DEPUY'S SPRING CREEK
Paradise Valley holds three major spring creeks--Armstrong's, Nelson's and DePuy's and even though they all share some hatches and similar fishing conditions, there are some definite differences. DePuy's is the largest and longest of the three spring creeks, located only six miles south of Livingston, Montana at the very head of Paradise Valley. This spring creek is perhaps one of the finest wild trout streams found in the lower 48 states. It offers something for everyone, regardless of the angler's skill level. The upper water offers a challenge to those who wish to stalk wary and selective trout. Some of the lower water offers riffles and pools where beginners may observe their mistakes, correct them, and take a few trout. Without a doubt, DePuy's is one of the greatest natural fly fishing classrooms found anywhere today, set in the natural beauty of Paradise Valley and offering a quiet, natural setting abounding with plenty of wildlife to help make the day complete. Now, about the trout. The creek contains Brown, Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout along with a few hybrid Cut-Bows, and these are all natural, wild trout. The only stocking that goes on in Montana is in high mountain lakes. Thank God!!! However, these are wild trout with a difference, and that difference is that they are use to people. A bad cast or clumsy approach may not spook them. Now that doesn't mean you can step on them, or that they will be caught with a bad cast or sloppy presentation. In most cases they just ignore you and continue to feed, which can be very frustrating in itself! Like most of the top waters of the west, if the trout stopped feeding every time an angler was clumsy while wading or made a bad cast, they would starve to death. Now, let's discuss the various times of the year and what the angler may expect while fishing.
SEASONS ON THE SPRING CREEK
The following information is based on normal conditions and covers an average day on the creek. This information is based on many years of fishing and guiding other anglers on this delightful stream. However, the information is in no way intended to be complete, as that would take an entire book or two. Nor are the methods or fly patterns listed the only ways to fish while on the creek. These are just suggestions for anglers who have limited spring creek experience and do not wish to use a guide. There are no hard and fast rules about what will or won't work on the creek, and I strongly urge anglers to try new flies and methods and otherwise be creative while spending your day on the creek. The information listed has worked well for myself and folks that I guide, and I hope that it will help you get started on the creek, or help you better understand the challenges of fishing this creek. Each month offers some differences. The best ADVICE that the spring creek angler can receive is to be OBSERVANT!!
The water temperature of DePuy's normally is around 52 degrees. On the hottest days of the summer the water temperature on the lower end of the creek may reach 62 degrees. One of the coldest days ever recorded was -39 degrees, and the water on the upper end of the creek was 50 degrees and the water on the lower end dropped to 42 degrees.
DEPUY'S SPRING CREEK AND THE TROUT
The constant water flow and water temperature creates ideal conditions for both the trout and the organisms on which they feed. The trout on the creek tend to feed on the insect forms which are most available and the easiest to capture. These insect forms will vary throughout the different seasons of the year. Samples obtained by using a stomach pump have shown that most of what the trout eats is food that is taken beneath the surface of the water. Now this is not to say that there is no dry fly fishing, for there is. During certain times and under certain conditions the dry fly will be the only way to go. Also, remember that trout are feeders of opportunity and many times a Royal Wulff, Parachute Adams, or Yellow Humpy fished through a riffle will bring a rise.
There are anglers who come to fish the creek using only certain methods, such as those who only want to fish dry flies to visible rising trout. Generally, these are experienced spring creek anglers who have definite ideas on where and how they will fish. That's great! However, as a new or inexperienced spring creek angler, I suggest you keep an open mind and try various methods and pattern types. As long as you are fishing with flies there is no wrong way to fish the creek!!
