Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 11/1/2018 – Our Final Weekly Report of the Season

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 11/1/2018 – Our Final Weekly Report of the Season

Yellowstone National Park will close to fishing this coming Sunday, November 4th marking the unofficial end to the 2018 season for us in Yellowstone Country. That also means that this will be the last of our weekly fishing report emails for 2018. Thank you so much to all of you out there who have read our reports.  Remember, you can get these reports, along with other content emailed to you before it goes live on the blog.  All you need to do is sign up for the email HERE.  We’ve had some really good feedback from many folks about what they like/don’t like and about ways we might improve content for next year. Please keep that coming!  Of course, we will be sending out a few newsletters over the winter with updates from South America an other travels as well as the goings on here in West Yellowstone.
It’s late fall now, and we’ve both seen and heard reports of active spawning activity among brown trout, brook trout, bull trout, and mountain whitefish occurring on waters across western Montana. Please leave these spawning fish alone! They are the future of fish and fishing. We hope that there will come a day where we no longer feel compelled to make these posts, but sadly there are anglers (and even some guides) out there who continue to target actively spawning fish. If you aren’t familiar with spawning activity among salmonids, please take some time to educate yourself. If you find big trout in shallow water that seem to not spook from your presence, that is a sure sign of spawning activity. But a lack of fish in the shallows doesn’t mean it’s all clear. If you see redds (fish nests) it is critical to avoid the area while wading or dropping anchor. Redds appear as patches of clean, shining gravel among otherwise algae covered areas of stream bed. Fish and fish eggs may or may not be present. It’s best to avoid these areas as damage to redds can kill eggs or cause spawning trout to abandon an area. If possible, we try to even avoid fishing the pools adjacent to active redds, as many brown trout will spend the day resting and hiding there and then reoccupy the redds in the low light or dark hours. Thanks, everyone!

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.

West Yellowstone Weather Forecast


Yellowstone National Park

The Final Four, 4 days, 96 hours, 5,760 minutes, no matter how you look at it the 2018 fishing season in Yellowstone Park has wound down to less time than an adult October Caddis has to mate, lay eggs and die. There are hot dogs turning under heat lamps at the Econo-mart in West Yellowstone that will last longer than we have to fish in the Park this year.

If you have been waiting for the right fall conditions, now is the time. As we have said all season, scuzzy weather is the best for late-season fishing, and this final weekend looks to be ideal.  Pack your puffy layers, warm hats, gloves, and gore-tex. It’s going to be a cold, wet one, and we couldn’t be more excited about it!

With these dark, gloomy conditions expect to see good migratory fish activity throughout the day, chiefly on the Madison system. It’s time to throw some bright colors like chartreuse and yellow into your streamer and soft hackle rotation as these fish will be at their peak of aggression for the season. Please remember, to pay extra close attention to avoid spawning habitat while you are wading and fishing.

The Firehole should be prime for the Final Four as well. It looks like daytime high temps will struggle to get out of the 30’s, especially up in the caldera. So, don’t expect to see much before early afternoon, and don’t be surprised if it takes until as late as 4:00pm for Baetis mayflies to emerge. The Firehole River has dozens of small micro-environments along it’s 14 plus miles of water between Old Faithful and Madison Junction. A myriad of thermal discharges influence water temps drastically from spot to spot, and correspondingly affects the timing of hatches. More so than ever, it pays off to be flexible when it’s cold. Don’t get stuck waiting out the hatch in an area that doesn’t have bugs. If conditions are right, and it looks like they will be, Baetis will be hatching somewhere and fish will be rising to them. If it’s not happening where you are, think about a change of venue.

