Fishing Rock Creek in Winter

Fishing Rock Creek in winter can be productive for the patient angler. For this article, winter fishing happens in November through March.

In November, the brown trout spawn wraps up, occassional and sporadic small hatches occur on the best afternoons, while the lack of daylight and cold overnight temps bring fresh ice to slower waters every morning.

In December and January, the ice forms and covers much of the river as the shortest days of the year are upon us. Overnight temps can be as low as 30 below zero.

Temperatures moderate in February. Days are a little longer and clear days feature bluebird skies and warm sunshine.

Winter lets go of it’s grip in March. Days are noticably longer, the sun reaches higher into the sky daily. As the frozen sections of river become free-flowing once again, the trout are hungry and can be eager eat big nymphs.

December fisherman nymphing Rock Creek

Fly Fishing Rock Creek with Nymphs in December

Brown trout rests in shallow water in Rock Creek

Brown Trout during the Spawn in November

What Trout Eat in Winter

A trout’s metabolism slows dramatically during the winter. To save energy, trout position themselves out of strong currents near the bottom of the river yet where ice is not apt to form. Here, trout will eat smaller fish, nymphs, eggs, and scuds.

Low and slow is the winter angler’s motto.

Streamers are a great choice. For a little effort, a trout can have a big meal. Local shops such as the Rock Creek Mercantile or shops in Missoula offer good selections of local streamer patterns.

For nymphs, try a double nymph rig with heavy flies such as stones along with SJ worms, and small mayfly nymph patterns.

Where to Fish Rock Creek in Winter

Ice covering the creek is the biggest challenge for the winter angler. With the steep mountains bordering the creek, sunlight can be absent for the valley floor in places. Here the river will freeze over completely.

In wider sections of the canyon, however, the river remains ice-free all winter. The lower sections of Rock Creek near Valley of the Moon is a great bet. Here the valley is wide.

If the weather is not too cold, the river behind the cabin remains free-flowing.

In the upper sections of Rock Creek, try near the bridge at mile marker 41 in Philipsburg. Upstream and downstream offer good winter fishing opportunities.

Fish during the warmest part of the day, noon to 3 pm.

Winter Fishing On Rock Creek in Montana

Rock Creek near Valley of the Moon

Winter fly fishing on Rock Creek in Montana

Rock Creek near the Sawmill Access

The Right Gear for the Weather

Fishing Rock Creek in the winter can be cold. Dress appropriately and layer clothing.

Be sure to wear waders and rubber soled wading boots. Felt bottomed wading boots tend to accumulate snow on the bottom which makes walking in snow tough.

Pack hand warmer packets as your hands will get cold handling fish in freezing cold water.

Use silicone spray on the guides of your fly rod. If you do not, and the temperates are below freezing, the line will freeze in your guides.

Be smart – fish on sunny days and optimize the warmest part of the day. Sleep in and hit the river just after noontime and then, pack it in when the sun slips behind the mountains. Temps drop rapidly when the sun goes down.

Cabin Availability in November through March

Golden Stone is available year round and is the perfect cabin for a winter fishing trip to Rock Creek.

Save over 25% in December to March*

We offer unbeatable special Winter Rates. *Christmas and Thanksgiving weeks are available at regular pricing.

Fishing Rock Creek in the Winter

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