During the month of January you will find the weather to be the only limiting factor. Because this is a spring fed fishery the water temperatures are always fairly constant. During early January the angler may still find some spawning brown trout, and during late January the angler can begin to encounter some early rainbows beginning to spawn. The hatches and surface action found during January are directly related to the weather. During a cold winter there will be a few days of sporadic midge activity. During a mild winter the midge hatches may be found on a daily basis, along with a scattering of Baetis. Remember, during the winter months the water level is at it's lowest as the weed beds die off. Therefore the creek is low and the trout will be a little more spooky and shy. This is certainly true on bright, sunny days. The angler needs to be a little more cautious in approach and presentation. If you have fished the creek during the summer or fall you may find that your favorite area doesn't hold the number of trout that it did during those other seasons. If this is your problem, remember to check out other sections of the creek. Understand that the trout haven't left the creek; they have just moved to a location which offers a better food supply and shelter.
Pumping stomachs in January has shown that 95% of the time aquatic food forms make up 96% of the trout's diet. This makes nymphing the most effective method for fishing the creek in January.
Here in Montana, the month of February can be a paradox, with air temperatures in the high 40's to below zero. During February the rainbow trout spawning will slowly build. The midge hatches generally increase during the month. The Baetis hatches will continue to be scattered and sporadic. Regardless of how harsh the winter may be, it is a rare February when the angler can't spend at least half the month fishing. For those of us who need a fish fix, February can be a Godsend!! I have a few clients who come out to ski at Bridger Bowl during January or February and if the weather permits, will spend a fun day on the creek. If you have never fished the creek during the winter you should give it a try.
The month of March is normally the last harsh month of winter. The angler fishing on the creek should be prepared and dress in layers. However, there is some great fishing in March. During the month you see the rainbow spawning run from the Yellowstone River reach its peak. There will also be good midge hatches along with the baetis hatches. As the month draws to a close the baetis hatch will increase. March starts the time period when the nymphing is excellent; however there are plenty of opportunities for those who prefer hatch fishing. Out of 31 days in the month, you'll be able to fish approximately 26 days.
April is the month of change on the creek. Winter is about over, the days are getting longer and the weed beds are starting to grow. In early April the water levels are generally at their lowest. As the weeds grow they displace the water, causing the water level to rise. From the first of the month until around mid-month there will still be a fair number of rainbows spawning. The midge hatches will continue and the baetis hatch will hit its peak. Along about mid-month the caddis hatch will start to appear and this hatch will become stronger as the month progresses. In April, terrestrials once again start to appear in the form of ants. So, as you can see, April brings the angler many changes and challenges. The angler needs to be very observant and have a well-stocked fly box to take full advantage of the many angling opportunities offered.
NOTES ON APRIL WEATHER: Yes, winter is definitely on its way out. But we can still get a late snowstorm. Therefore, you should come prepared with good, warm clothing along with good rain gear. Dress in layers. Remember, you can always shed a layer or two. Some years April is a very warm month with temperatures from 50 to 70. Other years the temperatures may be from 25 to 45, so be prepared.
May is the month that means winter has finally gone and the days are getting longer and warmer. May can also produce rain showers, so don't leave the rain gear at home. During early May the angler will encounter heavy caddis hatches, which will taper off as the month progresses. The angler will also encounter fair to good midge hatches. During the month the angler may also encounter some scattered baetis hatches, though they can't be counted on. From about mid-May on, there will be some scattered callibaetis hatches. On some days the hatching activity may be scattered, and on the brighter days the trout will be a little more wary. Also, the beetles will start appearing this month. Because of the conditions and the many changes that take place during the month, the greatest asset the angler has is the power of OBSERVATION. The best advice I can offer is be willing to move around and try different methods and patterns. Those who get
"stuck in a rut" are often frustrated by the end of the day. There is plenty of nymph and dry fly action for the angler to choose from.