If you’re looking for an option during the Final Four with a lower risk-reward ratio that just might produce huge dividends of the cutthroat variety, then consider a trip up to the Yellowstone River in the caldera between Chittenden Bridge and the fishing boundary downstream of Fishing Bridge. Big, beautiful Yellowstone Cutts occupy this stretch all summer after migrating out of Yellowstone Lake to spawn in the spring. Many years the majority of fish have made their way back to the lake by this point in the season. However, this has been a great water year. Huge runoff and healthy summer rains have kept flows higher than average for most of the season keeping many of the largest fish in the river longer. This is in no way a slam dunk option! But, if you are looking for a little adventure during these final days of the 2018 season, and you’re comfortable with some risk, consider hunting for one of those trophy Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. If you can find some, they will likely be rising to afternoon hatches of Baetis mayflies. Although, a well-presented foam hopper with rubber-legs just might do the trick, even in the snow…they are cutthroat after all!

Madison River

If the crowds in YNP have you down, you might find some solace on the Madison River outside of Yellowstone Park. For the majority of the season the walk-wade section downstream from Earthquake Lake is the last place you would want to go to avoid crowds. By November, though,  it’s a different story. You will still see a few die hard anglers at usual spots like Raynolds Pass and Three Dollar Bridge, but if you are up for a little walk and enjoy head hunting for subtle risers then this could be the spot for you.

Cold, gray conditions will make this an afternoon event as well. All the usual fall suspects will be present like Baetis mayflies and midges. Work slowly, examine each piece of slow, glassy water carefully, and be prepared with a good slackline reach cast. These won’t be easy fish to fool, but they may be some of the most memorable rises of the entire season.

Missouri River

As we slide ever closer towards the dark, frozen abyss that is winter in Yellowstone Country our team of resident Missouri River guides are enjoying far more comfortable conditions. It’s not exactly flip-flop weather in Cascade and Craig, but it’s 10-15 degrees warmer than West Yellowstone, and the boys are making the most out of late season on the MO.

There’s still some great dry fly fishing to be had in spots with Baetis, Pseudo’s, and caddis. Streamer fishing continues to produce good results. And, the nymph game…well, you know.

If you’re in the area, and you’re looking for some quality late-season fishing, don’t forget about the MO.

Henry’s Fork

Another great option for late season angling after the season ends in Yellowstone is the Henry’s Fork. Up in the caldera around Last Chance you can expect to see similar conditions to those on the Firehole and Madison. Afternoon highs look to be in the cold 30’s and 40’s. Baetis mayfly activity should continue here, but as with the other fisheries, most of the activity will be concentrated to a few hours during the warmest part of the afternoon.

The lower river around Ashton will see slightly warmer temps, and a slightly larger bite window during the day. Baetis mayflies will continue to drive the dry fly fishing here, and browns will respond aggressively to streamers. Tread lightly on these browns as we move on through the remainder of the late season on the lower Henry’s Fork. Spawning season is in full swing here, and we need every last one of those big browns to be healthy for next season.

The Lakes

If you are a fan of stillwater angling, the final countdown has definitely begun. We see ice beginning to form later in November on many lakes, and by then the weather is often nasty enough to keep even the most dedicated lake anglers home. But, late autumn is an often overlooked time of year to target stillwaters. Stillwaters can be moody at this time of year, with passing storm fronts changing conditions from day to day. But the trout know that a long winter is coming, and they are feeding HARD when conditions are suitable. Think bigger in terms of fly selection, as leeches and baitfish have replaced the small mayflies of summer as a main food source. As vegetation dies back, scuds are also left homeless and wandering, making for an easy snack for the fish. Water temps are dropping down below the range where trout are most aggressive, so don’t be afraid to SLOW DOWN your presentation even more than usual. Look to the shallows first and fish during the warmest part of the day. Trout should be most active when things warm a bit.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 10/25/2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 10/25/2018

T-minus 10 days and counting! Yellowstone National Park will close to fishing next Sunday, November 4th marking the unofficial end to the 2018 season for us in Yellowstone Country.  

Last year Justin and the shop staff were forced to hike into the Park to make their final casts of the season as fresh snow and bitter temps closed the park roads to all traffic. This year looks a bit more hospitable. The upcoming forecast calls for typical late fall weather with warm temps through the weekend and cooler wetter weather for the final week.

After a week of sunny skies and unseasonably warm temps, we lucked into a good scuzzy day yesterday prompting bugs and fish alike to step up their respective games. Previously, bright conditions limited migratory fish activity to the early morning and late evening hours, and stymied afternoon hatches. All it took was one gray, wet day to get things kicked back into gear, and we have our fingers crossed for a few more of these before it’s over.

