One of the most common questions we field from visiting anglers is “When is the best week to come fishing here?” The general response is “whenever you can get here”. With so many fisheries within an hour drive of the BSA world headquarters at 39 Madison Ave in West Yellowstone, Montana you can almost always find great fishing going on somewhere.
If you have a particular fishing situation that you’re dying to capitalize on, like Salmonflies on the Madison or Green Drakes on the Henry’s Fork, then that gets a little tricky. We have certain benchmarks that we use to help us plan. Such as, on an “average” year the Green Drakes are at the Railroad Ranch by June 15, and the Salmonflies are at $3 Bridge by the 4th of July. But, these benchmarks are often wrong as snowpack, runoff, and weather conditions can all affect the timing of our hatch cycles.
Most visiting anglers are planning their trip to Yellowstone Country months in advance when it’s nearly impossible to predict exactly how things will shape up. So, the theory of “come whenever you can” makes a lot of sense. If you miss the Madison Salmonflies on the 4th of July there’s a good chance that you will have plenty of other great hatches happening instead like Caddis, PMD’s, and Green Drakes. If the Green Drakes haven’t happened yet on the Ranch, then they are probably still going strong on the lower river. There’s almost always some great fishing going on somewhere.
With all that said, there is in fact a week, sometimes a month, that is the best time of the year to come fishing in Yellowstone Country. It’s impossible to predict from year to year, and it’s rarely the same two years in a row, but there is a time when there is great fishing going on everywhere. This magical window is fleeting. Some years it last for a few days, on others it lasts for weeks. There is a perfect storm where all of the dynamic variables come together to create great fishing situations across our whole area. You never really know when it’s going to happen until it happens, and this year it is happening now.
We are seeing great fishing across the entire area right now, and we expect to see things get only better over the upcoming week. Who knows how long this fleeting moment will last. We had an outstanding snowpack last winter and plenty of rain in June, both get indicators for a long and prosperous summer on the water.
Weather forecasts are showing near normal conditions for the upcoming week with daytime highs in the upper 70’s to low 80’s, and nighttime lows in the 40’s. With the exception of a slight chance of passing thunderstorms on Tues, the week looks dry.
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.
The Ranch continues to test both the patience and skill of visiting anglers. Brown Drakes have come and gone, and they provided fun fishing for some and frustrating fishing for others…..sounds about par for the course on the Ranch. PMD’s, Caddis, Flavs, and a few Green Drakes will be on the menu for the upcoming week. Expect to see spinners in the am (Flavs too) with hordes of Caddis and Flav duns in the pm.
The Box Canyon flows have crept up this week as demands for irrigation increased slightly in the lower watershed. Levels remain very fishable at just over 1100 cfs, and there are still plenty of Caddis, PMD’s, and Golden Stones keeping the fish active. As always, the Box is mainly a nymphing ordeal, but a few good fish are still looking for the Golden Stone on the surface from time to time.
Yellowstone National Park
Salmonflies and Golden Stones are still flirting with the Park waters. There are a few flying here and there around Specimen Creek, and some randomly flying by Daily Creek, but it hasn’t been consistent. PMD’s, Caddis, and a spattering of Green Drakes have brought fish to the surface throughout the Park waters. If you go, be sure to cover up and bring your bug spray!
Salmonflies and Golden Stones are bringing good fish to the surface in this rough and tumble tributary to the Yellowstone. In addition to the big bugs, you will find some PMD’s, Caddis, and a few Green Drakes. Be on the lookout for rattlesnakes in this canyon country! It’s the only part of the Yellowstone with poisonous snakes, and hot, sunny afternoons are prime conditions for these snakes to be seen sunning themselves. Always look before you step or put your hand down on the rocky terrain next to the bank.