Heading into Summer
Everything that happens in June depends on the weather patterns of the previous months. A long, cold April and May will mean that the weed growth has been retarded. The angler may find the creek water levels lower than normal and the trout somewhat shy and spooky. If this happens, the angler will find a few midge hatches, scattered callibaetis and even a few tail-end baetis hatches. Often the angler will find the best dry fly fishing to be with midges, ants and beetles along with attractor dry flies. If the previous months of April and May have been warmer than normal, the angler will find the creek level a little higher than normal, along with expanded weed growth and then there will be early hatches of Pale Morning Dun mayflies. Now, if the months of April and May are a normal mixture of warm periods and cool periods, the angler will find more normal conditions. This means that early in June the angler will find some midge activity but any other hatches may be limited and scattered. It also means that attractor dry flies and nymphal imitations may be the most effective. As the month of June progresses, the Pale Morning Duns will begin to hatch and are generally in full swing by the 20th. There is also some limited caddis action to be found during the month. From about mid-June on, the cutthroat trout begin spawning. During this time period rainbows love to lay below the cutthroat redds and feed on eggs. June is also the spawning time for the Mountain Suckers and the rainbows will follow these schools of fish around to feed on the eggs. June can be a confusing and challenging month for the angler who is unfamiliar with the moods of the creek. However, once a little knowledge and experience is gained, the angler will find June a great month to fish the creek.
July brings, with full force, the hatches of summer. The fly fisher who visits the creek in July will encounter many different and challenging opportunities. The day will start with the trout feeding on leftover spinners from the night before, or they may be midging. If the weather has been unseasonably hot, day after day, the angler who arrives early on the creek in the morning, say around 7AM, may find a PMD spinner fall. The morning hatch is the PMD (Pale Morning Duns) and in the mid-afternoon some sections of the creek have some excellent caddis emergences. The late afternoon to early evening is the time period for the Sulfur mayflies. The PMD spinner fall will occur during the late evening, as long as the wind is not too heavy. During the evening there may also be some scattered caddis dry fly action. Throughout the day terrestrials, such as ants, beetles and crickets will produce some nice trout. By late July hoppers begin to appear on the creek. The spawning activity of both the cutthroat trout and the mountain sucker continue during July but are pretty much finished by mid-month. By the 20th of July the weed beds are fully recovered and the water levels may rise 12 to 16 inches from the winter lows.
During the month of August you will see the continuation of the PMD hatch, though this hatch will fade as the month progresses. The sulfur and caddis hatches will continue and you will see the Trico hatch on certain sections of the creek. During the evenings there will be both caddis and midge action along with a scattering of spinners. August is an excellent time for terrestrials. Hoppers, crickets, ants and beetles all produce nice trout. The weed beds on the creek will impact the fishing on the creek in some sections, bringing many new and challenging presentation problems for the angler to solve.
September is a month that can bring lots of change to the creek. The angler may encounter late hatches of PMD's, tricos, sulfurs, and Pseudocloeons. During early September the sulfur hatch will fade pretty fast, as will the tricos and pseudos. However the caddis can sometimes last until late in the month. The main hatch during the month, or maybe I should say the most dependable hatch, are the midges. From mid-September on, you might see a few early baetis hatches and terrestrials such as hoppers; crickets and ants are still very effective. During the first ten days of the month be on the lookout for flying ants, both red and black during the late afternoons and evenings. The weather in September is generally nice with daytime temperatures in the 70's and there may be a few days in the low 80's. But on occasion an early storm will drop down out of Canada and the temperatures can dip down to the 40's with snow in the mountains and rain in the valley. September is truly a transition month were every day on the creek can be different, challenging, and exciting. To meet these conditions the angler must be well prepared.
October weather can be a really mixed bag, from clear, bright, calm days to cloudy, rainy and windy days, or possibly even an early snow shower or two. Clothing-wise, come prepared and dress in layers. It's easy enough to shed a couple of layers but it is real tough to put on additional layers if they are at home in the closet. Having said that, I will tell you that October weather is generally pretty good, with daytime temperatures ranging from 55 to 70. Another little secret I would like to share with you is that October is the most UNDER UTILIZED month on the creek. The fishing can be super. In early October there are still a few terrestrials around and ant and cricket imitations can be very effective. The two main hatches for the month are midges and baetis and these hatches are pretty reliable on a daily basis. In late October the angler will start to see spawning brown trout on the creek, and a well placed streamer or a dead-drift nymph might mean the biggest fish of the trip. The weed beds are still in good shape during the month, though they are starting to die off for the season.
