Patiently waiting on a Depuy's fish!

The Paradise Valley is one of Montana’s crown Jewels.   Within the valley lie three very well known bodies of water known as the Spring Creeks.   Armstrong’s, Nelson’s and Depuy’s have been well written about and a must on most fly anglers bucket list.   These three creeks provide the Yellowstone river with clean cold water and provide the trout of the Yellowstone with habitat to reproduce the next generation of fish that anglers will catch.   The creeks have a long and storied history with many of the worlds finest anglers spending time plying their waters.   The creeks have been through a lot over the years, with the most dramatic event occurring in the spring of 1996.  In 1996 the Yellowstone river left it’s banks and made a path through two of the spring creeks.   There was plenty of controversy surrounding what to do after the flood.  After years of improvement and plenty of opinions the creeks are still producing new fish for the entire Yellowstone drainage.   The lore of these creeks has been written about, photographed and filmed.   Anglers from around the world still try there luck on these gin clear creeks that are home to some very challenging fish.

All three creeks are located on private ranches that limit the number of anglers and charging a rod fee to help cover the cost of maintaining the creeks.  All three creeks offer fishing year round with reduced rates for winter anglers.   Rod fee’s range from around $40 in the winter to $100 during the summer months.   The water in the creeks bubbles out of the ground with a consistent year round temperature in the mid 50’s.   This consistent water temperature keeps the fish happy and promotes lots of insect for the fish to feed on.   Hatches can be prolific and the fish can always feed on the fresh water crustaceans that thrive in the constant water temps.  You can challenge your self as a Dry Fly Only or you may choose to hit the deeper holes with nymphs and streamers.  The creeks offer all skill levels of anglers a shot at bending their rod.

Major Hatch Activity for the creeks:

The creeks have major hatches of Mayflies, caddis and midges along with plenty of terrestrials as well as ample supplies of aquatic crustaceans to keep the fish fat and happy.   Midges hatch year round on the creek and provide plenty of opportunities for the fish through out the year.  Winter time dry fly fishing can take place when the conditions are right,  providing local anglers with a break from the monotony of fishing nymphs in the winter.   During the spring the midges are supplemented with nice hatches of Baetis (Blue Winged Olives) which usually show up sometime in mid March to early April.   By mid to late April another hatch of significance joins the parade on the creeks with the addition of “Mother’s Day Caddis” hatches.   The Blue wings taper off as the summer approaches and by mid June to Early July the addition of Pale Morning dun mayflies show up on the creeks in great numbers.  This is probably the best hatch of the year on the spring creeks and your best opportunity to run into wolf packs of fish rising at once.   As summer progresses the PMD’s continue to hatch but the consistency of the hatch varies as Late July approaches.   The heat of summer brings on the terrestrial insects which provide the fish with plenty of insects to attract them to the surface.   Hoppers, ants, beetles and crickets are all main stay patterns on the creeks throughout August and September.   You can find midges just about everyday of the year, but finding fish feeding on them is another story.   As the leaves begin to turn and the weather cools we again see good hatches of Blue Winged olives and midges before the hand of winter sets in on Montana.   Along with the adult insects there are major populations of aquatic worms and crustaceans which include both scuds and sow bugs.  Nymphing with scud and sow bug imitations is always a good way to put a bend in your rod on days when the fish don’t look to the surface.

Armstrong’s Spring Creek:


Many people believe there are three spring creeks in the Paradise Valley, there are really just two springs that flow through several different ranches.   Armstrong’s and Depuy’s have the same water source and the water flows through two different family ranches.   Armstrong’s is located on the O’hair ranch property which is the point source for the spring water that flows through both the O’hair Ranch as well as the Depuy family ranch.  The O’hair family came to the Paradise Valley in 1876 when O.T. Ohair moved west to get away from the floods that destroyed their ranch in Missouri.  O.T. settled on 350 acres of land in the valley and set up his cattle ranch.  Today the family cattle ranch has expanded to around 15,000 deeded acres with another 15,000 or so acres of leased ground for their 1000 head cattle operation.   This is still very much a working cattle ranch where you can fish amongst new born calves in the late winter and spring time.   The O’hair family has operated the ranch while providing anglers with access to the creek for many years.  Prior to the 1970’s they allowed just about anyone who was willing to ask permission to fish on to the creek.  Demanded for access became so overwhelming that the family implemented a rod fee and reservation system to keep the creek enjoyable for those willing to make a reservation and pay a fee.   Over the years the creek has been transformed by both mother nature and the family to provide some great fishing opportunities.

