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DePuy Spring Creek Fly Fishing

In the early twentieth century, the DePuy (Duh-pew) family bought land on the banks of the Yellowstone River outside of the small railroad town of Livingston, Montana. Over the years, the family continued to purchase additional tracts of land, resulting in the DePuy Ranch. More than fifty years later, after buying the initial land, owner Warren DePuy built an antebellum-style home on the property that still greets anglers today.

Anglers from all over the world have heard of the Paradise Valley spring creeks. They are securely fastened in the history and lore of fly fishing for trout. There may not be a more famous spring creek in the area like DePuy’s. The stream makes its humble beginnings on the O’Hair Ranch, nearly a mile-and-a-half above the DePuy/O’Hair property line. It then meanders through open fields before eventually making its way into the Yellowstone River. Because it is a spring creek, the water tends to stay at a constant temperature. The wild trout are used to continual water flow and stable temperatures, which creates an optimal and sound setting for them to feed.

Nearly three miles of the spring creek are managed for world-class fly fishing opportunities on the DePuy Ranch. Property managers currently allow a capacity of only sixteen rods per day. Anglers have ample room to spread out among the creek in three different sections: the lower, middle, and upper. When fishing DePuy Spring Creek, the best advice one could give is to take your time and observe! The creek features slow-moving water with numerous undercut banks, microcurrents, and deep pools. Long leaders coupled with light tippet and precise presentations will aid in your success. In many ways, this is trout “hunting” at its finest.

View All Montana Spring Creeks

Sections of Depuy Spring creek

Upper Section
The upper section near the O’Hair/DePuy property line can be defined by flat and slow-moving water, and during the summertime, plenty of moss. When the weather cools in the early spring or fall, the moss begins to die off, and the far upper section becomes a great option. If you do end up hooking a trout on light tippet and it bolts for the moss, then it becomes virtually impossible to keep it connected.

Aptly named the “PhD pool,” this hole houses some of the most significant yet most challenging fish on the ranch. Very light tippets and drag-free drifts are crucial if you plan to fool one of these trophy trout. A culvert at the lower end of the slow-moving pool creates microcurrents, which can be exceptionally challenging to present drag-free drifts.

Further downstream from the PhD pool is a small fly shop and an angler’s hut that, during the winter, can be used to build a fire and warm up. Property managers keep the angler’s hut well-stocked with firewood during colder months. The fly shop, while small, stocks everything an angler may need for a day of fishing on Depuy’s. Right outside the fly shop is Betty’s Riffle, where fly fishers can go to cool their nerves after a potentially humbling experience on the above PhD pool. The faster-moving water pays favor to the angler by providing less time for trout to observe your fly and a little bit more room for drag-free drift error.

Middle Section
The section below the fly shop to Dick’s Pond, situated in front of the main house, is the middle section. This section accounts for around a mile of the spring creek. The middle section has numerous deep holes, undercut banks, and is defined by its slow-moving water. For anglers fishing dry flies, keep an eye on the bank for noses breaking the surface. Like the Harriman Ranch on the Henry’s Fork or the Missouri River below Holter Dam, slow-moving water can collect foam in eddies, containing bugs. Trout will stage on these eddies and chow down on the bug feast that has been caught in this aquatic spider web, especially during solid hatches.

Once you have spotted a rising fish or pod of fish, don’t immediately start casting to them. This is hunting! Much like locating elk through a spotting scope from a far distance, you must consider the options and plan your approach. Does it make sense to approach from behind or make a downstream and across presentation? Look at the microcurrents and what could challenge you from potentially completing numerous drag-free drifts. Is it worth getting super close without putting the fish down? These are all questions you must ask before you make your first presentation. In dry fly fishing or fishing in general, for that matter, the first presentation has to be your best. Every presentation you make after that, especially on a spring creek trout, the odds of you landing the fish continue to decrease.

Lower Section
Just below where the water flows from Dick’s Pond to where DePuy’s runs into the Yellowstone River is defined as the lower section. Numerous riffles and long runs characterize this section of DePuy’s. Dry fly fishing in the lower section can be easier than the upper with the introduction of more riffle fishing versus flat, slow-moving water. If it is your first time fishing a spring creek or you’re relatively novice to fly fishing for trout, the lower section of Depuy’s is a great place to start.

A few slow-moving pools in this section have silty bottoms, especially toward the lower end of DePuy. Scuds and midges fished under the surface or in the film do well here.

During the winter, spring, and fall, trout from the Yellowstone River move into lower Depuy’s to spawn. Rainbow trout begin to spawn in the creek in February and are soon followed by the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in mid-May. The fall season is a great time to look for brown trout that have moved into Depuy’s from the Yellowstone starting in October. Just be sure that you do not step on any redds or target actively spawning fish. There are usually orange cones that mark where anglers are not allowed to fish due to cutthroat and rainbow trout spawning.

