Hello from West Yellowstone, Montana
– The Trout Capital of the World –
Hello – or maybe mahalo is more appropriate – from what feels like the sunniest spot in the lower 48. The theme of this fall has been unseasonably warm days, bluebird skies, and challenging but rewarding fishing. While it may feel strange to strip down to a T-shirt at lunchtime and pick up a fish here and there on the hopper, it’s been a truly beautiful time to be fishing in Big Sky Country. There’s more sun on the horizon and fall colors are still in full swing – those fiery-orange/yellow aspens and deciduous foliage among the pines make any drive to the river that much sweeter, and the early-rising angler may even pick up a few colored-up brown trout to match. Now is the time of year when things start to slow down — crowds and hatches are down, days are getting shorter, and we’re even busting out the serious puffy down jackets in the mornings. It’s truly one of our favorite times of the year after the madness of summer. Fishing finally becomes the cliché “zen” experience that they portray in the movies: roll out of bed early, hit the river when there’s still frost on the ground, swing some big glittery soft-hackles in the eerily quiet dawn light, and then come share your fishing stories here at the shop while you’re on your third cup of coffee. It’s a truly beautiful equation, and now’s the time to savor those hard-earned fish, the beautiful scenery, and the peace and quiet.
To echo last week’s sage advice, now is also the time to be bear aware when you’re out there being “zen” and fishing anywhere in the park, the Gallatin National Forest, or over the border in Caribou-Targhee National Forest throughout Island Park. Be sure to fish with a buddy or make plenty of noise while walking along the riverbanks, and always carry bear spray.
For all your fishing or fly tying needs or just to catch up on the most up-to-date conditions, don’t forget to pop in the shop at 39 Madison Avenue. You’ll find a jovial group of trout bums in need of a shave, sleepy-eyed from stripping streamers at the crack of dawn, but more than happy to set you in the right direction or show you how they like to tie a soft-hackle.
Big Sky Anglers is currently open from 8am to 8pm, and will be switching to 8am to 7:30 pmstarting next Monday, October 17th.
In years past, YNP’s last day of the summer season was the first Sunday in November. For 2022, the last day of the summer season is Monday October 31st! So, for all of you folks who love to come for the last week of the season take note. Give the shop a call or shoot us an email, we’d love to help you plan your trip or suggest some flies to tie up. If you haven’t walked in the fly shop this season, take a walk downstairs the next time around and check out the new fly tying section of the store. We have filled the Travel Lounge with tying materials and if you are in need of a place to tie some flies, there is table, light and vice waiting for you.
Take care and fish on,
The BSA Crew
I gotta say, this weekend’s weather looks pretty darn nice out there. It may not be the fishiest of forecasts, but don’t that hold you back. Get up early and get after it! The morning temps will be chilly so bring those layers with you and don’t forget that lawn chair for soaking up the afternoon rays.
Henry’s Fork River by Jonathan Heames
Island Park Dam: 254 cfs
Ashton Dam: 748 cfs
St. Anthony: 720 cfs
Fall River: 360 cfs
The Henry’s Fork has been holding its own this past week, it is a constantly shrinking environment with flows out of Island Park Dam decreasing slowly but steadily in order to save much needed water for this winter’s flow management. We are now officially in water storage mode, expect flows to continue to decrease as weather remains fair. Exposed weeds are increasingly an issue, this makes for good cover for both angler and quarry.
Box Canyon: With flows heading towards 200 cfs, expect to leave some fiberglass behind on a float in here, it’s a bouncy ride at this level, but the fishing is great. Plan on walking your boat for periods to make it through smoothly, now is a good time for a raft if you have one handy. As flows decrease to these levels, look for concentrations of fish in some of the more primary runs and move through the shallows as efficiently as you’re able. Fly selections are on the small side with brown and red Zebra Midges #16-20, Perdigons (Jake’s Soft Hackle, Bullet Quills, Olive Hot Spots #16-20), rubberlegs #8-10 are a good option in the more aggressive water as are streamers.
Railroad Ranch: More and more exposed weed banks change the flow dynamics, expect to find trout in the same areas you’ve been seeing them, but lies will be changing with decreasing flows. Weed banks channelize the flow, so be on the lookout for the primary food lanes which are changing. Mahoganies are the bug du jour, but the hatch will be sparse on short in duration in sunny weather, some clouds will stretch things out. Baetis are present, more so on days with some cloud cover. Don’t put the terrestrials away yet, as the middle hours of these bright sunny days present opportunity you won’t want to miss, keep some hoppers, beetles and ants on hand to take advantage of these moments.
Canyon Country: Beautiful down here at this time of year, but flows are low so these sections are an all-day endeavor, be sure to bring plenty of layers so you can warm up when the light goes behind the canyon walls. Dry/dropper rigs reign supreme, but streamer fishing is always a fair option.
Warm River to Ashton: We’re generally nymphing smaller flies down here, similar in selection to the Box Canyon. This section has some interesting potential during the month of October with brown trout on the move. Streamers are a good way to target these trout on the move as are nymphs fished in shallow water and transitions. Better action can be found with indicator nymph rigs.
