Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – August 15, 2019

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – August 15, 2019

Time has been flying by and we find ourselves in mid-August—Already?! Mother nature has been kind to Yellowstone Country anglers the past few summers in regard to water conditions, and the trend continues. This summer has been marked by chilly mornings, wet afternoons, and lush green hillsides rather than a smoky horizon and statewide “Hoot-Owl” restrictions on many of our main stem rivers. Get out on the water, this isn’t your typical August!

The past few days has brought drier weather as it hasn’t rained… as much. The terrestrial action is rolling across the region, bringing “fair” to “excellent” results for those who venture to the stream bank. Caddis remains a constant and Epeorus Mayfly hatches have lingered due to cool and wet conditions. On heavily pressured streams don’t be afraid to downsize to smaller flies. Even with favorable conditions it’s still fly fishing in August. The “A” in August means bring you’re “A Game” because the fishing can be challenging at times.

Fall fishing is right around the corner, which for many fly fishers is primetime for Southwest Montana and YNP fisheries. The tourist crowd will die down post-Labor Day opening up the roads from the intense traffic seen in the summer. This Fall stop by the shop early in the morning for any gear and/or tackle needs. Fish hard during the day, come back by the shop in the evening to swap stories, and top it off with a pizza at Wild West while watching Post-Season Baseball—which will hopefullyinclude the St. Louis Cardinals making a run at their 12th World Series Title. It’s been a stellar season thus far and much more is still to come. Stay tuned!

Read on to see our take on this week’s fishing, and check out the links below to stay current on area forecasts and flows. Stay tuned as we report each week on hatches, flows, weather, and more. For the most up to date info stop by the shop, give us a call, or drop us a line.

Stay tuned as we report each week on hatches, flows, weather, and more. For the most up to date info stop by the shop, give us a call, or drop us a line.

West Yellowstone Forecast

MT Streamflows

ID Streamflows


Henry’s Fork

It’s time for hoppers and flying ants on the Railroad Ranch. Breezy days will help blow hoppers onto the water inspiring the fish to lookup. Take the time to watch how the wind is blowing them onto the water and where they are landing. The fish will move into these lanes if they are actively on the hopper bite. Keep an eye on them when they land on the water, an aggressive splash may follow.

Honey ants should be showing up at any time. Flying-ant patterns are a must-have when venturing to this section. Keep an assortment of caddis and PMDs on hand as there are still multiple windows throughout the day a hatch could go off. Anglers have been reporting consistent caddis hatches busting off regularly in the evenings.

Flows coming out of Island Park Reservoir have remained constant around 1,000 cfs. Box Canyon remains a staple andrumor has it that fish will still take goldenstone patterns. Rubber legs, zebra midges, caddis pupa, and heavy weighted mayfly nymphs remain as reliable options for subsurface flies.

Yellowstone National Park

For those who are making the trip into the Park, consider going through the gate prior to 7:30 am to avoid traffic. Once the daily crowd hits animal jams and slowing moving lines of cars will rule the roadways. After Labor Day passes the roadways will start to clear up, making a trip through the Park less of a hassle.

Northeast Corner

The Lamar was running “chocolate” for much of the past week as a result of rainfall. It doesn’t take much to muddy-up this river making it unfishable as a result. Check the weather forecast daily as conditions can and will change at any time. Hopper-dropper rigs can offer steady action throughout the day basically everywhere in YNP (and outside of the Park, for that matter). Slough Creek will generally run clear, even if the Lamar and Soda Butte are off color and high.

PMDs have been present in the morning and they’ve proven to be willing to rise to eat a well-presented terrestrial pattern throughout mid-day (shocker).

If the fish seemed to be tucked to the bottom and unwilling to move up to eat flashy and/or white streamers have proven to be effective. Remember to pack bear spray and respect the wildlife.