Seasons on DePuy Spring Creek

Spring
In the early spring, water levels on the creek tend to be at their lowest. With the introduction of warmer weather, weed beds begin to grow, which, in turn, raises the water level. DePuy’s will experience hatches of midges and blue-winged olives throughout April. At this time, there may still be a decent amount of rainbow trout spawning in the creek. Come early May; caddis can hatch in solid numbers. This will most likely continue until mid-May, when they begin to taper off. Anglers may experience hatches of callibaetis later in May as well.

Depending on whether or not southwest Montana experienced a cold and wet spring, anglers may have hatches of pale morning duns in early June or sparse hatches of BWOs, callibaetis, and midges. If it was a warm spring, then you may have a shot at the first PMD hatches of the year in early June. Regardless, be sure to have some dry attractor flies such as a Royal Wulff and Renegade in various sizes during this time.

Summer
By mid-to-late June, anglers can expect steady hatches of pale morning duns. By July, the dry fly fishing on Depuy’s is at its peak. Anglers that arrive early to the creek may experience trout sipping spinners. Throughout the day, trout may be caught on terrestrial dry flies such as small hoppers, ants, and beetles. By late afternoon, hatches of sulphur mayflies can bring fish to the surface. The PMD spinner fall will take place in the evening, coupled with some caddis activity. In short, it may be hard to leave!

By August, the fish have most likely seen every PMD fly available in Paradise Valley. It will become increasingly challenging to feed a fish on a PMD; however, anglers can still catch fish on sulphur and caddis hatches. The terrestrial fishing during August can be excellent. Casting small hopper, beetle, and ant patterns will most likely produce some healthy trout throughout the day. There may be some hatches of trico mayflies in certain sections of the creek.

Fall
Generally, the month of September can be great weather. The hatches of PMDs, sulphurs, and tricos begin to wane quickly. There are still some terrestrial fishing to be had, especially flying ants in early-to-mid September. By the end of the month, it is best to have a fly box full of midges and BWOs.

In October, you can bet on daily hatches of midges and BWOs, especially during low-pressure systems. Brown trout begin to spawn in the creek, and a streamer or gaudy nymph may produce a trophy-sized fish. Paradise Valley is gorgeous in October, and there may be days where you have the majority of DePuy’s to yourself!

DePuy Spring Creek Flies

Dry Flies

  • Captive Dun (size 14-20)
  • Sparkle Dun (size 14-20)
  • Last Chance Cripple (size 14-18)
  • CDC Biot Emerger (size 14-18)
  • X-Caddis (size 14-18)
  • Corn Fed Caddis (size 14-18)
  • Rusty Spinner (size 14-20)
  • Griffith’s Gnat (size 18-22)
  • Film Critic (size 14-18)
  • Fur Ant (size 14-18)
  • Foam Beetle (size 12-18)
  • Dave’s Hopper (size 8-12)

Nymphs

  • Pheasant Tail (size 14-22)
  • Crack Back PMD Nymph (size 14-18)
  • Red Copper John (size 12-18)
  • Prince Nymph (size 14-18)
  • Zebra Midge (size 14-22)
  • Sparkle Scud (size 14-18)

Streamers

  • Spring Creek Leech (size 6-10)
  • Black Sparkle Bugger (size 6-10)

Lodging Options

Shields River LodgeThe Shields River Lodge is set on 283-acres of pristine southwestern Montana land that also features one mile of the Shields River – a Montana guide favorite. You will be treated to deluxe accommodations and amenities, gourmet meals prepared by the lodge’s executive chef, and full days on area waters with some of the best guides in the region. This is a fantastic option for couples, as the lodge offers exceptional non-angler amenities and activities, and the ideal set-up and location for a relaxing Montana vacation. There are also trails and kicking paths that crisscross the property and offer access to the lodge’s home waters on the Shields.

Yellowstone Valley LodgeYellowstone Valley Lodge – recently renovated and re-opened – is a highly-personalized Montana fishing lodge located in beautiful Paradise Valley, Montana. Built directly on the banks of the world-famous Yellowstone River – known for its prolific hatches and excellent cutthroat and rainbow fishing – YVL offers the finest location in the entire area. Through head guide and outfitter Eric Adams, the Lodge is committed to offering the best Montana fly fishing experiences on the world-famous waters of the Yellowstone, Madison, and Boulder Rivers, as well as area spring creeks that include Armstrong’s, DePuy’s, and Nelson’s. From any of the ranch’s 16 private riverside cabins, you look directly over the Yellowstone River in the shadow of Dexter Point (elevation 9,859 feet). Notable additions to the Lodge include new and upgraded furnishings in the cabins, added availability for additional activities such as hiking, rafting, horseback riding, and coordinated transportation services to and from the airport in Bozeman.

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