We’ve been waiting patiently for this gem in the Northeast corner of the Park to start fishing well, and it’s finally here. The water is still high, but clarity is great, and we’re seeing some good hatches. Gray Drakes, PMD’s, Caddis, and Salmonflies can all be found on Slough right now. As with all of our high country, meadow fisheries, the biting flies are ferocious right now. So, come prepared with bug spray, and keep as much skin covered as possible.
It’s cold, but it’s clear. The Cutthroat here are still a little sluggish, but we’re finding some willing fish during the heat of the day with attractor dries and PMD imitations. Conditions will continue to improve here in the coming weeks as flows continue to drop and the water warms up.
Flows on the Lamar are still big at around 1500cfs, and the clarity is the fishy-green that we’re accustomed to seeing on the Lamar. Afternoons and evenings have had the best activity with PMD’s, Caddis, Green Drakes, and Salmonflies bringing fish to the surface once the water temps rise.
Our stellar snowpack from last winter is still influencing the flows on the Lamar River. The remaining snow continues to melt off slowly each day adding cold water to the watershed and increasing streamflow. At night the temps in the high country are getting close to, or below freezing. So, the snow solidifies and streamflow decreases. With the ebb and flow of the streamflow comes a rise and fall of water temps. This cyclical streamflow cycle is common in the high country, and great for our fisheries as it adds a supply of cold water to the rivers and streams each day when the air temps reach their peak. You can expect to see water temps reach their max in the mid to late afternoons just before the heat of the day has had time to increase snowmelt, and in turn raise streamflow and decrease water temps. You can follow the trends of water temp and streamflow on the USGS sites HERE. Coincidentally, you will find activity levels of the resident Cuttthroat Trout generally follow the same graph as the water temps. So, if you’re wondering when you should hit the Lamar to find the best fishing, check out the temperature charts, and plan your day around the peak water temps.
Opening Day for the upper reaches of the Yellowstone River in the park is this Sunday July 15. The river will be big for opening day, but clarity is good and we’re excited to see how many fish are in the river this year. Early reports from places like Lehardy Rapids (no fishing here at the “Greatest Cutthroat Trout Spectacle on Earth”) are of strong number of fish seen eating Salmonflies in the rough water. This is always a great indicator for the number of fish we will have to play with in the rest of the system.
We’re expecting to see an assortment of bugs in classic reaches near Nez Perce Ford, Sulphur Cladron, and Cascade Picnic area like PMD’s, Caddis, Green Drakes, Salmonflies, and Golden Stones.
Be careful wading with these big, early season flows. The river probably won’t be crossable for sometime.
In the canyon sections of the Yellowstone you will find Salmonflies and Golden Stones flying. The river is obviously big here as well, and access is limited in the canyon. So, wade with caution!
Firehole / Madison
We’ve had a great early season here on the West side of the Park, but water temps are on the rise, and it’s time to give these classic fisheries a rest until things begin to cool off again in the Fall.
The flows, the water temps, the hatches are all perfect right now on the Madison, and that has made for both happy trout and happy anglers alike.
Flows at Kirby have been steady around 1500 cfs, and it’s great to see the river full of water in July.
Salmonflies have made their way through the valley. There are still a few big bugs around Raynold’s and $3 Bridge, as well as between the lakes. Golden Stones can still be found randomly throughout the entire system.
Caddis are the main story these days with monstrous flights of both mating and egg-laying Hydropsyche (size 16 tan) Caddis in the mornings and evenings.
Warm, sunny days are producing strong spinner falls of several different mayflies right now on clam mornings and evenings. Spinners from both species of PMD’s (size 16 Ephemerella invaria, and size 18-20 Ephemerella excrucians), as well as size 14-16 Flavs, and size 12 Green Drakes can all be found flying at the same time.
Early season Callibaetis are happening in all of their usual early season spots. Rising fish on the other hand have been a bit tougher to come by. This fishing will slowly get better and better as the weed beds grow and water temps warm. Calm mornings and evenings are best for Gulpers.
Chironomid and Bugger fishing has also been hit or miss. If you hit it, it’s been great. It you miss it, well, you know how that goes….