Hatch Profile – Arctopsyche grandis; My favorite Salmonfly pattern on the Madison River

Hatch Profile – Arctopsyche grandis; My favorite Salmonfly pattern on the Madison River

Fishing the iconic Salmonfly (Pteronarcys californica) hatch on the Fifty-Mile Riffle is an epic experience to say the least.  Snow-capped mountains and lush green hillsides frame a robust river flush with the bounty of early season snowmelt. Tremendous browns and rainbows rise eagerly to engulf massive insects from the surface. It’s the stuff of legends.

Though, like many phenomenons, they are all too often elusive. One day you’re a bit too far upstream of the hatch, the next day you’re too far behind it. Sometimes you’re right smack in the middle of the hatch, but the fish have seen too many bugs and reject your fly as if to say “sorry Sucker, better luck next time”.

Every so often, when the stars align, you get to watch in amazement as big trout erupt on your dry fly, and tear upstream in a violent and powerful run. On days like these you can do no wrong, it’s as if every trophy trout in the river has been waiting all year just to eat your fly. Though, sadly, that’s not the norm. The reason those epic days are so special is because they so rarely happen.

I’ve spent many days watching perfect drifts go unrewarded during the Madison’s salmonfly hatch with perfectly presented stonefly imitations. Over the years I’ve been forced to look past the obvious attraction of the Hollywood Hatch, and look deeper for other ways to feed these crafty trout. More times than not, the answer has been with Arctopsyche grandis.

Arctopsyche grandis is a large (size #8-10) chocolate-colored caddis that is conveniently at its peak of activity on the Madison River when salmonflies are hatching.

A. grandis are predominantly nocturnal, but at their peak abundance, the sheer volume of insects provides an ample supply of unlucky individuals who fall or get blown from stream side vegetation into the drift. Just like Salmonflies, Arctopsyche adults can be seen fluttering haphazardly across the surface, especially close to the banks, on windy afternoons.

Conveniently, many of the Madison’s best brown trout occupy those prime lies along the bank, hunting opportunistically for any and all insects that come their way, not just the immense stoneflies.

I generally prefer to present a single dry fly to these sneaky bank feeders. I like a 10-12 foot leader (depending on wind), with a long 2-3 foot tippet section of soft monofilament. When casting from the drift boat, I find a downstream presentation with a reach cast to be the most effective. When wading, I like to approach from below my target, fishing upstream with an elevated pile cast and a slight reach to the bank side.

Dry fly patterns like a size #10 Royal Stimulator, #10 Micro-Chubby, or #10 PMX are all great searching patterns when Arctopsyche are active. All of these flies are also great imitations for the multitude of smaller stoneflies which are present at these times.

When dry fly fishing isn’t producing, often in the week or so leading up to the hatch, larval imitations of A. grandis can be seriously effective. These large larvae are found in size #8-10 on the Madison with a bright olive body and a dark brown head. Nymph patterns like the BSA Beadhead Caddis Pupa, and a Tungsten King Prince are a great choice.

Don’t get me wrong, on days when the infamous fish on the Madison are crushing Salmonfly dries I will cast them until my arm falls off. But when they’re not, you will most likely find me fishing an Arctopsyche imitation….with a bent rod.

So, keep an eye out for these large, chocolate-colored caddis the next time you’re fishing the Madison during stonefly activity, and keep their imitations on deck if you’re watching too many of your own perfect drifts with a Salmonfly go unrewarded.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – October 31, 2019

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – October 31, 2019

The Yellowstone National Park fishing season comes to a close on Sunday November 3, 2019, and with that we bid adieu to the 2019 Big Sky Country fishing season. It’s been one for the books! 

This season flew by. It feels like there’s no way it could possibly be over, but Old Man Winter arrived early to Big Sky Country, and he’s not messing around. Some years it’s still warm and sunny for the last weekend of the season, and we’re left wondering why we can’t just keep fishing for a few weeks. This year there’s no doubt that it’s time to wrap things up, stoke the woodstove, and settle in for the off season. 

This past week has been a little “Western” to say the least. High temps had a hard time breaking out of the teens, and morning lows dropped to the teens Below zero. 

Don’t swap those rod boxes on the top of your rig for ski racks just yet! As the final days tick off the calendar Mother Nature is giving us one last window of opportunity this weekend after what has been a bitterly cold week. The forecast is calling for daytime highs to reach the upper 30’s on Saturday and Sunday, a tropical heatwave compared to what we’ve seen lately.

