Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 08/02/2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 08/02/2018

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.

West Yellowstone Weather Forecast


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.

Madison River

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.

Hebgen Lake

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.

Henry’s Fork

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.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 07/26/2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 07/26/2018

It’s hard to believe that this is our final report for July. We thought June flew by, but July has just evaporated!  We’re half way through our summer season, and Yellowstone Country continues to produce some great fishing. Flows in much of the area are still a bit above average, and the high country remains green; a sure sign of the great moisture year we’re having.  

Despite all the moisture, the start of the wildfire season is upon us. Our first local wild fire, the Bacon Rind Fire, is burning in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness 2 miles West of HWY 191 and the Gallatin River. The fire started as the result of a lightning strike on July 16. Smoke can be seen rising from the ridge lines above the Gallatin in the park stretch around mile marker 24. The fire is just over 200 acres, and is fulfilling its natural role cleaning up old, beetle-killed timber.

Afternoon thunderstorms have been frequent this past week, and there looks to be more in the forecast. Seasonal temps with highs in the 80’s and lows in the 40’s are 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.

West Yellowstone Weather Forecast


Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone River – There is a whole generation of Yellowstone anglers that never new the Yellowstone River in the Park back when it was in its prime. Since the mid-2000’s populations of Cutthroat Trout have been virtually non-existent in this legendary fishery. For years we told stories about the wonderful fishing that “used to be” in classic spots like Buffalo Ford (now named Nez Perce Ford), Cascade Picnic area, or below Le Hardy Rapids. Well, we’re finally starting to see some of the fantastic fishing from those stories of the “good old days” again. Numbers of fish in all size classes have been seen feeding on good hatches like Salmonflies, Golden Stones, PMD’s, Cadddis, and Drakes.

The canyon stretches of the Yellowstone River, which have continued to fish well through the years, are fishing well again this year. Flows are still dropping, and more of the river is becoming accessible every day. Golden Stones, and the rare Salmonfly are still flying here, and good fishing can be found if you’re willing to put in some effort to hike into this steep, rugged terrain.

Lamar River – Afternoon thunderstorms have been all around the area this week,  but amazingly, they have missed the Northeast corner of the park. Keep an eye on the forecast if you’re planning on heading over to the Northeast corner of the park as these storms are common this time of year, and can quickly blow out the river. A quick glance at the flows can tell you if the river is blown. Any quick spike in flows on the graph is usually accompanied by some dirty water. As soon as the spike comes down, the clarity should be improved.

Fishing has been good on this gem from late morning through the evening with attractor dry flies, as well as imitations of PMD’s, Caddis, and Drakes.

Gallatin – The park stretch of the Gallatin is a great place to escape the heat of the day on these hot afternoons. PMD’s, Caddis, and Little Yellow Stones are keeping fish interested in the surface. The biting flies are still around but not quite as obnoxious as they have been in recent weeks. Smokey conditions may exist in the stretch between the highway bridge around mile marker 24 and Specimen Creek.

Madison River

Flows on the “Fifty Mile Riffle” have been flatlined at 1330cfs below Hebgen for the past week. That’s nearly 400 cfs higher than the average flow for this time of year. Higher flows have helped to mitigate the effects of afternoon air temps in the upper 80’s in the Madison Valley, but the best dry fly fishing continues to be in the early morning and late evenings with Epeorus spinners and Caddis. Nocturnal Stones have been active in float stretch, and the first few flights of Ants have been seen throughout the valley.

Hebgen Lake

Lake levels are still close to full pond on Hebgen. That means those fish have a lot of space to occupy, and the weeds are still a long way from the surface in many spots. The Callibaetis and Trico mayflies that drive our coveted Gulper Fishing are starting in earnest, and we’re beginning to see some consistently tracking fish. The next six weeks will be the best of the season on Hebgen for Gulpering.

