Longtime client Dave Kadko with a Depuy Spring Creek brown.
The three Paradise Valley spring creeks, Depuy, Nelson's, and Armstrong, are among the most famous spring creeks in the country. The offer consistent hatches, large but picky wild trout, and the certainty that you won't have to deal with the crowds that can sometimes jam the more-famous and easily-accessed waters inside Yellowstone Park. This comes at a cost, however. The creeks charge $40-120 per angler per day, and reservations are required.
On the other hand, in our opinion there are three periods when the creeks are at their best, and during two of them, March through mid-April and again in October and early November, their rates are at their lowest, even the limited crowds of summer usually aren't present, and the fish are at their least-spooky. The other great period to hit the creeks is during the July PMD hatches, when all three creeks are always fully-booked, with good reason.
The rates below do not include the access fees charged by the landowners (usually called rod fees). When me make reservations with the creeks on your behalf, these fees will be charged along with your deposit to the shop. Spring creek trips generally run as full-days, since landowners do not offer discounted access fees for shorter days.
Because of the skill levels required, the spring creeks are suitable for high-intermediate, advanced, and expert anglers only. Even anglers with high skill levels should expect to work hard for each fish, both in terms of getting them to take and getting them to hand after they're hooked. Flat, clear water with abundant weeds and natural insect life does not breed easy trout.
You have two choices in booking a day on the creeks. You can book your trip with the creek first, then book your guide (links to their websites are present on our links page as well as above left), or we can book the spring creek reservation for you. Please note that deposits we make on your behalf with the creeks will generally be nonrefundable.
Read on for descriptions of how we approach the creeks at different times of year. We would be happy to make suggestions of which creek is right for you, as each offers something a bit different.
Early spring sees large numbers of rainbow trout enter the creeks from the Yellowstone River on their spawning runs. Pre-spawn fish make great targets for San Juan Worms and streamers, while both pre-spawn rainbows and yearround creek residents will take midges and egg flies. There are also good hatches of Blue-winged Olive mayflies as well as midges on many days. We never fish for fish actively spawning over gravel, but these fish are fun to watch and to photograph. Later in the spring, after the BWO hatches have petered out and the spawners have finished, midges and streamers are top bets.
Below: Large Depuy Spring Creek rainbow trout downstream of a redd (nest). Fishing over redds is unethical, but the increased numbers of trout that enter the creeks to spawn provide good angling opportunities before they begin building redds.
Early summer, especially from late June through late July, is prime PMD time on the creeks. Most days will see a spinner fall early in the morning, followed by a hatch around midday and more spinners or possibly a caddis hatch in the evening. If the PMDs aren't hatching, PMD nymphs, small attractor dries, and small terrestrials are our primary bets. Later in the summer, the PMDs thin out, but the Sulphurs (cream Baetis) and Tricos begin hatching, and terrestrial insects get more and more common. The creeks can be booked solid several months in advance from late June through early August, so if you're looking to fish at this time, you need to book your reservations as far in advance as possible. This is being written in mid-January, and Depuy Spring Creek is already fully-booked several days in July, for example.
In early fall, hatches are generally limited to midges and the occasional late Sulphur or PMD. Beetles and ants are our top dry bets, while tiny nymphs also work well. As fall progresses, fall BWO begin to hatch, and heavy emergences are possible on overcast days. In October, brown trout begin running into the creeks to spawn, and egg flies and streamers become great bets. The best fall fishing happens in late October and early November.
Fishing remains good on all but the coldest days through the winter, with excellent midging possible. The creeks seldom book up in the dead of winter, so during this period it's best to wait to book until we see what the weather is going to be like. Days with forecast highs in the high-30s or low-40s with calm winds will produce the best fishing.
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