Big Sky Anglers Fishing Report – May 28, 2020

Big Sky Anglers Fishing Report – May 28, 2020

The month of May has flown right on by, that’s for sure, and it’s certainly been like any other May we’ve known. Slowly but surely we are starting to find some added sense of normalcy. The fly shop is now OPEN daily from 9am to 5pm. As always, we are selling flies, answering phone calls, booking trips for this season and running a few guide trips down in Idaho as well as on the Missouri River in Craig, Montana. When you walk in our doors, we will be wearing masks of some kind, and, while you won’t see our smiling faces, rest assured we are stoked to see you and offer our advice on all things fly fishing. We have set up the shop to be a clean and healthy environment for both our customers and staff members. There is a sanitation station at the door complete with hand sanitizer, rubber gloves and masks if you choose to wear one. For now, we are limiting the number of people in the shop to ten. Starting June 1st, we will allow more people in the shop at one time. Fishing reports are always up online here, and via our newsletter, so read on for our take on the upcoming week on the water here in Yellowstone Country.

West Yellowstone Forecast

MT Streamflows

ID Streamflows

Yellowstone National Park

Due to COVID-19 related closures, for the first time in nearly 25 years, not one person we know fished the Firehole or Madison on Opening Day – the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. One can only imagine what it’s like up in the Lower Geyser Basin. Rumor has it there is Grizzly sow with cubs at 7 Mile Bridge on the Madison River; fortunately for them, they are being left alone to move about the world as they see fit.

Madison River

@West Yellowstone 801 CFS

@Hebgen 1080 CFS

@Kirby 1430 CFS@Varney 1970 CFS

Memorial Day Weekend brought snow and rain to what had been a dry Spring thus far here in southwest Montana and eastern Idaho. Our local snowpack jumped back up into the 95th percentile which is always good news this time of the year. The rivers and creeks tightened up from the cold overnight temps and things have cleared up a quite a bit. It’s been one of those weeks to say you were here, to have fished the Madison during runoff and caught a solid glimpse of what she can offer anglers in the springtime. Blue Winged Olives are around in decent numbers, March Browns have been seen as well. Nymphing has been pretty darn good with big stone flies, dead drifted black bouface streamers, biot stones, San Juan Worms, Prince Nymphs and of course a smattering of different perdigon nymph patterns. For 2020, we have stocked several new perdigon and other Euro-style patterns, so please stop by and check them out. By the end of this week we will see our first truly warm days of the year with forecasts in the high 70’s and low 80s in the Madison Valley. Bring your sunscreen and expect the Madison to get a little off color over the next several days…we are due for a full blown muddy Madison, next week is likely the timeframe. Lakes anyone?

Note: There are still trout spawning Between the lakes and around the channels in the rest of the river; as always, leave those spawning trout alone and give them a break. 

Henry’s Fork

@Island Park (Box Canyon) 446 CFS

@Ashton Dam 2020 CFS

@St. Anthony 3170 CFS

The Henry’s Fork is in great shape, with both water clarity and flows at the moment. Not running as high as it usually does at this time of year changes some of the fishing dynamics but certainly lends itself to the trout being more willing to rise, river wide.

The Box Canyon is fishing well at the moment with nymphs and salmonflies have now made an appearance. We’ll be looking for more of this activity as this week progresses as we have great stonefly weather in the forecast! Taking a run down the Box at these flows is a sure fire way to scrape a little of the unwanted fiberglass burrs from the bottom of your boat as well as put a bend in your fly rods. There has been a scatter of dry fly fishing throughout the rest of the upper river with both caddis and march browns present when the conditions are right. For the most part, however, this week will steer most anglers towards chasing salmonflies in the canyon country and lower river.

This is a great week to walk in and fish some of the canyons above and below Mesa Falls as well as enjoy the float sections on down to Ashton. The lower river above and below Ashton Reservoir remains the busiest fishery in the area, but should continue to produce good fishing on both stonefly dries as well as nymphs. It’s getting busy down there so please remember to be courteous of the water other folks are fishing. The Henry’s Fork is a diverse river with lots of different ways to play. It pays to be observant not only of what the fish are doing here but also to what other anglers are doing so that you don’t unknowingly disturb another angler’s experience. When in doubt, take a break and have a good look around…there are usually rewards to be found.