Henry’s Fork

Fishing the famed waters of the Railroad Ranch at Last Chance lately has been a bit like watching your favorite baseball team, the one you’ve routed for since you were a kid, during a season when they’re in last place with a .284 average (Sorry Baltimore Fans!). There’s been some moments to stand up and cheer, and some moments to throw your bag of peanuts and boo. It’s not all bad when your team stinks, though. It’s usually pretty easy to get a seat at the game, and when the rare home run ball sails over the fence it’s memorable and rewarding. Like loyal fans we continue to go to the games with un-ending optimism that today will be the day that the team comes together and pulls off a “W”. It’s halfway through the season. The All Star break is behind us and it’s time for the club to make a run for the postseason. Some of our most exciting games are just around the corner. Tricos, Callibaetis, Ants, Hoppers,   Mahoganies are still to come on the schedule. So, keep the faith, loyal fans, and keep going to those games. You never know when stars will align and give you that perfect game, or that walk-off homer.

The Box Canyon has fished well all season, and it continues to be one of the highlights of this fishery. You can still find a few Golden Stones around, and the nymph fishing with small bead head midge and mayfly imitations has been great.

The stretch from Warm River to Ashton is another consistent option for some dry fly fishing with PMD’s and Caddis, as well as consistent nymph fishing.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 07/19/2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 07/19/2018

If you are visiting Yellowstone Country right now you are seeing some of the best fishing this area has to offer. “Prime Time” conditions continue across the region, and the upcoming week looks like more of the same.

We’ve seen some scattered thunderstorms this week, but otherwise, it’s been hot and dry. The long range forecast is showing seasonal temps with highs in the 80’s and lows in the 40’s. No significant moisture is predicted.

We were honored to “take over” the RL Winston Instagram account for the past week. Our very own founder and co-owner Joe Moore has been featured on the site, and he shared photos, tips, and other ideas with Winston’s loyal fan base. If you haven’t already, go over and give the folks in Twin Bridges, Montana a follow at @winstonrods. And, of course, be sure to follow us on Instagram at @bigskyanglers.

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


Henry’s Fork

Virtue comes in all forms when you’re fly fishing, and many times it’s not in the form of a fish. Often, it’s a perfect cast, a peaceful morning, a beautiful sunset. Nowhere has this been realized more than the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork in recent days. PMD’s and Flavs have been a bit of a bust lately. Are they done? Are they still going to happen? It’s hard to say. The virtue may be in the unknown.

Reports from the lower Ranch and Wood Road area have been better, though still not enthusiastic. Armed with persistence and a flawless presentation, you may be lucky enough to feed one of the resident Rainbows with a PMD, Flav, or Caddis imitation on calm mornings and evenings.

The Box Canyon remains a sure bet for technical nymph fishing. Our resident world-renowned, competitive nymph angler, Robert Vanrensburg has been sharing his knowledge gained from a career in the competitive fishing world with us this summer. His flies and techniques are deadly in environments like the Box Canyon. If you are in West Yellowstone and interested in learning more about “Euro-Nymphing”, stop by the shop and visit with Robert. He has a wealth of knowledge, and is more than generous with both his time and information.

Warm River to Ashton is an ideal spot for a float these days whether you have an inflatable Unicorn or a drift boat. This gorgeous section of river gets more than its fair share of “splash and giggle floaters” this time of year, but it always seems to fish well regardless. Caddis and PMD dry flies can bring some of the river’s many small Rainbows to the surface, and nymphs will be your best bet to target the larger, sneakier Brown Trout.

Yellowstone National Park

Gallatin River – Water temps are finally warming up here. PMD’s, Caddis, Green Drakes, and Golden Stones are all present and accounted for. The flows are still strong, though afternoon and evening sessions have been productive with both dry flies and nymphs.

Slough Creek – Gray Drakes are wrapping up here, but PMD’s and strong Caddis emergences are giving the big Cutts in Slough Creek plenty of motivation to rise slowly to the surface and yawn on your fly.

Lamar River – Water conditions continue to improve here. Flows are still slightly above average at around 1,000cfs and the color is somewhere between clear and fishy green. PMD’s, Caddis, and Drakes are around from late-morning to evening. Keep an eye on water temps here, and be sure to let things warm up before getting started.

Yellowstone River – The upper section of the Yellowstone River (from Chittenden Bridge to one mile downstream of Fishing Bridge) opened to fishing for the 2018 season this week, and we’ve already seen and heard of some beautiful Yellowstone Cutthroat being caught. Flows are still above average here and wading deep is dangerous, but Green Drakes, Gray Drakes, Salmonflies, Golden Stones, PMD’s, and Caddis can all bring fish to the surface within casting range of the bank. Be prepared to cover some water in search of targets, and slow down once you’ve located some fish. Many times you’ll find these trophy Cutts in groups of several fish or more.