As the days get colder and shorter, so too does the bite window on our area fisheries. Migratory fish will still be active during the cold mornings and evenings, but all other fish activity will be limited to the warmer afternoon hours. As has been the case all fall, scuzzy days will produce more active migratory fish and stronger afternoon hatches of Baetis mayflies. So, be sure to take advantage of those days when we get them during this final week of the season.

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.

West Yellowstone Weather Forecast


Yellowstone National Park

As we slide into the final week of the season in YNP there is a noticeable change around town and in the Park. Not only does the fishing season close, but road access through the West gate and most of the park’s interior closes as well. Shops and restaurants are closing down, streets and sidewalks are finally emptying out, and park road signs are changing to address snow machines and snow coaches instead of tour buses and cars.

We have our fingers crossed for some more seasonable weather during the final week. While last week’s weather was gorgeous, we had enough sun and 70 degree temps this summer. Now it’s time to welcome in the end of the fishing year and the beginning of the off season with some crummy weather.

Look to the old standbys like the Firehole and the Madison to provide some of the last opportunities of the 2018 season, but don’t forget about the Gallatin in the park which was closed for most of the summer season due to wildfire activity. The Gallatin is now open to fishing access and has a healthy population of brown trout as well as the possibility of strong Baetis mayfly hatches in the afternoons, both key ingredients to successful fall fishing.

Madison River

The “Fifty Mile Riffle”, in particular the walk-wade water between Quake Lake and Lyons Bridge, produced some good late season fishing this past week. Nymph fishing during the late morning and afternoon hours was strong, and selective fish fed on the surface in the sneakiest of spots despite the bright skies. Weather conditions look good here through the weekend and into early next week. Afterwards, colder temps are in the forecast and that may slow things down a bit.

Unlike the waters in YNP, the Madison remains open to angling through the winter. While the regulations allow for fishing, Mother Nature does her best to limit opportunities and give the fishery a much needed rest. When afternoon highs start to dip down into the 30’s the river slowly shifts into a season of dormancy. Fish occupy deep, slow moving winter runs and pools, and bug activity grinds to a halt.

So, take advantage of these last warm days, and try to find a few more opportunities with sporty trout on the Madison.

Missouri River

With the season winding down the BSA crew has finished their fall migration to the Missouri and settled back into home waters around West Yellowstone. Joe, Jon, Hoovie, and Earl all had several great weeks of trips. Our handful of resident Missouri River experts like Greg Falls remain up on the Mo to finish out the season, and are enjoying some beautiful conditions for late October. Nymph, Dry, and Streamer games are all still productive, and the crowds are minimal. If you’re in the area, get in on the fun while you still can. Old Man Winter is knocking at the door.

Henry’s Fork

While opportunities in the Yellowstone caldera are winding down, we still have another month of fishing available in the neighboring caldera over on the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork. Baetis mayflies and midges can bring Ranch rainbows to the surface for a few hours each afternoon. There’s no guarantees on the Ranch. Some areas will produce good bugs on certain days and not on others, but persistence pays off. So, if conditions are good for a Baetis hatch and you’re not seeing bugs, or rising fish, don’t be afraid to take a little walk or try a new section. Odds are good that it’s happening somewhere.

The icy grip of winter is slowly tightening around the high country, but down in the Snake River Plain conditions are slightly warmer. This area around Ashton, ID is generally one of the first to start fishing well in the spring and it’s also one of the last to be fishing well in the fall. The lower Henry’s Fork, above and below Ashton, can have some great baetis hatches well into November, and weather conditions are often more comfortable here than they are up in the high country around West Yellowstone and Island Park. Streamer fishing for the lower river’s resident brown trout can also be exciting this time of year. Though, as we roll into November, be aware of spawning activity, and do your best to avoid spawning areas. These brutes deserve a break by this point in the fall, and the better we treat them now, the better they will treat us next spring and summer during dry fly season.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 10/18/2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 10/18/2018