Missouri River

@Toston 8930 CFS

@Holter 4920 CFS

Little Prickly Pear 272 CFS

Dearborn River 915 CFS

@Cascade 6450 CFS

Joe left for the Missouri on Wednesday and will be up north for the next week. Flows in the tributaries have dropped and barring any huge rain storms on The Front, the Dearborn should continue to drop. The Canyon has cleared up quite a bit and one will find a few March Browns still left in this reach. The Missouri is still pretty spawny is some places, but more and more rainbows are coming off the spawn each week. Leave them alone and let them be, the river gods will look kindly down on you later. Pink bead and fire bead anything are still fooling a few fish each day as it a SJW or the ever sinking Wire Worm. Larger #12 Pheasant Tails as well as small BWO nymphs are also working with the emergence of March Browns and Beatis. Sowbugs…yes…they seem to always work. When in doubt, fish a sow bug. On the streamer side of things, experiment with flash vs natural/subtle options as the fish seem to change moods day to day; white is never a bad choice. Spring on the Mo can be a great time to find hungry brown trout in shallow slow water looking for a big meal. We always keep a single dry rod rigged at all times, why not right? While those slow inside bends are still fishy, you will find trout in all the sexy spots from here on out. Later in the day a big dry with a tunghead jig dropped off about two to three feet will produce; it makes for a nice change of pace from chasing the bobber, that’s for sure!

Hebgen Lake

By now, the ice is long gone and our annual spring hatches of Chironomids are in full swing. There is plenty of fun too be had for the devoted stillwater angler, as well as those new to the lake game. If you see fish rising these days, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ve discovered a chironomid hatch. Be aware, however, that those “Rises” are most likely fish feeding on emergent pupae, just beneath or right in the surface. And, know that there is likely a lot of subsurface feeding going on if you see fresh chironomid shucks on the water, but few or no fish are rising. Speaking of shucks, pay attention to those and any actual insects you may see as that will be your clue as to what size pupal imitation(s) to fish. Remember that you may see a few REALLY BIG ONES and a bunch of smaller ones, and that on any given day the fish may be looking for one or the other. If chironomids aren’t working for you, stripping/trolling a bugger or leech pattern on a sinking line chosen to match the water depth and retrieve speed is always a good decision.

Henry’s Lake

This year, opening day on Henry’s was not smiled upon by Mother Nature. With temps in the 30s, a strong north wind, and sideways snow, only the heartiest of souls made it out on the water. Reports were few, but those who found success did so primarily with leech/bugger patterns, either stripped at a good pace on faster sinking lines, or fished balanced style, slow and low, under an indicator. The warm weather we have on the way should really fire up some vegetation growth and insect activity in the shallows, so this could be a great weekend to get out there.

Big Sky Anglers Covid-19 Operating Procedures/Protocols and Status

Big Sky Anglers Covid-19 Operating Procedures/Protocols and Status

Updated 5/31/2020

Big Sky Anglers is currently open for business in both the fly shop and our outfitting service, and looking forward to seeing you! Our lodging facility, the Golden Stone Inn, will be opening its doors for the season on June 1st. Please refer to this blog post for current updates as this situation progresses during the fishing season.

Current Status

Idaho: We are currently running guide trips on the Henry’s Fork in Idaho, visiting anglers can now purchase non-resident and resident fishing licenses at this time.

Montana: Guiding is legal in Montana at this time, and the governor has lifted the 14 day quarantine requirement as of June 1. 

Yellowstone National Park: As of June 1, YNP is open and all gates are operational.  Fishing is open per the YNP fishing regulations.

Operating Procedures

The following plan outlines Big Sky Anglers’ current operating procedures in both our fly shop and our guide service. It is our focus to implement procedures that ensure the safety, health, and well-being of both our employees and our customers. This is a fluid situation requiring an adaptable plan, and we will be updating these procedures as the season and situation unfolds. This blog post will have the latest updates.


