August is upon us, and just like that it’s gotten hot and smoky here in Yellowstone Country. Runoff is well behind us and we are transitioning into mid-summer conditions on our local fisheries. There’s a bunch of great fishing going on throughout the area, but it’s time to start thinking strategically about where, when, and how we are fishing these days.
Two local blazes, as well as numerous regional wildfires are adding smoke to our skies. Locally, we have the Bacon Rind Fire burning just west of Yellowstone Park roughly 23 miles north of West Yellowstone, and the Grassy Ridge Fire burning 15 miles northwest of St. Anthony, Idaho. The Grassy Ridge Fire is responsible for most of the lower level smoke around West Yellowstone these days. Currently it is 97% contained at just under 100,000 acres. Minimal fire activity is expected over the next few days, and it is likely that we will see a slight break in the smoke as crews mop up this blaze. The Bacon Rind Fire has grown to 414 acres, and continues to burn slowly through beetle killed timber on ridge lines above the Gallatin River.
We’ve seen some scattered thunderstorms and showers across the area this week. The upcoming forecast looks seasonal with high temps in the low 80’s and low’s in the 40’s. Again, there is no substantial moisture predicted for the foreseeable future.
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.
Yellowstone National Park
August is one of our favorite times in Yellowstone Park, because we begin to shift our focus to the many backcountry fishing options here. More than 90% of the 4 million plus annual visitors to the park never leave the roads or boardwalks, and see only 10% of its 2.2 million acres. That leaves thousands of miles of fishable water in the park’s backcountry to explore with drastically fewer people than frontcountry fisheries.
This is a great time of year to hike into headwater streams, and backcountry lakes. Bring some bear spray, a map, some good boots, and your spirit of adventure. There’s nowhere else in the lower 48 states that provides more backcountry wilderness fishing opportunities than Yellowstone Park.
If your adventures include a trip to the northeast corner of the park be sure to keep an eye on the forecast and streamflows. Afternoon thunderstorms can temporarily blow out some of these fisheries, and make for a long fruitless backcountry trip.
As always, give us a call anytime at the shop (406-646-7801) for updates on conditions, and recent fishing reports. Additionally, If you are in the area, and thinking about a backcountry trip, swing into the shop. We can spread out the maps, and help you sort through the dozens of available options.
As we move into August our focus changes from the famous bugs of our early-season hatch cycle to some lesser-known, but arguably more important mid-season insects like Epeorus Mayflies, Flying Ants, Spruce Moths, and Nocturnal Stones.
When it gets hot and dry in the Madison Valley it’s important to plan your day around the cooler air and water temps found early in the am and later in the pm. Epeorus mayflies will emerge sporadically throughout the day this time of year, but adults will concentrate in mating flights and spinner falls in the mornings, and especially in the evenings. These size 16, pale-cinnamon colored spinners will bring good fish to the surface, but keep in mind that trophy fish on the Madison have seen more than their fair share of attention already this season, and they are not in the mood for bad drifts. Perfect presentations will prompt some beautiful fish to rise to your fly. Sloppy presentations with drag will leave you wondering if there are any fish living in the river at all.
As you fish your way through the Madison Valley these days you will undoubtedly see some empty stonefly shucks on streamside rocks and logs. These are not leftovers from earlier Salmonfly and Goldenstone hatches. Most of these shucks are from a later season stonefly that we refer to as a Nocturnal Stone. These are flightless stones that skitter across the water’s surface after emerging in the nighttime or early morning hours. We rarely see these size 8 and 10 Stoneflies during the daytime hours, but if you’re diligent you can find one along the bank. When you do, you’ll have a hard time hanging on to the little guy as all they want to do is run away, and they’re good at it. As such, when fishing size 8 and 10 dry stonefly imitations, like Chubby Chernobyl’s, you will often see an eat after mending the fly and imparting a “twitch” into your drift.
Another less than obvious insect that is massively important to trout in the Madison River, and across Yellowstone Country, this time of year is the flying ant. Stay tuned to the Big Sky Anglers Blog and Newsletter for an in depth profile on these terrestrials later this season. In the meantime, be sure to have some size 14-16 red and black ant imitations when you’re fishing. On many days this is one of the few dries that will bring larger fish to the surface during the afternoon hours.
The last of these overlooked insects that is important on local waters now is the Spruce Moth. This terrestrial moth is found in area forests, and in places where forests border the river, you can find size 12-14 tan moths fluttering along the water. Whenever these moths show up fish are on the lookout, and are willing to take a well-presented imitation throughout the day.
It’s August now, and that means it’s officially Gulper Season on Hebgen Lake. Some days the fish and bugs know that…some days they don’t. Either way it’s worth paying attention to this fantastic fishery on calm mornings. From now until the frost comes in September you can expect to see Callibaetis and Trico mayflies on Hebgen. When the conditions are warm and calm, especially for several days in a row, you can find groups of large Hebgen trout feeding consistently on the surface.
When it’s going, this is some of the most exciting sight fishing with a dry fly anywhere in the world. Be prepared to make long, accurate casts to a moving target, and keep your expectations on numbers of fish low. This is a quality vs quantity game. On exceptional mornings, we are tickled to get a mere handful of fish on a dry fly.
If the dry fly game isn’t your thing you can also still target these trout subsurface with Callibaetis nymph or chironomid imitations fished blind or sight cast to feeding fish.
Just when we had all but written off the PMD hatch this year on the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork the river decided to remind us that in the end it in fact has the final say in hatches. It seems as though the river was saving all of its PMD’s for mid-summer this year. We’ve finally seen some strong emergences of PMD’s in the Ranch and good numbers of quality fish looking for them. That’s not to say it’s been easy fishing by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s been opportunities. In addition to both PMD duns and spinners, there have also been some Flav spinners, and a few Gray Drake spinners.
The Box Canyon remains one of the most consistent options in the area. Nymphing has been good with the usual assortment of small beadheads fished deep, and Golden Stones continue to provide fun dry fly fishing.