Yellowstone River

The flows continue to drop naturally as the river exits Yellowstone Lake and enters Hayden Valley. Generally, this is the month where fish start to exit the river and move back into the lake. With this being a highwater year more fish may linger in the stream longer than normal. Look for caddis, PMDs, and terrestrials. The fish are a little trickier than they were a month ago during the opener so don’t be surprised if enticing a larger cutthroat proves to be a challenge.

Gallatin River

The Gallatin has really come into stride this week. It has been running fairly clear this past week as there hasn’t been as much rain to turn it off color. Hoppers, flying ants, PMDs, and Caddis are all available food sources currently. The Gallatin generally fishes better later in the day after water temperatures have warmed up a bit. The chilly water in the morning generally makes the fish a little lethargic during the day. The standard warning of bears and moose chilling in the willows remains in place. Carry bear spray, make noise, and if possible, bring a fishing buddy to cover your bases. There have been regular sightings of two grizzlies near Bacon Rind Creek throughout the last couple of weeks.

Blue Squiggly Lines…

By August most of the mainstem rivers and well-known fisheries have seen countless fly anglers. We are fortunate to have these places to fish that can support mass numbers sport fishermen and women. But it isn’t the worst idea in the world to get off the beaten path and find new waters. I won’t provide specific names or locations in this report for such an endeavor. Check out last week’s report for my challenge in finding new park waters to fish. Half the fun of getting outside is the adventure and thrill of experiencing new place.

For anyone that takes up this challenge: please take extra care of these fisheries and treat them with respect. Let’s keep these wild and unique places wild and unique!

Madison River

Last week I compared Madison River to LeBron James. In continuing the sports analogy trend, this week the Madison River fished like Tim Tebow played for the Denver Broncos in 2011. Not good early but fantastic later in the day when the “game” is on the line, or more simply inconsistent. When the hopper fishing turns on the action is consistent for a handful of windows throughout the day. The fish have become finicky and it’s not uncommon for them to conduct a congressional-like investigation before a commitment to eat or refuse a fly.

Caddis hatches are still a regular occurrence. Stonefly patterns can still provide a solid option to tie on and are perfect to be paired with a heavy tungsten nymph in a dry-dropped system. Don’t be afraid to branch out to new spots on this river. The wade fishing access is excellent even throughout the seemingly flatter water of the float section. They call it the “50 Mile Riffle” for a reason!

Hebgen Lake

It’s mid-August and that means it’s prime Gulper time! The weather forecast is looking less unsettled in the coming week. That should improve what has already been good gulpering. Bear in mind that cool mornings will delay callibaetis mating flights and subsequent spinner falls. So, keep an eye on the thermometer, and don’t get too excited until the mercury hits 60 degrees.

Missouri River

The peak of the Trico hatch was the beginning of the month, but spinner fall can still be available in the morning. Action has slowed down a bit this week which isn’t uncommon. The next few weeks the game is terrestrials (surprise!) and attractor patterns. Old school dry fly anglers can breakout their Royal Wulffs, Stimulators, and Parachute Adams. Currently the upper river is providing more consistent fishing than the lower, however that should change in the upcoming weeks. Also, BSA guide Greg Falls has openings and help take a trip on the Mo to a whole new level.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – August 8, 2019

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – August 8, 2019

One week into August and the weather still feels as if it’s late June. Hot and muggy afternoons have been met with thunderstorms rolling in to cool the air. This has been a near daily event some weeks. The high snowpack combined with a mild spring is now paying dividends with high flows and cool water in what is normally the hottest month of the year.

August is primetime for terrestrial enthusiasts as grasshoppers are plentiful throughout the Northern Rockies. Fisheries at higher elevations are still producing mayfly hatches and caddis hatches. Don’t overlook tossing a black streamer post-thunderstorm when the air pressure and temperatures drop down in the evenings. This can be an opportunity to search for a larger trout in the “dog days” of summer.

