It’s mid-September in Yellowstone Country, and Fall continues to creep in with every passing day. The days are getting shorter, the mornings colder, and more and more aspens and willows are alive with autumn colors.
We saw warm temps and the return of smoke over the last week, but cooler weather and the chance for precip is in the upcoming forecast.
With colder nighttime temps, terrestrial season is coming to an abrupt end. Ants and hoppers are still around many of our area fisheries, but colder weather has made them less active, and fewer of them are finding their way into the water. It’s time to keep a keen eye out for fall hatches like Beatis, Mahogany Duns, and October Caddis. The streamer box is a must have from here on out as well.
High winds and dry cold fronts continue to fuel the Bacon Rind fire which is burning between 23 and 30 miles north of West Yellowstone. Smoke is visible from the blaze above the Gallatin River in Yellowstone Park. Access to the Gallatin River has been closed from Fawn Pass trailhead north to the boundary of the park. Highway 191 is open, but the speed limit remains 45 mph through that stretch.
If you haven’t done so already, mark your calendar for our second annual West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days event on September 21 & 22. We will have presentations on Spey casting and fishing, gear demos from a great group of vendors, and of course, a party back at the shop. Check out the Event Website for all the details and more as we add info about individual presentations. https://bigskyanglers.com/speydays2018/
We’re also looking forward to our second installment of Robert Van Rensburg’s Euro Nymphing Masterclass on October 6. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO on this exciting opportunity to learn from one of the world’s foremost experts on this fascinating technique.
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
Water conditions have been stable in the northeast corner of the park for several days and there is no appreciable precip in the forecast, but you should still keep an eye on flows before making the trip to fish the Lamar, Soda Butte, or Yellowstone in the canyon. You just never know what the weather will do up in the high country, and it doesn’t take much moisture to impact the Lamar when it’s only flowing at 160 cfs. Sometimes it seems like all you need to muddy the water is for two or three bison to relieve themselves streamside. With cold nights and cooling water temps there’s no need to be on the water before late morning. Terrestrial fishing is still holding strong in the Northeast Corner, but it may take until the afternoon for fish to really key on hopper and beetle patterns. Keep an eye out for fall hatches of Beatis and Drakes too.
As the season chugs along, there are fewer and fewer fish in the caldera section (between Chittenden Bridge and Fishing Bridge) of the Yellowstone River. Mature fish slowly move back to Yellowstone Lake where they spend the winter preparing for next year’s spawning run / summer full of feasting on hatches and terrestrials. There’s still time to catch one of these magnificent Cutthroat trout, though, and September can have some outstanding hatches of Baetis and Heptagenia mayflies.
Water temps on the upper Firehole River around Biscuit Basin and Mallard Creek are in great shape, and we’ve seen good numbers of fish rising to hoppers, caddis, and the first of the fall baetis hatches. Just like this Spring, we’re seeing consistently bigger fish on this iconic fishery.
The Gallatin River is now closed to fishing access from the Fawn Pass trailhead north to the park boundary due to fire activity associated with the nearby Bacon Rind Fire. We all have our fingers crossed for a good shot of moisture to put that fire down before we miss much more of the fall season on the Gallatin in the Park. Who knows when that will happen, but those fish are going to be well rested whenever it is.
As cliches go, no cliche is more cliche than “all good things must come to an end”. Cliche or not, it’s true, and it’s frustrating. I wish Michael Jordan was still soaring from the free throw line with his tongue hanging out. I wish they had never canceled the Fall Guy (Look it up, Millenials. It was awesome 80’s TV). I wish the cost of a new Ford pick up wasn’t double the average salary of a fishing guide. And, I wish the fantastic hopper fishing that we had all been enjoying for the past three weeks on the Madison hadn’t come to a screeching halt this week. It was bound to happen, and unlike the nostalgic 80’s references, we will get to fish hoppers on the Madison again next year. Though, this year was so good that you can’t help but wonder how long we will have to wait until we see it like that again.
There’s still plenty of fun fall fishing to look forward to on the Madison. October Caddis, Fall Baetis, and Rhyacophila caddis have fish feeding actively both above and below the surface. The Madison’s brown trout are getting more rambunctious with every passing day, and the streamer game is getting better and better.
The forecast is favorable for the end of the gulper season on Hebgen. Don’t expect much before late-morning, or even early afternoon, when it’s below freezing in the am. If it’s calm in the afternoon you might see the best gulper action of the season. Be sure to have the regular assortment of Callibaetis and Tricos, but don’t forget flying ants and hoppers.
If you don’t see fish up on top, don’t despair! As winter begins creeping up on a lake, the trout enter a phase of aggressive feeding to pack on the pounds either prior to the long winter or prior to upcoming spawning runs. Feeding binges don’t always last all day, but an hour long bite can make 4 hours on the water well worth while. Fishing subsurface with larger offerings like buggers, leeches, baitfish imitations, and even large streamers can produce the biggest and fattest trout of the season for those willing to put in some time.
With the onset of Autumn here in the mountains, Henry’s Lake has turned on. The fall feeding binge has begun as the weeds begin to die back, and anglers are seeing some truly large hybrids this year. During low light conditions, larger leeches and buggers are a smart place to start, matching the weight of the fly and sink rate of your line to water depth. In brighter conditions, go smaller with scuds or Hank’s Pond classics like the Mighty Mouse. No fish finder? Simply clip your hemos onto your fly and lower them down to the bottom to measure, or use the anchor rope. Find the depth where the fish are feeding through experimentation. You will know for sure when you get it right.
Cloudy, September days are a special time in the Ranch, and the forecast is looking favorable for the next week. Mahoganies and Baetis, as well as the last of the Tricos and Callibaetis are at the top of the list. It’s probably a good idea to keep the terrestrial box handy too.
The Warm River to Ashton stretch has been a standout so far this fall. Hoppers, nymphs, and streamers have all produced some nice brown trout recently in addition to the standard supply of “fun sized” rainbows and gracious whitefish.
The lower river below Ashton is cooling down nicely and seeing some of the first good fall hatches of psuedos and baetis.