What a roller coaster ride we have been on with the weather! Indian Summer is back in full effect across Yellowstone Country, and we’ve earned it. Snow, wind, and cold temps plagued the region for the last two weeks. The conditions may have been rugged, but the fishing has been excellent. Now, the forecast is showing sunny skies and temps in the upper 50’s. Will the baetis hatches be as strong? Probably not. Will the brown trout be as ornery? Doubtful. Will the days be some of the most beautiful and comfortable of the entire year? Absolutely

As always, fall fishing requires adaptability. We can still see some great fishing on bluebird days, but you might need to change your approach. Fall run fish on the Madison in the park will be active, but mainly in the early morning and evening hours when light conditions are low. Dry fly fishing can be great in the sun too, but hatches are generally sparse on bright days. On scuzzy days you can find every slick around $3 Bridge teaming with trout rising to a blanket emergence of Baetis mayflies. On bright days expect one or two of the best fish in each slick rising lazily to random Baetis and Midge adults. There’s still some great dry fly game to be had in the sun this time of year, but you might have to be a bit more patient and look a little closer to find it.

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.

West Yellowstone Weather Forecast


Yellowstone National Park

The countdown is on, two weeks to go. It’s time to buckle down and get some while the getting is still good, and open. Yellowstone Park closes to fishing this year on November 4th.

All of the perennial fall favorites are fishing well. It’s hard to put together a better day than a Madison / Firehole combo right now. However, warmer sunny days are ideal for a jaunt into the backcountry to explore the channel between Lewis and Shoshone lakes, or the lower Yellowstone Canyon near Gardiner. Brown trout throughout Yellowstone Country are activated and on the prowl.  These last two weeks are a great time to explore any system in the park that holds these fish.

Madison River

Scenery, solitude, and selective trout can all be had on the Madison down in the valley these days. Pick a nice warm afternoon and explore the walk-wade stretch with a single dry fly. If you take your time and watch the slicks and gentle runs along the banks you can find sneaky fish rising subtly to Baetis and Midges. This is a slow paced game with plenty of time and opportunity to soak up the epic scenery in the valley right now. Amber fall light, snow-capped peaks and blue skies paint a jaw dropping backdrop to the fishing.

Missouri River

BSA’s fall season on the MO is cranking on. The boys have scene it all this week from sunny with temps in the 60’s to cranking wind, snow, and temps in the 30’s. There’s been a variety of conditions, and a variety of sport to be had with the fly rod. We continue to chase those migratory browns with streamers, and hunt for heads up sipping fall hatches of Baetis and Caddis. There’s been some fun fishing, some beautiful fish, and some terrific clients. We’re excited to see what the next week brings with more comfortable conditions in the forecast.

Henry’s Fork

In keeping with the solitude and scenery theme, the Railroad Ranch will provide ample amounts of both. You’ll find some rising trout too. They’ll be technical as always, but we don’t head to the Ranch for easy fishing, especially at the end of October. Be prepared with small flies, long leaders, and the finest tippets you’ve thrown all season. Like a long distance runner training for a race, you’ve been honing your dry fly skills since the first spring hatches popped back in March. The time has come to see just how far your game has developed. World class rainbows will be eating Baetis and Midges. Do you have what it takes? There’s only one way to find out.

The lower river continues to be a great option for any game you want to play. Streamers, nymphs, and dries are all productive. The ever snowier Tetons loom over this lower system serving as a not-so-subtle reminder of things to come. So, take advantage of these beautiful weather days while you can.

Hebgen and Henry’s Lake

Late autumn is an often overlooked time of year to target stillwaters, probably because there are so many other outdoor activities to do, and because getting stuck float tubing when a snow squawl blows in is about at Type 2 fun as things get. Between fall streamer fishing, dry fly head hunting during baetis and Pseudo hatches, and big game and bird hunting, the lakes are often ignored. Stillwaters can be moody at this time of year, with passing storm fronts changing conditions from day to day. But the trout know that a long winter is coming, and they are feeding HARD when conditions are suitable. Think bigger in terms of fly selection, as leeches and baitfish have replaced the small mayflys of summer as a main food source. As vegetation dies back, scuds are also left homeless and wandering, making for an easy snack for the fish.

