It’s an exciting time of the season to be a fly angler here in Yellowstone Country. With river conditions shaping up, the weather forecast looking great for fishing, and the Railroad Ranch opening this weekend, it’s sure to be an excellent week.
Snowpack levels across the area have fallen again this week with almost negligible amounts remaining at local Snotel sites. Black Bear, which is an indicator for both the Fire Hole and Henry’s Fork headwaters, is the only exception, and still shows roughly 20 inches of snow on the ground. This high elevation snow will continue to melt off slowly over the next few weeks, and should have no immediate impact on water clarity.
We’ve seen some below average temps this past week across Yellowstone Country, and more of the same is in the forecast. Cool, wet conditions with daytime highs in the 50’s – 60’s, and rain are predicted through the weekend and into next week.
If you find this news of scuzzy weather disappointing, then you most likely have never stood in the middle of the Ranch on the Henry’s Fork, or below Biscuit Basin on the Firehole during a gray, cool June afternoon amidst millions of emerging mayflies, and gobs of rising trout. Fear not, fair weather fishing friends! This is the combination of variables that we dream about for June fishing. Pack your Gore-Tex, and a puffy layer. Fill the Stanley with coffee. And, make sure your dry fly arsenal is well stocked. It’s going to be a fun week.
Read on to see our take on this week’s fishing, and check out the links below to stay current on area forecasts, flows, and snow pack. 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.
Friday June 15 is the opening day of fishing for the Railroad Ranch, and it’s like Christmas Day on the Henry’s Fork. The rest of the river has been open and fishing well for weeks. All the while, those big, beautiful rainbows in the Ranch have been quietly feeding in solitude, bulking up in preparation for another season of testing anglers skills at the highest level.
Water and weather conditions could not be more ideal this weekend for the Ranch. Flows out of Island Park are around 700 cfs, and will remain steady through the weekend. Weather in Last Chance will be cool and wet with showers and highs in the 60’s.
Expect to see good emergences of PMD and Baetis mayflies with these conditions from late morning through the afternoon in the Ranch. Will the Green Drakes show? You’ll have to go to know.
The lower river below Ashton continues to fish well. Flows below Ashton bumped slightly this week, but have fallen again, and are currently around 1700cfs. The Fall River has fallen quite a bit in the last few days, and is now around 1400cfs. It’s a smorgasbord down here these days with Salmonflies, Golden Stones, Caddis, PMD’s, Green Drakes, Gray Drakes, and Flavs all playing a part in the fishing at different times in different locals. Cool, wet weather will benefit mayfly activity and the fishing here as well.
The Ranch opener also coincides with Henry’s Fork Days, the annual celebration and fundraiser for all things Henry’s Fork put on by the Henry’s Fork Foundation. Here’s a link to the foundation website. https://henrysfork.org You’ll find more info about the event, as well as a schedule, and of course, ways to show your support. We can’t stress enough how important the Henry’s Fork Foundation is to the health of this fishery, and how vital their role is in managing it successfully. So, if you haven’t already, join the foundation, and help them protect this world-class fishery.
Yellowstone National Park
The best fishing and water conditions continue to be in the Firehole, Madison, and Gibbon Rivers in the Park. Runoff is still a factor for much of the Park waters, but the warmer, geyser-influenced fisheries near West Yellowstone are in prime condition. Flows on the Firehole are currently perfect at around 400 cfs, and clarity is ideal with a slight tea-stained tannic brown that is typical here.
You can expect to see good emergences of PMD’s and Baetis mayflies throughout this system on cool, wet days. The cooler the weather, the later the hatch. Often times, you can fish a stellar emergence of PMD’s on the Firehole, and as it’s wrapping up, move downstream to the Madison to find the same hatch occurring later in the day.
Salmonflies can still be found in isolated sections of highly-oxygenated, fast moving water throughout this system. If the sun peaks out, and temps warm, look for the last big stoneflies of the season in these waters to make an appearance.
Flows have dropped significantly on the Madison this week, and clarity has improved. Overall, water conditions are great for mid-June. Flows are around 1000cfs below Hebgen, and 1400cfs at Kirby. There are less than 10 inches of snow left on the ground in Carrot Basin. The remaining snowpack in the Madison watershed will have a nominal impact on streamflows and clarity from here on.
Nymphing remains the main game here, and it’s been a good one. Both the walk-wade, and float sections are fishing well. The dry fly game is slowly starting with some Caddis and PMD’s in isolated areas, but consistent action is still a week or so out. As is usually the case with the Madison, when the real bug activity starts here, it pops and fish feed hard on the surface. Stay tuned for good things to come from the Madison in the next few weeks.
You guessed it, flows are down here as well. Below Holter, we’re seeing around 12,000cfs. That’s still a lot of water, but it’s getting closer to 10,000cfs, and that’s getting closer to consistent dry fly fishing flows. Some PMD’s and Caddis are around. Fish are rising in a few places, but you need to have the encyclopedic knowledge of someone who has devoted most of their adult life to learning this river to find them consistently. Someone like Greg Falls for instance, BSA’s own “Mr. Miyagi of the Missouri”, might find some rising fish right now. Otherwise, consistent nymph fishing is bringing fish to the net on a daily basis. The next few weeks will get exciting here as well. Stay tuned as this turns into one of the best dry fly fisheries in the world by the end of the month.
The majority of the fish we were finding up and on the bite before the cold snap responded to the rapid weather change by dropping down deep and going off the bite for a bit. With stabilizing weather conditions, look for happiness to return to both the fish, and the anglers that pursue them. Match chironomid emergences if you see rising fish, and remember, if you see emerging chironomids or concentrations of shucks on the water, there are probably big numbers of greedy trout feeding subsurface as well. During non-hatch times don’t be shy about stripping a Seal Bugger, Stillwater Nymph, X-mas Tree Bugger, or your own favorite stillwater attractor pattern on a sinking line selected to match the depth of the water and the speed of your retrieve.