Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 08/23/2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 08/23/2018

The end of our summer season is rapidly approaching here in Yellowstone Country. It’s colder and colder every morning, and the sun is setting earlier every night. The lush, green hillsides of July have dried to a golden amber, and terrestrials are the main fare on many area waters instead of PMD’s and Caddis. It’s still busy in town, and on the water, but it’s not the frenetic pace of a beehive that we saw a month ago. It’s always bittersweet to see the seasons change, but that means fall is just around the corner, and some of the most exciting fishing this area has to offer is yet to come.

We’ve seen some cooler, cloudier weather across Yellowstone Country this week, which is a welcome change for both the wildfires and the fishing.

Our local blazes continue to burn, but this week’s moisture has contributed to little or no growth in their total acreage. For. The most up to date information, and daily reports on wildfires, check out the Incident Information System website.

The Bacon Rind Fire continues to impact travel on hwy 191 north of West Yellowstone. The speed limit in that section of the park has been reduced to 45mph, and travelers can expect intermittent delays.

More unsettled weather is in the forecast this week.  The weekend looks warm and sunny with highs in the 70’s, but another system rolls in on Monday bringing cooler temps and the chance for showers and thunderstorms.

Preparations continue for our second annual West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days event on September 21 & 22.  We will have presentations on Spey casting and fishing, gear demos from a great group of vendors, and of course, a party back at the shop.  Check out the Event Website for all the details and more as we add info about individual presentations.

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

Thunderstorms have produced muddy water in Yellowstone favorites like the Lamar and the Black Canyon this week, but water conditions have cleared up just as quickly as they blew out. With more storms in the forecast be sure to check flows online or call the shop for an update before making the long drive to that part of the park.

The caldera section (from Chittenden Bridge to Fishing Bridge) of the Yellowstone River remains a great option for some technical sight fishing with dry flies to exceptional Cutthroat trout. Spinner falls have fish looking up in the mornings and evenings, and terrestrials like hoppers, beetles, and ants will produce in the afternoons.

It’s prime time in Yellowstone’s backcountry right now. Water conditions are good. Trail conditions are good. The biting flies are done for the season (for the most part). And, backcountry trout are feasting on terrestrials. If you have been dreaming of a backcountry sojourn this summer, but haven’t made any plans, this is a great time of year to do an impromptu DIY trip. Check with the backcountry office for any last minute cancellations. You just might get lucky and find an opening on some of the most sought after spots like Slough Creek.

This might sound nuts, but the end of August is the perfect time to break out the two-handed rods and start practicing. The Madison in the park is an excellent spot for these sessions as crowds are non-existent this time of year, and you just might run into one of the first big lake fish making their way up into the system.

Madison River

Hoppertunities abound in the Madison valley. (Please excuse the cheap malaprop. It’s low-hanging fruit, and I promise to only use it once a year. ) Terrestrial fishing with hoppers and flying ants has been strong on the Madison when the sun is shining, and cloud cover has brought out the very first of our late season baetis hatches. A few Caddis and Epeorus remain, especially in the walk wade stretch and near the slide. Cool water temps are keeping trout happy through the afternoon hours. This may be some of the best fishing we’ve seen on the Madison at this time of year in a long time.

Hebgen Lake

Calm, hazy mornings this week have produced the best Gulper fishing of the year so far. It’s been chilly in the mornings. So, the best spinner activity has been in the late mornings and early afternoons. Look for fish targeting midges in the early am hours. These early targets will be tough, but can provide some awesome fishing before the Callibaetis get rolling.

Henry’s Fork

Late-August is one of our favorite times on the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork, and this one has been particularly good. We are still seeing some PMD’s, mainly around the areas influenced by springs, as well as tricos, and flying ants. It’s a great time of year for a long, morning walk into the Ranch. Bring your patience, the best reach-cast you can muster, and a keen eye for the multitude of different insects in the drift. This isn’t a numbers game; it never is on the Ranch, but you will get up close and personal with some remarkable rainbows, and you will remember each and every one that you target.