Hatch Profile – The Mayfly Formerly Known as Pseudocloeon

Hatch Profile – The Mayfly Formerly Known as Pseudocloeon

Every fall in Yellowstone Country there is a tiny mayfly in the Baetis family that is responsible for some outstanding dry fly fishing. These miniature mayflies range from size 20-26, but what they lack in stature they more than make up for in abundance, and mystique.

Massive emergences of these bugs are commonplace in the fall on legendary rivers like the Henry’s Fork, Madison, Big Horn and Missouri. For generations fly anglers have called this bug Pseudocloeon (Sue-doe-clee-on) or Pseudo for short. However, in recent years the entomology community has re-classified the taxonomy so many times that it is hard for the average angler to keep up; consequently, many anglers have no idea what these little olive mayflies are actually called.

Iswaeon anoka is the current genus and species of the mayfly formerly known as Pseudocloeon edmunsi, Pseudocloeon anoka, Heterocloeon anoka, Baetis punctiventris and Plauditus punctiventris. As is always the case, fish could care less about taxonomy, and old habits die hard. The name Pseudocloeon is so ingrained in fly fishing culture that it is hard to imagine a day when fly bins have the name “Anoka” on them instead of “Pseudo” or even “BWO”. There’s also no telling how many more times this little bug will be renamed.  So, in deference to fly fishing history, and practicality, the mayfly formerly known as Pseudocloeon edmunsi, now known as Iswaeon anoka will be referred to as “Pseudo” for the purposes of this article.

The genus Pseudocloeon was first described by Frantisek Klapalek in 1905 from samplings of mayflies he obtained in mountain streams that drain volcanoes in Java. Similar specimens were found in Argentina, and of course, the American West. The main differentiating feature of these mayflies is the absence of secondary wings. Most mayflies in their dun (subimago) and spinner (imago) stages have large primary wings and small secondary wings. Pseudos are missing these secondary wings all together. Aside from their diminutive size, this is one way to tell them apart from their larger Baetis cousins who are sometimes hatching at the same time in the spring and fall.

Pseudos, like others in the Baetidae family, are multi-brooded. There is a hatch in the spring and one in the fall. Eggs laid in the spring have a shorter gestation period as water temperatures are warmer during the summer, and spawn the fall hatches. Eggs laid in the fall have a longer gestation time as water temps are cold in the winter, and spawn the spring hatches.

Pseudo nymphs are strong swimmers and inhabit a wide range of habitat types from pea gravel to large cobble, and long strands of weeds. These tiny (size 22–26) nymphs have two elongated tails and a body coloration that ranges from light olive to tan with dark brown wing pads. Their aptitude for swimming makes them difficult targets for feeding trout; therefore, nymph imitations fished deep are often unproductive.

As good as Pseudo nymphs are at swimming, they are equally lousy when it comes to emerging. Nymphs ascend quickly from the bottom of the water column then pause just under the surface riding the current for some time before they struggle to break through the water’s surface tension. Small nymph imitations fished in, or just below the surface, although challenging, can be very effective.

The emergence process is a clumsy affair for Pseudo duns too. Many duns have difficulty freeing themselves from their nymphal shuck. Half-emerged duns ride the surface for great distances with their trailing shucks trapped in the water’s surface tension. These vulnerable emergers are an easy meal for feeding trout, and patterns dressed with cdc or deer hair to imitate a partially emerged wing, and synthetic materials for a trailing shuck are a must have for selective fish.

Once emerged, Pseudo duns will display a variety of body coloration depending on location and sex which can range from light olive to a vibrant, chartreuse green. Duns have dusky gray wings with no secondary wing, and two long tails that are a striking, chalky white.

Emergences occur during the afternoon, and unlike other Baetis mayflies, strong hatches do not rely on scuzzy weather. Pseudos are perfectly content emerging in vast quantities on sunny days as well as cool, cloudy ones. Though, on especially warm, sunny fall days emergences might not happen until an hour or two before dark.

