The transition is over. It’s officially Fall in Yellowstone Country. Temps have been consistently below freezing in the mornings, autumn colors are in full effect, and the light has that unmistakable golden hue and low angle.
Fall fishing is here as well. Fall hatches of Baetis mayflies can be found throughout the area, and migratory brown trout are on the move. The countdown is on. There’s six weeks left until the end of the season. Some of the most exciting fishing of the year will happen in the next month or so. Don’t miss out!
We enjoyed some picture perfect weather this week with sunny skies and highs in the low 70’s, but consistently cooler weather is on the horizon. The long range forecast is showing a chance for moisture this weekend with highs in the 50’s and 60’s for the following week.
The Bacon Rind fire continues to burn slowly north of West Yellowstone. Smoke and fire activity can be seen from hwy 191 along the Gallatin River in the Park stretch. Fishing access to the Gallatin River remains closed from Fawn Pass Trailhead north to the Yellowstone Park boundary. Speed is limited in this stretch to 45 mph.
The second annual West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days event is THIS WEEKEND – 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
For the first time since last June the Firehole river and its neighboring waters, the Madison and Gibbon, top our list of Park waters to hit for the upcoming week. Water temps are in great shape on this side of the park, and fall hatches have started in earnest. With cooler, and possibly cloudier weather in the forecast, you can expect to see great afternoon hatches of Baetis mayflies on the Firehole. Keep in mind that the fall Baetis on the Firehole are a different species than those in the spring. They are significantly smaller, ranging in size from #22 to as small as #26. Long leaders of 10-12 feet and fine tippets down to 5x or 6x are required for these tiny dry flies. Stealth and a carefully presented fly are also mandatory for these late season dry fly sessions. While fall hatches can bring tremendous numbers of fish to the surface on the Firehole, they can be some of the most difficult and selective targets of the year.
Migratory browns and rainbows from Hebgen lake are beginning to make their annual journey out of the lake and into the Madison River in YNP. Fish numbers seem fair for the end of September, but they are not what they will be in a few weeks. All of the usual haunts, from the Beaver Meadows up to the junction, have populated with some fish. For the angler looking to find a big migratory trout on the swing or with a stripped fly, mornings and evenings, when the light levels are low, have been and will continue to be your best bets at triggering a strike from an aggressive fish.
As we begin this fall season on the Madison in the park I would like to offer some thoughts on angling courtesy and etiquette. This is a fabulous fishery, but it is finite in that there are a limited number of holes that hold fish, and those holes are often separated by great distances. Over the years more and more anglers are fishing the fall run on the Madison, but the limited number of holes has stayed the same. This means you will many times have to share your water with your fellow angler. That doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing as long as you remember a couple of things.
First off, there are a multitude of different angling techniques which can be used to target these fish, and no one has any more or less right to fish a hole because they are or are not fishing a certain way. It’s important to understand the limitations and expectations of different techniques and give appropriate space where required. For example, a spey caster will most likely be traveling in a downstream direction making very long casts while a nymph fisherman will generally be fishing upstream with relatively shorter casts.
Secondly, fall fishing on the Madison in the park was traditionally a very social endeavor. Anglers would gather every year at the same time to fish runs like the Barns Pools. Everyone would take their turn stepping down the run swinging their soft hackles and streamers. In between laps they would wait on the bank for their next turn, and chat about fishing and life. The same people would gather at the same holes during the same weeks year after year. They knew the names of each other’s kids and when someone lost a job or got a promotion. If you arrived at the river and weren’t sure what to do, someone would gladly give you some direction, or invite you to join in on the rotation. Glimpses of this still exist at times on the Madison in the park, especially at the Barns Pools. So, when you arrive at your favorite spot only to find that someone else has beaten you there, I would offer that the best way to figure out how your fellow angler is fishing and what he or she is planning on doing next is to simply have a little conversation. A few quick questions, and an easy “Hey, how’s it going?” Are usually all it takes to decide if you should jump in or head to another spot.
We may have seen the last of our warm, sunny terrestrial afternoons this past week on the Madison. It’s time to start focusing on hatches of fall Baetis, nymphing, and streamer fishing. Keep a keen eye on the forecast the next few weeks. Whenever you ever see a scuzzy day there will be baetis hatching in the afternoons and fish rising to them. The walk wade stretch of the Madison from Quake Lake to Lyons bridge is especially fun on these gray, wet afternoons.
It’s no secret that Quake Lake is home to some phenomenal brown trout, and the next month is a great time to target these fish with a streamer.
With the end of the warm weather has come the end of our gulper season on Hebgen Lake. You may still find some rising fish from now until the ice covers the lake, but our days of consistently tracking fish are over until next season. Subsurface fishing remains a good option with leeches, Callibaetis nymphs, and chironomids. Remember, the youth weekend duck hunting season is this Saturday and Sunday, September 22 and 23.
Hank’s pond continues to produce some impressive fish. Numbers aren’t high, but if you’re willing to grind it out, the rewards are.
Whether you want to gage your skill against a Ranch rainbow, or chase a trophy brown trout in the lower river, the Henry’s Fork has a lot of options right now. Hatches of Tricos, Callibaetis, Baetis, Mahoganies, and the last of the ants can be found in the upper river. Baetis, hoppers, and streamers are the game on the lower river.
The Box Canyon is flowing at around 340 cfs currently, and fishing well with the usual assortment of small beadhead nymphs. Mid stream troughs, slots, and buckets are the places to concentrate your efforts now, and be prepared to deal with some weeds.