The fish in heavily pressured main-stem streams (such as the Madison) have shown to be a little tricky at times. Don’t be surprised to have a couple of “follows and refusals” underneath a dry fly in these waters. Fret not, these fish are still catchable and can turn onto a feeding frenzy at any moment.

Pack a rain jacket and keep up with the weather forecast, because being caught in a severe thunderstorm in Southwest Montana in the wrong spot is somewhere no one wants to be. Stop by the shop for tackle, gear, and advice as needed. Also, NFL training camps are in full swing. There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks!

Read on to see our take on this week’s fishing, and check out the links below to stay current on area forecasts and flows. Stay tuned as we report each week on hatches, flows, weather, and more. For the most up to date info stop by the shop, give us a call, or drop us a line.

Stay tuned as we report each week on hatches, flows, weather, and more. For the most up to date info stop by the shop, give us a call, or drop us a line.

West Yellowstone Forecast

MT Streamflows

ID Streamflows


Henry’s Fork

Terrestrial mayhem is imminent on the Railroad Ranch. More hoppers are showing up every day and flying ants remain as a reliable option. The Flav and PMD action is pushing well into August, no doubt a result of cool June and July temps. Keep an eye on the Ranch water in the mornings and post-afternoon storms as a spinner fall may be in the cards.

Flows out of Island Park Reservoir have dropped to sub 900 cfs from last week’s peak of 1,200 cfs. Box canyon remains a reliable option to lock into some chunky rainbows with sneaky-good hopper fishing being available. The hillsides continue to be lush and green, perfect eye candy to go along with a day on the water!

Yellowstone National Park

Cold water and favorable flows continue to be the story of this year’s YNP fishing season. Anglers from all over the Park are passing on reports of successful fishing endeavors and memorable wildlife encounters. It’s always worth putting a pair of binos in the fishing pack for excursions to the Northeast corner. Remember to respect the wildlife and be “bear aware.” Enjoy these marvelous creatures from a proper distance and respect their space.

 

The Northeast Corner

The Lamar River, Slough Creek, and Soda Butte Creek have been producing bent rods and countless smiles this past week. Reports of fishing the Valley have been on the positive side—until the flows spiked as a result of rain. As of the last two days the Lamar has cleared up and is fishable, but it doesn’t take much to turn conditions south again. If the Lamar blows out Slough Creek remains a solid option for those who venture to this area.

Various mayflies (Drakes, PMD’s, etc.) and caddis are still occurring with terrestrial/hopper action rising as fast as the Patriots’ Super Bowl odds. Foam bugs are flying out of the shop’s fly bins over the past week. Don’t put away those Salmonfly and Goldenstone patterns quite yet. They can make for excellent hopper patterns, as well.

 

Yellowstone River

It’s business as usual on the Yellowstone River in YNP: a combination of “the best day ever” and pure frustration. Every year more cutthroat trout have returned to this fishery, and more importantly smaller fish (10”-16”) have been making an appearance. For those that haven’t kept up with the status of this population over the years, this is favorable news in the recovery there from what was viewed as rock bottom about ten years ago.

Drakes are still present but will be tailing off soon. An assortment of PMD’s, caddis, stoneflies, terrestrials, and smaller streamers/leeches could be exactly what the doctor ordered to hook into one of the hogs lurking in this watershed.

Water levels have dropped significantly since the opener on July 15. The later we get into the summer the more fish will return to the lake. But this has been a higher than average water year which could keep many of these fish around in the stream longer. The Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states. This means the water level drops naturally on a daily basis throughout the summer. The drop in water levels will cause this fish to move around and redistribute across the stream throughout the summer season. Just because the fish are in one location one day doesn’t mean they will be there the next.

Gallatin River

The Park section of this river offers incredible scenery and consistently hungry trout. Caddis, PMD’s, and terrestrials are the name of the game. Keep an eye on weather patterns as this is another body of water that can muddy-up from rainfall, but generally clears up after a day or two of dry conditions. Two grizzly bears have been seen on just off the west side of the highway near Bacon Rind Creek with some frequency. Move with caution when weaving through willow patches, stay vigilant, and make your presence known. With any luck you may see them (from a safe location) as grizzly bear sightings are one of the Park’s premier attractions.