November means that summer is over and winter is fast approaching. The first half of the month is generally pretty good, but the weather will dictate how much fishing there is on the creek. November tends to be a windy month. However, there are still baetis and midge hatches, along with spawning brown trout. The spring creek trout tend to move around and shift their locations depending on the time of year and the major food forms available. Therefore, if you have fished the creek in the summer and once again return to your favorite spot in November, you may find it to holds fewer or smaller trout than in the summer months. This means that you, the angler, must use your powers of observation and seek out the trout. The weed beds are dying off, the water levels are dropping and the trout are shifting their positions. Besides the action from the hatches, nymphing and streamer methods are very effective during this month.
The spring creek fishing in December is directly related to the weather. There are some days when the fishing is good and the angler will encounter some baetis action, though the main hatch during the month is midges. During December much of the best action will be with nymphs and/or streamers.
SPECIAL DECEMBER NOTE: If you should happen to see a spry, elderly gentleman on the creek between December 26th and January 1st, dressed in a red suit, just let him be. He's had a rough December and needs to
"rip some lips and unwind"!!!! No, I'm not talking about the stream manager as he isn't old enough to be considered elderly and besides that, he is not good with reindeer!
Now I will run through some of the angling situations that one may encounter while fishing the creek and will recommend various techniques and fly patterns to help master those challenges.
The baetis hatches appear two times a year on the creek, during the spring and again in the fall. The sizes will vary between 18 and 24. The baetis hatch starts around noontime. I prefer to fish the hatch from the bottom up. In the fast runs or heavy riffles I would use a Bead-Head Pheasant Tail Nymph or a Bead-Head Baetis Nymph and a strike indicator. The strike indicator should be placed three to four feet above the fly. As the nymphs begin to drift closer to the surface I switch to a Baetis Paradun and dropper nymph, either a PT Nymph or a Baetis Nymph. The dropper strands should start out at three feet in length. As the nymphs drift closer to the surface, just shorten the dropper strand. As the baetis begin to emerge on the surface I will use a Baetis Foam Floating Nymph, Baetis Transitional Dun, or any number of Baetis Emergers. Careful observation will tell you if the trout are feeding on adults. Then switch over to your favorite adult baetis imitation. Often during the baetis emergence there will also be baetis spinners falling. A good spent baetis imitation can be deadly. For leaders I start out at nine feet. As for tippets, I will generally start with 5X and move to 6X or 7X as needed. On windy days I will shorten the leader down to eight feet. I am often asked what fly rod is best. I prefer three to five weight rods that are eight to eight and a half feet in length. As far as a brand name, they all seem to be pretty good so use what you like. The baetis on the creek will vary between sizes 18 to 24 so check the current recommendations and stock your fly boxes accordingly. Once the baetis hatch is over, I often spend the rest of the day nymphing with Red Bead Midge Worm, Red San Juan Worm, (in spring) Egg imitation, as well as a Pt Nymph or Midge Pupa. If you don't like to nymph you should try moving around on the creek looking for those trout who are still feeding on baetis. You may also find some midging activity in certain sections of the creek.
Almost everyone loves to fish dry flies. To see the trout rise to a floating imitation is exciting. However, 90% of everything the trout eats is found beneath the surface of the water. This means that many anglers are only effectively fishing 10% of the time.
During the winter months and the time period between the major hatches, nymphal imitations may well be the only way the angler may take trout with any consistency. Often prior to and even during an emergence the trout are feeding on some food form that is beneath the surface film. Now, some may dispute that the trout feed beneath the surface 90% of the time, even though this has been the findings of such noted author/anglers as Gary Borger and Ernest Schwiebert. For those who are still not convinced, well, such is your loss! During my career as both a guide and an angler you will never find me on the stream without a small aquarium style net or steam seine and a stomach pump. Why? Because I don't want to guess at what the trout are eating, I want to know!! Over the span of years I have put together food form collections for many of the waters that I fish. The findings show that 90% of everything the trout eats is beneath the surface of the water. You might say that this information came straight from the trout's mouth.
