It’s been just over three weeks since the last fishing report. Sorry folks, the river guide lifestyle has gotten in the way of keeping this weekly, sometimes bi-weekly, report from the pages of our web site for your viewing enjoyment.
Not to worry….it’s back!
Over the past six weeks we’ve been fishing on the Madison, Missouri and rivers in YNP. The last report posted here boasted of the incredible three days of salmon fly fishing that one of our clients was lucky enough to partake in. Those memories are still popping up in my brain.
The flows on the upper Madison have bounced up once again over the past twenty four hours and rushing out of Hebgen Dam is 1090 CFS. At Kirby she’s running along at 1180 CFS. This is a great flow and should help the nocturnal stones get to the bank side boulders and hatch out in good numbers. It might also help insulate the Madison River from the sunshine, but honestly, with 65-71 degree water flowing off the top of Hebgen, we are relying on clouds and cooler nights to help keep the river chilly. Today, on the Madison, the river felt pretty cool till about 3 or so. The river fished spotty with dry flies, but it was quite good at times from Lyons to Windy Point. There were PMDs, Caddis and a few Yellow Sallies hatching that kept fish looking up.
Molly and I had the pleasure of fishing with Maggie Merriman today, a local legend of sorts who has fished these waters for nearly 60 years. Maggie was a bit ahead of her time, developing clothing lines for women and teaching women specific classes on fly fishing and insects back in the late 70′s, 80′s, 90′s and early 2000′s. Molly lived with Maggie a dozen years ago, prior to our meeting here in West Yellowstone and they became quite close. Maggie pulled out a Sage 590 LL and fished it with pure ease from ramp to ramp. She bucked the wind all afternoon and placed her single fly inches from the bank and smack dab in the middle of the slicks. It was a joy to watch her fish…….Thanks Maggie!
I won’t see a day this good on dry flies for a while….it ranks right up there as one the best days ever on the Madison when the big bugs are out. Yesterday and the day before showed moments of greatness, but the river gave us a show today. We got on later than yesterday as the morning temps were super chilly once again, 30 degrees when I stepped out of the house. That’s pretty darn cold for July 1st. Water temps the past couple days in the morning have been very cold as well, temping out at 46 degrees as I launched the boat off the trailer. This morning was a little warmer, but with no clouds to speak of and the sun shinning down, the river warmed up quickly and fish begin to look up for the big fly. There was a light north wind all day that kept the bugs flying and moving upstream. Egg layers were out and sitting over the river…….Big Bugs were on the water.
Angling like this is not an everyday affair here on the Madison River, but every once in a while, shit falls into place just right and we have a banner day with large trout eating dry flies in all the fishy water. The Madison rewards skill and on days like this, the better one is as an angler, the better the fishing can be. Tomo could stick the fly inches from the bank and drift it for twenty feet. He could drift the fly in the middle of the river for what seemed like eternity. When the fish ate, he let it, then set hard, stripped line like a pro and calmly played the fish rarely losing his cool. He believed in what he was doing and with three days on the water, he got in the groove – when the fish cooperated, Tomo didn’t miss a beat. I absolutely love watching someone fish with skill.
At some point in the last seven days, the Madison went from greenish brown and high to damn near clear and lower than expected for June 13th. Some of this is due to no rain and cooler nights and some of this is due to PPL missing the mark and dropping the flows in order to fill Hebgen. Sound familar? Yea…..sadly, we thought so too. We are sitting at the top of the water chain, so to speak, Hebgen should be much easier to manage. After all, they are supposed to be managing water. Dropping the flows during run off, to fill the lake, means that someone wasn’t paying attention to the weather and the snowpack over the past month ro so. However, PPL did some very positive things this past winter: they ran the flows lower all winter therefore keeping the lake elevation higher to start the spring. They also are getting closer to actually finishing the repairs on the dam. Hopefully, in a year’s time, we will have a fully functioning dam once again….seven and half years from the time construction started.
Can you imagine if they would’ve run the lake down all the way down to their normal winter mark? Let’s not think about that….
