If you ask most fly fishers what their favorite months to fish are, almost every answer will include the months of September and October. Tourist season is a thing of the past, hunting season has started up and the temperature tends be a little cooler. This all adds up to empty rivers, happy fish and even happier anglers.
Fall is also a great time because the Brown Trout are willing to eat larger streamers more regularly so they can build up enough energy for their annual spawn. Rainbows also start eating more getting ready for a cold winter followed by their spawning season.
There are lots of great fishing opportunities in October. Highlighted below are a few "bucket list" fall destination trips that we feel every fly fisher should experience at some point in their life.
The Madison River has lots of fishing options in its 183 mile journey from the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon rivers inside Yellowstone National Park to its mouth at the Missouri River. Lots of anglers spend their fall chasing some of the larger Hebgen Lake Browns that move up into the Yellowstone National Park to spawn. The Upper Madison outside of the park also loses most of its fishing pressure come October, and is packed full of large brown and rainbow trout. The Lower Madison below Ennis Lake also becomes less crowded when the cold weather keeps all the tubers at home, and the water has cooled back down to comfortable trout temperatures.
The Yellowstone River in the fall is a streamer junkies paradise. Hunting season keeps lots of the usual Livingston locals busy in the woods, and you can enjoy the river all to yourself some days. With less pressure the larger brown trout that this river is known for will aggressively eat larger streamers. That mixed with the fall colors and the Absaroka Mountain Range, the Yellowstone in the fall is hard to beat.
Land of Giants, Missouri River
Outside of Helena and under Hauser Dam is the Missouri River section known as "The Land of Giants". Average fish sizes are around 17" and much larger is not uncommon. In the fall fish move up from nearby Holter Lake, and finding the fish of a lifetime is certainly a possibility. Wade access on either side of the river is plentiful and if you have access to a jet boat you can cover lots of great water over and over again.