Pseudo spinners generally return to the water at dusk, and are often present in the drift with duns and emergers during evening emergences. They too lack a secondary wing, but their primary wings are glassy clear. Body coloration can span the full spectrum of greens, but is many times bright apple-green. Adult female Pseudos lay their eggs under water. After mating the females will routinely land on stream side objects and crawl into the water to deposit eggs.

The mayfly formerly known as Pseudocloeon has undergone massive changes in it’ s taxonomy. Yet, despite several new names and an altogether different genus, it remains the same tiny mayfly that hatches in incredible numbers producing memorable dry fly sessions with trophy trout on many of our favorite rivers in Yellowstone Country.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 10/04/2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 10/04/2018

Fall in Yellowstone Country is like a heavyweight title fight between two legendary contenders, Summer and Winter. You never know how the fight will unfold, but you always know who will win. Some years it’s a long, punishing slugfest. On other years, it’s a quick KO. Either way, Winter always emerges victorious in the end.

This year the battle began with Winter taking a surprise cheap shot at Summer before they even bumped gloves at the center of the ring. A strong storm brought rain and snow to Yellowstone Country in the end of August, and the fight was on. September was a blow for blow bout between cold, wet storms and brilliant blue, sunny skies.

As we begin October, Winter has Summer up against the ropes, and looks to be dealing a round of punishing body blows. The upcoming forecast is showing a prolonged period of storms beginning this weekend and lasting through next week. High temps are predicted to be in the 30-40’s and lows are going to drop into the teens in West Yellowstone. Accumulating snow is also a possibility.

It’s been a spirited brawl so far this year. Will this be it for Summer? Is the fight over, or will Summer climb back into the ring like Jack Dempsey for another round? No one knows for sure.

What we can say for sure is that the upcoming forecast, inhospitable as it is, will produce some excellent fall fishing conditions. Fall fishing revolves around hatches of Baetis mayflies and streamer eating brown trout, both of which flourish during periods of scuzzy weather. This year’s heavyweight slugfest has developed into a scuzzfest, and you can’t ask for a better situation on area rivers like the Madison, Firehole, Henry’s Fork, and Missouri.

So, pack your puffy layers and Gore-Tex. Load your thermos and streamer box. Dig out your warmest socks and gloves. The next round of this year’s match is about to start. It’s sure to be a cold and wet one, but it might also be the most exciting round of the fight!

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.

West Yellowstone Weather Forecast


Yellowstone National Park

If the forecast holds true, this will be an ideal week to fish the Madison and Firehole rivers in YNP. Scuzzy weather conditions will have migratory fish on the move,  and active for most of the day in the Madison. On the Firehole you can expect to see good hatches of Baetis mayflies, though emergence times may be delayed until later afternoon hours if the temps are as cold as predicted. So, don’t be afraid to spend more time on the Madison swinging those flies, and head up to the Firehole in the afternoon. Then, as the hatch wanes on the Firehole, make your way back to the Madison for an evening session before dark. Keep an eye out for late hatches of Baetis and the fly formerly known as Pseudocloeon on the Madison in the evenings as well. It’s not widespread, but during heavy emergences those big, migratory fish will rise in certain places on the Madison in the park and provide some of the most exciting dry fly fishing of the season.

Whether you are lucky enough to run into rising fish on the Madison in the park or up on the Firehole, remember these late season hatches are small (size 20-26), and these fish have been fished to for the entire season (some more than others). The dry fly game this time of year is as technical, and rewarding, as it gets. Long leaders, stealthy approaches, and perfect presentations are a must.

Madison River

Scuzzy, october afternoons afford experienced anglers an excellent opportunity to test their dry fly skills in the walk-wade section of the Madison River below Earthquake Lake. Large browns and rainbows are in the sneakiest of spots at this time of year, oftentimes right along the bank, and they want nothing more than to eat a well-presented dry fly. The trick, of course, is presenting a size 22 dry fly without drag in these tight quarters. Long, fine tippets and precise casts that implement just the right amount of slack while positioning the line and leader in the perfect spot so as to avoid drag, are as crucial as they are challenging.