Instead lets think about summer, trout fishing and the World Cup. Folks, it’s here. After a long winter the river is awake and is on the fringe of popping. Nymph fishing and the streamer bite has been good to great and fish are just beginning to look up towards the surface. Yesterday we floated the Madison for a little R & D to show BRF shop rat and Qtown native, Luke Mayfield, what’s in store for his first summer living in West Yellowstone. Luke’s been here for a month, but hadn’t fished or driven below $3 Bridge on the Madison. When we drove down and around Pine Butte, he was like, “wow, check out those gravel bars and islands.”
Ya man, there is a ton of fishy water on this river……
Today was the start of the greatest soccer tournament in the world and I couldn’t be more excited! For the next month, it will be hard to leave the house and go fishing, that’s for sure. The rules are simple, if you end up in the boat with me, ask me if I’ve see the outcome of a game before you tell me the outcome of a game. I realize that not everyone cares about this game, but I do and I love watching about as much as I love fishing. My playing days are long gone, but just the other night we got into a fine game of Asses Up…..it was too fun.
Stay tuned, the summer is just beginning.
Missouri River at Holter: 6090 cfs at 6pm…….three days ago it was 11,200 cfs.
Madison River below Hebgen: 1200 cfs…….five days ago it was 1850 cfs.
Madison River at Kirby: 1880 cfs…….fishing’s not too bad at all with nymphs in the wade stretch.
Madison River at Varney: 2980 cfs…….muddy, but you can catch a few if you try hard enough.
A week ago, most of us on the Missouri and Madison were preparing for a high water year. Then, things started to drop and flow managers, it seems, began to panic about filling the lakes and the flows were pared back to say the least. Some folks are saying that runoff has peaked……this being said, it’s only June 4th and there’s still boat loads of snow in the high country. I believe that round two of runoff is not far behind. More warm weather is in the forecast and I plan on taking a hike up into the high country next week to check a few spots and look at snow pack. With any luck, Hebgen will fill by the end of the month and we wont’ have a situation like last season with low flows and dried up spawning beds. Canyon Ferry is filling as this is being written, but there is concern that it too won’t fill to full capacity.
This water management concept seems to be hard to figure out……..snow falls and then it melts, at some point a lake or two needs to be filled. While there are lots of variables in the equation and after this many years of managing water, one would think that the water managers would have a easier time with filling the lakes.
If Hebgen isn’t filled by the end of month, it will be disappointing to say the least – this was a banner year for snow pack and filling the lakes should’ve have been an easy task. There is a flow meeting in West Yellowstone on June 12th held by PPL, should be an interesting time.
The Missouri has been, for the most part, pretty good fishing for the past month. From 1-3 fishing’s been a little weird. Some days the fish are grabby in some spots and other days they have moved out of the runs. We’re not getting em’ everywhere and are having to work a little bit. We’ve been mostly nymphing with sow bugs, worms, caddis pupa and bwo nymphs. As the river began to drop a few days ago, the dry fly fishing reared it’s head. A fish here and there were up eating spinners and we found a couple smallish pods that were easily put down after a fish was hooked and blew up jumping it’s way off the hook.
While there is NOT full blown dry fly fishing on the Missouri, we are getting closer each day. If these Missouri flows stabilize and stop jumping around, the caddis should begin and we can stop staring at the bobber all day long. PMD’s? They’ll come soon enough….and when they do the river will come alive.
At this point, my guess is that we’ll be fishing salmonflies on the Madison by the end June……..don’t hold me to this as my crystal ball broke about 38 years ago.
Snow is melting at rapid pace up high in the mountains all across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. One glance at the flows online will show rivers on the rise, some of which are almost double for this time of the year. The white stuff is still pretty deep in the high country, but the last week t o ten days worth of warm weather mixed with some rain has brought a big push water. Wet wading has been standard protocol, but we aren’t wading much on the Missouri, just getting our feet wet from time to time. Anglers should expect this to be the case for a while now, but it’s hard to say just how long run off will go this season. It all depends on the weather. More sun and rain will push it out, cooler temps and no rain will slow it down. Pay attention to the weather and you too can guess when the Salmon flies will hatch on the Madison. I’m still not throwing a date out for this…….too hard to figure this early into run off.
