Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – May 24, 2018

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – May 24, 2018

Welcome to the first Weekly Fishing Report from Big Sky Anglers for 2018!

We had a great snow pack throughout Yellowstone Country this winter, and that means that in this first report we will be talking a lot about run off. It comes with the territory, and we’re used to dealing with high water around here. In fact, we hope for it every year. From rainbow trout and caddis flies to elk antlers and wild flowers, everything benefits from a good snow pack.

It might be a little touch and go for a few weeks, but with more fishable water in a 90 mile radius than arguably anywhere else in the planet, there is always some fun fishing to be had somewhere around Big Sky Anglers world headquarters in West Yellowstone, Montana. Between the Henry’s Fork and the local stillwaters, we always have GREAT options for fishing. Even in the highest water years.

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 Forecast

MT Streamflows

ID Streamflows

 

Yellowstone Park

This weekend marks the beginning of another fishing season in Yellowstone National Park. While we have already been fishing for weeks outside the park, the YNP opener serves as the official start to the 2018 season, and it’s a weekend that we all look forward to.

The fishing season officially begins this Saturday, and there are some important new regulations in place for 2018. Most notably, all felt soled wading boots have been banned from park waters to limit the spread of aquatic invasive species. So, if you haven’t already, make sure you pick up a pair of rubber soled wading boots before you head into the park this Saturday. While you’re at it, be sure to have your new 2018 YNP fishing license and a copy of the fishing regulations too.

This year we’ll be dealing with high water, and run-off conditions for opening weekend. Each winter we keep our fingers crossed, and hope for a solid snow-pack, and a slow spring melt. Our fishing season,and the health of our fisheries depends on it. Fortunately, we got what we wished for this year, and that means we have to deal with less than ideal conditions for the first few weeks of the season.

The best bets for fishing on opening weekend in the park are traditionally the Firehole and Madison Rivers, and that remains the case on high water years too. The Firehole has been flowing right around 1,000 cfs all week, and the water is a tannic, tea-stained brown that is customary here. With rain this week, and warmer temps over the weekend, there’s a good chance flows will increase, and clarity will go from tea-stained to chocolate milk. If the clarity remains reasonable you can expect some fun fishing with streamers and soft-hackles, as well as the random (and we stress random) fish rising to PMD’s, Baetis, and Caddis. The Madison will have similar conditions and fishing opportunities as the Firehole. Stay tuned to these legendary fisheries for some great hatches and classic fishing in the weeks to come as water conditions improve. Give us a call here in the shop for up to the minute reports on water conditions and fishing reports for opening weekend

Henry’s Fork

The Henry’s Fork has fished well so far this season, and remains one of the best bets for reasonable water conditions and good fishing. With 70 miles of fishable water open right now, there are a variety of solid early-season fishing opportunities available.

The Box Canyon currently has some of the best conditions in the area with clear water, and flows between 750 and 800 cfs this week. We have enjoyed the low flows here while they try to save storage space lower in the system for runoff water coming from drainages with heavy snow pack in the Tetons. However, Island Park Reservoir has reached full capacity and flows will be raised to roughly match inflows (currently around 1200 cfs) by this weekend. With warmer weather predicted, look for the first signs of Salmonflies over Memorial Day weekend in the Box.

The Railroad Ranch is still closed and will be through June 15.  Great water conditions this winter and spring have us feeling optimistic for fishing and hatches on the Ranch this year here.  Overall fish populations will be down from the last 5 years, but this usually has the effect of making the big fish bigger. Fish are rising a bit from Wood Rd 16 downstream.  We are not seeing huge numbers of trout up, but those desperate to fish to big picky ones can find decent game down there for a few hours each day. March browns and caddis are predominantly driving the dry fly bite here.  

The Lower River has seen a lot of early-season action, and more than its fair share of attention lately. Salmon flies are active throughout the lower river system, and some good fish have been looking for them. The Falls River is running high but not too off color currently, but as both daytime high and evening low temps rise, this will get dirtier and dirtier affecting the river from Chester down.