Cold, wet October conditions bring out impressive emergences of Baetis mayflies on the Madison. This is always an afternoon activity, and the colder the weather the later the hatch. In absence of a hatch, prospecting with a single, small Baetis imitation can produce a subtle rise from an impressive fish. Focus your efforts on the calm water and slicks in pockets near the bank. If you’re wading up to your knees, you have most likely spooked a good fish to get there.

October is also a perfect time to hone your Euro-nymphing skills on the walk-wade stretch of the Madison. Flows are low and clear, and those prized fish have seen every type of strike indicator known to man by this point in the season. If you are clumsily pounding a strike indicator into the calm, clear pockets of the Madison around $3 Bridge or Raynolds Pass right now, you might as well be using a Common Merganser duck as a bobber, because those trophy fish that you are after respond in the same way; they leave. When done well, presenting nymphs on a tight line allows for a stealthy presentation without the risk of lining fish or spooking them with the plop of an indicator. It’s also ultimately effective for detecting subtle strikes on small nymphs from wary fish.

Henry’s Fork

In all of angling literature there may not be a more heralded river than the Henry’s Fork, and a more eloquent correspondent than Ernie Schwiebert. The following is an excerpt from Schweibert’s Nymphs Vol I depicting an October day on the Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork with another fine ambassador to the river, Rene Harrop.

“…Harrop and I walked downstream to the top of The Braids.  Few fish were working yet, and we sat happily in the grass before wading across. There were whiteface cattle beyond the river, and the sun was still bright on the half-domed summit of Grand Teton. We were talking about explorer John Colter and what this country must have been like in 1807. As the light finally began to drop, Harrop stood up to observe the lines of drift under the opposite bank.

“They’re starting,”he said, his amazing eyesight scanning the distance.

He was right. Several good fish were working quietly in the shadow of the opposite bank. Harrop led the way, and we negotiated the river slowly, watching for bank-feeders as we crossed. The fish were on the hatching Pseudocloeon duns when we started casting, but soon switched to the tiny chartreuse-bodied spinners. I found the fish opposite me more receptive to floating nymph imitations dressed in the Harrop style, with fat balls of pale synthetic dubbing to suggest the unfurling wings, until the hatching subimagoes ebbed and they switched to spinners.

These pale green-bodied Pseudocloeon edmundsi (Heterocloeon anoka) flies had been hatching since early fall, sometimes mixed with Baetis parvus (Diphetor hageni) in the late afternoons. They were literally all over the current. We both took fish steadily that evening, and fish were still sipping spinners when I saw Harrop working slowly down stream. I was still playing a good fish when he finally arrived, careful to mute the pressure waves of his wading. He held back to avoid frightening the big fish until it finally surrendered to the net.

“Good fish,” he said. “We’d better start back.”

He led the way in the gathering darkness, expertly negotiating the diagonal passage between two brushy islands where the current had shaped a shallow crossing before it shelved off again into a deeply scoured hole. The river itself was shallow, with a pea-gravel bottom, and we quartered downstream toward the opposite bank to avoid fighting it’s flow. Grand Teton and it’s sisters still glowed in the distance. Big flocks of geese were passing in the darkness, barking and yelping as they circled overhead. We had nearly reached the opposite bank when hundreds and hundreds of geese began dropping in the darkness, Circling and settling all around us, and filling the night with their magic.

Schweibert penned this decades ago, and evenings like this are still commonplace today. The same bugs are still hatching, although we have renamed them, and you can find fish rising in many of the same spots.  In addition to the Pseudos and Baetis that Schweibert describes you can expect to see Mahagony Duns, and the last of the Tricos in the coming week.

Schweibert’s account is a great description of fishing back in the “Good ol’ Days”. It’s also a perfect reminder that not much has really changed over the years in the Ranch, and these will be the “Good ol’ Days” for future generations. At a time when so many of our Western fisheries are at odds with development, and increased use. It’s significant to have a place like the Railroad Ranch stretch of the Henry’s Fork where time seems to stand still.