Big Sky Anglers Fishing Report – May 28, 2020

by | May 28, 2020 | 0 comments

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.