A Few of My Favorite Things About Spring Fly Fishing

Raindrops on rainbow runs, hands without mittens
Bright colored Copper Johns, trout that are smitten
Browns slamming streamers so hard as they swing
These are a few of my favorite things

Perhaps this is not what Rodgers and Hammerstein had in mind when they wrote the show tune “My Favorite Things.” But spring fly fishing makes me want to break out in song! Here are a few of my favorite things about fly fishing in the springtime.

A new beginning

Spring is the new year of fly fishing.

After a long winter (and, boy, was it long in the Upper Midwest this year), this is the first of the three best seasons of the year for fly fishers—spring, summer, and fall. Let the fun begin!

Oh, yes, there’s a chance to use the new gear purchased with Christmas gift cards and, uh, money that could otherwise be put into savings.

Insect hatches

Spring is the time of year when the river bottom comes to life. The first brood of Blue Winged Olives shows up in March. Then Caddis emerge as the water temperature rises in mid-April. After a fall of slinging streamers and a winter day or two of drifting midges, the explosion of insect life is a welcome gift.


Spring is as a time for runners — the rainbows that head up the rivers to the redds (spawning beds), as well as other species of trout, which lurk behind in wait for eggs or small egg sacs to drift down the river. I’ve tied into some large rainbows on Montana’s Madison and Missouri Rivers during the spring rainbow run.

If you’re fishing during the spring, make sure to stay off the redds. There’s no need to add stress to spawning fish. Once you know what to look for, it isn’t hard to spot the redds. Look for shiny spots in gravelly places. You can fish below or above them. But please leave the redds alone.

Fewer crowds

Depending where you live, you still might see a lot of fly fishers in the spring — especially if you’re on a stretch of river where big rainbows are on the move. But tourist season is still a few weeks away. So you typically won’t have to deal with large crowds.

By the way, I have nothing against tourists or fly fishers who can only fish on a summer vacation. I’m now a tourist, I suppose, when I return “home” to Montana where I lived and fly fished for the better part of 25 years. The reality, though, is that you’ll have less competition in the spring than in the middle of July.

Crazy weather

Call me crazy, but I’m intrigued by crazy weather.

I’ve fly-fished in Montana and in Wisconsin on 60-degree days in March. I’ve also stood knee-deep in Montana’s Madison River in April when the snow softly falls. A few years ago, my podcast partner, Dave, and I floated the Upper Madison with a friend on a mid-April day. I think we saw at least three seasons, complete with sun, wind, sleet, and rain. It’s rather fascinating.

Alright, these are a few of my favorite things about fly fishing in the spring. Hooray for spring! It’s time to grab a fly rod and head for the river.

When no trout bite
When the sleet stings
When I’m casting bad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

2 Replies to “A Few of My Favorite Things About Spring Fly Fishing”

  1. What? You guys are done with winter already? Here in Denver the winter weather continues! Happy almost Spring!

    1. I’m always jealous of the 60-degree days you’ll occasionally get in the winter! My son who lives in Littleton was out the other day on a stream near Vail and did quite well. Looks like the weather is finally turning a bit!

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