Ten Nymphs For Spring Fly Fishing in Montana

10 Nymphs for Spring Fly Fishing in Montana

by James “Jim Bob” Terry

The word alone arouses a little bit of hope in every angler that has endured a long winter. You begin to think about longer days, warmer weather, ice out on your favorite still water haunts, and of course warm summer days soon to come. Everyone has their “go to” spring time flies but here are ten of my favorite nymphs for Montana Fly Fishing in the spring….

  1. Pat’s Rubber Leg

(Size 4-12; green, black, coffee)

The Pat’s Rubber Leg is a year-round favorite of mine. I love to nymph my tandem rigs with the “big fly, little fly” mentality and the Pat’s is often the big fly. Early on in the spring I try to mimic the size and color of Skwalla nymphs, and as spring marches on I start to incorporate larger black Pat’s to imitate the Salmonfly nymphs that become more active in the rivers by then. Knowing what stoneflies are present is paramount for helping pick the right size and color.

2) 20 incher Stonefly

(Size 8-12; beadhead, beadless)

The 20 incher is a stonefly imitation just like the Pat’s. Often found with tungsten beads, it can be a great point fly to help get to fish holding in the deeper, faster water. I really like using them in smaller, less weighted sizes as the Skwalla hatch comes and goes.

3) San Juan Worm

(Size 10-16; red, pink, wine)

Trout like worms 365 days a year. That said, they can be even more apt to eat them in the spring. After a long winter of eating predominantly small Baetis, it’s hard for a trout to pass up a protein packed snack like the dirt snake.

4) Egg

(Size 12-16; pink, orange)

Just like the worm, eggs are a protein packed meal for trout. With rainbows and cutthroat spawning in the spring, and plenty of white fish eggs still rolling around, fish will definitely capitalize on the easy meal of loose eggs tumbling down the river.

5) Lightning Bug

(Size 12-16; Silver)

Especially on the sunny days, the silver lightning bug is a great spring time fly to have in the box. With a slim Baetis/Mayfly like profile and reflective body, it’s a winner.

6) Prince Nymph

(Size 8-16; original or F.K.A)

Another year-round hitter. The prince can mimic a large variety of insects from stoneflies to mayflies. I fish it year-round in a ton of varieties, but in the spring the standard bead head prince anywhere from an 8 to a 16 is a favorite of mine. A favorite rig of a Madison River legend is “big prince, little prince”.

7) Zebra Midge

(Size 14-20; Black, Red, Olive)

Trout have been eating midges all winter long and they wont stop come spring time! I typically fish black and red zebra midges on my local water anywhere from 14’s all the way to 20’s. As blue winged olives start to make their appearance, mix in green zebra midges between 14’s and 18’s to the midge rotation.

8) Psycho May B.W.O

(Size 14-18, Olive)

As water temperatures get higher into the 40’s, Blue Winged Olive nymphs become more active as they prepare to hatch. In the spring when I’m fishing waters with high concentrations of B.W.O’s I always make sure to give the Psycho may a soak. Hold onto them though, you’ll need them again come fall when water temps begin to drop again.

9) WD-40

(size 16-18; Olive)

As spring hits my local Tailwater and the B.W.O’s start to show up, the WD-40 becomes one of my most important nymphs. It’s a great choice to use as both a nymph and emerger and has the perfect profile and size for selective trout.

10) Ice cream cone Chironomid

(Size 10-16; Red body, White bead)

One of my favorite parts about spring has to be ice out. Once the ice starts to melt away on my favorite lakes, you’ll find me throwing Chironomids under a strike indicator at the ice shelf and in the shallows.


From freestone rivers like the Madison, to lakes, to tail waters… spring presents a ton of wonderful fishing opportunities, not to mention nicer weather! Want to learn more about spring fly fishing in Montana take a guided trip with some of our great Montana fly fishing guides


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