Both the Box Canyon and Warm River to Ashton stretches have produced consistent nymph fishing, as well as a great refuge from the wind this week. With kids going back to school, the “splash and giggle” crowd has fallen off, and we’ve had some lovely afternoon floats in both of these canyons.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 08/16/2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 08/16/2018

The first half of August is in the books, and we’re seeing some typical conditions for this time of year in Yellowstone Country. It’s been warm and smoky. The sun is setting earlier and earlier.  Aspens and willows are showing the first hints of yellow.  Crowds are beginning to wane a bit as kids go back to school. Oh, and lots of trout are eating terrestrials.

Fire season is in full swing across Yellowstone Country. Several new blazes started in the area, and previous fires have grown substantially this week. Fires from across the region have contributed to a persistent haze in sky, which has produced some remarkable sunsets.

The Bacon Rind Fire located approx 23 miles north of West Yellowstone has grown to 1388 acres, and has impacted both travel on hwy 191 and fishing access on the park stretch of the Gallatin River. The fire remains on the west side of highway 191 and the river. However, fishing access to the river is closed from Fawn Pass trailhead to milepost 27. Furthermore, travelers driving on Highway 191 can expect delays while passing through that same section. Please note that all other Gallatin River access is open.

There are three new fires in the Madison Valley this week, the Monument Fire, The Wigwam Fire, and the Virginia Creek Fire. These fires were each caused by lightning strikes, and are burning in the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest west of the Madison River.

Weather forecasts are showing a good chance for moisture in the form of thunderstorms and showers through the weekend with seasonal conditions next week.

Although summer conditions persist, the mornings have had a nip in the air, alluding to exciting things to come this fall.  Among those fishy things we most look forward to is swinging flies on two-handed rods for trout.  AKA – Trout Spey.  If you’ve been bitten by the Trout Spey bug already, or have a notion that you might like to add something new and fun to your own angling, be sure to come to our second annual West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days event on September 21 & 22.  We will have presentations on Spey casting and fishing, gear demos from a great group of vendors, and of course, a party back at the shop.  Check out the Event Website for all the details and more as we add info about individual presentations.

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

Lamar River – Flows have been stable, water clarity is great, and water temps are perfect. Fishing has been very good with these consistent conditions on the Lamar. It’s terrestrial time in the northeast corner. Spruce moths are in the canyon waters, while hoppers, beetles, crickets, and ants are in the meadows.

Keep an eye on flows here this weekend if we get the thunderstorms that are forecasted. Any bump in the flows will mean the water is off color. As soon as flows are back to where they were before the bump, you’re good to go.

As we get later into the season on the Lamar, and flows continue to drop, it’s important to be prepared to cover a lot of ground when you’re fishing. There’s an over abundance of marginal water on the Lamar that looks like it should hold a few fish but doesn’t. Many times you’ll find yourself fishing to water that looks “alright” without any success only to find a “honey hole” around the next bend that is loaded with fish. The flows drop in this river over the course of the summer, and fish begin to concentrate in only the most prime lies. So, if you’re heading up to fish the Lamar be ready to cover a lot of water. Pass by all of that “so so” water until you reach a “honey hole” that you just can’t ignore and focus your efforts there.

Yellowstone River- Whether you’re in the canyon country or up in the caldera, flows continue to drop steadily and more of the river is becoming accessible to wading every day. It’s time to be thinking about hoppers, beetles, ants, and Morman Crickets when targeting these trophy Cutthroat trout.

Gallatin River – Access to the river is closed from Fawn Pass trailhead to mile marker 27 due to the Bacon Rind Fire.

Bechler River – While there’s no guarantee that the biting flies are completely done for the season, you can now plan on fishing this gem of a backcountry stream in relative comfort. The meadows have dried out which means biting flies should be at a minimum and terrestrials like hoppers, beetles, and ants will be at their peak.

Madison River

We’re currently seeing the best hopper fishing on the 50 mile riffle in years, especially in the float stretch. There’s plenty of speculation in the fishing community about why. Was it the “flushing flows” this spring, or the consistently cooler water coming out of the damn? Either way, we’re thrilled to see quality fish feeding on foam and rubber legs like it’s their job.