-Ensure the health and safety of our employees and customers
-Implement procedures that prevent and minimize the transmission of Covid-19
-Comply with federal, state, and various government agency mandates

Big Sky Anglers Outfitting Operations

The safety of our customers and employees is paramount to us, we acknowledge that in order to ensure this safety active participation must take place on both the guide’s and the customers’ part. We thank you for acting responsibly and for taking the following precautions.

These operating protocols are mandatory for all guided fishing trips with Big Sky Anglers. We are allowing 1-2 anglers per float trip, and up to 3 on a walk/wade trip. Social distancing standards will be implemented, and when 6 feet of distance is not possible, face masks must be worn by guides. Clients must have their nose and mouth covered by face mask or a buff.  A separate waiver will be furnished requiring all participants to adhere to the following:


-Guides will discuss the night before where clients are coming from and try to understand what their level of exposure is. Any symptomatic conditions on the part of guide or client serve as basis for cancellation of trip at no penalty to customer or guide.

-Guide will discuss fishing options, needed gear, and advise customer which license to purchase for the fishing day. License sales will not occur in the fly shop and must be organized externally.

MT licenses online:
ID licenses online:

-Guide trips will meet outside the fly shop or at the destination. Please no hand shaking or hugs; smiles, fist bumps, and toe touches are all good form and are encouraged.


-We are recommending that customers drive their own vehicle to the accesses and have their own shuttles run.

-Guides are required to wipe down all “hot spots” in their vehicles after parking and before locking at boat ramps to ensure safety of shuttle drivers. Also, we are asking that you leave one set of both hand sanitizer and wipes in your vehicle and available to the shuttle driver should they need them.

-We have corresponded with shuttle companies and all companies we use will be implementing sanitary measures into their workflow. Shuttle drivers will wear face masks, gloves, and wipe down contact spots in vehicle prior to and after running shuttles.

During Trip

-Guides are required to wear face masks during the day’s fishing when in the boat.  We are asking clients to at least wear a buff and cover their noses and mouths. If occupying the same vehicle is necessary, buffs are insufficient and face masks must be worn during the drive by guides AND clients. Big Sky Anglers will provide guide trip customers with masks at no charge if they do not have their own.

-Guide vehicles will be sanitized before and after each trip, wiping all “hot spot” zones such as: seats, armrests, door handles, window cranks/buttons, steering wheel, gear shifts, seat belts and buckles, etc.

-Guides must make available a set of sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer within reach of each customer at all times as well as have their own set within their own reach. These are not to be shared, rather each person must have access within reach of their own supply.

-Boats must be wiped with sanitizing wipes between each guide trip and prior to clients entering the boat for the day’s fishing.

-Terminal tackle will be handled by the guide alone. There is no way to avoid guides handling this tackle during the course of the day, so the responsibility to maintain terminal tackle falls into the guide’s care exclusively.

-Lunches will be prepared by a subcontractor and guides will never touch the interior contents of the sack lunch. Exterior of sacks will be wiped with a sanitizing cloth prior to entering guide’s lunch cooler/storage. Guides will have a separate cooler for lunches and will be required to sanitize hands and put on nitrile/latex gloves prior to serving customers their lunches.

-Beverages will be sanitized by wiping before handing to guests from guides’ cooler. Guides’ coolers are to be sanitized after each trip with a bleach solution or sanitizing wipes. Please keep your reusable water bottles out of your cooler, this will be a good year to invest in good quality, insulated bottles that can stay out.

Big Sky Anglers Fly Shop

-We have established a maximum combined number of 10 customers allowed in the shop at any one time, and will be assigning an employee per shift to operate in the front of the store, managing the flow of traffic, welcoming guests, and assisting in any way possible serve our customers’ needs.

-“Fly Tackle Takeout” or curbside service is available for those customers who prefer not to enter our fly shop. Orders can be called in ahead of time and we’ll have them ready for you to pickup at your convenience. Call the shop at 406.646.7801 to get started.

-We are designing an education plan for customers to purchase fishing licenses ahead of time on their mobile devices for both MT and ID to reduce the bottleneck of license traffic in the store.

-We have signage posted asking our customers to respect social distancing norms

-We have installed plexiglass sneeze guards at registers

-We have made “sanitizing stations” available to customers upon entry and upon checkout.