This will be our last weekly fishing report for the season. Stay tuned for our Year In Review report in the coming weeks, and updates from West Yellowstone and Patagonia throughout the winter. 

As always, if you find yourself in West Yellowstone this winter, please swing by and say Hi! If you need help planning your next adventure to Big Sky Country or down to Patagonia, give us a call or drop a line anytime. 

Thanks to all of our readers, and customers for making this the greatest gig a bunch of trout bums could ever dream of!

West Yellowstone Forecast

MT Streamflows

ID Streamflows

For our last report of the season we’re sharing a couple of fun comic strips featuring none other than our fearless leaders, J3. 

For weeks we’ve been talking about the best fall fishing options in Big Sky Country. Nothing has changed in these final days. And, if you’re dedicated enough to be here during the last weekend, you probably don’t need much help finding the best fishing. 

So, here’s a fun look at where J3 will be spending the last days of the season. 

In keeping with the bitterly cold conditions we’ve dealt with, there’s an added bonus “It’s So Cold…” joke. 

Stay Warm!


Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – October 24, 2019

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – October 24, 2019

If you’ve caught fish in Big Sky Country over the past week they have been well earned. Old Man Winter came to town and threw himself one heck of a party complete with snow and sub-freezing temps.

Many of those hearty soles who ventured out in the cold and snow were rewarded with good fishing.  The best action was found in the warmer afternoon hours when both dry fly and streamer tactics produced some great fall fishing.

Travel has been a challenge around West Yellowstone this week. Both Hwy 20 and the West Entrance Rd into YNP were closed at times due to snow. Both are now open, though some closures on high passes still exist inside the Park. For up to the minute road info in Yellowstone, check out the following link to the Park’s Road Status Map.


For this last week of the season, the forecast calls for more wintry weather. A quick storm is set to roll across the area on Saturday bringing a couple of inches of snow. Sun and colder temps will follow for the remainder of the week with highs struggling to break the freezing mark and lows in the single digits.

Speaking of single digits, doesn’t Pasadena sound nice? If you’re in the Pasadena area, be sure to check out our very own Matt Klara’s presentation, “Trout Under the Big Sky” on Nov 1 with Orvis Pasadena.

Check out this Facebook event link for more info and to RSVP for this fun evening.

We’re down to the final week of the season, and there is exciting fishing throughout Big Sky Country. 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 National Park

It’s been a wild ride fishing in the Park this week. From slippery roads to frozen guides, snow and cold always up the ante. But when the stakes are high, so too are the rewards. Some big fish were found chasing streamers and sipping dries this week.

With more winter weather on the way there’s sure to be further high stakes fishing during the final week of the season.

Firehole River

All autumn we’ve talked about the great dry fly fishing on the Firehole during the fall with baetis mayflies. While that remains the case, for this last week of the season don’t forget about the impressive population of resident brown trout that call the Firehole home, and the fact that they too are preparing for spawning season. The Firehole is chock full of aggressive brown trout that love to eat small streamers. The average size of Firehole browns is on the small size (10”-12”), but if there was ever a time to locate that one percenter in the 20” class it’s now.

Madison River(in YNP)

In keeping with this theme, we’ve focused for weeks on the migratory fish from Hebgen Lake that populate the Madison River in YNP every fall, and the thrill of hunting them with streamers. But, it’s important to keep in mind that these transient trout are not solely targeting large prey, or defending their territory.

The Madison River in YNP plays host to the same great fall hatches of baetis mayflies that are found on the Firehole River, and throughout Big Sky Country in the fall. And, it’s not uncommon to find those big migratory lake fish rising to thick hatches of baetis, especially at the very end of the season.

So, make sure that dry fly rod is handy, and keep an eye out for subtle rises in soft water anywhere along the Madison in the park.


Madison River

Baetis hatches have been good in the walk wade stretch of the Madison, but they have not been widespread or long lived.

Your best window will be from 1:00pm – 4:00pm. Be prepared to cover a lot of water, and painstakingly inspect every slick and soft spot.

Hunting for heads and waiting for a target will be your best chance at dry fly success, but blind fishing a single dry can also bring good fish to the surface.

Don’t forget to bring your A-Game presentations, and try to muster as much stealth as one can with all of those puffy layers stuffed under your waders.

Nymphing will be productive during the afternoon hours when the baetis activity picks up as well.

And, there’s plenty of opportunity to find a good brown with a streamer.

Henry’s Fork

The lower river continues to enjoy both milder conditions and great fall fishing. Temps run 5-10 degrees warmer down in Ashton than they do up in the Calderas. If you’re looking for some thermal refuge, this is the spot for the next week.

