Cooney walleye

Don Baxter caught and released this monster walleye while fishing with Dick Allran at Cooney Reservoir recently. 

More and more river anglers are excited as we approach the end of July.

Flows on many rivers are dropping and the water is clearing, making for more favorable fishing conditions.

It’s also the time of year fly enthusiasts dream about as they are able to fish dry flies more consistently.

With temperatures warming, many sources are also reporting fishing is best before and after the heat of the day.

Here’s the weekly fishing report:

Top picks

Bighorn River — It appears as our flows are finally on the way down (9,100 cfs as of Monday). This should be the last of higher flows. Fishing remains really consistent and will only continue to get better as the water comes down, which should be very soon. Summer dry fly fishing has kicked off and we’re seeing great numbers of PMD, Black Caddis and Yellow Sallies. The late morning to early afternoon and late evening are the times to hunt these fish. Nymphing remains solid overall, but is still very much spot specific. Worms, Sowbug, PMD nymphs and Black Caddis pupa are worth throwing in the fly box right now. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. 

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Nice walleye are being caught in 12 feet of water while using crankbaits. Pike are hitting crankbaits presented in 15 to 30 feet of water. Smallmouth bass are biting like crazy in 12 feet of water. Use crankbaits for bass. In the York Island area, anglers have reeled in lake trout. The key is locating the lake trout. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — Fishing has been good for walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass and lake trout. The chinook salmon fishing hasn’t kicked in yet. For lake trout, target 70 to 105 feet of water and jig or use downriggers. Walleye are in 8 to 22 feet of water. Use leeches and crawlers or pull crankbaits. Pike and bass are being caught by walleye anglers. To focus on northerns, cast crankbaits or spoons in the shallows. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Stillwater River — Summer is finally here. Flows have dropped and cleared throughout the river. Dry fly fishing has been fairly consistent in the afternoons. Look for Golden Stones, caddis and PMD to be coming off. Stimulators, Jack Cabes, PMX and Chubbies are all getting the job done for surface action. A dropper nymph like a beadhead Flashback Pheasant Tail, Hare’s Ear, red Copper John, Prince Nymph or Batman have been taking fish. Smaller trailer dries like a PMD, Caddis or purple are working well in the afternoon. Straight nymphing of runs and inside corners with a big rubber leg pattern like a Girdle Bug, Bitch Creek or Pat’s Rubber Leg is always a good option. For streamers, never leave home without the Grinch in the box. Try the Electric Goldfish or a basic black Woolly Bugger. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — The river has rounded into shape and the fish are on the bite. Clarity is good and flows have dropped. Try fishing a big rubber leg nymph like a Girdle Bug, Pat’s Rubber Leg or Bitch Creek on a long dropper off of a Chubby in the softer water between the main current and the bank. Streamer fish using the Grinch, Kreelex, Bow River bugger, Sparkle Minnows, Sculpins and basic black Buggers. For dry fly anglers, fish a Jack Cabe, stimulator, PMX or Chubby. If they’re not hitting the big dry, drop a beadhead nymph off of it. Keep a Purple Haze, Parachute Adams and Caddis handy for rising fish. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.


Ackley Lake — Fishing is spotty. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Beaverhead River — The river continues to fish well with caddis in the mornings, followed by PMD and Yellow Sallies at midday. The warmer weather won’t affect the river and it should fish well throughout the week. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Big Hole River — Flows in Melrose are hovering around 750 cfs. Hatches of PMD, caddis and nocturnal stoneflies have been on the on the menu. Our best fishing dry fly bite has been in the morning and evenings. During the heat of the day, get into the fast riffles with streamers or nymphs. We are seeing the start of hopper fishing on the lower river. — Sunrise Fly Shop, Melrose.

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — Smallmouth bass are biting consistently. Tube baits and Senkos will work. One could start throwing crankbaits. Some anglers hooked into crappie. A few walleye have been picked up. Try a bottom bouncer and a worm harness for walleye. A decent amount of debris is floating around in the lake, so be cautious. — Scheels, Billings.

