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Nelson's Spring Creek Fly Fishing

Nelson’s Spring Creek is hallowed in many fly fishing circles, primarily dedicated dry fly anglers. The creek is located on the opposite side of the river from Armstrong’s and DePuy’s and is fed by an underground aquifer that pumps constant, cool temperatures year-round into the steam. Three-quarters of a mile of private spring creek fishing is available for anglers to fish. To sustain a great fishing environment, the folks at Nelson’s limit the number of rods per day to six. This helps spread the amount of fishing pressure throughout the stream.

Other water sources to Nelson’s include a sizable pond spring and a few marshes in which the water will drain into the creek. Because the spring water always stays within a constant temperature (48-54 ºF) throughout the year, it translates to an extremely healthy trout stream where aquatic insect life prospers. The creek originates on the Dana property, which is right above the Nelson’s. It then snakes its way for approximately one-and-a-half miles before linking with the Yellowstone River.

Nelson’s is famous for the marvelous mayfly, midge, and caddis hatches. There is a core following of Paradise Valley spring creek anglers that will book the exact dates year after year. While it can be technical fishing, everyone should experience these fascinating spring creek fisheries at least once in their life. If you arrive on one of “those days” where every trout in the creek seems to be rising, it most likely won’t be your last time fishing it either.

The rainbow, brown, and native cutthroat trout in Nelson’s average about 15-19 inches; however, some larger trophy-sized fish breach the highly sought-after twenty-inch mark. These larger fish, primarily brown trout, require the ultimate stealth coupled with precise casting and fly presentation. Fishing long leaders and light tippets here is essential. There are plenty of microcurrents caused by weed beds and numerous other structures that can challenge even the most well-seasoned dry fly anglers. But don’t let this intimidate you! With a good guide, even novice anglers can expect to land a few fish. The single best piece of advice when fishing a technical spring creek for trout or a permit flat in Cuba is to have confidence that you’ll get the job done!

View All Montana Spring Creeks

Sections of Nelson’s Spring creek

Middle Section
Right outside of the area that you’ll park to fish the creek are several runs of deep and swift-moving water. Several in-stream and submerged rocks create riffles that anglers can use to their advantage when approaching and presenting flies to trout. The slow-moving pools above the faster water require the ultimate stealth. To effectively fish these sections, several things need to be considered. Move slowly, stay low, and observe. Long leaders and light tippet are required. Plan your approach beforehand. Generally, a down-and-across presentation works well. If you overshoot the fish on a down-and-across presentation, you can move the tip of your fly rod in a sweeping motion to put the fly in the trout’s feeding lane before it passes over the fish. Anglers fishing for pressured bonefish and tarpon utilize this method as well – casting well ahead of the fish, then moving the fly into the zone by sweeping the rod tip. For spring creek trout, this only works if your fly and leader come well ahead of the fly line on a down-and-across presentation. Don’t try moving the fly into the trout’s feeding lane too close to the trout, as you’ll risk spooking it with an unnatural movement.

Lower Section
Below the parking lot is considered the lower section of Nelson’s Spring Creek. The creek in this section is defined by narrow lanes, riffles, and moss beds that create seams and feeding lanes. There are some trophy-sized fish in the lower reaches of Nelson’s. The challenging part is keeping the fish out of the weeds once hooked on a small dry and light tippet. A 3-4 weight fly rod that can protect light tippets is needed. Apply side pressure to the trout in the opposite direction from which it is heading. Continue administering constant side pressure at various angles to try and disorient the trout so you can land it as quickly as possible.

In addition to Nelson’s Spring Creek, there are also several trout ponds on the property. Nelson’s Pond is stocked with rainbow trout from the Nelson’s personal fish hatchery. This is an excellent place for novice anglers or a quick warm-up before fishing the spring creek. The fish in the ponds average in the 8-14 inch range.

Seasons on DePuy Spring Creek

Spring
The spring hatches begin with midges, which can be present throughout the year. Hatches of Baetis mayflies quickly follow them. During cloudy and warmer spring days, the Baetis hatches can be excellent. Fishing floating nymph patterns or small Sparkle Duns can produce some healthy trout. By early May, the Mother’s Day caddis hatch should be in full force on the nearby Yellowstone River. Some caddis do hatch in Nelson’s Spring Creek, so if you’re fishing here this time of year, ensure you have caddis emergers and dries.

Summer
This time of year is what makes Nelson’s Spring Creek so famous. The hatches of pale morning duns can bring many fish to the surface to feed on cripples, emergers, duns, and spinners. The first wave of PMDs, in late spring and early summer, are larger than the PMDs that hatch later in the summer. In fact, they’re actually two different species of PMDs. Later in the summer, Nelson’s experiences hatches of sulphur mayflies. Hoppers, ants, and beetles will appear and become a more significant part of a trout’s diet in August. If you can’t figure out what a trout is feeding on, usually a rusty spinner, black ant, or beetle can break a hatch. During mid-day lulls, try fishing a scud pattern, a small olive/black leech or sculpin pattern, or midges. If you’d like to experience the pale morning dun hatches (which you should!) on Nelson’s Spring Creek, it is highly recommended that you book as far in advance as possible.

Fall
A few sulphurs, PMDs, and terrestrials are around in early September. By late September and early October, hatches of midges and fall Baetis begin to pick up. This is a great and often overlooked time to fish Nelson’s. Swinging a leech pattern in the deep pools and riffles, especially during the evening, can produce some hefty brown trout in October.

Nelson’s 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)
  • Short Wing Emerger (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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