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.

 Maryellen


Maryellen,

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,

Matt

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 Featured Fly – JoJo’s Callibaetis Cripple

Big Sky Anglers Featured Fly – JoJo’s Callibaetis Cripple

  • Originator:  Joe Moore, BSA Co-owner
  • Hook: TMC 100 or equivalent, #14, or 16
  • Thread:
  • Tail: Moose body hair
  • Body:  Goose or Turkey Biot, Callibaetis
  • Hackle: Grizzly
  • Wing: Widows Web, Light Tan

Hebgen Lake is a special place to most of us here in West Yellowstone.  Each season we look forward to catching good fish on dry flies, especially during the Callibaetis hatch.  This fly, while tied to fish like a cripple can also be fished like a spinner.  If you cut the hackle flush with hook it will sit more like a spinner.  In a size #14, this fly works really well on the Madison too.  – Joe

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.

Hatch Profile – Hydropsyche Caddis

Hatch Profile – Hydropsyche Caddis

Caddis are commanding members of the aquatic insect community on all of the trout waters in and around Yellowstone Country. From April through October, there isn’t a day that goes by without some sort of Caddis activity. Of the dozen or more different types of Caddis that produce good fishing in Yellowstone Country, the genus Hydropsyche is the most important. From May through August, Hydropsyche Caddis consistently produce more quality fishing situations than all of the other Caddis combined.

There are four unique species of Hydropsyche found in Yellowstone Country, and luckily there’s no direct benefit to differentiating between them for the fly angler. All four species have tan bodies, wings that range from tan to speckled brown, and vary in size from 14 to 16.

Next to Pale Morning Dun mayflies, there is not a more ubiquitous insect in Yellowstone Country trout waters than the Hydropsyche Caddis. If you are fishing moving water anywhere in our region you can find Hydropsyche in the larvae, pupa, or adult stage.

Hydropsyche larvae are net spinners who build unsophisticated shelters out of silk that double as a food catching structure. In his groundbreaking work Caddisflies, Gary LaFontaine reports observing Hydropsyche larvae using a silk anchor line to hang in the current as a method of migration from rock to rock. LaFontaine even went so far as to experiment with white-colored tippet to imitate this anchor line.

When Hydropsyche larvae begin metamorphosis and start the transformation to pupa they seal their rudimentary case with silk and remain entrenched for 2 to 3 weeks. The adult Caddis slowly grows within the pupal cuticle until it reaches maturity. Once mature, the insect chews its way out of the sealed case and begins it’s emergence.

Emerging Caddis pupae are, most simply, a fully formed adult draped in a thin pupal cuticle filled with gas bubbles. Hydropsyche pupae ride the current near the bottom for some time before rising through the water column. Once they reach the surface, pupae battle their way through the meniscus, and struggle to free themselves from the pupal shuck. This is an epic struggle that can take several minutes, and often times it’s unsuccessful. Large numbers of crippled and stillborn pupae can be found during emergences.

The best emergences of Hydropsyche Caddis occur from mid-June to mid-August in Yellowstone Country. All of our major fisheries have robust populations of Hydropsyche, and fishing the evening emergence and morning egg-laying flights are ingrained in the rich angling history here.

Adult Hydropsyche Caddis spend 2 -3 days resting after emergence before they begin to form mating swarms. Mating flights generally occur well above the water, or around streamside vegetation. It’s not uncommon to see dense clouds of Caddis surrounding riparian willows as the sun gets low in the Western sky and the heat of the day subsides. These massive mating flights generally provide nothing more than a distraction to anglers as the insects seldom touch the water.

Egg-laying females, on the other hand, can be very important. Female Hydropsyche return to the water after mating, and dive to the bottom to lay their eggs. After releasing their eggs, the females drift in the current and slowly ascend back to the surface. There, the egg-layers fight once again to break through the meniscus and make an apparent re-emergence. Spent, egg-laying females then helplessly ride the surface currents. From the time egg-laying Hydropsyche re-enter the water to the time they re-emerge, opportunities abound for trout to prey on them. Egg-laying activity peaks in the morning and evening hours, though females can be seen sporadically throughout the day.

 

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!