Hebgen Lake

Callibaetis and Trico mayfly activity is strong on Hebgen now. Smoke-filled skies, and calm, cold mornings combine to create false overcast conditions that enhance both the Callibaetis emergence and the mood of the feeding fish. Be sure to have some Callibaetis dun imitations in addition to the usual spinner patterns on mornings like these as emergences can be more concentrated than on clear, sunny days.

Spruce Moths are also active along the entire south shore of the lake, and they are producing some violent rises from prospecting trout.

Henry’s Fork

August continues to be redemption month on the Fork. Like a freshman in college after a long night of “orienting” to his new surroundings, who hit stop instead of snooze on the alarm, and slept through 8:00 am BIO 110; the PMD hatch on the Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork skipped July all together. Luckily, generous numbers of emerging PMD duns and mating PMD spinners in August have more than made up for the absence in July.

PMD’s, Tricos, Callibaetis, Honey Ants, and Hoppers area all important now in the Ranch and Last Chance waters.

The Box Canyon remains a solid bet for consistent nymph fishing, and sporadic dry fly fishing. Though the drifting weeds require a bit of patience. Many drifts end with a weed on the end of your line rather than a trout, but a crisp, water-loaded cast will usually clear the weeds and get you right back into the game.

Hatch Profile – Spruce Moth

Hatch Profile – Spruce Moth

One of the most overlooked and misunderstood terrestrials in Yellowstone Country fly fishing is the Spruce Moth. Commonly known as the Western Spruce Budworm Moth (Choristoneura occidentalis Freeman) these native insects are naturally occurring and found throughout the Rocky Mountain West from southern Canada to Arizona.

From late July through August you can see these size 12-14 moths tumbling across the water in fisheries that are lined by coniferous forests. Trout love feeding on Spruce Moths, and this activity produces excellent dry fly fishing at a time when most of the summertime hatches have finished for the season.

Adult moths are about 1⁄2-inch (13 mm) long, with a wingspan of approximately 1 inch (22-28 mm). Both sexes are similar in appearance, although females may be slightly larger. The wings are variable in color, ranging from gray to orange-brown; they also may be banded or streaked, and some individuals may have a conspicuous white dot on the wing margin.

Spruce Moths are endemic parasites that feed on the new growth of Douglas Fir, Subalpine Fir, and Engelmann Spruce trees. Adult moths hatch from their pupal cases in late July or early August. After emerging the adults are viable for 7 to 10 days in which time they mate, deposit eggs, and die.

Females deposit their eggs in orderly rows on the underside of conifer needles. Larvae hatch from these eggs in as little as 10 days, and seek shelter in the bark and lichen on tree trunks and limbs. Here the larvae spin a silken structure known as a Hibernicula, and remain inactive through the winter.

In spring (May-June) the larvae venture out from their hibernicula to feed and continue maturing. Spruce moth larvae will feed on newly sprouting foliage sometimes spinning webs of silk to encapsulate multiple buds, shoots, or cones.

It takes 30-40 days of feeding for a larvae to become fully grown at which time they pupate within the webs of silk they had formed previously to feed.

Western Spruce Budworm Moth infestations are cyclical and their abundance is regulated primarily by predation and environmental conditions. Spruce Moth larvae have many natural predators including spiders, beetles, wasps, chipmunks, squirrels, and a host of birds.

Freezing temperatures also play a key role in regulating populations. Though, it’s not the -30 and -40 degree arctic blasts of winter that kill Spruce Moth larvae.  They spend the winter tucked away in their warm, dry hiberniculas. Rather, it’s freezing temps in May and June, after the larvae have emerged and are on the feed, that prove fatal.