From 1993 to 1998 I conducted a study on the creek, collecting stream samples and using a stomach pump during very month of the year. The following is a list of aquatic food forms that the trout prefer. The list is not in order of the trout's preference, rather just listed to show what is available to the trout.
3. Midge Worms
4. Midge Pupa
5. Various fish eggs
|7. Minnows (Various Species)
8. Aquatic Worms
9. Water Beetle Larvae
10. Case Caddis
11. Free Swimming Caddis Larvae
12. Stonefly Nymphs
14. Crane Fly Larvae
15. Water Beetles (Various species)
16. Damsel Fly Nymphs
17. Caddis Pupa (Various species)
18. Mayfly Nymphs (Various species)
This total of eighteen food forms encompasses approximately thirty individual species and can require as many as 42 imitative patterns. Now, I can hear the comments,
"I've fished DePuy's plenty of times and I have never needed forty two patterns!" Neither have I, on any single day. However, I fish here on the creek throughout the entire year and I have used all forty-two patterns plus many others, if I count dry adult and terrestrial imitations. The following is list of nymphs that I suggest as general searching imitations when no hatches are in progress.
|Red San Juan Worm
Beadhead Midge Worm Red or Olive
Peach Trout Egg
Pheasant Tail Nymph
Beadhead PT Nymph
|Size 10 or 12
Size 16 or 18
Size 16 to 20
Size 16 to 22
Size 16 to 22
|Pheasant Tail Flashback
Scud, Gray or Olive
Drifting Case Caddis Nymph
Beadhead Prince Nymph
|Size 16 to 22
Size 14 to 18
Size 14 & 16
Size 14 to 18
Size 14 to 18
Remember, these are just suggestions and are not the only patterns that will work.
Throughout the majority of the year an angler may encounter a midge hatch on the creek. There are three keys to success. First is the angler's ability to observe what stage of the midge the trout is feeding on. Often the angler will have to treat each fish as an individual, as different fish may be feeding on different stages of the insect. This is especially true on the flat water at Anne's Run, PHD Pool and the House Pond. The second key is having a complete selection of imitations and the third is having the tackle and presentation skills needed to get the fly to the trout in the proper manner. Yes, a poor or improper cast may put a fish down, or make it change position, but in a very short time it will resume feeding. Just learn from your mistakes. The following is a good basic pattern list for midge hatches.
Black Midge Pupa, Black & Olive Midge Pupa, Gray Midge Pupa, Harrop's Gray Transitional Midge, Harrop's Black Transitional Midge, Gray Parachute Midge, Black Parachute Midge and Griffith's Gnat. I carry these patterns in sizes 18 to 24.
FISHING THE CADDIS HATCH
Normally the first caddis hatch of the season shows up on the creek about mid-April and will run till mid-May. This first hatch is made up of two basic caddis: a small dark olive caddis with a black wing and a tan caddis with a tan wing. These hatches are heavy enough to excite the interest of the trout. Though a few caddis can be found anywhere on the creek, the best hatches are found on the sections of creek with the best riffles.
The caddis emergence will start about 1 p.m. and may last for a couple hours. During the late evening hours you can see the mating and egg laying caddis flights over the water. I will generally start fishing the hatch with a dry elk hair or Goddard caddis size 16, followed by a beadhead olive soft hackle on a 3-foot dropper. As the hatch increases I will switch to a standard soft hackle, still using the same dry fly, though I may shorten the dropper to 24 inches. Also, I will allow the soft hackled dropper to swing out behind the dry fly. For this method I like a base 9-foot 4X leader with a 5X dropper. Many different emerger patterns and dry flies may work well; just keep them in the proper size range.
By mid-May the tan caddis hatch will nearly be gone. However, the small black & olive caddis will continue to emerge in scattered numbers throughout the rest of May and June and will return to heavy hatches from July through early September. During the early part of the hatch, size 18 imitations will work well. However, as the hatch progresses you may want to drop to 20's and on some day's even 22's. During July, August and September the best caddis emergences will be found on the lower end of the creek, from Dick's Riffle to the river. Don't overlook this hatch as I have. Many days during the summer caddis fishing has been outstanding when the PMD hatch has been sparse or nonexistent.