Madison River

At 1300 cfs flows out of Hebgen are still a little higher than usual for this time of July…and we love that! Temps are good, clarity is good, and the fish are happy. Salmonflies have come and gone. A few Golden Stones can still be found in the wade stretch. Nocturnal Stones are starting to show mid-valley, and in the lower river closer to Ennis. (Nocturnal Stone? No, we didn’t just make that up. It’s a thing. Stay tuned to our blog and newsletter for a Hatch profile on these interesting stoneflies in the coming weeks.) PMD’s, Epeorus, Caddis, Flavs, and the odd Flying Ant have all brought fish to the surface on the Madison.

With hot, bright conditions the best dry fly fishing has been early in the mornings and late in the evenings. Size 18-14 rusty and olive spinners, as well as size 18-16 tan Caddis are your best bets. The sun rises at 6:00 am and doesn’t set until 9:00pm. If you were to just fish a morning session and an evening session, you could see more hours of rising fish than in a full day at other times of the year, and you would still have the rest of the day left to fish!

Hebgen Lake

It’s the very beginning of Gulper Season, and gulpers can be found gulpering when gulpable bugs (Callibaetis) are present in the usual gulper fishing locations. When gulpers aren’t gulping, go deeper with chironomids or buggers, either in the gulper fishing locations, or just off of them in the deeper water.  Small and olive is a good place to start this year with subsurface fly choice, as the warm weather will be bringing out the damsels. If this is all sounds like nonsense, then swing by the shop at 39 Madison Ave the next time you are in West Yellowstone and we can try to sort things out for you. Our staff spends a ton of time on the Lake, and we love chasing Gulpers!

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 07/12/2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 07/12/2018

One of the most common questions we field from visiting anglers is “When is the best week to come fishing here?” The general response is “whenever you can get here”. With so many fisheries within an hour drive of the BSA world headquarters at 39 Madison Ave in West Yellowstone, Montana you can almost always find great fishing going on somewhere.

If you have a particular fishing situation that you’re dying to capitalize on, like Salmonflies on the Madison or Green Drakes on the Henry’s Fork, then that gets a little tricky. We have certain benchmarks that we use to help us plan. Such as, on an “average” year the Green Drakes are at the Railroad Ranch by June 15, and the Salmonflies are at $3 Bridge by the 4th of July. But, these benchmarks are often wrong as snowpack, runoff, and weather conditions can all affect the timing of our hatch cycles.

Most visiting anglers are planning their trip to Yellowstone Country months in advance when it’s nearly impossible to predict exactly how things will shape up. So, the theory of “come whenever you can” makes a lot of sense. If you miss the Madison Salmonflies on the 4th of July there’s a good chance that you will have plenty of other great hatches happening instead like Caddis, PMD’s, and Green Drakes. If the Green Drakes haven’t happened yet on the Ranch, then they are probably still going strong on the lower river. There’s almost always some great fishing going on somewhere.

With all that said, there is in fact a week, sometimes a month, that is the best time of the year to come fishing in Yellowstone Country. It’s impossible to predict from year to year, and it’s rarely the same two years in a row, but there is a time when there is great fishing going on everywhere. This magical window is fleeting. Some years it last for a few days, on others it lasts for weeks. There is a perfect storm where all of the dynamic variables come together to create great fishing situations across our whole area. You never really know when it’s going to happen until it happens, and this year it is happening now.

We are seeing great fishing across the entire area right now, and we expect to see things get only better over the upcoming week. Who knows how long this fleeting moment will last. We had an outstanding snowpack last winter and plenty of rain in June, both get indicators for a long and prosperous summer on the water.

Weather forecasts are showing near normal conditions for the upcoming week with daytime highs in the upper 70’s to low 80’s, and nighttime lows in the 40’s. With the exception of a slight chance of passing thunderstorms on Tues, the week looks dry.

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


Henry’s Fork

The Ranch continues to test both the patience and skill of visiting anglers. Brown Drakes have come and gone, and they provided fun fishing for some and frustrating fishing for others…..sounds about par for the course on the Ranch. PMD’s, Caddis, Flavs, and a few Green Drakes will be on the menu for the upcoming week. Expect to see spinners in the am (Flavs too) with hordes of Caddis and Flav duns in the pm.