Boulder River — Flows are approaching the optimal level. Fish are primarily eating Pale Morning Duns, Yellow Sallies and Golden Stones. Our best morning action has been on large Golden Stone dries with smaller droppers imitating PMD nymphs. PMD hatches in the afternoon have been good and as the water level drops wading opportunities are increasing every day. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Shore fishing for rainbows is slow with a few being caught  between White Earth and the Silos while using jigs tipped with worms or leeches. Rainbows are being caught while trolling cowbells or being picked up while using walleye tackle from White Earth to the river.  Walleye fishing is very good from the river to north of the Silos in 15 to 20 feet of water while using bottom bouncers or chartreuse jigs with leeches or worms. The area from Duck Creek to Goose Bay is also producing walleye. A few walleye and perch are being caught from shore throughout the reservoir using jigs (standard and floating) tipped with worms or leeches in 10 to 25 feet of water. — FWP, Helena.

Cooney Reservoir — The walleye and perch bite is strong, and many anglers have been limiting out. People are having success in shallow waters using Rapalas and yellow and green jigs. Rainbows are surfacing on the hunt for the dragon fly hatch but are hard to catch. — Cooney State Park.

Deadman’s Basin — Anglers are doing well on trout and a nice tiger muskie was reeled in last week. Some are catching fish from the bank and others have been successful while trolling. Crawlers seem to be the best bait. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — Anglers are catching walleye in 2 to 8 feet, with some running a little deeper. Bottom bounce a worm harness right along the mudline. Crawlers seem to be working the best, but some are using leeches. Anglers are not having to travel very far from the marina as most are running 5 to 6 miles to get into fish. Walleye are averaging between 16- to 24-inches long. Pink, red, blue, silver and purple are good colors. Northerns, crappie, perch and drum are also biting. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Fourchette Bay — It is fishing well. Bottom bounce a worm harness for walleye. Smallmouth bass fishing is picking up in the narrows. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — The walleye bite is strong. Smallmouth bass are also biting. Try throwing jigs at 10 to 13 feet on the inside edge of a weed line on the main lake points for walleye.  Rock structure and rock piles are good places to target for smallmouth. Northern pike fishing is quiet. — Hell Creek State Park.

Gallatin River — The river is running at 1,250 cfs, which is a little above average for this time of year so still take caution when wading this way. Any dirty water from rain and hail has been moving through the system fairly quickly, and the forecast looks sunny and clear for the next week. A good rig to try is a big foamy salmonfly on top with a stonefly dropper below. If the fish aren't taking the salmonflies, switch to a smaller chubby. Nymphing has also been productive running a rubber legs on top with a smaller mayfly or caddis dropper. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hauser Reservoir — Shore fishing for rainbows is slow. Rainbow fishing is fair while trolling cowbells below Canyon Ferry Dam and around White Sandy. Walleye are still being caught in Lake Helena on crankbaits; however it is getting weedy. Walleye and a few perch are being caught in the Causeway on bottom bouncers or jigs tipped with a leech. Walleye are also being caught from shore at the Causeway Bridge. — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — Lake levels are just now starting to go down a bit with the warmer weather and less rain and snowmelt coming into the lake.  The lake is now 98.5% full. With that, the trout are going a little deeper than they had been. Try to be in 40 feet of water, where one should find fish between 25-30 feet down. Red/white, yellow with spots, and orange spoons are working. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.

Holter Reservoir — A few rainbows are being caught from Departure Point to Split Rock at night or early morning trolling cowbells while using a downrigger. Shore fishing for rainbows is slow. Walleye are being caught using crankbaits, bottom bouncers or jigs and leeches in 8 to 15 feet of water in the canyon around Mann Gulch, Cottonwood Creek and the clay bluffs. Perch fishing is improving with some being caught around the docks and weed beds in the lower reservoir in 10 to 20 feet of water on jigs and worms. — FWP, Helena.