During the month of April the terrestrial insects once again make their appearance. Throughout the spring and into summer the terrestrial insects become increasingly important to both the trout and the angler. The following is a list of terrestrials that anglers might consider having in their boxes.
|Black Parachute Ant
Cinnamon Parachute Ant
| Size 18-22
| Black Cricket
Chernobyl Black Ant
Foam Black Beetle
| Size 10-14
In the spring the first terrestrials to appear are the ants, the beetles, then crickets and finally hoppers will follow them. For those of you who fish the creek from mid-July through September, here's a tip: one of the most effective and most under-used patterns are the ants and cricket imitations. Consider this, there are approximately 750 species of mayflies found in North America, yet there are 22,000 species of beetles. That doesn't count ants, hoppers, crickets, houseflies and others. We generally don't see masses of terrestrial insects on the water, yet the trout are constantly seeing terrestrials during each day of the summer. This fact makes terrestrial imitations a good choice for those feeders of opportunity. Here's a prime fishing tip: when I'm using terrestrial imitations I try to cover the water. Yes if there is a rising fish I'll float the pattern by him a time or two. If the fish refuses I keep right on moving. The more water you cover, the more trout you will catch. Another fishing tip: lots of anglers don't like to fish small ants or beetles because they are hard to see. There is an easy answer; simply fish the ant or beetle behind something like a trude or elk hair caddis.
FISHING THE PMD HATCH
Normally by mid-June the first super hatch of the summer begins, the Pale Morning Duns. The PMD hatch is the most popular hatch on the creek and outside of the terrestrial and scattering callibaetis the PMD's are the largest insects on the creek. The size range runs from 16 to 20. Like with the baetis hatch, I'll start by fishing the PMD hatch with a nymph. On a typical day the hatch will start around 10 a.m. An olive or standard Pheasant Nymph will work very well for this. I like to fish my nymphs behind a Parachute PMD Dun, using a three-foot dropper. As the trout move up in the water column I simply shorten the dropper. As the hatch progresses, the fish will appear to be taking something on the surface. Look closely!!! During this time period many anglers make the mistake of switching to a dun. But if you will observe, 90% of the duns are sailing over the trout unscathed or that you see the raise and never do see any adults. What the trout are really feeding on are emergers. For this I might put on a PMD Sparkle Dun and trail an emerger pattern about two feet behind the dry. Some of my favorite emerger patterns are PMD Foam Floating Nymph, Harrop's CDC PMD Emerger or a Parachute PMD Emerger. As the hatch continues and more duns appear, the trout may start feeding on the adults. Some of my favorite patterns are PMD ComparaDuns, PMD Paradun and PMD Sparkle Duns. I also carry a few PMD No-Hackles for those very tough and selective trout.
Generally speaking the all-time best dry fly fishing is on those cool days when the duns (new hatched adults) are on the water for long periods of time trying to dry their wings so they can fly. On a bright, hot day the duns crack the surface film and immediately fly off, making dry fly fishing mediocre at best. During those days I will use emergers and nymphs through the entire hatch, switching to drys only after the hatch starts to taper off. During this tapering off period, many times you can take trout on drys as they are still looking up, and it is well documented that trout are definitely feeders of opportunity. If the day is very windy, many times I will use a PMD Spinner imitation. The PMD Spinner fall will occur during late evenings providing the weather cooperates. If they don't come down in the evening, look for them in the early morning hours of the next day. The PMD hatch will be fairly heavy and steady from June 20 to July 15. Then the hatch becomes more scattered and some days the hatches are good and other days they can be pretty poor. However, all that has to happen is that enough of the PMD's hatch to bring the trout up. On some days the hatches are what I call trickle hatches as the hatch is very sparse, but they may hatch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The PMD's will continue to sparsely hatch throughout August and into early September.