Blue Squiggly Lines…

This week’s challenge: 1) place a map of YNP on a corkboard. 2) Grab a dart and a blindfold. 3) Stand roughly 10 feet away from the map, grab dart, and place blindfold over eyes. 4) Throw the dart at the map (ideally without missing). 5) Find the closest “blue squiggly line” on the map to the dart and check the YNP regulations to ensure it isn’t closed to fishing. 6) Go fishing to said location. 7) Claim that any pictures of fish caught at randomly selected location came out of Bozeman Pond.

Madison River

The Madison River is the LeBron James of trout streams. It may not be the greatest trout stream of all-time (although some circles may argue differently), there may be streams that do specific things better, and it isn’t necessarily the “flashiest river.” But it’s consistently one of the most reliable options throughout the year and more often than not produces favorable results.

Basketball analogies aside, the Madison River continues to be the staple of this region. Hopper fishing is in full swing offering productive dry fly action throughout the day. The Madison Caddis Factory continues to pump out bugs with consistency. A box with various hoppers, nocturnal stoneflies, caddis, and tungsten nymphs for droppers would make for a solid arsenal on this river.

The fish in the wade section have become timid at times after heavy pressure from the stoneflies hatching. Don’t be surprised to see fish elevate and refuse a well drifted dry fly. Downsizing in fly and tippet size can sometimes be the ticket if this occurs.

Hebgen Lake

Stillwater enthusiasts have been doing well on Hebgen Lake in recent weeks with the Callibaetis and Trico hatches in full swing. Shallow areas and weed beds have been providing exciting sight fishing opportunities in the mornings and evenings on dries as well as leeches, nymphs, and chironomids stripped below the surface. Flies fished in deeper water can provide action mid-day, as well.

Missouri River

Flows have dropped slightly in the last week down to 4,700 cfs. Our Missouri River guide staff continues to hold down the fort up in Craig. Give us a call if you’re interested in a trip on the legendary Mo. Tricos continue to make their presence known in smoke stack-like clouds over the water. A hopper or ant pattern with a dropper can offer results while moving between runs in search of tricos, and the nymphing remains consistent.

Return to the Beginning

Return to the Beginning

I will never forget the first time my Dad took me fly fishing. As far back as I can remember, fishing has been a major part of my life. It’s an experience my Dad and I still share together today. But that day was significant to me; more than most fishing trips. I was ten years old.  As a very young boy I was always fascinated with watching my Dad cast his fly rod to a rising trout. He held off on teaching me to cast a fly rod until that summer to ensure that I was not only physically able to cast the rod but that I also had some semblance of patience. After weeks of “10 o’clock to 2 o’clock” and “you’re going too far forward/back”, it was finally time to chase trout on the river with a fly!

            The time I spent in western Montana as a child is filled with fond memories. The valley and the mountains that surrounded our quaint little town was a seemingly endless playground for my two brothers and me. I was spoiled by sunsets, scenery, mountains, and countless other things. The first day I went fly fishing embodied all these things.

            It was a warm evening in August and Dad pointed out the bugshovering over the stream in thick clouds. Grasshoppers leaped from all sides as we wandered towards the bank. From what I recall, almost every cast result in an eat from an eager trout. The rod pulsed in my hands as the fish shook their heads, and my smile grew larger by the minute. From that day on, I knew I loved fly fishing. I sat in bed that night filled with joy after a successful outing on the water. It felt different than my normal fishing excursions and I knew fly fishing was special. Fourteen years later, memories of that day stick with me as if it happened yesterday.