No surprise- Fishing on the lower Fork will revolve around streamers and hatches of pseudo and baetis mayflies.


Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – October 17, 2019

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – October 17, 2019



  1. Foul and unpleasant
  2. Gray, Cold, Wet Weather – the type we dream about for fall fishing in Big Sky Country
  3. The best conditions for epic emergences of beatis mayflies, and rambunctious, migratory brown trout

After several days of glorious Indian Summer conditions, we are looking down the barrel at a week of good old fashioned scuzz in West Yellowstone.

Yet another rugged fall storm will roll into Caldera Country on Friday bringing snow and cold temps – perfect scuzzy weather. High temps will struggle to get out of the 30’s and morning lows will dip into the teens. Snow is predicted each day until next Tues, but accumulations don’t look to be more than a few inches.

These conditions will prompt heavy hatches of baetis mayflies and provoke migratory trout, but it takes preparation and the right gear to hang tough in these challenging conditions.

Puffy layers, Gore-Tex shells, and a Hydro Flask full of soup are mandatory equipment if you want to persevere. This is the time to spring for that new pair of gloves, or those puffy under-wader pants.

When the scuzz descends, it’s critical to plan your fishing day appropriately. If daytime highs are only in the 30’s, don’t expect to see good hatches of baetis until 2pm or 3pm. On especially scuzzy afternoons, the hatch might not occur until as late as 4pm. Light levels will remain low, and that means migratory fish will be on the prowl throughout the day. Don’t feel like you have to be at the Barn’s Pools at day break when it’s 19 degrees. On scuzzy days, those migratory fish will still be active at noon when it’s closer to the daytime high, and they will remain lively until darkness falls.

For those of you in the Pasadena area, our very own Matt Klara will be in town with a late Halloween Treat for everyone.

Matt will be at Orvis Pasadena with a presentation called “Trout Under the Big Sky” on Nov 1.

Many of you have had the chance to meet Matt at one of his Spey Casting classes at the Pasadena Casting Club, or maybe at home here in MT. Now he’s hitting the road with an awesome slideshow with entertaining tales and technical discussion from his years of chasing trout on a fly across Big Sky Country. These are some stories, tips and tricks you will not want to miss.

There’s even free beer and pizza!

Check out this Facebook event link for more info and to RSVP for this fun evening.


We’re down to the final weeks of the season, and there is exciting fishing throughout Big Sky Country. 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 National Park

Well folks, we couldn’t ask for a better set up than this to wrap up the 2019 fishing season in YNP. Water temps are perfect, fish numbers are strong, and, with ideal conditions forecasted, there is sure to be some exciting fishing in the Park this week.

Firehole River

This will be an excellent choice for technical dry fly fishing in the afternoons. You can expect to see thick emergences of baetis mayflies (size #20-22). Though, hatches may be localized depending on water temps. It’s important to keep water temps in mind when fishing the Firehole in the fall. Temps are always warmer downstream as the cumulative effect of geyser water is added to the river. Sometimes you can follow the hatch upstream on scuzzy days with lower reaches having warmer water, and earlier emergences.

Madison River(in YNP)

Somewhere between Hebgen Lake and the falls on the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers there is a truly profound fish. The one. The fish that everyone is hoping for when they string up their rods and wade out into the icy cold water. A mythical trout that rarely, if ever, wanders into water that is accessible to a fly. This is the week to find that trout. Fish hard. Fish long. Don’t waste any opportunities. He’s in there.

The Lewis Lake – Shoshone Lake Channel 

What better way to stay warm on a scuzzy October day in Yellowstone than to hike into the backcountry and fish for trophy brown trout and lake trout?

The four mile long channel between Lewis and Shoshone Lakes is best reached by a 4.7 mile hike down the Dogshead Trail. The channel hosts a spawning run of browns and lake trout from both lakes. More and more fish will populate the channel as we approach the end of the season. These migratory trout are hot to trot when they enter the relatively shallow channel waters, and are fun to target with streamers.

As this is a spawning channel, please keep wading to an absolute minimum. And, keep a staunch lookout for fish that are actively spawning. Reds will be obvious in the shallow water sections, and are to be avoided at all costs. Instead, focus your efforts on deeper runs and pools.

This is a backcountry fishery. So, always be prepared with bear spray, and sound backcountry practices.

Madison River

Streamers, baetis dry flies, and nymphs are on the menu this week on the Fifty Mile Riffle.