Abundances of spruce moths vary from year to year, but even on years with mild infestations this is an important terrestrial to imitate if you are fishing in August on waters like the Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone, Lamar, Hebgen, or Henry’s Fork, just to name a few. They can also be an important insect to be prepared for on many of our regional stillwaters.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 08/09/2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 08/09/2018

The “Dog Days of Summer” are officially here. It’s been hot, dry, and a bit smoky across Yellowstone Country lately. Fortunately though, we’ve seen good moisture by way of afternoon thunderstorms, and some downright chilly mornings with temps in the 30’s. This, coupled with the benefits of last winter’s solid snow pack and a wet spring, is keeping water conditions in great shape throughout the area.

It’s still dry fly season in Yellowstone Country, but August is the month to bring your “A-Game”. The trophy trout that call this region home have seen it all by this point in the season, and they are in no mood for a bad drift or clumsy approach. Success depends upon stealth, accuracy, and finesse. If you’re coming to the area to fish, be sure to get in some casting practice before your trip. If you’re already here, and having trouble, swing by the shop, and spend some time with one of our expert instructors or book a guide trip to fine tune that cast.

Our two local wildfires are behaving themselves somewhat compared to the blazes in other parts of the West. The Grassy Ridge Fire, which was located approx 15 miles north of Saint Anthony, ID is 100% contained and officials have deemed it no longer active. The Bacon Rind Fire located approx 23 miles north of West Yellowstone has grown slightly to 488 acres and continues to burn slowly through mixed old growth and beetle-killed forests.

Weather forecasts look hot and dry for the next week with highs pushing 90 this weekend. A slight cool down is in store for next week, though as temps get back to the upper 70’s and low 80’s. Nighttime lows look to stay in the cool 40’s which is great for water temps.

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 high country is the place to be when it gets hot and dry. Temps never get as warm up in the Park as they do in the lower river valleys, and many of the waters are just now reaching their average flow levels after a long snow melt.

The northeast corner of the Park has seen some muddy water as the result of strong thunderstorms this week. Flows are currently back to normal, and the forecast looks dry for the foreseeable future. But, it’s always a good idea to check the flows before making the trek to fish the Lamar River or Soda Butte Creek. Expect to see caddis, pmd’s, flying ants, spruce moths, and hoppers here.

The upper Yellowstone River (from Chittenden Bridge to Yellowstone Lake) continues to produce some remarkable cutthroat trout. Both Green and Gray Drakes can still be found in isolated sections along with Caddis, PMD’s, Epeorus, Flavs, and Callibaetis. Flows are finally approaching a manageable level at roughly 2700 cfs. However, it’s still a formidable river, and crossing comfortably is not yet an option.

This is an ideal weekend to explore a small backcountry stream in the park. If you spend your winter gazing at topo maps like we do, you surely have a hit list of little blue squiggly lines to check off. Now’s the time.

Madison River

For a couple of weeks now we’ve been talking about fishing the Madison with spinners and Caddis during the mornings and evenings in order to find the most productive dry fly fishing. Well, now two of our favorite terrestrials are on the scene, and the fish have something to feed on through the afternoon hours too. Both Spruce Moths and Flying Ants have been active throughout the Madison valley. Spruce Moths can be found anywhere coniferous trees line the river. These size 14, tan-colored moths get blown into the river from stream side trees, and the trout waste no time capitalizing on their misfortune. You can see flying ants in columns of winged adults towering above sagebrush flats in the float stretch. Size 14-16 red and black flying ant patterns are a must have this time of year on the Madison. Trout tend to feed better on Ants when the sun is out, and a well-presented fly with the most terminal of dead drifts is essential.

Don’t forget about those Epeorus spinners and egg-laying, Hydropsyche Caddis in the mornings and evenings. They are still around in mass, and we should see another week or two of good fishing with them before it starts to stall out.

Gallatin River

There may not be a better river to fish with Spruce Moths in our area than the Gallatin. From just downstream of the park boundary to the mouth of the canyon near Gallatin Gateway, the stream bank is packed with coniferous trees that produce a constant supply of moths. Outside of Salmonflies and Golden Stones, Spruce Moths produce the best dry fly fishing of the season here. This is a great time to find studly browns in shallow water looking for a dry fly to eat.