FISHING THE SULFUR HATCH
The second hatch of the day is that of the Sulfur Duns. These are small mayflies of the baetis family. This hatch begins to appear in early July and will run to early September. The hatch begins sometime between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. This time variance is directly related to how hot and bright the day has been. Sulfurs range in size from 20 to 24. I'll start by fishing a sulfur nymph imitation. For this I suggest an Olive Sawyer PT Nymph, standard Sawyer PT Nymph or a Sulfur fur Nymph in sizes 18 to 22. The nymphs for this dun are very active. As the hatch progresses, I will sometimes grease the leader to within two inches of the nymph and, using one of the above mentioned imitations, fish it down and across, using the old wet fly swing method. Remember to mend your line to slow down the speed of the swing, as the fly swings almost straight downstream and slowly jiggle your rod tip. This method can be deadly, but BEWARE, the strikes are very hard and vicious and you can break off a good many flies unless you are careful. I suggest using a slip strike. A different and safer method is to fish up and across and twitch the nymph. Once the trout are keyed in on the emergers, I then prefer to use a two fly combination. The first being a Sulfur Paradun or Sulfur Sparkle Dun, and then attach a dropper strand to the bend of the dry fly hook. Then I'll use a Harrop's CDC Sulfur Floating Nymph, Sulfur Para-Nymph or a Foam Floating Sulfur Nymph. If the trout are keyed on emergers, and if you only wish to use one imitation, then still use these imitations. When, and if, the trout do switch to emerging adults, I suggest Harrop's CDC Sulfur Transitional Dun or Sulfur Sparkle Dun. Once the trout turns to the adults I prefer the Sulfur Thorax Dun, the Sulfur Paradun, Harrop's CDC Sulfur Tailwater Dun or the Sulfur ComparaDun.
The key to success while fishing the Sulfur hatch is simply to pick a fish and cast to that fish. Don't flock shoot. This causes nothing but anger and frustration. So pick a fish and cast to him time after time until you move him to do something, and then pick another target. During the late afternoon and evening hours the sun's angle and reflection on the water can give some anglers fits. Just remember to change your angle so you can see the fly and so you get a drag-free float. Don't try for the 20-foot drag free drift. By picking your target you can place your fly 18 to 20 inches above the fish. Remember, when fishing on the creek the trout can be locked into some very definite feeding lanes, casting to a rising trout can be a game of inches. Make sure you are putting the fly to the trout, not off to the side by a couple of inches. The spinner fall can happen either late in the evenings or very early in the mornings. For this I recommend the Harrop's CDC Sulfur Spinner or Biot Sulfur Spinner.
SPAWNING TROUT ON DEPUY'S
Starting in February the rainbows begin to spawn on the creek. During this time period egg patterns, Red Beadhead Midge Worms or a Red San Juan Worm can be very effective. From February to March the spawning intensifies as the rainbows from the Yellowstone River begin to run up the creek to spawn. The peak will be reached by late March; however the angler will continue to encounter spawning trout clear into mid-April. The next trout to spawn on the creek is the cutthroat. Though there are few resident cuts in the creek, the bulk of the spawning run comes from the Yellowstone River. The cuts start moving in around mid-May and the spawning will continue until early July. Once again the rainbows will follow them and eat the eggs. As the cuts complete their spawning, they continue to hang around through the summer, feeding to regain their size and strength before working their way back to the Yellowstone during the fall.
During the fall anglers will start to encounter spawning brown trout in the creek. This will normally occur during October. Some of these trout are residents while others migrate up from the Yellowstone River. During this time period the rainbows will often follow the browns to feed on the eggs. Also, during the spawning cycle, trout can be very aggressive and territorial and will often strike a small streamer, nymph or just about anything that drifts or swims into their area. Small Woolly Buggers, Flash-A-Buggers or Muddler Minnows can be very effective on browns.
It is interesting to note that browns are not nearly as prone to taking egg patterns during their spawning as the rainbows are. Rainbows, simply put, are suckers for egg imitations. Now, don't think that because the trout are spawning that you can get away with a poor presentation, because you can't. The best fishing will be on overcast days. On the bright days they tend to be a little shyer.