            As I got older, I reminisced. “Was it really that incredible? Did we really catch that many fish? Did it just seem that great because I was young and easily impressed?” My family moved away from Montana the following fall, removing me from the proximity to the stream my Dad took me to that day. Since then, I’ve had the good fortune to fish some incredible waters. Yet, I would often find myself pondering over that day long ago and the stream that began my fly fishing obsession.

            Fast forward to the summer of 2018.   I attended a Trout Unlimited event held near the western Montana town I lived in during that fateful tenth year of my childhood. In between workshops we were granted some fishing time, and I visited the exact spot on the stream my Dad took me to that day long ago. I didn’t have much time to spend there, but it was enough time to leave me wanting more. When the event came to an end, I made the long drive back to West Yellowstone. I knew I had to return to that stream as soon as possible.

            Labor Day weekend came a few weeks after. One last, extended weekend before college classes were back in full swing and hunting season would become more of a priority for me than fishing. I chose to return to that stream and attempt to relive that summer day when I was a child. My friends Connor and Tyler made the journey with me, and we planned to camp multiple nights in the area. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions. The warm weather and breeze made perfect conditions for fishing hoppers during the day, and the cool evenings were left for resting by the fire, roasting hot dogs, and enjoying good conversation at night.

            From the moment we arrived on Saturday to the moment we left on Monday the fishing was spectacular. Cut banks, rocks, and seams regularly held fish that were eager and willing to attack a dry fly. SLURP! SMACK! GULP!  It wasn’t uncommon to see grasshoppers tumble through the wind and onto the water, twitch on the surface, and be eaten by a hungry cutthroat. Each evening the sunset glistened over the peaks and through the trees signaling the end of an incredible day. The more time we spent there, the more clearly, I remembered what it was like to be there as a ten-year-old, fly fishing for the first time.

            On our last day, we fished another lesser-known stream in the area that I had fond memories of fishing as a kid with conventional tackle. I recalled memories of good numbers of quality fish that I had caught there with my Dad in my youth. My childhood memories had served us well on this trip so far, so we decided to put our faith in them once again.

            The stream meanders through grassy fields of the valley. It was, and still is, a slow-moving stream with deep cut-banks and overhanging grass on both sides. We tossed our hopper patterns as tight to the bank as possible while moving upstream. Resident brown trout attacked our flies throughout the next few hours, but now, time was running short for our trip. I found myself hoping for one last memorable fish to complete this perfect weekend. Connor and Tyler had both netted browns in the ballpark of eighteen inches that morning and, perhaps a bit selfishly, I wanted one, too.

            In the final minutes before our departure, I changed flies one last time. I happened to glance up in time to see a fish dart from the cut-bank, gobble a drifting hopper, and return to its ambush spot. I couldn’t see exactly how big it was, but from the sound it made slapping the surface I could only assume this was a big one. I prepped my fly and lined up my cast. I laid my foam bug on the water about six feet above where I had seen the fish rise to ensure the drift looked as natural as possible. Before my fly could move two feet it was slammed by a different fish! A feisty little brown was in my net, but this butter-colored beauty wasn’t the fish I was after.

            Once again, I lined up my cast. I placed the fly roughly four feet above the target location this time. I watched in anticipation, waiting for the predator I knew that was lurking in the shadows to expose itself. In an instant, a gold flash bolted from the bank and attacked my fly. Fish on! The fish bulldogged, pulled, and fought hard to stay under the cut bank it called home. Eventually it conceded the battle and found itself in the bottom of my net. After a quick photo and moment of admiration my opponent returned to its home. It was the perfect ending to a perfect fly fishing weekend.

            Today I look back on the streams of my childhood with even more nostalgia than I had previously. If I fished those waters regularly throughout the year, I would surely have slow days and fruitless trips. But, in my mind, they remain pristine. Places that represent all things good in a world that can sometimes be overwhelming. I believe that’s why we have memories that we romanticize and glorify. The idea that there was a time and a place where nothing could bring us down is comforting. Everyone should have a special place like that in their heart. For me, it will always be the first place my Dad took me fly fishing. Maybe one day I will doubt again how amazing it was. When that day comes, I will return there, and hopefully I’ll be reminded all over again that, in reality it’s better than I remembered.