There is a little of a mile and a half of creek located on the Ranch with restrooms and a warming hut to get out of the wind when the weather turns south.   The O’hair family limits the number of rods on the creek to 12 rods to insure that there is ample space for everyone throughout the day.   Reservations as well as a fee are required to fish the creek and many of the prime times during the summer are booked out a year or more in advance.  If you are interested in fishing Armstrong’s please give me a call so that we can make arrangements for the dates you wish to fish.

Rates and Dates:

April 15th to June 14th – $75 per rod per day.

June 15th to September 14th – $100 per rod per day.

September 15th to October 14th – $75 per rod per day.

October 15th to April 14th – $40 per rod per day.

Armstrong Spring Creek Home Page

Depuy’s Spring Creek:

Lazy day on Depuy's

The Depuy family history only lives in the stories that Betty has mentioned as I have toured the Depuy mansion over the years.  I would have loved to sit down over a bottle of Bourbon with her father to hear his stories and pick his brain on why he did what he did with the ranch over the years.  I can only imagine the stories he could have told.   As you arrive at the Ranch you are taken back by the Southern Plantation mansion that Mr. Depuy built when he moved to the Valley.   He had seen a picture of the mansion when he was a child and when he was able he built a replica of the mansion on the ranch.  I believe their original operation was a sheep ranch which did not have the spring water flowing on the property.   Mr. Depuy decided he wanted the water from the spring and diverted the water down the old channel of Trail Creek.   He diverted the water with the attitude of asking for forgiveness rather than for permission.   Before the powers that be could stop his project he had the creek flowing through his property.  I am not sure when or why he diverted the water in the first place but it speaks of his innovation and desire to make his ranch his own.   There are still remnants of his passions and ideas scattered throughout the property and within the walls of the mansion he built.  It is like taking a step back in time which  includes artifacts and ideas from around the world.  From the Punta Fan hanging above the great room, the lawn jockey at the top of the grand stair case, the 6 foot by 10 foot photo of Miss Montana fishing on the creek to the howling wolf fountains in the driveway you will take a step back and wonder where Mr. Depuy came up with his ideas.   A tour of the house is worth the trip in itself.

The creek has about 3 miles of quality water that offers plenty of room for anglers to roam.  Along the creek there are three distinct sections that all have their own warming huts complete with wood burning stoves for the cold days on the creek.   The family allows a maximum of 16 rods on the creek with rates varying depending on the season.  The facilities on the creek are second to none and Daryl takes great care of the creek with cut paths and benches to sit and fish your beat just like you would on an english chaulk stream.  I personally prefer to fish Depuy’s because of the amount of creek they offer and the opportunity to move around and fish lots of different water throughout the day.

Rates and Dates:
April 15th – June 14th $75 per rod per day

June 15th – September 14th $100 per rod per day

Sept 15th – Oct. 14th $75 per rod per day

Oct 15th – April 14th – $40 per rod per day

Winter Pass $400 for the season (Oct 15th – April 14th)

Depuy Spring Creek Home Page:

Nelson’s Spring Creek:


Nelson’s Spring creek is a four generation cattle ranch that homesteaded in the Paradise valley in the 1860’s.   The ranch encompasses about 750 acres that is home to approximately 500 mother cows, horses and a few old ranch hands.   The ranch still operates as a working cattle ranch.  The creek was originally just a source for stock water for the cattle operation until a close family friend, Mr. Joe Brooks, brought it’s potential to the attention of Edwin Nelson.   The family allowed fisherman on the creek until demand required them to limit the number of anglers as well as charging a fee to help maintain the stewardship of the creek.  Today the family continues to welcome anglers and the Nelson Family has proven themselves to be great stewards of the creek and the land they ranch.  You will find no better family in all of Montana.

The creek flows for about 3/4 of a mile through the ranch and offers some of the most challenging fishing of all the creeks.  This is the creek to challenge yourself on, but there are also several riffles where anglers can take a break and hook a few fish that don’t require the challenge of the rest of the creek.   The family limits the number of anglers to six per day so that there is plenty of room for each paying guest.  They also offer lodging and a great western hospitality for any of their guest.

Rates and dates:

April 15th – June 14th $75 per rod per day

June 15th – Sept. 14th $100 per rod per day

Sept 15th – Oct 14th $75 per rod per day

Oct 15th – April 14th $40 per rod per day

Nelson Spring Creek Home Page:

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