Welcome to the Weekly Fishing Report from Big Sky Anglers!
Big water, big bugs, and green hillsides continue to be the headlines this week from Yellowstone Country. Warm temps and rain are doing their best to melt our stellar snow pack from last winter, and we are seeing big, muddy flows on many of our area fisheries.
A slight cooling trend is in the forecast for the end of this week and into the weekend with locally heavy thunderstorms predicted throughout the area. Temps look like they will back in the 70’s in West Yellowstone early next week. With 3 to 4 feet of snow remaining locally in the high country, we expect to see similar water conditions for the upcoming week. We have our fingers crossed for some cooler temps through June to help preserve some of the high country snow that we have left.
The moisture is welcome, though, and despite high flows in much of the area we continue to find some quality fishing on our early season favorites like the Henry’s Fork and Hebgen Lake.
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.
Carrot Basin Snotel (Madison River drainage)
Black Bear Snotel (this is the closest station to the headwaters of the Firehole and a good general indication of snow pack in that area. This is also one of the four indicators of snow pack and water supply for the upper Henry’s Fork)
Island Park Snotel (Upper Henry’s Fork)
Crab Creek Snotel (Centennial Mountains – Upper Henry’s Fork)
White Elephant Snotel (Sawtelle Mountain – Upper Henry’s Fork)
The Fork continues to produce good fishing with salmonflies currently being found throughout the entire system. Flows out of Island Park were higher than anticipated over Memorial Day weekend due to heavy rains and higher than average temps across the watershed. However, levels have been dropped back down around 900cfs, and are expected to remain there for a few days as Island Park Reservoir approaches full pond again (currently 98%). Look for flows to increase and match inflow to Island Park Reservoir as early as this weekend.
The Big Bugs are the big story on the Fork again this week. Salmonflies are crawling all over this fishery from the Box Canyon down to the lower river. Golden Stones have begun to show in the lower river as well. As the stoneflies run their course on the Henry’s Fork, we expect to see a lull in the hatch activity here for a week or two before the bulk of our prime time hatches begin in earnest.
Yellowstone National Park
We’re one week into the 2018 fishing season in Yellowstone Park, and anglers are still dealing with high flows on their favorite Park fisheries.
Flows have dropped slightly this week on the Firehole and Madison. The Firehole is currently showing around 800cfs, and clarity is slowly moving from light latte to the tea-stained brown that we need to see some consistent dry fly fishing. Rain and warm temps in the next few days may slow this progression, but keep a close eye on the Firehole in the coming week. If flows can get down below 700 cfs, or ideally closer to 500 cfs, we can expect to see some dry fly fishing with PMD’s and Caddis.
The “Flush” continued this week on the Madison. Flows have held steady around 2400 cfs out of Hebgen with 3500 at Kirby, and a whopping 5400 cfs at Varney! We love seeing the river this big, and we’re excited about the benefits these heavy flows will have on clearing accumulations of fine sediment, and increasing the overall health of this river.
Officials from Energy West tell us that the “Flush” will finish today (Thursday May 31), and flows will be reduced to “normal” run off conditions. Keep an eye on these USGS sites, or give us a call in the shop for up to the minute info on flows.
Some exciting fishing can still be found in these big flows for anglers looking to fish heavy stonefly imitations and streamers close to the bank. In some places fish are holding where we would generally be standing on the bank!
If you do venture out to the Madison, be sure to wade safely. In most places it’s not necessary to wade deep, or to even get in the river at all. The flow is dangerous and deserving of the utmost respect.
Hebgen is always one of our favorite early season fisheries during run off, and this year it’s no exception. Giant (size 12) midges can still be found along the North shore of the lake, and some substantial fish. Have been found this week stripping chironomid and leech patterns. We have a great selection of new lake flies in the shop right now. Be sure to swing by and grab a few of our favorites if you’re in town.
Here’s a look at what’s happening up on the MO from our resident expert, BSA founder, Joe Moore.
The Mighty Mo is living up to its nickname this season and is humming along at 19,300 cfs! Will it go higher? My guess is yes as the rains keep coming here in Southwest Montana and there is still snow in the high country of the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin. Coming in at Toston is 26,500 cfs….thats big water folks. Do you know where your life jackets are?
I am back home now but Greg Falls and our crew on the Missouri are stilling rowing their collective butts off and finding plenty of fish. Long floats are the norm and running the Dam to Stickney is an easy day float at these flows. The Canyon Stretch is hard to fish at this level; from Mid Canon to just above Grassy Banks there are a handful of spots to find some fish eating flies, but be prepared to lose plenty of bugs if when fishing around the submerged islands! Down at Ulm, the river is 22,800 cfs.
When I left a few days ago, I noticed one particular technique that was not working when fishing from the boat. A few words of advice are below.
Even the best anglers can NOT roll cast an 11+ foot leader with two BB and one B split shot followed by two flies Sorry folks, this will just lead to a big mess of 2x and 3x and finding a safe spot to pull over on the bank is not always possible. Stop roll casting this rig and get that habit out of your head ASAP.
The best way to cast this rig from the boat is to strip up most of your fly line, keep your rod perpendicular to the boat, elevate the bobber out of the water which will also bring the split shot close to the surface, make a back cast, wait of the rod to load (it will tell you when it’s ready) and then make your forward cast. If said cast didn’t go exactly the way you’d like it to, my suggestion is to leave it alone and fish it. Most of the fish are sitting about 5 feet from the guides oar blade.
Setting the hook. When fishing an 11+ foot leader, it takes a long time to actually tighten up the line and get the hook set in the fish’s mouth. Plenty of times last week, anglers in my boat thought they were hung on the bottom, only to find a trout on the end of their line. A proper nymphing rig will touch the bottom from time to time, that’s how this works. One must set the hook on anything that bumps, pauses, twitches or take the bobber under. Period. Once that hook set is made, an angler MUST strip line and gather the slack to get tight. Once you’re tight, it might take a couple more strips of line to really get that rod bent. When setting that hook, one must fully commit! Set the hook and if nothing is attached to the end of the line, then go straight in to a back cast, wait for the line to straighten out behind you and then get your line back in the river. Too often I see anglers set the hook and not fully commit. Hook sets are free, commit to it and you will catch more fish.
Good luck out there and be safe in the high water.