The Box Canyon flows have crept up this week as demands for irrigation increased slightly in the lower watershed.  Levels remain very fishable at just over 1100 cfs, and there are still plenty of Caddis, PMD’s, and Golden Stones keeping the fish active. As always, the Box is mainly a nymphing ordeal, but a few good fish are still looking for the Golden Stone on the surface from time to time.

Yellowstone National Park

Gallatin

Salmonflies and Golden Stones are still flirting with the Park waters. There are a few flying here and there around Specimen Creek, and some randomly flying by Daily Creek, but it hasn’t been consistent. PMD’s, Caddis, and a spattering of Green Drakes have brought fish to the surface throughout the Park waters.  If you go, be sure to cover up and bring your bug spray!

Gardner

Salmonflies and Golden Stones are bringing good fish to the surface in this rough and tumble tributary to the Yellowstone. In addition to the big bugs, you will find some PMD’s, Caddis, and a few Green Drakes. Be on the lookout for rattlesnakes in this canyon country! It’s the only part of the Yellowstone with poisonous snakes, and hot, sunny afternoons are prime conditions for these snakes to be seen sunning themselves. Always look before you step or put your hand down on the rocky terrain next to the bank.

Slough

We’ve been waiting patiently for this gem in the Northeast corner of the Park to start fishing well, and it’s finally here. The water is still high, but clarity is great, and we’re seeing some good hatches. Gray Drakes, PMD’s, Caddis, and Salmonflies can all be found on Slough right now. As with all of our high country, meadow fisheries, the biting flies are ferocious right now. So, come prepared with bug spray, and keep as much skin covered as possible.

Soda Butte

It’s cold, but it’s clear. The Cutthroat here are still a little sluggish, but we’re finding some willing fish during the heat of the day with attractor dries and PMD imitations. Conditions will continue to improve here in the coming weeks as flows continue to drop and the water warms up.

Lamar

Flows on the Lamar are still big at around 1500cfs, and the clarity is the fishy-green that we’re accustomed to seeing on the Lamar. Afternoons and evenings have had the best activity with PMD’s, Caddis, Green Drakes, and Salmonflies bringing fish to the surface once the water temps rise.

Our stellar snowpack from last winter is still influencing the flows on the Lamar River. The remaining snow continues to melt off slowly each day adding cold water to the watershed and increasing streamflow. At night the temps in the high country are getting close to, or below freezing. So, the snow solidifies and streamflow decreases. With the ebb and flow of the streamflow comes a rise and fall of water temps. This cyclical streamflow cycle is common in the high country, and great for our fisheries as it adds a supply of cold water to the rivers and streams each day when the air temps reach their peak. You can expect to see water temps reach their max in the mid to late afternoons just before the heat of the day has had time to increase snowmelt, and in turn raise streamflow and decrease water temps. You can follow the trends of water temp and streamflow on the USGS sites HERE. Coincidentally, you will find activity levels of the resident Cuttthroat Trout generally follow the same graph as the water temps. So, if you’re wondering when you should hit the Lamar to find the best fishing, check out the temperature charts, and plan your day around the peak water temps.

Yellowstone River

Opening Day for the upper reaches of the Yellowstone River in the park is this Sunday July 15. The river will be big for opening day, but clarity is good and we’re excited to see how many fish are in the river this year. Early reports from places like Lehardy Rapids (no fishing here at the “Greatest Cutthroat Trout Spectacle on Earth”) are of strong number of fish seen eating Salmonflies in the rough water. This is always a great indicator for the number of fish we will have to play with in the rest of the system.

We’re expecting to see an assortment of bugs in classic reaches near Nez Perce Ford, Sulphur Cladron, and Cascade Picnic area like PMD’s, Caddis, Green Drakes, Salmonflies, and Golden Stones.

Be careful wading with these big, early season flows. The river probably won’t be crossable for sometime.

In the canyon sections of the Yellowstone you will find Salmonflies and Golden Stones flying. The river is obviously big here as well, and access is limited in the canyon. So, wade with caution!