Madison River

It’s full on run off season on the Madison right now, and with rain, and then warm temps forecasted that’s not going to change anytime soon. Flows have been on the rise this week with 1,500-2,000 cfs at Hebgen and 2,000-3,000 cfs at Kirby. A “Flushing Flow” is scheduled for sometime from the end of May to the beginning of June. That means flows will be raised to 3500 cfs at Kirby and kept there for a minimum of three days. Montana FWP has issued a press release with more info on the specifics. Click Here to read a blog post about FWP’s Press Release.

All of the usual suspects are adding mud to the Madison River. Cabin Cr., Beaver Cr., and the West Fork of the Madison are swollen and running brown. The Carrot Basin snotel site is still reading 60” of snow on the ground with more than 30” of snow water equivalent. That’s a whole lot of brown water yet to come down.

The good news is that with a great snow pack, a good flushing flow during run off, and a full season of cold water thanks to the decade-long repair on Hebgen Dam finally being completed, we’re looking forward to a great water year and some awesome fishing this summer on the Madison.

In the meantime, some productive fishing can be found with nymphs and streamers in the muddy water at classic spots like $3 Bridge and Raynold’s Pass.

Hebgen Lake

Always a great bet during run off, Hebgen Lake is seeing some good fishing right now for those looking for strip leeches, hang chironomids, or hunt heads. Good numbers of Hebgen’s giant midges (size 12), and the occasional gulping trout can be found in the Madison Arm and along the North Shore. Chironomids and leeches have produced well throughout the whole lake.

Missouri River

Joe has been staked out up on the Mighty Mo for a few weeks as he always does this time of year.  Here’s a report from his last week of guiding…

Flows

At Toston – 18,900 cfs

Below Holter – 14,000 cfs

Dearborn River – 1410 cfs

At Ulm, MT – 18,800

Weather

It’s been raining steady since yesterday evening and continued all night long. 44 degrees and raining makes for a cold day here on the Missouri River.  Saturday looks to be cloudy and a slight chance of rain. On Sunday and Monday things should be drying out with warmer day time temps reaching the high 70’s.

As for the fishing…

For the past two weeks we have been rowing high water here on the Missouri River.  We haven’t seen flows like this since 2011 and prior to that it was back in 1996 and 1997.  High water is here to stay for at least another 4-5 weeks. Late June up here is gonna be really good!  Downstream of Holter Dam are two tributaries that are tossing in quite a bit of mud, the Prickly Pear coming in about 3 miles down and then roughly 13 miles down the Dearborn merges with the Missouri at the head of the Canyon. The Pear had settled down from last week’s rain but will come back up after today.  For years there had been a CFS gauge on the Prickly Pear but funding for that has gone away as of this season. My guess is that it’s flowing about 1500+ CFS. The Dearborn has dropped as well but it too will come back up after today’s rain. Most of the river traffic has been in the upper reaches of the river, anywhere from the Dam to Dearborn has been fishing pretty well most of the time.  Mid Canon boat ramp is closed for now as the river is flowing through the boat ramp. Just in the past four to five days has the canyon stretch cleared up enough to catch some nice trout in green water.

Most of us up here have been rigging two nymph rigs per angler.  One is set up deep, about 8-9 feet from bobber to 2-3 BB split shot with sows bugs variations for the flies.  The other is rigged with a wire worm and a sow bug with a total length of about 7 feet. The latter rig is tossed at the banks/submerged willows, plan on loosing plenty of flies when fishing this way, but there are quite a few fish hanging out in this type of habitat. The deep rig has been the go to for many boats out there on the water. One must get the flies down and leave them there for as long as humanly possible.  Throw left and let it roll…marinate them bugs and set the hook on anything that bumps, pauses or twitches the bobber. Hook sets are free – set often and make the hook set a back cast when nothing is attached to your line. Wait forever on the back cast and don’t forget to mend.

The super bright sunny days make the Missourui a little moody.  Even at these flows, the fish don’t really like the sunshine. The past two days have been cloudy and the fishing has been very good.

