Guide to Fly Fishing the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks, Depuy Spring Creek, Armstrong's Spring Creek, Nelson Spring Creek

Fishing the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks


The Paradise Valley spring creeks are private spring creeks several miles from Livingston. Unlike most streams in the area, these are flat, heavily-modified, private creeks with many amenities such as easy access roads, benches, warming huts, and other comforts more common on English chalk streams than trout streams in the American West.

All three of these creeks (Nelson's, Armstrong's, and Depuy) are private, and charge rod fees of $40-100 per day depending on the season (winter rates from mid-October through mid-April, summer rates from mid-June to mid-September, and shoulder rates at other times). At certain times of year these creeks offer the most consistent fishing in the area, and the guarantee of limited angling competition coupled with easy access, since only 6-16 anglers are permitted on the creeks each day, with advance reservations required.

Description and Access

Unlike most of our streams, the Paradise Valley spring creeks are flat, with abundant in-stream vegetation. All have some riffles and a handful of runs, usually below road culverts, but long, flat pools and slicks predominate. Depuy has the greatest variety of water, while Nelson's is quite flat, for the most part. All three streams are crystal clear, with bottoms composed primarily of gravel, though some silt accumulates around the numerous clumps of aquatic vegetation, so it's important to watch where you step. One notable exception to this pattern is the large pond on Depuy. Nelson Spring Creek is on the east bank of the Yellowstone, Armstrong on the west bank. Depuy is primarily composed of Armstrong's water that has been diverted into an old river channel, making it, according to state law at least, a manmade waterway.

All three creeks are extremely easy to access, with numerous small access roads and anglers tracks. Some sections are almost handicapped-accessible. Due to their flat character, ease of access, amenities that make it easy to take a break, and guaranteed limited competition, these are very popular fisheries for older and less-fit anglers.

It is important to book the creeks early, especially in late June, July, and early August. They are usually fully booked during this period, sometimes six months or more in advance.


Fish Species Abundance
Rainbow Rainbow trout predominate in all three creeks. Numbers are further bolstered from February-April with Yellowstone River fish on their spawning runs.
Brown Common in all, especially during the fall spawning runs.
Cutthroat & Hybrid Rare except in June and early July, when some enter the creeks both to spawn and to get away from the dirty water in the big river.
Whitefish Rare, but there's nothing that would prevent them from entering from the Yellowstone.

None of the creeks are suitable for beginner anglers, and even intermediates will often struggle. At times, even experts get skunked on the creeks. These creeks are flat, clear, enjoy catch and release regulations that let a fish be fooled a few times and still grow large, and have abundant populations of a relatively small number of insects, all of which breeds fish that typically focus on particular stages of specific insects and demand perfect dead drifts. Cautious approaches, long and fine leaders, and a lot of luck are all helpful.

The creeks are open and fish well all year. In the winter, midge larvae and pupae are the top bets, with some possibility of dry midge fishing or a larger trout that will chase a streamer. Rainbows begin moving into the creeks to spawn in February, and streamers, eggs, and San Juan Worms begin working well at this time. BWO start in March, and some caddis appear in April and early May. Late May and early June see few hatches other than the occasional midge, so small nymphs or streamers are the best bets. The top hatch of the year are the late June-late July/early August PMDs, and the creeks are often fully booked months in advance during this period. Small terrestrials and attractor dries as well as evening caddis are also good choices at this time. Tricos and the cream summer Baetis or Sulfurs appear in August and September, while fall Baetis appear from early-mid September through mid-November. Browns begin moving in to spawn in October, making streamers and eggs a good bet again through Thanksgiving.


Quality of Fishing By Period: X=high, x=moderate, x?= variable, blank=poor or closed
Jan. Feb. March April May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
x x X X x? x? X X x? X X x

Spring Creek Hatch Charts and Fly Pattern Recommendations
  Timeframe: X=major importance, x=minor importance, blank=unimportant
Insects Jan. Feb. March April May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
Spring BWO x x X X x              
Fall BWO                 x X x x
Summer BWO (Sulphurs)               x x      
Little BWO (Pseudocloeon) x x             x x x x
PMD           x X x        
Trico             x x x      
Callibaetis         x x x x        
Caddis, Various       x x   x x        
Midges x x X X x x     x X x x
Terrestrials (Most Small)       x x x x x x x    
Other Trout Foods Jan. Feb. March April May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
Scuds x x x x x x x x x x x x
Small Mayfly Nymphs X X X x X X x x X X X X
Midge Larvae and Pupae X X X x X X     x X X X
San Juan Worms X X X X x x     x X X X
Attractor Dries       x x X X x x      
Streamers x x X X X X     x X X x
"Aggravators"   x X x         x X X x
Egg Flies   x X X           X X x
Please note: an additional, more in-depth hatch chart is available courtesy of Depuy Spring Creek, located here.

Spring Creek Top Flies
WD-40, #16-22
PMD Sparkledun, #16-20
BWO Sparkledun, #18-22
Olive Woolly Bugger, #4-10
White River San Juan Worm, #16
Minch's Scud, #12-16
Flashback PT, #16-20
Epoxyback PMD, #16-18
Epoxyback BWO, #18-20
CDC PMD Emerger, #18

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