Mornings are likely to be slow, but fishing will heat up in the afternoons as baetis and midges become more active.

Cold, scuzzy afternoons are perfect for fishing the walk wade stretch from Earthquake Lake down to Lyons Bridge, or between Hebgen and Earthquake Lakes.

Baetis hatches can be tremendous on scuzzy October afternoons. Take your time. Inspect every piece of slow water along the banks. And, be prepared to make a delicate presentation with a size #20-22 baetis imitation.

Don’t forget the streamer game on this stretch of the Madison as well. There is no shortage of deep runs to fish with a sink tip and streamer, and plenty of ornery brown trout.

Henry’s Fork

A harsh change in weather will activate good dry fly and streamer fishing on the Henry’s Fork as well.

It’s more of the same on the Ranch waters this week with pseudos and baetis mayflies driving the dry fly fishing. Scuzzy weather will concentrate emergences and trigger better numbers of the larger (compared to psuedos) baetis mayflies in the afternoons.

Brown trout in the lower river add another dimension to fall fishing on the Fork with good opportunities to find a real stud on a streamer.

Missouri River

It may be a few hours north of West Yellowstone, but the Missouri River is lower in elevation, and generally remains more temperate later into the fall.

This upcoming week’s forecast on the Mo is calling for considerably warmer weather with daytime highs in the 50’s and slight rain instead of snow.

As BSA’s fall run on the Mo comes to an end this week, we expect to see more good streamer fishing, and a few more baetis mixed in with the strong pseudo hatches we’ve seen.

Henry’s & Hebgen Lake

We hope you took advantage of the last couple of days fine weather and snuck out for a lake session, because, unless you enjoy sitting in a boat or float tube in the snow and wind with temps at or below freezing, you’re out of luck for the next few days.  If the weather forecast ends up being wrong though, short windows of opportunity coinciding with afternoon feeding binges could bring a bend to your rod.  Like we’ve been saying the past few weeks, stick to the subsurface tactics and larger profile offerings like buggers and leeches on intermediate lines, or balanced bugs under an indicator.


Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – October 10, 2019

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – October 10, 2019

shoul-der sea-son


  • a travel period between peak and off-peak seasons
  • a time to explore Big Sky Country without quite so many crowds
  • the point of the season in which the biggest brown trout of the year are caught
  • an opportunity to fish in the sun one day and in snow the next
  • the best time of year to find killer deals on all of your favorite gear at Big Sky Anglers

October is here. It’s officially the Shoulder Season. Gone are the days of bustling sidewalks, long lines at the park gate, and 2-hour waits for a cheeseburger.

The last few weeks of the season are a special time in Big Sky Country. It’s a time when everyone can catch their breathe a bit after a hectic summer, and enjoy the bounty of another great water year. From the elk and aspens to the browns and rainbows, everything is in great shape this fall.

Yet another potent fall storm roared across the region this week bringing one more dose of winter to all of Big Sky Country. Substantial snow fell throughout the region, from the Missouri River in northern MT all the way down to the Henry’s Fork in Idaho.

A healthy dose of Indian Summer is on the horizon for the upcoming week. Though you will want to keep your warm puffy layers handy as morning lows look to be frosty for the next few days.

Fall weather brings fall fishing, and we’ve had plenty of both. 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 National Park

Yellowstone Park remains open to fishing until November 3rd this year. That means you have three more weeks to hunt for migratory fish and fall hatches before everything shuts down for the winter. So, pitter patter, let’s get at er!

Firehole River

Fly fishing is hard on purpose. If we just wanted to catch fish, we would do things far differently. We value the difficulty and the skill required to fool a fish with a fly. It’s the How and Why that are important. Sometimes we value the virtue of the challenge more than the end result (the fish).

Nowhere is this more evident than right now on the Firehole River. This legendary fishery comes alive each fall with tremendous hatches of baetis mayflies, and resident fish feed on the surface with consistent regularity. On a gray, scuzzy October afternoon, which we have seen several of recently, it’s not uncommon to find fish rising from bank to bank in places like Fountain Flat Dr, or below Midway Geyser Basin.

As abundant as these opportunities may be, they are equally challenging. By this point in the season fish have become wary, and the bugs have become small. It’s a serious test of one’s dry fly prowess to fool a Firehole trout in the fall. It requires a perfect presentation with 10-12’, 5x-6x leaders, and a minute, size 22 baetis imitation.

Oh, and did I mention, the fish in the Firehole River are not large. Unlike many fabled fisheries in Big Sky Country, the average size of browns and rainbows found in the Firehole is 10-12”. Occasionally, you will find a 16-18” fish, and the last two seasons have produced more of those outliers than any in recent history, but this is not a big fish fishery.