Hebgen Lake

The Grayling Arm, the Madison Arm, and the bays on the south side are all seeing some good gulper fishing now. Callibaetis, Tricos, and Midges will bring fish to the surface on calm mornings. Impressive numbers of Tricos can be seen hatching in the evenings. After emerging, they molt on any surface available leaving their telltale, white sub-imago skin behind as a calling card. Fish don’t seem to pay much attention to them in the evenings, but when they gather the next morning to mate in clouds of millions it’s a different story. Lately, fish have been on midges early, transitioning to tricos by mid-morning, and finishing with Callibaetis by late-morning if the wind holds off. It’s go time for Gulpers on Hebgen. If you find yourself out on the lake, and you’re not seeing rising fish, or the fish that are rising aren’t tracking well, try another spot. Some days are hot in one area and not in another. It’s a big lake with a ton of great gulper spots.

Henry’s Fork

If you have been too busy the last couple of months to come fish the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork don’t feel bad. We get it. Life gets in the way sometimes. It’s not your fault that your long lost cousin decided to get married in June, or that your annual Civil War reenactment group just had to get together to commemorate the anniversary of Gettysburg in July. But now it’s August, and it’s time to get serious about fishing the Ranch. Some of our favorite hatches happen in August. There are still good numbers of Flav spinners in the mornings, Callibaetis and Tricos are going in their select areas, and, the springs have some PMD’s. Honey Ants are mandatory now as are hoppers. There may be no better time, and no better place to get your ass kicked by a world-class rainbow trout than right now on the Ranch.

Elsewhere on the system, the Box has been a great bet for consistent nymph fishing. Though, with warm weather be prepared for an increased emergence of inflatable unicorns and otherwise befuddled floaters.

Euro Nymphing Master Class with Robert Van Rensburg – August 25, 2018

Euro Nymphing Master Class with Robert Van Rensburg – August 25, 2018

If you’ve been by the fly shop this summer you may have met Robert Van Rensburg.  Quiet and humble, Robert’s demeanor betrays his level of experience and knowledge when it comes to fly fishing in general, and Euro Nymphing in particular.  A native South African, Robert has traveled the world, fished in 17 countries, and guided in 4 countries, including in Chile with BSA co-owner Jonathan Heames.  He has also traveled as an instructor of both fly casting and fly tying.  Robert’s deep knowledge of Euro Nymphing stems in part from his background in competition angling.  He has represented South Africa at 13 World and Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships, 11 times as the national team captain.  Robert held the seat of President of the National body of fly fishing in South Africa for 6 years, and has since been named as an Honorary life President.  Despite his background, experience, and accolades, Robert remains humble and true to the roots of fly fishing.  He loves being on the water, challenging himself to learn new things, and appreciates the beauty of an 8-inch cutthroat as much as the heft of an 8-pound brown. We are lucky to have him on the BSA staff and are thrilled to be able to share his knowledge through courses like this one.

Please read on for more info, and don’t hesitate to call the shop for more info or to get signed up for the class.

Course Information  

August 25th – 8am to 5pm  

8am-Noon Off the water instruction at Big Sky Anglers fly shop, 39 Madison Ave, West Yellowstone, MT

Noon to 1 pm – Lunch is provided

1-5 pm – On the water instruction

Cost – $150 per person, lunch is included

Euro-Nymphing specific rods/reels/lines will be provided.  A valid Montana fishing license required.  It is recommended that you bring your own waders.  Feel free to also bring any tackle that you own that is specific to Euro Nymphing.

Class size is limited to 10 students.  Spots are filling up fast.

Course Curriculum

The following topics will be covered in detail over the course of the day.

