beautiful with sunny days in the 60s and through it all the fishing has been good. In the mornings it has been a subsurface game with Pat Stone’s as the most productive bug but we did get windows where the dry bite started and was sustained for a couple hours. It is critical that you get your presentation to the right spot, the eye of the seam, tight into structure in slower water, and deep in the buckets below the shelves. We are seeing Skwala’s, March Browns, and Blue Wing Olives in the afternoon on cloudy days. Many of the fish we saw this week seem to be the bigger ones and several big Rainbows, Cuttys, and hybrids were taken. With the nice weather we should see a bump in flows but the fish are active and getting more aggressive so remember the first good drift usually gets the take and especially if it’s the first drift through the target lie.

Obstacles abound in the Bitterroot so if you’re rowing take the time to look around blind corners and watch the river not just the fly! Bugs we like this week, Pat Stones in coffee and mottled green, pheasant tail jigs, Perdigons, bullet head Skwalas, Plan B’s, Purple Haze, Brindlechutes, and the always good Adams.

The swing bite was a little slow early in the week but picked up as the week warmed, in the mornings we are still using tips to get deep in the deep slow runs but in the afternoon we have been able to throw scandi’s and combine a soft hack with a Skwala pattern, tips we like are Poly extra fast sink, Imow tips in T-8 in 71/2 half and 21/2 half float and Imow in 5/5 tip and float. Patterns that produced were thin mints, Kreelex, Montana Intruders and Rios Pocket Rocket. Soft hackles we like are Pheasant tail SH in 14 and Sparrows in 12