Armstrong Spring Creek

Armstrong Spring Creek is a world famous spring creek featured in many fly fishing books and fly fishing magazine articles.  Along with DePuy and Nelson Spring Creek, they make up the Spring Creeks of Paradise Valley just 6 miles from Livingston, Montana.  I had a chance to fish this creek in August with Molly Semenik and Michael Ames.

Armstrong Spring Creek is 1.5 miles long with riffles, runs and pools.  Because it is spring fed, the temperature is about 52 degrees year round making it fishable even in the winter.

The river host regular predictable hatches and is actually an insect factory.  Early in the season midges predominate followed by blue winged olives, then the pale morning duns and caddis.  Mid July and August is terrestrial time with ants and grasshoppers becoming productive.  Fall baetis start in mid September.  It is important to have a knowledge of the particular hatches and when they are occurring.  Molly had fished this creek many times in the past.  She knew about what time the different hatches would come off and would tell us when and what fly to tie on.  Amazingly, on time the hatch appeared and we could fish to rising fish with good success.  Between hatches we fished ants and hoppers also with some success.  We were there on a cloudy day when the hatches are reported to be better.

Size 20 Sulfur Dun

Size 20 Parachute Sulfur Dun

It also helps to have proper flies.  Spring Creek Specialist is a fly shop on the creek that specializes in flies just for the spring creeks.  We stopped in and bought several patters just to use that day.  You can find out more information at Spring Creek Specialist.  In addition, you can see photos of many of the flies at DePuy Spring Creek web site.

Later in the afternoon, Molly, Michael, and I walked up to the beginning of the creek.  The water there was about two to three feet deep and Gin clear.  The stream was about 40 feet wide.  You could see a number of large fish on station feeding regularly.  If you can see the fish, they can also see you.  In order to not be seen, we crawled into casing position and cast from our knees.  About that time a sulfur hatch started.  Molly tied on a size 20 parachute sulfur dun.  She started to hand me her rod to cast with.  Since she wasn’t guiding that day, I asked her to show me how it’s done.  She cast the fly in front of a feeding fish.  He came up and looked at the fly, paused for a second and sipped in the fly.  She set the hook and the fish broke off and headed down stream with the fly.

So much for the fishing lesson.  Now it was my turn.  After tying on another fly, I made a 30 foot cast to another feeding fish.  Again he rose to look at the fly, paused for a second then took the fly.  After a brief fight, I landed a nice Rainbow.

Spring Creek Rainbow

Armstrong Creek Rainbow Caught by Michael Ames

Now it was Michael Ames turn.  He cast to another feeding fish.  The trout did not hesitate rose and inhaled his fly.  Michael set the hook like he was tarpon fishing and the fish fled down the creek with his fly.  He tied another fly on and repeated the cast.  This time he hooked a nice rainbow.  After a short fight, it was netted.  We took a picture and released him.

The fishing at Armstrong Spring Creek is considered technical fishing.  It is not something for beginners and even advanced fly fishermen get skunked at times.  But sight fishing to large educated trout is something that must be experienced once by every trout fisherman.

The O’Hair Ranch who’s property the creek is on charges a rod fee.  It cost $100 dollars per rod per day to fish during prime season.  The rod fee is less in the spring and fall with the winter fee being the least.  If you desire to fish during prime season, call for a reservation.  Was it worth the $100 fee?  I would say yes, but it’s not something I would do regularly.  If you are a first timer, I would defiantly hire a guide.  If you need a guide, I can highly recommend Molly Semenik.  She can be contacted at Tie the Knot Fly Fishing. Tell her I sent you.  You won’t get a discount but I might the next time I go fishing with her. >>ML