  1. Defined: The difference between Euro/Tight-line Nymphing and Indicator Nymphing.
  2. Essential gear for Euro Nymphing. Rods. Reels. Lines.
  3. Setting up tackle.  Balancing reel to rod.  Joining fly line to backing and leader.
  4. Leader formulas and lengths. When to use various leaders and leader formulas. Knots.
  5. Flies.  Importance of profile,  movement and trigger points. Size of fly, size of weighted beads.  Effects of colored beads on flies. Understanding UV and florescence in tying materials.  Understanding hook design and using the correct hooks for varying patterns and bead weights. Tying materials that give the best results . Weighting flies.
  6. Setting up tippets with multiple flies. Where to place and fish weighted flies on the leader.
  7. Tippet materials.  Diameter,  brand, fluorocarbon and nylon.
  8. Reading a river. Understanding water hydraulics.  Water temperature.  Fish species.  Time of year.
  9. Tuck cast. Tuck and reach.  Oval cast. Roll cast. Casting distance. Double haul . Use and importance of non-casting hand.  Casting for shallow and deep water.
  10. Presentation and Drifts.  Drag free drifts. Fishing 360′ degrees.  Line management.  Inducing takes.
  11. Fishing in the wind.
  12. Detecting takes and striking fish.
  13. Playing and landing fish. Landing nets.
  14. Practical session on the river with demonstrations plus one-on-one instruction.

Stillwater Presentation Q&A – Ascending/Emerging Nymphs

Stillwater Presentation Q&A – Ascending/Emerging Nymphs

I recently received this question via email from one of our readers and thought it would make a nice followup blog post.

Hi Matt,

 I just read this article on Callibaetis nymphs, and I have a question.  Don’t nymphs in stillwaters usually rise fairly straight up from the bottom?  How can I simulate that with nymph flies?  No worries on moving water, but I’m confused with this one.

Thanks so much.



Thanks for reading and reaching out!  Great question. I’d say that when they are emerging, Callibaetis nymphs will rise up at a semi-steep angle, but not completely vertically.  That said, the rising motion can definitely be a trigger to get the fish to eat.  Let me offer you 3 or 4 ways that you might accomplish this…

 1:  Floating fly line, long leader, and a weighted nymph.  Cast out and let the nymph sink down as deep as you think it needs to.  Maybe the top of the weeds if the area is shallow enough.  When you start your retrieve, the fly will naturally rise up at an angle following the leader up to the surface where the line floats.  When you’ve retrieved an amount of line about the equivalent to your leader length, stop, and let the fly sink back down again.  Repeat.  To detect takes, you need to watch the end of the floating fly line.  If it twitches, dives etc, set the hook.  You may not feel the take because the line isn’t drawing a straight line from you to the fly.  Pay attention while the fly is sinking back down too.  Sometimes that is the trigger!  It’s important that your leader not have coils in it so it is as straight a connection tot he fly as possible.  I’ve also incorporated a tiny strike indicator into this method at times, especially if there is a chop on the water that obscures my view of the tip of the flyline.  Foam pinch-ons work great for this.  Last tip, flourocarbon leaders sink faster than nylon mono leaders.

 2:  Intermediate sinking tip line (or intermediate sinking poly leader) and weighted or unweighted fly.  Basically this is the same approach as above, but with a sink tip to get the fly deeper initially.  If you are in say 10 to 15+ feet of water, the leader and weighted fly alone will be annoying or impossible to get that deep, especially if there is any wind.  Let it sink and then retrieve it up as before.  Then repeat.  Watch the color change of the line or where it enters the water for the take.  Also feel fro the grab.

 3:  Full sinking intermediate line and unweighted nymph. This line system draws the fly through the water horizontally for the most part and is my #1 way of searching for fish before, during, and after a Callibaetis hatch if I don’t see them rising in a way that allows me to effectively target them on the surface.  But, at the very end of the retrieve, when the fly is deep, and you begin stripping the last few yards of line up toward the surface, the fly does rise at an angle.  A lot of folks just pick up and cast again.  This is a mistake.  UK stillwater experts preach about “fishing the hang” at the end of a retrieve.  Focus on the last part of that rising retrieve.  Pause it, sink it, and raise it again.  Don’t strip the fly right to the rod tip, but leave a bit of line out and slowly raise the rod tip itself to make the fly ascend.  If you start getting fish only when the fly is rising, maybe you need to switch to one of the first 2 methods!

Take Care and Fish On,