Madison RiverLower — On the lower river, the flows are back down and the temperatures rose up to 68 degrees and even warmer down below the canyon. With the warm weather in the forecast, the lower is simply too hot for the trout. Along with the hot temps, this river has the tube hatch in full force and there are better options to fish. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison River, Upper — The salmonflies have been spotty this year at best. The majority of the hatch has already passed through, but there will most likely still be a residual hatch up high. Do not head this way without a few big orange dries in your box. Down lower, fish your big stones, Yellow Sallies, big Caddis Pupas, PMD nymphs, and Emergers. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Martinsdale Reservoir — Anglers are doing well. Try soaking crawlers from the bank. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Missouri River, below Holter — The flows are at 6,300 cfs and water temps are 61 degrees as of Monday. It is fishing well. There are good caddis hatches and a few PMD hanging around. We are starting to see tricos. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — Fishing pressure is light. There are a lot of mosquitoes and gnats out. The water is still pretty high. Petrolia Lake is fishing well for 15- to 20-inch walleye and nice perch. Pull bottom bouncers with crawlers or leeches at Petrolia. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Nelson Reservoir — Anglers are having an awesome time fishing. Pull worm harnesses with leeches or worms in about 17 to 28 feet of water for walleye or pull crankbaits in 18 feet of water in the early morning or late evenings. Some perch are being caught in the deeper water while using worms. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Rock Creek — Like most area mountain fed streams, the creek is finally on the permanent decrease in flows. While flows continue to be high and fast, water clarity is excellent. The creek is still probably a week or two away from comfortable wading. Recommended dry flies include Golden Stone imitations like Chubby’s in gold, yellow Stimulators, or a PMX in yellow. These patterns can all be fished in sizes 8-12. Of course a tan Caddis (12-14) as well as attractor dry flies like a Purple Haze, Parachute Adams, Humpey or Royal Wulff (12-16) are all effective. Hoppers are out and the best hopper pattern to fish is the Pink Pookie. Other hoppers to fish include a Parachute Hopper and a Dave’s Hopper (8-12). Nymph fishing can be especially good as a stream comes down in flows. Standard nymphs to fish include Stone Fly patterns like Rubber Legs, Girdle Bugs, or Bitch Creeks (8-12). Caddis Pupa in tan or olive (14), Copper Johns in red, purple or chartreuse as well as other attractor nymphs like Lightning Bugs, Montana Princes in blue or a Batman Nymph will work. A beadhead Prince Nymph, Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail Nymph works as well as anything. Streamer fishing is how you are really going to want to fish here. Sparkle Minnows, Krystal Flash Buggers, The Grinch and Galloup’s Sex Dungeon patterns (4-6) are the flies that will help you land the brown trout of your season. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Billings.

Spring Creek — It is starting to fish well. There should be mayfly and caddis hatches coming off. Hoppers are just starting to show up. Nymphing is always a good option. Those using gold or silver spinners are doing well. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Tiber Reservoir — Action has been fairly good. The water level has dropped because more water is being let out of the auxiliary tunnel. Anglers are now having to fish deeper because there are less weed beds now due to lower water levels. Anglers are still catching nice walleye. Pull worm harnesses. Some are using bottom bouncers. Leeches are a popular bait, but crawlers continue to work as well. Anglers are finding a few pike. — Ru’s Tiber Marina.

Tongue River Reservoir — Anglers are doing alright on bass. Some nice walleye have been caught on a jig and a worm. For northern, try Rapalas. The water clarity and levels are good. Water temps are at 78 degrees. — Tongue River Marina.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — The river is dropping and clearing. There were a lot more boats on the water this week. The catfish bite is excellent and smallmouth bass are being caught in pretty good numbers now. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — The Yellowstone is starting to drop like a rock. The salmonflies have made their way up to the Gardiner border and are starting to fade. However, bigger dries such as Chubbies or Golden Stones with a larger stonefly underneath are picking up fish. The valley has been fishing well. Stick to the easy floats until flows come down, as the flows are still above average and it can be dangerous. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Yellowstone River, Miles City — As of Monday, the river was still dirty due to recent rains. Hopefully the water starts clearing soon. When the water clears, walleye, sauger and smallmouth bass fishing will improve. Anglers are catching catfish presenting traditional baits. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.


Bighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend — Smallmouth bass and sauger are being caught on minnows at Horseshoe Bend. The southern narrows are producing 4- and 5-pound catfish regularly. Crooked Creek is producing bass and some crappie. The state line back toward Horseshoe Bend has produced walleye on bottom bouncers. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — The river is at 3,000 cfs and clear as of Monday. Fishing is good. Try dry flies, including caddis patterns and terrestrials. There are lots of tubers. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Bighorn Mountains — At Meadlowlark Lake, try throwing spinners. The creeks should also be fishing well on humpies and grasshoppers. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Boysen Reservoir — On the main reservoir, anglers are reeling in some walleye. Anglers are catching walleye and sauger in the spillway. Use crankbaits and jigs. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — It is fishing great. Trolling and casting spoons and crankbaits on the North Fork has been very productive. Many fish are over 18 inches. Flows are on a downward trend and fish are returning from the river to the reservoir. Some walleye have been biting, but many of them are pretty small. At Beck Lake and New Cody Reservoir, the perch bite is still really good and catfish are being caught on the causeway. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.

Clarks Fork — The water is dropping and fish should be easier to locate. Anglers should not expect to catch very many trout. Dry flies are working for whitefish. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — Hogan and Luce are fishing really well, as are East and West Newton lakes. East Newton is heating up, so fish are going a little deeper. Fish morning or evening for best results. Damsel flies, Damsel fly nymphs, ants and beetles will work. Caddis in the late evening is a good option, particularly right at dark. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lake DeSmet — Walleye, lake trout, brown trout and rainbow trout are all biting. The best action is from the boat. Crawlers are the bait of choice. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  

Lower Shoshone — It is fishable. There are nice 14- to 16-inch trout to be caught. It is fishing well from shore as the clarity is coming along. Try streamers and nymphs fished close to the bank. A dry-dropper will work, too. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Shoshone — It is running high and the best way to fish is with nymphs or spinners, like Panther Martin. Smaller beadheads fished really deep will work. Dry fly action is slow due to high flows. In the evening time, when the sun is setting, is the best time to time to try dry flies. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

South Fork of the Shoshone — The river is still high and tough to wade. Golden Stones and caddis are coming off. Fish the edges as the river is running fast. Try a dry-dropper. A size 8-10 hopper or attractor pattern with a tan and black dropper will work. Try a small Prince Nymph or North Fork Special for a dropper. One can always pull black, brown or olive streamers.— North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — Fishing at upper reservoir is holding on. Action on the lower reservoir is tougher. The best times to fish are early in the morning and the couple hours before dark. Bank and boat anglers are catching fish during these times. In the heat of the day, the fish go deep. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.

Yellowstone National Park — Slough, Lamar, and Soda Butte are starting to fish well. Dry fly fishing should continue to improve, and the whole northeast corner will be fishing great soon. The water is still a little cold and green, but we have been able to get fish to rise on Slough. There are gray drakes and PMD on Slough, and attractors like the Purple Cripple and the Royal Wulff Cripple have been our go-to patterns when the hatches are not coming off. Soda Butte has still been cold, but an attractor or a Longhorn Beetle with a Split Case PMD 10-15 inches behind the dry has been deadly. The Lamar has been slightly muddy, but still fishable. On the Yellowstone above the falls, salmonflies, green drakes and caddis are all out. We have also caught plenty of fish on larger attractor patterns, such as the Royal Wulff, the Purple Haze and the Adams Cripple. A great dropper to put behind any of these patterns would be a Split Case PMD. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

Henry’s Fork of the Snake River (Idaho) — At Last Chance it is fishing alright; even though the water is a little lower than we’d like to see. Despite the lower water, we are still seeing a PMD hatch and spinner fall in the morning between 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. The fishing has been lackluster in the afternoon, but has been picking up around 7 p.m. until dark with caddis and Flavs. An Iris Caddis and an X Caddis are good choices, along with a Flav Sparkle Dun. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.


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Email Gazette Deputy Sports Editor John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL


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