I have been seeing a few more fish rise here in the past several days, but targeting them is close to impossible.  I’d wager that a savvy angler could fish dry/dropper along the banks and find a couple fish willing to rise; most would take the dropper fly.  Caddis are starting to show up in the canyon but not in huge numbers just yet. There are March Browns emerging as well as Blue Winged Olives. Midges too. We won’t really see much for rising fish until the river gets around 8,000 CFS. If I was fishing dry flies, it would be a #10 Parachute Adams with a worm or #12 PT dropper. One might also try a small Chubby with the nymph droppers.  Most of the subsurface flies that seem to be working are sow bugs, worm patterns, a #12 PT and from time to time a BWO nymph such as the Little Green Machine. For me, I rarely take off the sow bugs above Craig, but when I get below, the previously mentioned patterns are all working.

 

 

 

NW Energy Press Release Re:  Water Releases from Hebgen Dam to Flush Madison River Sediments

NW Energy Press Release Re: Water Releases from Hebgen Dam to Flush Madison River Sediments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Water Releases from Hebgen Dam to Flush Madison River Sediments

Butte, Mont. – May 21, 2018 –  NorthWestern Energy is planning to release water from Hebgen Dam with the goal of flushing fine sediments from Madison River gravel under the terms of its operating license with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The Madison Flushing Flow Program was designed during FERC licensing to augment natural flows with surplus water in heavy snowpack years with the intent to flush accumulated fine sediment to maintain the quality of spawning gravels that support the healthy fishery in the river.

NorthWestern Energy plans to continue gradual increases in outflow from Hebgen Dam that began on May 20, 2018, with the attempt to maximize releases for a minimum of three days coinciding with peak runoff in the West Fork Madison River. To protect the outlet of Quake Lake from erosion, the goal is to maintain the flow slightly below 3,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the Kirby gauge.

NorthWestern is conducting the gradual release of water from the dam in cooperation with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; the U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

“Fortunately, this year we have a better snowpack in the mountains, and the recent warm weather has made it a good time to supplement naturally occurring high water,” said Andy Welch, Leader of NWE’s Hydropower License Compliance group. “This operation will not affect our ability to refill Hebgen Reservoir. There will still be plenty of water to support our normal operations for the rest of the summer.”

Releases of 1,700 cfs from Hebgen Dam are being made now and could go up to 2,500 cfs by May 26, Welch said. These figures are estimates and will change based on location on the river and the variability in river flow, which can change rapidly this time of year.

Anglers should be aware of the changing conditions and take appropriate precautions.

After the flush the flow will be gradually tapered down to protect small fish and river life at the margins of the stream. Questions about this flushing flow operation may be directed to Andy Welch at 406-444-8115.

NorthWestern owns and operates Hebgen and Madison dams on the Madison River under a license issued by FERC. The operation of the hydroelectric facilities play a significant role in managing streamflow on the Madison River.


About NorthWestern Energy (NYSE: NWE)

NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 718,300 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company’s website at www.northwesternenergy.com.

Media Contact:

Butch Larcombe

(866) 622-8081

Butch.larcombe@northwestern.com

 

 

Dispatches Volume 3 – Fly Fishing in Argentina for Trophy Brook Trout with Steve Hoovler

Dispatches Volume 3 – Fly Fishing in Argentina for Trophy Brook Trout with Steve Hoovler

Welcome to the third edition of Dispatches, a new series which reports on the Big Sky Anglers crew as they travel the globe in search of angling adventures. Each edition of Dispatches will feature an interview with one of our angling pros while they are on assignment or traveling for fun. Our crew might be hosting anglers in a remote destination, guiding clients on our home waters, or exploring new fishing territory at home and abroad.

This edition features BSA guide, Steve Hoovler who is reporting from the Brook Trout Base Camp in Argentine Patagonia. Steve spent a month in Argentina this Spring working with our good friends at El Encuentro Fly Fishing to help develop their late-season fishing and wingshooting programs. During his time in Patagonia Steve visited El Encuentro’s Brook Trout Base Camp on the Rio Corcovado to hunt for trophy brook trout. Give a listen to what Steve has been up to, and stay tuned for more reports from the BSA crew.

“Where are you right now?”

 

“How did you get there?”

 

Fly Fishing for Trophy Brook Trout in Argentina

 

“What is your target species? Why did you pick this location and time for that species?”