IMPORTANT NOTES ON SPAWNING TROUT
Please take care not to wade on the redds (nests) during the spawning season, as you may injure or destroy the eggs. The redds are the dished out ovals in the gravel. We also insist that you use barbless hooks and that you use as strong a tippet as possible, so you can fight the trout faster. I prefer to use 4X whenever possible. I then land and release them quickly. Try not to lift the fish out of the water if possible.
For ending the day and other times
The angler who likes to fish late in the day can often close out the day using a Woolly Bugger, Flash-A-Bugger or Muddler Minnow in sizes 8 to 12. The method employed to fish these flies is as follows: First, cut back your leader to 4X or even 3X, as it gets darker. Tie on the fly of choice. Get in the middle of the creek and proceed to cast down and across to the bank, following the progress of the swing with the rod tip and all the while stripping back the fly in short, jerky strips about two inches in length. This method will bring some thunder strikes and could possibly account for the biggest fish of the day. Other times when this technique will work are on days when there are strong south to southwest winds, which hinder other types of effective fishing. This method may produce during any time of the day when nothing else seems to be working and there are no hatches in progress. Some of my favorite streamer patterns are the Dark Olive Woolly Bugger or Flash-A-Bugger, both beadhead and standard. An Olive Damsel Nymph is also effective, as is a dry Mouse.
Well, good luck and enjoy your time on the creeks. There are many other patterns and techniques which I could recommend, but these pages were designed to be guidelines and not a book. Remember, fly-fishing is supposed to be enjoyable and the number of trout you catch is secondary to being able to go fishing and enjoying the time spent on the water.
BOOKING RODS ON THE CREEK
There many, many times when the creek is fishing very well. The only real time periods that are chancy are the months of November through February. During these months, the weather can be a limiting factor. During the rest of year the fishing is pretty steady and dependable. The most popular times on the creek are mid-March to mid-April and again from mid-June till September 1st. If you desire rods during these time periods you may have to book a year or even two ahead. However, there is excellent fishing during the months of September, October, and mid-April to mid-June when it is much easier to book rods. During much of these time periods the creek receives very little fishing pressure.
DePuy's is located six miles south of Livingston, Montana on Hwy 89 South, mile marker 48. The closest airport is 38 miles west of Livingston, Gallatin National Field near Bozeman, MT. The other is Logan International in Billings, MT, which is 120 miles east.
SHOULD I HIRE A GUIDE?
There is no doubt that a good spring creek guide can help the angler have a better day on the creek. The trick is getting a good teaching guide. There are many guides who can help you catch more fish, but at the end of day you don't understand why you have caught the fish. What have you gained?? Make sure the guide that you choose actually guides on the creek on a regular basis and is, in fact, a teaching guide. There is nothing more frustrating than being out with a guide and not taking fish, while everyone else is enjoying success. A good guide can help you understand the nuances of the creek on a seasonal basis. The guide can also help you learn when and where to fish the creek.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE ON THE WEATHER & THE HATCHES
Weather can play an important role when dealing with the hatches. A very cool and late spring may mean that the weed growth is slowed and the hatches may be somewhat behind schedule. A mild warm winter and spring may mean that the weed growth and hatches may start earlier that than normal. The 2003 Season was a classic example of how the weather can affect the fishing. From late June until early September the daytime temperatures ranged from 90 to 100. Most of the days were bright and sunny. The PMD spinner falls of the late evening were almost nonexistent, as the spinners seemed to prefer the early morning hour. The PMD, and at times the Sulfur, hatches were sparse. Many anglers had problems. Their biggest problem was not thinking outside the box. The trout hadn't gone anywhere, so where were they and what were they feeding on? Those were questions that many anglers failed to ask!!! I find it amusing that often when the fishing becomes difficult we blame the trout instead of ourselves. Hatch Chart and the fishing information contained in these pages are not cast in stone; they are but guidelines for the average normal day.