Firehole / Madison

We’ve had a great early season here on the West side of the Park, but water temps are on the rise, and it’s time to give these classic fisheries a rest until things begin to cool off again in the Fall.

Madison River

The flows, the water temps, the hatches are all perfect right now on the Madison, and that has made for both happy trout and happy anglers alike.

Flows at Kirby have been steady around 1500 cfs, and it’s great to see the river full of water in July.

Salmonflies have made their way through the valley. There are still a few big bugs around Raynold’s and $3 Bridge, as well as between the lakes. Golden Stones can still be found randomly throughout the entire system.

Caddis are the main story these days with monstrous flights of both mating and egg-laying Hydropsyche (size 16 tan) Caddis in the mornings and evenings.

Warm, sunny days are producing strong spinner falls of several different mayflies right now on clam mornings and evenings. Spinners from both species of PMD’s (size 16 Ephemerella invaria, and size 18-20 Ephemerella excrucians), as well as size 14-16 Flavs, and size 12 Green Drakes can all be found flying at the same time.

Hebgen Lake

Early season Callibaetis are happening in all of their usual early season spots. Rising fish on the other hand have been a bit tougher to come by. This fishing will slowly get better and better as the weed beds grow and water temps warm. Calm mornings and evenings are best for Gulpers.

Chironomid and Bugger fishing has also been hit or miss. If you hit it, it’s been great. It you miss it, well, you know how that goes….

Hatch Profile – Flavs

Hatch Profile – Flavs

Drunella flavilinea, commonly known as the Flav, is the smaller, lesser known, and often misidentified cousin of the Green Drake, Drunella grandis. What this mayfly lacks in notoriety it more than makes up for in importance as a food source for Yellowstone Country trout in June and July.

Drunella flavilinea is found on the Madison, Firehole, Yellowstone, and Henry’s Fork rivers, as well as some smaller tributary waters throughout the region. Flavs share much of their distribution with two other nearly identical mayfly species, Drunella doddsii and Drunella coloradensis. Drunella flavilinea, Drunella coloradensis, and Drunella doddsii are all so closely related that in absence of a microscope and an entomologist, it’s often impossible to tell them apart for most fly anglers. Luckily, all three of these Small Western Green Drake species have such similar characteristics and behaviors that making an exact identification unimportant in order to effectively match the hatch.

Like their famous cousin, the Green Drake, Flav duns have an olive body, with slate gray wings, and three tails. The biggest difference between a Flav and a Green Drake is the size. Flavs are generally found in size 14-16, which pales in comparison to the stately, size 10-12 Green Drake. In addition to overall appearance, another important trait that Flavs share with Green Drakes is their ineptness at emerging. Nymphs swim to the surface to emerge, and often times it’s a messy process. Duns struggle to free themselves from their nymphal exoskeleton as they ride the current helplessly stuck to the surface tension. It’s common to see a great number of crippled duns that have only partially emerged during a strong hatch. Trout take advantage of this vulnerable situation feeding heavily on crippled duns, and emergers. So too do the many gulls, terns, and other water birds found on our rivers. Some days with all of the feeding activity going on both above and below the water, and the incredible number of crippled emergers, it’s hard to believe that the species can sustain itself.

In spite of the many challenges duns do emerge, and continue to molt one more time into spinners to complete their life cycle (que the theme song from the Lion King). Flav spinners have clear wings, three tails, and a dark-chocolate colored body. Spinner falls occur in the mornings and evenings often coinciding with the spinner activity of Pale Morning Dun mayflies. When they fall, Flav spinners are a larger meal for trout compared to the size 16-18 PMD spinners, and it’s common to see fish rise aggressively to their imitations.

Flav nymphs are brutes. They have stocky bodies with three tails, and strong appendages for crawling on rocks in heavy currents. Their coloration is olive-brown with distinct variegation on the legs. Like many other mayflies, it is suspected that Flav nymphs practice the behavior of benthic pulse, making multiple trips from the river bottom to the surface before emerging. This theory plays out in real life fishing situations every day on rivers like the Henry’s Fork and Madison where there seems to be an increase in the nymph bite in the afternoon and evening preceding a Flav hatch, especially on dark afternoons before thunderstorms roll through.