 

Fly Fishing for Trophy Brook Trout in Argentina

 

“How are you targeting these fish?”

 

Fly Fishing for Trophy Brook Trout in Argentina

 

“What’s one thing that’s happened on your trip so far that you didn’t expect?”

 

Fly Fishing for Trophy Brook Trout in Argentina

 

“What are the conditions like?”

 

Fly Fishing for Trophy Brook Trout in Argentina

 

“What’s been your favorite piece of gear on this trip so far, and why?”

 

Fly Fishing for Trophy Brook Trout in Argentina

 

“What’s the best thing you’ve had to eat?”

 

Fly Fishing for Trophy Brook trout in Argentina

 

“Have you learned any new words or phrases?”

 

Fishing for Trophy Brook Trout in Argentina

 

“What’s your playlist been on this trip…what tunes are you listening to?”

 

Fly Fishing for Trophy Brook Trout in Argentina

 

“Where are you off to next?”

 

Wingshooting in Argentina

Dispatches Vol. 2 – Fly Fishing for Permit in Belize with Joe Moore

Dispatches Vol. 2 – Fly Fishing for Permit in Belize with Joe Moore

Welcome to the second edition of Dispatches, a new series which reports on the Big Sky Anglers crew as they travel the globe in search of angling adventures. Each edition of Dispatches will feature an interview with one of our angling pros while they are on assignment or traveling for fun. Our crew might be hosting anglers in a remote destination, guiding clients on our home waters, or exploring new fishing territory at home and abroad.

This edition features BSA founder, co-owner and head beard-scaper Joe Moore who is reporting from Placencia, Belize – The Permit Capital of the World. This is Joe’s first visit to Belize, and first time fly fishing for permit. Give a listen to what Joe and his wife Molly have been up to, and stay tuned for more reports from the BSA crew.

“Where are you right now?”

 

Fly Fishing For Permit in Belize

“What is your target species?”

 

Fly Fishing for Permit in Belize

How are you targeting these fish? Any flies or gear that stand out?”

 

Fly Fishing for Permit in Belize

What have the conditions been like?”

 

Fly Fishing for Permit in Belize

What’s one thing that’s happened on your trip so far that you didn’t expect?”

 

Fly Fishing for Permit in Belize

How do you like Placencia? How’s the Food?”

 

Fly Fishing for Permit in Belize

“Where are you off to next?”

 

 

Dispatches Volume 1:  Fly Fishing in Chile with Jonathan Heames

Dispatches Volume 1: Fly Fishing in Chile with Jonathan Heames

Welcome to the first edition of Dispatches, a new series which reports on the Big Sky Anglers crew as they travel the globe in search of angling adventures. Each edition of Dispatches will feature an interview with one of our angling pros while they are on assignment or travelling for fun. Our crew might be hosting anglers in a remote destination, guiding clients on our home waters, or exploring new fishing territory at home and abroad.

This edition features BSA co-owner and head guide Jonathan Heames who is reporting from a remote island in Chilean Patagonia. Jonathan has been fly fishing in Chile for nearly 20 years, and his perspective and knowledge are impressive. Give a listen to what Jonathan has been up to, and stay tuned for more reports from the BSA crew.

“Where are you right now? How did you get there? Where are you off to next?”

 

“What is your target species? Why did you pick this location and time for that species?”

 

“How are you targeting these fish?”

 

“What’s one thing that’s happened on your trip so far that you didn’t expect?”

 

“What are the conditions like?”

 

“What’s been your favorite piece of gear on this trip so far, and why?”

 

“What’s the best thing you’ve had to eat?”

 

“Have you learned any new words or phrases?”

 

“What’s your playlist been on this trip…what tunes are you listening to?”