Below Ashton Reservoir: Some interesting fishing to be had down here, expect to fish subsurface in the mornings and look for heads in the afternoon. Baetis and some mahogany duns are on the daily menu, but terrestrials can play in the midday hours. Lightweight streamers on floating lines are a fun option during the morning hours or when there is some cloud cover.
Good luck and enjoy these beautiful autumn days!
Madison River by Dinah DiMeolo
We are more than ready for the weather to cool off once and for all here in West Yellowstone this fall, and next week’s forecast looks to be a glimmer of hope for those colder temps we are so anxiously awaiting. Flows and water temps are on a steady decline as we continue on through October and will likely remain constant here in the next several weeks. Cooler mornings with significantly warmer afternoons are causing bug life to be slightly delayed in the earlier hours of the day, and are somewhat nonexistent on the brighter, full sunny days. Blue Wing Olive hatches are still coming off heavily on gloomier days with full cloud cover, which are also significantly better days for streamer fishing.
Nymphing small tungsten beadheads may be your most effective course of action for finding fish while the weather continues to be somewhat inconsistent. My recent dependable rig setup has been a Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle behind a size 8 or 10 Pat’s Rubber Leg- simple but effective. If you’re wanting to match the hatch and throw Baetis nymphs on cloudier days with more dense BWO hatches, try some Olive Perdigons, Juju Baetis, or a beadhead Olive Crystal Dip (#16-18). If you want to throw something heftier to try to pull out a migratory Madison monster this fall, I’ve been reaching for an olive or brown Schultzy’s S3 streamer. I like the movement these flies give when stripping both slow or quick, paired with their slim profile to make a soft landing on your cast.
**Whether you’re out on the water to nymph up a big bow or to strip in a streamer eater, it’s worth mentioning that now it is more important than ever to carry a can of bear spray if you’re fishing the Madison. Bears are entering hyperphagia, where they are packing on the pounds before hibernation, so it’s important to be extra cautious. Be safe & happy fishing!
Yellowstone National Park by Patrick Johnson
Sun, Sun, Sun. If I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, it’s because I fully am one. Not much has changed in the last week – most noticeably, the weather remains at an almost constant: a slightly-more-frigid-than-yesterday morning gives way to an almost balmy, cloudless afternoon. These conditions do us no favors when we’re waiting for epic baetis hatches, or searching for carnivorous, streamer-chasing browns in the daytime, but I will say – emphatically – that fishing in the park is still great. There’s a pervasive feeling that these last two weeks of fishing in the Park will be our best for the “Fall Fishing” season.
Streamer fanatics searching for fall-run browns along the Madison will still have the best luck getting on the water just before sunrise and fishing those precious first few hours of light. Reports of lake fish being caught on the early-morning streamer have steadily increased, alongside those from anglers who know when to put the streamer rod down in favor of a nymph rig in the afternoons! Lake fish are accustomed to the safe, shadowy depths of Hebgen – once they’re out of their familiar home and running up into the comparatively shallow Madison, that bright sun hanging overhead has a tendency to send them to the deepest holes in the river, where they’ll then plaster themselves to the bottom. Even the best streamer angler will be hard-pressed to get their black BFE or Swingmint (shop favorites) down to the bottom where they sit. Once the sun is high in the sky, the best way to get those big fish “unglued” is by fishing a heavy, deep nymph rig. I still suggest one or two BB weights to a Tungsten Chest Candy Soft Hackle or Pat’s Rubberlegs, with a smaller Tungsten Duracell (#16 or 18) tied off the eye of your first fly. Get it down deep enough and in front of their face, and you may be able to convince those fish to leave the safety of the shadowy depths.
As with last week, the Firehole remains a tricky, technical, but endlessly rewarding fishery. White Miller Caddis, small black caddis, and even a few clouds of regular ol’ #16 tan caddis remain throughout the system from Nez Perce Creek up to Biscuit Basin, though it seems like they really start hatching later and later each day. Last week it was around 11am, but today it was 1pm. Start off swinging small pheasant tail soft hackles if you get there early. Once you’ve warmed up with a few fish on the swing, switch over to the dry and perfect that reach cast! Some of the best risers have been found in the glassiest of pools recently, and a drag-free drift is key. Our favorite dries for these hatches have been the Iron-X Caddis, the CDC Parachute Caddis in Tan, and even a small Fathead Moth.
For those willing to make the drive, the Yellowstone River and Slough Creek are still great options for native Yellowstone Cutthroat trout who, for some reason, are still eagerly eating hoppers, and absolutely chomping on their size #14 and #16 droppers. If nymphing for notoriously dry-fly hungry fish is not your jam, then swinging or stripping a small Bouface Leech or Thinmint remains a solid, sporty option.
As always, stop by the shop if you have specific questions about a stretch of water in the park, and remember that fishing closes on October 31st this year!
Stay up to date on YNP roads below
The Lakes by Matt Klara
River Flows and the Weather Forecast
Below are links to the flows in Montana and Idaho as well as. This time of the year flows and the weather are changing daily, if not by the hour. Click the links below for the most up to date information.
Montana River Flows
Idaho River Flows
West Yellowstone Weather Forecast