Fishing Glacier National Park can be a lot of fun. The GNP isn’t known as a fishing destination and maybe that is for the best. There are places with more fish and bigger fish in other parts of Montana. Yet Glacier is unrivaled in its beauty. It is also home to enough fish to make wetting a line worthwhile.
There are hundreds of rivers, streams and lakes in Glacier National Park. You are allowed to fish in most of them. Some do not hold fish. Most of them are home to at least some species. Rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, cutbow hybrids, brook trout, lake trout, bull trout and arctic grayling can all be found in the park. The book Fishing Glacier National Park provides a good basic overview, though you also want to keep up-to-date with the lcurrent fishing regulations.
Flies work very well during the open water season that stretches roughly from the beginning of June until the cold sets in later in the year. You can catch fish on dry flies, but wet flies and nymphs will be a lot more effective. A five or six weight fly rod will handle most of what you face in the park, though you could also fish flies with a spinning rod. In either case, the following list of the five best flies for Glacier National Park will help you hook up with some fish.
One thing to remember is that ead is banned in Glacier National Park. Since many of the waters in the lake are quite deep you will need some kind of non-lead weight to get your flies down to where the fish are. You can use environmentally friendly tin shot but I much prefer using tungsten putty. You can break off as much as you want and simply roll it onto your line. It bonds well with your line in the cold waters of Glacier Park.
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The pheasant tail nymph is a classic pattern that will catch trout anywhere you find them. It is a great starting out or searching pattern because it looks like a lot of different aquatic insects that trout eat.
You can’t really go wrong with a pheasant tail no matter where you are fishing for trout. That remains true in Glacier where every species of trout barring perhaps adult bull and lake trout will snap up any pheasant tail they get their eyes on.
Glacier has a lot of deep and swift waters. Because of that you either want to put some weight on your line or fish with weighted pheasant tail nymphs. Remember that lead is banned in the park. Tungsten bead pheasant tails are a good choice because they get down where you want them and don’t contain any lead.
Glacier Park is also known for its crystal blue waters. Although the waters have some tint to them due to snow and glacial melt the fish are used to that. So make sure to stay concealed and use the lightest line you can get away with. That will lead to more bites whether you use a pheasant tail or another fly on this list.
Purple Psycho Prince
The psycho prince is a modified and flashier version of the classic Prince Nymph that has been used for years. They can be tied in any color but pink, purple and yellow seem to be the most common varieties.
Certain colors tend to work more in some places than others. Over in the Great Smokies yellow is a key color. Here in Glacier though, purple is especially effective. I can’t pretend to know why. There is nothing really purple that fish would naturally encounter. It must have something to do with instincts and the way colors show in the waters of the park.
No matter the reason I can tell you that a purple prince nymph fished down deep will catch plenty of rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, brook trout and mountain whitefish in GNP.
San Juan Worm
The San Juan Worm is a basic fly made up of nothing but a piece of chenille tied on a hook. The fly is meant to look like a worm, so not much more is needed. Despite what some “purists” may think of these flies, they catch fish all over the world. Glacier Park is no exception.
In fact I have probably caught more fish on San Juan Worms than any other fly I have used in Glacier. I carry an assortment of these flies in pink and purple whenever I fish the park.
San Juan Worms can be fished in any flowing water in the park. Just get them down deep then dead drift them naturally with the current.
Another worm pattern? Yes! You might think that carrying San Juan Worms in a few colors and sizes would be sufficient, and indeed you might be right. On the other hand I have been in situations where San Juan Worms wouldn’t catch a fish while squirmy worms were taken fish left and right. So it pays to have some squirmy worms in your box.
Why would a squirmy worm outfit a San Juan Worm? It might have to do with the action of the fly in the water. Squirmy worms are made out of a stretchy rubber material than is more like a pink trout worm than most flies you would fish with.
Whatever the case may be, pink squirmy worms fished down and deep can catch you a good amount of fish in Glacier.
Cone Head Muddler
Carrying an assortment of Conehead Zuddlers and Muddlers gives you perhaps your best shot at catching some big fish in Glacier.
The park was once home to some monster fish. It is not known as a big fish haunt there days, and indeed most fish found there are a lot smaller. But there are still some large fish around.
If you fish Glacier in late spring or perhaps even early summer, you have a good chance of catching some lake trout cruising shallower waters near the shore. You can also catch aggressive rainbows, brook trout or maybe even an incidental bull trout eager to feed while they have a chance.
Get these streamers out and let them sink a big before doing a strip and stop retrieve. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you have a good chance at catching some of the bigger trout around.