 

A Summer in South-West Montana (And Idaho, Wyoming and Yellowstone…)

A Summer in South-West Montana (And Idaho, Wyoming and Yellowstone…)

Words and Photos Thanks to Mikey Shanahan, guide, Aussie Fly Fisher, Canberra, Australia

I come from A Land Downunder

This year I had the opportunity to head stateside for the summer, something that I’ve been dreaming of since I picked up a fly-rod. Although the trout fishing in Australia is wild, free, and spectacular (look it up if you haven’t already), nothing can really ever compare to making the pilgrimage to rivers like Madison and Yellowstone, or the privilege of being able to catch wild trout in their native environment. That and the local beers (which are delicious) pretty much make Montana a must on most serious trout bum’s lists.

I was lucky enough to be based in West Yellowstone. I had a bunch of irreplaceable and radical experiences there. Here are a few of my impressions and a few tips for any other international or domestic trout bum that is thinking of packing up and heading west, although in my case I actually had to head north-east for several thousand miles.

First World Problems

The main problem confronting any angler arriving in West Yellowstone, a place with seemingly more rivers than roads, more lakes than parking lots, and more fly shops than McDonalds, is where to go first? Well, one of the many fly shops is usually a good option, and I was extremely lucky in this case.  My good friend Tom serendipitously introduced me to his good friend Justin Spence, who is a part owner and guide of the best option, Big Sky Anglers.

Luckily for me and everyone else who’s had the pleasure of meeting, fishing, or dancing with Justin, he is, as we would say back home, “an absolute #$%^&ing total legend” and all around ultra stand-up-guy. He is also indicative of the whole BSA crew in my opinion.

Justin not only went out of his way to help me, but he also introduced me to everyone at BSA.  That was not only the best possible thing that could’ve happened on my fishing trip, but it was also one of the best things in my life.

Focusing on people so much might seem odd for what is essentially a destination fishing blog post (I can see Matt, the awesome guy who asked me to write this, instantly regretting his decision…). I mean one group of people who fly fish religiously in a town where everyone fly fishes religiously isn’t anything special right? Chances are you go somewhere like that you’re gonna find a group of people who you connect with and help you out to a certain extent, correct? I’m not so sure.

You see, there are fishing trips, and then there are times when the universe plucks you out of the inky, sticky depths of the Great Southern Continent and plunges you into the centre of a group of people who are doing something awesome and exciting at an exact time in an exact place. And when that happens, you just gotta roll with it.

Adapt, or Die #neverforgetyourshell

When travelling to a place that has such varied and excellent fishing as Montana it’s important to have goals to focus your trip. A list of species, rivers, or certain experiences is always a good idea and there’s plenty of info out there too research through before a trip, which is half the fun! However it’s also vital to be adaptable to get most out your fishing.

Weather, hatches (both insect and bikini), along with heaps of other variables, can affect your best made plans, but luckily there’s usually another option. Most of the best fishing I had was a result of being open to whatever happened to be the best fishing on the day.

Listen to advice and act on it, sticking with a plan through thick and thin can come through, but if the guys at the shop who have their finger on the pulse tell you something can wait a week or that you’ve got a better option, go with it, make the most of the short time you have.

One perfect day – Every day of the week

The problem about spending a whole summer in Montana is that you end up with too many good stories.  Everybody in Australia (and I mean everyone, I haven’t shut up since I got back) are already pretty sick of me stating sentences with ‘in Montana…’

There was opening day on the Yellowstone, hiking into the back end of River X, sliding down the Madison, or rowing around drowned trees, trying to pull psycho rainbows on big dries. My advice – Go make your own memories and bore your own mates with them.

That being said one of the days that really stood out for me was floating around on Hebgen Lake with my buddies Belen and Miles, shamelessly bobber fishing, eating cheeseburgers, drinking beers and listening to house music. It’s because of the great people I had the privilege of fishing with in Montana that made my trip what it was.

I’m writing this for them now (ya’ll know who you are) as an open invitation to get outta the freezing cold and 100 foot of snow that guys get and to get over here ASAP.  Bring your board shorts, thongs [Aussie for flipflops.  Maybe], sunnies [Aussie for sunglasses], and stubbies [Aussie for who knows what], and let’s party over in this summer until your next one.

My one piece of advice, though, for folks headed to Yellowstone Country, is to get your butt into BSA the moment you’ve touched down, driven up, or walked into West Yellowstone.  Those guys are dinky-die Aussie legends in my book.

Mikey