Hebgen Lake is a large reservoir on the Madison River located just a few miles outside of West Yellowstone. It’s a prolific stillwater with excellent numbers of rainbow and brown trout. It’s not known to produce giant trout like nearby Henry’s Lake, but the trout are really good sized, typically running from 15-19 inches, with a few larger. The first time you tangle with one of Hebgen’s 18 inch rainbows and you see that backing knot fly out of the rod tip, you’ll wonder if you haven’t hooked something much larger! For those who enjoy stillwater fishing, Hebgen is a great local destination. Good public access provides anlgers with float tubes or pontoon boats lots of water to fish. Anglers do well from ice out through the season fishing subsurface with sinking lines and buggers or nymphs, using chironomid techniques, or by employing traditional stillwater tactics more commonly practiced in the UK.
By mid-late July Callibaetis and Trico mayflies bring fish to the surface in good numbers, and dry fly opportunities are common until the afternoon winds come up. Fish can still be caught blind fishing with sub-surface patterns, but fishing to the rising “gulpers”, named for the sound they make when they suck mayflies off the calm lake surface, can be loads of fun and a great sight fishing challenge. Gulper fishing consists of spotting cruising trout that are eating mayflies at consistent increments. Watch the rise pattern of a single fish, calculate where they will feed next, and lay your fly several feet ahead, hopefully catching the trout in its feeding rhythm. It has been described by many to be the closest thing to flats fishing available here in the mountains of Montana, and it’s one of our specialties.