Flav hatches can occur any time from late afternoon to shortly after dark depending on conditions. The late afternoon and evening thunderstorms that are common on a hot June or July day can produce some of the strongest emergences of Flavs. Fish binge on Flav duns, cripples, and emergers during these stormy conditions right up to the point when rain, hail, and lightning drive you from the water in search of refuge under streamside willows or a nearby bar. Morning spinner falls are usually strong following these storms. So, try not to spend too much time on those evenings “drying out” in the Grizzly Bar or at the Trouthunter, and be sure to get back out on the water early the next morning.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report — June 28, 2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report — June 28, 2018

We have all enjoyed a respite from the wet weather this week.  It feels good to dry out and soak up some sunshine after nearly two weeks of scuzzy weather. Gore-tex and puffy layers have been stuffed back into dry bags as sun hoodies and spf 50 are now required. Flows are on the decline, and the summer hatch schedule is rolling right along.

Don’t get too comfortable with all of this sunshine, though. Temps are predicted to dive by 20 degrees on Friday as a new system rolls in with highs in the 50’s, gray skies, and thunderstorms. Summer looks to make a return after the weekend with sun and warm temps forecasted through next week.

Our snow pack discussions are done for the season. Area Snotel sites are all reading zero. There are still pockets of snow in the high country in Yellowstone Park, the Teton range, the Madison range, and the Centennial range, but stream flow is now being influenced primarily by rain and groundwater.

This Saturday June 30th we will be celebrating our Second Annual Grand Opening celebration. Click Here for more info and a schedule of events. Come help us celebrate!

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.


Henry’s Fork

Prime time on the lower river is winding down, but there are still some excellent opportunities to test your skill on technical dry fly targets in the river below Ashton. This year’s Gray Drake Spinner activity has been impressive, and they can still be found on calm mornings and evenings. Cooler, wetter weather this weekend may prompt even more PMD and Flav hatches, although it’s hard to believe there could be any more after the abundance of bugs we’ve already seen.

The Railroad Ranch and the river around Last Chance is seeing PMD’s, Caddis, Green Drakes, and the beginnings of Brown Drakes. Scuzzy weather can produce better emergences of both PMD’s and Green Drakes. Warm, sunny weather later next week will be ideal for morning and evening spinner falls.

The Box Canyon continues to produce with small nymphs. Golden Stoneflies are still trickling off in certain areas of the canyon, and PMD’s are also active.

Yellowstone National Park

Not much new to report in the Park this week. The Firehole, Madison, and Gibbon remain the best options with PMD’s and Caddis providing the bulk of the activity. PMD spinner falls have been strong on the Firehole during warm mornings, and we continue to see larger than average fish. We’ve seen, and heard reports of, many fish in the 14-16” class this season.

The Gallatin River is close to fishing well in the Park stretch. Water clarity is great, but temps need to warm just a bit more to see consistent fishing. Next week’s warm, dry spell could be just what we need for things to pop here.

Madison River

The second round of high flows have wound down on the Madison. Northwest Energy plans to maintain flows around 1300 cfs out of Hebgen until lake levels stabilize and further flow reductions can be made. Clarity is somewhere between “outstanding” in the wade stretch and “Fishy” in the float stretch. This week’s warm weather and lowered flows have kick-started the summer hatch schedule into high gear. Tan size 16 Caddis, brown size 10 Caddis, size 16 PMD’s, Salmonflies, and Goldenstones are all active on the river now. Salmonflies are slowly moving upstream. This weekend’s cooler weather will slow their march, and make for some less than ideal conditions for the big bugs. Fishable numbers of stoneflies can be found in the lower half of the valley near Ennis.

As conditions warm again early next week caddis activity will increase and the march of the stoneflies will resume in earnest.

Fishing will be getting better and better here in the coming days and weeks.

Hebgen Lake

Hebgen’s regular anglers are finding themselves planted firmly in “Bugger Season”, with attractors stripped subsurface providing the bulk of the action when chironomid emergences aren’t stealing center stage.  Think Xmas Tree Buggers, Rickard’s Seal Buggers and Stillwater Nymphs, Midnight Buggers, or something smaller if it gets bright during the day.  While we have seen some early season Callibaetis, the focus will remain with the leeches, chironomids, and general stillwater bugs for a bit longer until more significant emergences of Callibaetis and damsels begin stealing the attention of the trout.