Lower Madison in Winter

Still Water Ice Out Fly Fishing

Still Water Ice Out Fly Fishing

By James “Jimbob” Terry

There’s plenty to love about spring. The weather gets warmer, the days get longer, and angling opportunities broaden. Yellowstone National Park opens up (not for fishing until the third Saturday in May) for the critter watchers too.

One of my personal favorite spring happenings is “Ice Out” on our local lakes. As the ice melts off the lakes the fish cruise the oxygen rich open water and eat, then continue to scavenge for food along the banks and edges of “the drop” as the ice completely disappears. As far as fishing methods are concerned, it’s dealers’ choice! Streamers, leeches, nymphs, and dries all have their place when it comes to spring Stillwater Fly Fishing. Stripping streamers or leeches off the ice shelf or just back to my perch on the bank is a blast and can be crazy productive but those methods take a close second to my guilty pleasure, bobber fishin’…..

This is a great time of year to fish leeches, midges, baetis, and chironomids under bobbers. Typically, in the spring you wont even need to run a crazy long leader with a slip bobber so it’s a nice and simple way to fish. A 9’ 3x or 4x leader with some tippet does the trick in most of my Stillwater haunts. Let the chop bounce the flies, let them sit, give them an occasional jig and re-live the childhood days of fishing a worm under a bobber while sitting in a folding Coleman chair at the lake after filling up the truck for a buck something a gallon. In that moment, as the bobber is descending, fleeing, indicating the presence of a fish, you can find momentary euphoria, and know peace….

Anyway, here are some patterns I really enjoy fishing around “Ice Out”


Rowley’s Balanced Leech


BH Mini Leech


Kelly’s Ice Cream Cone

Yankee Buzzer


As far as midges, baetis, and dries go it’s the same stuff you would throw in the river! A few Parachute Adam’s and Griffiths Gnats, zebra midges, and small baetis patterns will do. Personally I seem to find them just fine on my usual leech/ chironomid combo.

Stop in The Tackle Shop in Ennis, MT and we’ll point you in the right direction!

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