All About the Eat: A Day On the Water with the BSA Crew

All About the Eat: A Day On the Water with the BSA Crew

On a whim, we decided it was the perfect day to float the river. The name of the game was salmonflies, and our plan was to toss big dry flies in an attempt to entice a quality trout to feast. Aussie Mickey, Belen, and I rotated between working the oars and casting the big bug close to the banks. Hummingbird-sized naturals buzzed around us as we drifted downstream. It was not only the perfect day to be a fly fisher, but it also felt like it was the perfect day to be alive. Birds were chirping, the sun was out, and we had the usual Montana breeze to keep us comfortable. When I set out that morning I had one goal in mind: catch a quality fish on a big salmon fly dry pattern. “Just one”, I told the guys, “just one big eat from a quality fish.”

Early on, our day was mostly about fighting through the wind with our casts and with the driftboat, untangling our flies from the bushes when we tossed them too close to the bank, and listening to Mickey raise his voice in frustration each time he missed a fish. Wave-trains came and went, and we fished on. Every  time we passed an overhanging bush someone would say, “There has to be a fish there.” We knew it was only a matter of time until that statement would ring true.

Over the years I have discovered that there is a vast diversity among fly fishers, and their angling goals. Some anglers are out to catch as many fish as possible, some want to catch only big fish, and others are in it just for the sake of being outside. And, some anglers have more elaborate goals such as catching a specific species of fish, maybe on a specific body of water, or on a specific fly. Goals vary and change regularly, and it is not uncommon to change them multiple times within a trip.

The more I am out on the water the more I find myself in pursuit of new (to me) goals. If my varied pursuits have taught me anything it’s that fly fishing is not always about catching high numbers of fish. Don’t get me wrong, I love days where it seems like I can’t keep the fish off of my flies even if I tried. But, fishing for numbers isn’t the only thing that makes this sport worthwhile. On this specific day, for example,  I was pursuing one specific “eat” with one specific fly.

Mickey was on the oars, Belen was up front, and I was pulling duty as the “tailgunner.” We were coming upon one of those infamous fly-hungry, overhanging bushes. Mickey slid the boat into position as we approached our target. “Get it in there! Get it in there”, Mickey repeated. Belen took the first shot and barely missed what we all thought was the feeding lane. It was my turn to take a swing. We were halfway past the shadow being cast by the bush.  This was my window. I plopped my false Pteronarcys down on target and it floated into the shadows right off the bank. All of a sudden there was a wake and a fish’s body halfway out of the water coming at my fly. It hit the dry like a freight train and before I even had time to think I was locked in with a fat female brown trout. We all jumped and hollered with excitement as I fought the bulldogging fish.

With that “one quality fish” on the big bug in my hands I found myself overwhelmed with satisfaction.  We conducted a quick photo shoot as I held her in the water to regain strength after our brief encounter.  I admired the sheer beauty of this fish. Her buttery-brown skin glistened in the sunlight and her belly spilled over my fingers, filled with salmonflies. She swam away as quickly as she ate my fly leaving me with wet hands and an incredible memory. After multiple high-fives and a few moments of reliving the event we pressed on downstream. We rose a few other fish that day, but nothing compared to the strike of that brown beauty.

No other feeling in the world compares to the feeling of accomplishment. That feeling of being on top of the world and nothing on Heaven or Earth can tear you down. To me, that feeling is one of the main reasons why fly fishing is such an addictive sport. As anglers we find ourselves in relentless pursuit of fish, and often times that pursuit is riddled with failures and near successes. It’s these trials that make the successful days that much more satisfying, because we know how much work it took to find ourselves in those moments of triumph. On this particular summer day I found myself basking in triumph. From the moment we launched the boat that morning I knew what I wanted that day to be all about. That day was all about the eat.