-We are requiring that face masks be worn by all staff while in the fly shop and customers are required to wear either face masks or buffs. Buffs alone are not suitable for shop staff while in the store, a coffee filter can be inserted to bring them up to level.

-We have introduced cleaning/sterilization practices that take place throughout the day:

  1. Counter wiped and sterilized in front of each customer.
  2. Credit Card terminal wiped prior to each customer use.
  3. Customer offered hand sanitizer after checkout.
  4. Signage posted indicating to customers that browsing and selecting of flies be executed with tweezers from a marked “sterile” container and another “non-sterile” container present for used tweezers to be placed in.
  5. Bathroom is closed to the public and will be cleaned/sanitized at beginning and end of each shift.
  6. All employees are prohibited from coming to work if they are showing symptoms of being ill.
  7. All employees are required to have their temperature taken at the beginning of their shift. Anyone registering a fever will be required to return home.

Big Sky Anglers Fishing Report – May 21, 2020

Big Sky Anglers Fishing Report – May 21, 2020

Hello there from West Yellowstone, MT – the Trout Capital of the World! We are starting to wrap our minds around what this season will look like, even though it seems to be changing by the day. The one thing we do know is that flexibility is key and at some point just going with the flow is getting us through our daily routine here at the fly shop. Read on for our take on this week’s fishing outlook!

West Yellowstone Forecast

MT Streamflows

ID Streamflows

Yellowstone National Park

Closed for now and the fishing season will open as normal on May 23rd, 2020. At this time the West Gate of YNP will be closed until June1st, 2020. The only way to fish the Firehole will be to drive in from Jackson Hole. 

Madison River

@West Yellowstone 988 cfs and rising

@Hebgen 1060 CFS and rising

@Kirby 1810 CFS and rising

@Varney 2870 CFS and…rising

The upper Madison River had been fishing pretty well so far this Spring. We are now seeing big pushes of snowmelt from top to bottom; expect the river to be brown throughout the entire system. Between the lakes will be clear on river left below Cabin Creek and Quake is nearly 100% brown. Could you catch a few fish right now? You bet! Is it going to be the best day you ever had, probably not. Fishing a rubber legs and a worm or twitching a sparkle minnow in the pockets and along the softer edges is your best bet.

There are still a ton of trout spawning Between the lakes and around the channels in the rest of the river; as always, leave those spawning trout alone and give them a break. 

Henry’s Fork

@Island Park (Box Canyon) 446 CFS

@Ashton Dam 1640 CFS

@St. Anthony 3130 CFS

Spring has sprung on the Henry’s Fork and in the lower reaches flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and there are a few salmonflies crawling around in the green grass. Happy New Year! These next 6 weeks are prime time in the lower elevation sections and we look forward to them every year, salmonflies mark the official kick off to our dry fly season. Fishing has been good down here lately with lots of great stuff to come in the coming weeks.

The upper river is still running cool but is clear and fishing well. Good conditions in the Box Canyon and the canyon sections below Harriman State Park (still closed until June 15th) give plenty of opportunity to those who don’t want to be part of the madness in the lower elevations. Nymph fishing is still the norm up here, but salmonflies aren’t far away now, likely to start when the weather warms back up after the weekend.

Overall, the river is running a little lower than usual for this time of year, system-wide, as a freshet was released from the Island Park Dam some weeks ago to encourage mobilization of sediment. This is ultimately a good thing, but now they are refilling the reservoir and it’s likely we won’t have high water during stoneflies. That said, the water clarity is great and fishing has been solid.

Idaho just lifted the ban on non-resident license sales last Saturday, May 16th and effectively opened the fishing up to visiting anglers by doing so. We still have some guides available during prime dates on the Fork, if you’re interested in experiencing this great river, please give us a call at the shop.