I’ve been living on the Missouri for the past month, but have managed a handful of days back in West Yellowstone. TAKF was held on May 20th and I got a couple days of fishing in around West Yellowstone and Idaho as well. It’s been a very busy May for us and June is right around the corner. The next few weeks will find us hanging out on the Missouri guiding anglers with a another visit home and then back to the Missouri for mid and late June. With any luck, we’ll be fishing the Madison River a month from now.
Flows on the Missouri below Holter Dam are holding at 8790 cfs and down below the Dearborn it hanging around 10,000 cfs. This is quite a bit larger than a year ago right now, but it’s a welcome change of flows and this fine river will fish well into August in 2014. It’s been cooler more often than not, with a prevailing north wind which has brought some moisture up high and down in the low country as well. This afternoon, the sun poked out and life began to warm up a little bit – the goslings are appreciating every ray of sunshine they can get.
The BWO hatch that rolled down the river yesterday could have been considered, in some circles, a blanket hatch. A few fish were up in a couple places, but most of these mayflies drifted down without a fear in the world. I saw some March Browns in the canyon stretch today, but not much up on them at all, except for a few random blow up rises that may have been a skwala eat.
We fished streamers throughout the day, but only the morning bite produced interest for us. For the most part, nymphing was king.
Driving down to the Madison Valley, yesterday afternoon, was a great decision. I almost didn’t go, cause construction, moving to our new place and the guide season starting in late April has consumed me; I wasn’t sure if I could even enjoy fishing with all that lies head. However, as one who has blown off many a’ job to go fishing, this was a much needed day on the water and I am better for it.
Driving past Hebgen Dam and towards Cabin Creek, I counted 11…yes….11 rigs and twice as many anglers. I was told that 14 rigs where there on Saturday. While this stretch is completely legal to fish, it was borderline gross to see all the anglers packed into such a small stretch of river. I too have fished this stretch, countless hours during the Springtime over the past sixteen years, but I just can’t bring myself to fish so darn close to other anglers and stomp redds in the process when there are miles and miles of water below McAtee to access. Biologists will tell you that stepping on redds really doesn’t hurt the fishery, but somehow I’m not sure that I agree, especially when FWP closes the river from Quake’s outlet to McAtee Bridge in order to “protect spawning habitat”. I’m starting to think, as are other anglers, that closing Betwix the Lakes in March, April and early May is a good idea. Maybe Palisades down to McAtee could be opened up to give anglers more water to fish.
Note: Please remember that Quake to Mac is closed……I saw anglers at Pine Butte yesterday. This happens every single season and if they didn’t read the regulations, how would they know that the river is closed? There are no signs ANYWHERE telling anglers otherwise.
Midges were thick when I showed up to the river and shortly after, BWOs started hatching in decent numbers. There were a few fish looking up, but I did best underneath with a rubber legs and small PT. It was a gorgeous day in the Madison Valley and while the fishing was solid, I could’ve cared less cause it was just nice to be on the water.
It was snaining (snow and rain at the same time) on and off throughout the day, as I peered out the windows of our newly remodeled house. We began to move a few boxes this morning from the old rental house, mostly books from Molly’s college education and her rabid addiction to reading everything there is on the planet. Somehow, the only books I managed to keep from college are fishing and fly tying books. Go figure. Molly thinks I have a ton of shit, but her books are by far heavier than anything I own, except for my ’85 Land Cruiser.
Yellowstone National Park opened up today for the 2014 season. I’ve heard rumors of bison calves being born, but have yet to see one here on the Butte. While a ride into YNP would be a nice change from kneeling on wood floors, I believe that taking my fly rod out for a joy ride will hold precedence over watching a geyser blow it’s top or watching fish rise on a river that’s still closed. There is open water on the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake, but getting there by foot or 4X4 is impossible. Skiing or a sled is the only way to wet a line, it would be worth the ski, that’s for sure. Since we don’t own a sled, that’s out of the question. Betwix the Lakes, while quite good right now, doesn’t really appeal to me at this point in the season. The Gallatin, just north of Big Sky, is still laden with snow and there is plenty of that around here so I think I shall forgo that plan and find some green grass, somewhere down in Idaho or possibly the Madison Valley.
