We’ve seen a little bit of everything this week in Yellowstone Country. From rain and snow to sun and blue skies; from hoppers and ants to Baetis and streamers this autumn has gone deep into the batting order, and it’s only the end of September. We have six weeks left until the close of fishing in Yellowstone park, and the un-official end to our 2018 fishing season. It’s ramping up to be a great fall, make sure you don’t miss out!
Another strong autumn storm rolled through the region this week bringing valley rains and mountain snows, as well as thick hatches of Baetis mayflies. The storm clouds broke on Tues to reveal the most brilliant blue skies we’ve seen since last June, and a fresh coating of snow in the high country. Fall hatches of Baetis mayflies brought fish to the surface this week on rivers like the Madison, Gallatin, and Firehole. Mahogany duns joined the Baetis flotilla on both the upper and lower Henry’s Fork adding a much-welcomed, larger bug to the mix of small dry fly options.
The upcoming forecast shows a chance of scuzzy weather again on Sunday, but otherwise, it looks like more sun and blue skies with temps in the 60’s.
Our local wildfire, the Bacon Rind Fire, continues to smolder persistently above the Gallatin River roughly 23 miles north of West Yellowstone. This week’s storm tempered the blaze, but dry windy conditions afterward fueled more fire and smoke. Fishing access to the Gallatin River within Yellowstone Park from the Fawn Pass trailhead to the northern YNP boundary remains closed. The speed limit is 45 mph through that area as well.
West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days II is a wrap. Huge thanks to everyone who came out with an open mind ready to learn or try something new. Also, thanks to all the vendors and presenters for sharing their knowledge and expertise with everyone. Last, but not least, thanks to Custer Gallatin National Forest for helping us share our awesome public lands and waters with you all. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event!
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
Fall storms are just what we hope for when fishing the Firehole and Madison Rivers in YNP. Scuzzy weather brings out the best in these late season fisheries, and this latest storm was no exception. Robust hatches of fall Baetis emerged during the scuzziest days and fish responded with surface feeding activity the likes of which we haven’t seen since last spring. Migratory fish from Hebgen lake were noticeably more active as well. Lower light levels had these lake fish on the move and feeling more aggressive. With sunny skies in the upcoming forecast you can still expect to see some rising fish on the Firehole, but not in the same numbers or in as many locations as the scuzzy days. Bring some small soft hackles to swing on the Firehole during periods without surface activity. On the Madison, concentrate your efforts to the morning and evening hours on bright days, and consider a slower, deeper presentation.
The Madison River in Yellowstone Park is far from the only river with migratory brown trout in the greater Yellowstone area. This is the perfect time of year to get out and explore some of the smaller, less-popular brown trout fisheries. Large brown trout in dozens of other area waters are moving and staging in preparation for spawning season. Their fall colors are getting richer, and their levels of aggression are getting higher.
This is also a great time of year to hunt for fall hatches of Baetis and Hecuba Drakes on Slough Creek and the Lamar River. Remember, cutthroat activity levels are directly proportional to water temps. When it’s 26 degrees at 8:00 am in the Lamar Valley your time would be much better spent with a thermos of coffee and a spotting scope looking for wildlife. Give those fish until the late morning or even early afternoon hours to warm up and get into the feeding routine.
Baetis and streamers, hoppers and ants, scuzzy and rainy, sunny and clear; September’s multiple personality disorder continues on the Madison River. One day it’s gray and raw, the next it’s sunny and glorious. Just when we think the terrestrial bite on the Madison is surely over, the sun comes out and fish start looking for them again. It’s not the fast and furious action of last month mind you, but there are still some quality fish looking for hoppers and ants. Baetis hatches were intense during scuzzy weather days this week, and fish rose to them in select places, especially in the walk wade water from the Slide down past $3 Bridge. Large Browns are staging in some of the biggest and deepest runs on the Madison in the valley as they prepare to move towards spawning habitat. A streamer fished low and slow in these waters could be the ticket to social media stardom or a heightened sense of self worth.
The Warm River to Ashton stretch on the lower Henry’s Fork is a terrific fall fishery. Every game that we like to play with a fly rod is available and fishing well these days. Deep nymphing under an indicator? Slam dunk! Whitefish are feeding voraciously in preparation for fall spawning season, and it’s nothing to put 50 of these strong fighting native fish in the net on a given day. Technical dry fly fishing with small flies? You bet! Daily hatches of Baetis and Mahogany dun mayflies have fish looking up throughout the stretch including some large browns sipping in sneaky spots along the bank. Dry/Dropper in shallow riffles and runs? Deadly! Everything from fun-sized to kilo-class trout occupy these shallow areas, and a dry/dropper rig is a great way to target these fish with a nymph, and still get the occasional eat on the dry fly. Early morning streamer run? Of course! Some of the biggest browns in the lower system come out of this stretch every year during salmonflies in the spring, and with streamers in the fall. Euro-Nymphing with the long rod? Assassin level, probably shouldn’t be allowed it’s so effective! With the proper technique and flies you can confidently approach any given run and expect to catch every fish in there…ok, unless your name is Robert Van Rensburg, that may be an exaggeration, but it’s damn effective.
Elsewhere on the lower river fall hatches of Baetis and Mahogany duns have some large fish looking up and feeding consistently. Otherwise, hoppers continue to dominate the dry fly game while streamers have produced early and late, and nymphs like a zebra midge have been good in the afternoons.
Meanwhile, back at the Ranch anglers have been busy fishing a variety of bugs to increasing snooty, trophy-sized rainbow trout. Tricos, Callibaetis, Baetis, Mahoganies, ants, and hoppers have all been in the fly rotation and produced fish at one time or another. It’s a beautiful time of year to be in the Ranch hunting for that one true fish of a lifetime.