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Jack C. Mauer has more than a thirty year investment in fishing, floating and wading the waters of western Montana. He is intimately acquainted with the surrounding fisheries and their corresponding ecologies. It is his passion and enthusiasm for the art of fly fishing, a respect and knowledge of trout habitat, and the ability to expertly instruct the technical aspects of fly fishing that clients appreciate as they return to western Montana and Wapiti Waters. Contact Jack at 800-254-5311.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wapiti Waters 2010 fishing forecast for western Montana

Wapiti Waters' 2010 fishing season forecast based on over 30 years experience in western Montana's trout fisheries.

Jamie and his Bitteroot trout
Jack Mauer, Wapiti Waters outfitter and guide

I have just read they will be shipping snow by truck to the site of the 2010 Olympic Games – Cyprus Mountain. Mother Nature has not cooperated but they have had time to prepare for the lack of snow. Likewise, here in the fishing business where a trout fishery depends a lot on good, cold stream flows, we have time to prepare or plan for what looks to be a lean water year.

I hate drought, everybody and everything suffers during times of water stress. Unfortunately conditions are looking more and more like drought as snowpack in the Bitterroot is around 54% of normal at the time of this writing. We have had three months of below average snow precipitation and we have less than two months of winter to go. So the prognosis is not good. What this actually means for the fishing, however, is not all gloom and doom.

Here are my predictions for the 2010 season.

Insect hatch on the Bitterroot in spring

Insect hatch on the Bitterroot in the spring.
Photo by Merle Ann Loman

March and April – Early Spring fishing

Expect fishable water through-out this time. Because our low elevation snow is meager, we should have better than average fishing with more fishable days. It is the melting low elevation snow that causes the rivers to pulse up too quickly with warm weather and/or rain. So I predict excellent early spring fishing in western Montana and that means Skwala and nemoura stones as well as Ameletus and Rithrogenia mayflies.

May and June – Usual period of high-water conditions

Again, I expect better than average fishing for these two months. Many hatches such as the salmonfly; pteronarcella, larger stoneflies; March Brown; and Hydropsyche caddis will come off in good numbers during this time and have the trout looking up on a more consistent basis. Pulsing high waters in the average snowpack year don’t give the trout a chance to key on these hatches before water levels may become too big. This year under the possible lower than average flows, it is likely that trout will get a chance to really key in on them. As a result, these conditions may bring some remarkable fishing.

No matter how big or small the snowpack there will be a time of peak run-off for a 2-3 week period. When this happens, most area rivers will probably be unfishable because of high, turbid water. Here is where flexibility becomes important. Some rivers will likely be fishable and changing the location/river will allow you to take advantage of good conditions. Wapiti Waters has the knowledge and permits that can put you on the right water.

David with a Bitterroot brown trout
Wapiti Waters photo

July and August – Summer fishing

Early July is usually a time of some of the most consistent fishing. I expect that to be the case given the number and variety of aquatic insects that emerge during this time. However, by mid-July the prognosis is not good. Using a preferred strategy for low, warm water conditions in mid-summer, we will need to fish from early morning to early afternoon. Fishing early is in favor the trout and yourself – beating the heat. It is quite possible that rivers like the Blackfoot and the Big Hole will have some angling restrictions during this time.

September and October – Fall Fishing

It is a little too early to predict eight months in advance. Our fall fishing is usually a fly fishers dream here in western Montana. Low flows in the summer are not the single deciding factor of unfavorable fall fishing conditions. For example, last year we had a huge snowpack but we had very tough fall fishing because of unseasonably warm temperatures and bright, sunny weather.

In the mean time, I hope the weather systems in the Pacific will deliver us some welcome precipitation through-out the year.

For more info: Wapiti Waters welcomes calls and emails for up-dated conditions and angling reports.
Contact information: Toll free 800-254-5311, email, website
The western Montana rivers Jack fishes most are the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, Big Hole and Clark Fork rivers. See links to more articles and information below.

  • Fishing and river articles and photos by Merle Ann Loman by key word:
Bitterroot River | Big Hole River | Blackfoot River | Clark Fork River | Missouri River | Argentina


  1. Great summary. One of these days I'm going to get up your way to do some fishing around close yet so far!

  2. Thanks for checking out our blog and for the comment. We would love to see you over here. Let us know if you can and do get to the Bitterroot or one of the other rivers we fish.

    We checked out your site. Very nice. Have a great day.


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