I guess it’s time to buy that fishing license…….
I haven’t wet a line since late February and most of my thoughts throughout the day take me back to Argentina. A few days ago, a buddy who works for Blue Ribbon was pre-fishing, prior to his clients arrival, around Livingston. This jackass sent me a photo of bare ground and sunshine with the text that went something like “just had a good baetis session on such and such river, note the green grass!”. Then, to add insult, he called while drinking an IPA on his tailgate to tell me how good the fishing was and how he thought I should be there. I had a few choice words for him to chew on, but soon apologized for my ranting. I closed the computer, cracked a beer and sat down next to the large pile of receipts in our living room while he gave the play by play of his afternoon of dry fly angling.
Don’t get me wrong, Molly and I are fortunate to have purchased a house here in the Holy Land of fly fishing, but the remodel, house packing (and taxes) is really cutting into my fishing time. There is light at the end of the tunnel as our wood floor is half in, leaving baseboards and the moving trucks left on the list to accomplish. With a little luck and some elbow grease, we’ll be moved living in our new place in ten days time. At that point, a trip to a lower elevation is in order. Winter in Montana is long, and while all of us who live at high elevations know what we are in for, by mid-April, one is ready for Old Man Winter to get his is arse out of Dodge.
Where will I go you ask? The list of possible rivers is too long, but let’s just say that Idaho is on the short list.
The guy in the blue shirt holding that 2 X 4 brown trout is Greg Falls. The other guy, the one who caught that brown on his first cast with a size 20 trico, is one of most genuine clients we have ever guided. Many of you know Greg from trips that we guide together on the Missouri River. You’ve seen him grace the pages of this blog for the past nine years. Some of you know Greg from the Yellowstone or Lower Madison. I have known Greg since 1996 when I first showed up to Montana and worked on the Missouri River out of Wolf Creek, where we ran a fly shop together for a few summers.
This past winter I was talking with a soon to be fly shop owner from Cascade and we got to chatting about guides on the Missouri River. The conversation lead to who the best guides were/are on the Missouri River. My friend began the conversation with this gem,
“when the long time guides sit around and talk about who the best all around guides are on the river, Greg is in the top 5 for sure, maybe even the top 3.”
I have fished along side of Greg for nineteen years and I must say his skills with a fly and rod are hard to beat. It’s not just the sheer fishyness that he has acquired after countless hours on the water, but it’s the way he handles every situation on a guide trip – from meeting clients at the shop in the morning to dropping them off at the end of the day. Greg’s name alone is synonymous with the Missouri River below Holter Dam. Another guide once said this about Greg, “Falls doesn’t even row, he just goes down the river netting trout”.
It’s not all about catching trout.
Greg has the patience to teach you everything you want to know about fly fishing. He will turn over rocks and show the new angler what the trout are eating. Greg will row you around, put a few in the net with the nymph rig to boost confidence and then find some risers to show the angler what fly fishing can become with the right skills. You wanna learn the reach cast? Done. You wanna learn to stack mend? Done. You wanna learn to wade fish a nymphing rig? No problem. You wanna catch 50 on the nymph and get that out of your system? Done.
Greg Falls lives on the Missouri River from March till December. Throughout the year, when I’m not on the Missouri River, Greg gives BSA weekly, sometimes daily, fishing reports from Craig, Montana. If you are looking for one of the finest days of angling on the Missouri River, give us a call and book Greg Falls. Greg’s schedule is booked far in advance as many of his loyal anglers book him for the next year before their trip is even over. However, it’s always a good idea to call us cause you never know when his schedule might change.
Springtime on the Missouri is a great season to hire Greg and the angling can be some of the best for the entire year.