Fishing on the Firehole in the fall is all about the How and Why. We chase these little trout, not just to catch them, but to catch them with a fly, because it’s hard. And, that’s bad ass.

Madison River(in YNP)

Back in mid-September I used a baseball analogy to describe fishing the Madison River in YNP during the fall. I likened the early season fishing with the beginnings of baseball season when you’re excited, but there’s not much going on yet. And then, before you know it, it’s playoff season and every game counts. “Every game has an opportunity for that defining moment. The one that makes the whole season worthwhile, that makes you a fan.”

Well, it’s here. It’s playoff season for both baseball and migratory fish in the Madison. It’s time to pay attention. It’s time when every session counts, because there is a real opportunity every time you hit the water for the next three weeks to catch that one fish that makes the whole season worthwhile, that makes you a fan.

With bright weather in the forecast for the next few days, look to the early morning and late evening hours for your best chance at finding aggressive fish while the light levels are low.

The Gallatin River

Indian summer afternoons are a great time to fish the Gallatin stretch in YNP. Sparse hatches of baetis mayflies may bring some fish to the surface in slower runs and pools. In abscense of rising fish, tight line nymphing through deep undercuts and pockets can produce some great fish.

The Gardner RIver

As we approach the end of the season, more and more brown trout from the Yellowstone River will be sniffing their way up into the Gardner. Exploring the pocket water from Mammoth down towards the town of Gardiner with small, heavy streamers can yield big rewards.

Madison River

The park stretch of the Madison isn’t the only reach of the river to host a population of migratory fish. In fact, from Hebgen to Quake, and throughout the Madison Valley brown trout migrate and stage in runs as they prepare to spawn. Opportunities to swing up a gnarled-face, buttery brown trout exist all the way to Three Forks.

When your not focused on the streamer game be prepared to hunt for rising fish with baetis imitations in each and every soft, glassy piece of water on the Fifty Mile Riffle.

Henry’s Fork

Fishing has settled into a sublime autumn rhythm on the Hank. As with most fisheries in Big Sky Country, the action on both the upper and lower river revolves around streamers and baetis.

With a stretch of bright days coming up, it’s important to consider the rhythm of fall fishing on both a macro and micro level.

On the macro level, bright conditions will limit the effective windows of opportunity with streamers to the early morning and late evening hours when light levels are at their lowest. Bright skies will also produce shorter, and sometimes sparser hatches of psuedo’s and baetis. Your daily rhythm should include streamer fishing in the morning, head uniting in the afternoon, and streamer fishing again in the evening.

On the micro level, it’s important to take into account rhythm when fishing to rising fish during baetis hatches. Generally, trout rise to baetis not because of their size, but their abundance. The shear volume of bugs is what brings large fish to the surface. When large numbers of bugs are present, trout establish a definite feeding rhythm. It’s critical to understand that rhythm, and be prepared to fish in that same rhythm.

Missouri River

Joe, Jonathan, Hoovie, and assorted members of the BSA crew are firmly entrenched in BSA’s fall program on the Missouri River. It’s been a roller coaster of conditions on the MO. From sun and 60 degrees to snow and ice, we’ve seen it all.

Through the varied conditions we’ve seen some great fall fishing with streamers, nymphs and dries.

One of the many reasons we love the MO at this time of year is the opportunity to find some truly large fish. We don’t always get them, and the respectable resident fish are more than enough to keep us occupied while we search. But, somewhere out there is a real creature. A fish that has lived out in the plains all season not being bothered by anyone. A brute that only wanders upstream into our reach once a year when he sniffs his way up towards spawning tributaries.

We haven’t found that creature yet this year. We’ve seen some terrific fish, but the creature still eludes us. There’s a couple weeks left in this year’s tour. Stay tuned!

Henry’s & Hebgen Lake

From our resident still water aficionado, Matt Klara:

“I don’t know why we even publish lake reports in October. Everyone is out strippin’ junk and chasing river fish. That said, the lake fishing is in prime shape if you are willing to skip out on the river action and time your fishing to coincide with key weather and feeding windows. Fish those suggestive patterns like Seal Buggers along the margins when light is low. Look for fish in shallow, along receding weed margins, and near creek and river mouths as those are all seasonal hot spots, and move into deeper water as the day brightens. As water temps really start to cool down, be prepared to slow your presentations as well, and maybe convert over to the balanced leech program!”