The “Dog Days of Summer” are officially here. It’s been hot, dry, and a bit smoky across Yellowstone Country lately. Fortunately though, we’ve seen good moisture by way of afternoon thunderstorms, and some downright chilly mornings with temps in the 30’s. This, coupled with the benefits of last winter’s solid snow pack and a wet spring, is keeping water conditions in great shape throughout the area.
It’s still dry fly season in Yellowstone Country, but August is the month to bring your “A-Game”. The trophy trout that call this region home have seen it all by this point in the season, and they are in no mood for a bad drift or clumsy approach. Success depends upon stealth, accuracy, and finesse. If you’re coming to the area to fish, be sure to get in some casting practice before your trip. If you’re already here, and having trouble, swing by the shop, and spend some time with one of our expert instructors or book a guide trip to fine tune that cast.
Our two local wildfires are behaving themselves somewhat compared to the blazes in other parts of the West. The Grassy Ridge Fire, which was located approx 15 miles north of Saint Anthony, ID is 100% contained and officials have deemed it no longer active. The Bacon Rind Fire located approx 23 miles north of West Yellowstone has grown slightly to 488 acres and continues to burn slowly through mixed old growth and beetle-killed forests.
Weather forecasts look hot and dry for the next week with highs pushing 90 this weekend. A slight cool down is in store for next week, though as temps get back to the upper 70’s and low 80’s. Nighttime lows look to stay in the cool 40’s which is great for water temps.
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.
Yellowstone National Park
The high country is the place to be when it gets hot and dry. Temps never get as warm up in the Park as they do in the lower river valleys, and many of the waters are just now reaching their average flow levels after a long snow melt.
The northeast corner of the Park has seen some muddy water as the result of strong thunderstorms this week. Flows are currently back to normal, and the forecast looks dry for the foreseeable future. But, it’s always a good idea to check the flows before making the trek to fish the Lamar River or Soda Butte Creek. Expect to see caddis, pmd’s, flying ants, spruce moths, and hoppers here.
The upper Yellowstone River (from Chittenden Bridge to Yellowstone Lake) continues to produce some remarkable cutthroat trout. Both Green and Gray Drakes can still be found in isolated sections along with Caddis, PMD’s, Epeorus, Flavs, and Callibaetis. Flows are finally approaching a manageable level at roughly 2700 cfs. However, it’s still a formidable river, and crossing comfortably is not yet an option.
This is an ideal weekend to explore a small backcountry stream in the park. If you spend your winter gazing at topo maps like we do, you surely have a hit list of little blue squiggly lines to check off. Now’s the time.
For a couple of weeks now we’ve been talking about fishing the Madison with spinners and Caddis during the mornings and evenings in order to find the most productive dry fly fishing. Well, now two of our favorite terrestrials are on the scene, and the fish have something to feed on through the afternoon hours too. Both Spruce Moths and Flying Ants have been active throughout the Madison valley. Spruce Moths can be found anywhere coniferous trees line the river. These size 14, tan-colored moths get blown into the river from stream side trees, and the trout waste no time capitalizing on their misfortune. You can see flying ants in columns of winged adults towering above sagebrush flats in the float stretch. Size 14-16 red and black flying ant patterns are a must have this time of year on the Madison. Trout tend to feed better on Ants when the sun is out, and a well-presented fly with the most terminal of dead drifts is essential.
Don’t forget about those Epeorus spinners and egg-laying, Hydropsyche Caddis in the mornings and evenings. They are still around in mass, and we should see another week or two of good fishing with them before it starts to stall out.
There may not be a better river to fish with Spruce Moths in our area than the Gallatin. From just downstream of the park boundary to the mouth of the canyon near Gallatin Gateway, the stream bank is packed with coniferous trees that produce a constant supply of moths. Outside of Salmonflies and Golden Stones, Spruce Moths produce the best dry fly fishing of the season here. This is a great time to find studly browns in shallow water looking for a dry fly to eat.
The Grayling Arm, the Madison Arm, and the bays on the south side are all seeing some good gulper fishing now. Callibaetis, Tricos, and Midges will bring fish to the surface on calm mornings. Impressive numbers of Tricos can be seen hatching in the evenings. After emerging, they molt on any surface available leaving their telltale, white sub-imago skin behind as a calling card. Fish don’t seem to pay much attention to them in the evenings, but when they gather the next morning to mate in clouds of millions it’s a different story. Lately, fish have been on midges early, transitioning to tricos by mid-morning, and finishing with Callibaetis by late-morning if the wind holds off. It’s go time for Gulpers on Hebgen. If you find yourself out on the lake, and you’re not seeing rising fish, or the fish that are rising aren’t tracking well, try another spot. Some days are hot in one area and not in another. It’s a big lake with a ton of great gulper spots.
If you have been too busy the last couple of months to come fish the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork don’t feel bad. We get it. Life gets in the way sometimes. It’s not your fault that your long lost cousin decided to get married in June, or that your annual Civil War reenactment group just had to get together to commemorate the anniversary of Gettysburg in July. But now it’s August, and it’s time to get serious about fishing the Ranch. Some of our favorite hatches happen in August. There are still good numbers of Flav spinners in the mornings, Callibaetis and Tricos are going in their select areas, and, the springs have some PMD’s. Honey Ants are mandatory now as are hoppers. There may be no better time, and no better place to get your ass kicked by a world-class rainbow trout than right now on the Ranch.
Elsewhere on the system, the Box has been a great bet for consistent nymph fishing. Though, with warm weather be prepared for an increased emergence of inflatable unicorns and otherwise befuddled floaters.