Missouri River

@Holter 4880 CFS

Prickly Pear 280 CFS and rising

Dearborn River 1530 CFS and rising

Greg Falls has been on the water quite a bit here in the last week guiding some of his long time Montana resident anglers. He has been all over the entire river from the Dam down to Cascade. The Missouri is pretty spawny is some places, but more and more rainbows are coming off the spawn each week. Leave them alone and let them be, the river gods will look kindly down on you later. The Prickly Pear and Dearborn are tossing in some color so SJWs and the wire worm are playing a big part in one’s day. Pink bead and fire bead anything are still fooling a few fish each day. Larger #12 Pheasant Tails as well as small BWO nymphs are also working with the emergence of March Browns and Beatis. Swung bug and trout Spey game is small streamers. Experiment with flash vs natural/subtle options as the fish seem to change moods day to day. Spring on the Mo’ can be a great time to find hungry brown trout in shallow slow water looking for a big meal. We always keep a single dry rod rigged at all times, why not right? While those slow inside bends are still fishy, you will find trout in all the sexy spots from here on out. Later in the day a big dry with a tunghead jig dropped off about two to three feet will produce; it makes for a nice change of pace from chasing the bobber, that’s for sure!

BSA’s 4th Annual Grand Opening Celebration – June 27, 2020

BSA’s 4th Annual Grand Opening Celebration – June 27, 2020

Yeah, we have this party every summer.  We are still calling it the Grand Opening because we still have those original GRAND OPENING signs.  Maybe someday they will fall apart or get stolen, but at least until then…

Save the date and join us for Big Sky Anglers FOURTH ANNUAL Grand Opening Celebration – a celebration of summer, friends, family, and fly fishing.
Saturday, June 27th, 2018 from 11 am to 10 pm here at the fly shop.

We are super excited to see everyone back again.  Be sure to bring a few friends this year.  We’ve got a number of things planned both on paper and in our minds.  Make sure to check back in between now and the event as we are sure to be adding a few more fun things as well as special guests.  Stop by the shop any time on June 27th to get in on store-wide sales, giveaways, fly tying demos, fly casting, and more.  Great presentations and demos from vendors, BBQ, fly casting, and more.  We will be loaded up with new Big Sky Anglers hats, shirts, and other logo gear, and some retro Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop gear too.  We will also be showing off the Golden Stone Inn, our one-of-a-kind lodge, for those who’d like to see the new grounds.  See you soon!
Joe Moore, Justin Spence, and Jonathan Heames
Owners, Big Sky Anglers

Special Guests and Events Schedule

Be sure to check back as we may add more to the schedule!
Saturday, June 27th
FWP News Release – Scoping Process Begins for Madison River Alternatives

FWP News Release – Scoping Process Begins for Madison River Alternatives

Today, FWP announced the beginning of the official scoping process for Madison River recreation management alternatives.  This represents a significant step forward in the process, and the first time that the general public has an easy way to express their feelings on the matter.  We commend FWP and the Commissioners for all their hard work to this point and encourage everyone out there who is passionate about the Madison River to participate in the scoping process.  The public has 40 days to comment, and the deadline for public comment is Monday, January 6, 2019.  As always, regardless of your position on this complex issue, we encourage everyone to comment in a thoughtful and professional manner, and to please avoid personal attacks, name calling, or other behaviors that close lines of communication and collaboration.  

FWP Header

Scoping process begins for Madison River alternatives

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park is beginning a public process to gauge public support and collect feedback on various alternatives for dealing with crowding and conflict on the Madison River.

The process, known as scoping, will ask the public their opinions on various alternatives to addressing four main issues: commercial fishing outfitter management, social conflict management on the upper river, lower river recreational management, and angler use management on the upper river. The form of this process will be a public survey.

Additionally, the public will weigh in on their support for a management goal for recreational use on the river.

The scoping process comes at the direction of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, which met earlier this month to hear petitions from various interest groups proposing solutions to recreation management on the Madison River. The commission denied all three petitions but directed the department staff to insert the options proposed within the petitions into a scoping process.

The public will have 40 days to comment. Once the scoping process is complete, the department will consider the survey results and draft a proposed rule, which is slated to go before the commission in February. The commission will then choose whether or not to put the proposed rule out for public comment.

“It’s taken a long time and a lot of work to get to this point where we can officially collect input on our next steps,” said FWP director Martha Williams. “People are passionate about the Madison River, and we know it’s important for us to consider all interests in moving forward. We’re committed to doing just that.”

In addition to taking the survey, people can submit written comments to

The survey can be found at this link: