Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 10/20/2022

by | Oct 20, 2022

Hello from West Yellowstone, Montana
– The Trout Capital of the World –

Sun-burned streamer junkies and stuffy dry-fly purists alike, take heed! — the “scuzz” is coming. After another miraculous week of sun-drenched fishing in Yellowstone country, it finally seems like some of that hallowed fall fishing weather is on its way. Every day now, the amount of hoppers clacking away along the banks seems to diminish as more and more of them succumb to the overnight freezes — similarly, those radiant aspens are already starting to lose their fiery leaves: all signs that this sunny and brief period of transition is nearing its end. Now’s the time to break out that down puffy (and maybe slap some gorilla tape over last year’s tears) and sneak in some buzzer-beater browns late in the fourth quarter of our fishing season. Starting Friday (tomorrow), our forecast calls for some of that sweet, sweet precipitation, cloud cover, cooler daytime temps, and even some snow. Regardless of which river you’re on, this could mean great things for the discerning angler: better streamer fishing throughout the day, an uptick in nymph eats, and maybe even some stellar Baetis (Blue Winged Olive) hatches.

As always, now’s the time to really be bear-aware while out on the water. Those bears are still chugging away trying to build up their fat reserves for winter, and sometimes an angler decked out in recent-model Simms gear looks like just as good of a meal as any! Be sure to carry bear spray, fish with a buddy or two, and make plenty of noise any time you’re fishing in Yellowstone National Park, Gallatin National Forest, or Caribou-Tarhgee National Forest.

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 8 am to 7:30 pm and will start closing at 7 pm this Sunday, October 23rd.

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 a table, light, and vice waiting for you.

Take care and fish on,

The BSA Crew

Weather Outlook 
The play clock is winding down on this year’s YNP fishing season, and it looks like there are some last-second adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Mother Nature’s defense is setting up in the Scuzz package with a formidable frontline of cold temps and a secondary with league-leading snow. Will your offense be up to the challenge when the ball snaps this week? Make sure you come prepared. It could be your last chance to bust into the endzone and tear down the goalpost for the ’22 season.

Henry’s Fork River by Jonathan Heames

Island Park Dam: 159 cfs

Ashton Dam: 756 cfs

St. Anthony: 801 cfs

Fall River: 388 cfs

The Henry’s Fork is holding up nicely, though the flows are low, as is typical of this time of year. Outflow from Island Park has been decreasing in order to increase water storage and will remain this way until the thermometer bottoms out. In the foreseeable future, expect low flows river-wide, with good fishing opportunities. The peak hours of activity throughout the system are 10-3, with the greatest amount of hatch activity during this timeframe. The weather forecast looks like a fine fall fishing forecast, but be sure to pack your beanie hats and fingerless gloves this coming week!

Box Canyon: It remains a very bumpy and slow option to float the Box Canyon, but it can be done with care and by walking your boat through some of the more shallow reaches. Expect to find spotty but good fishing. This is a great time of year and these are great flows for a wade fishing endeavor down here. Bring your wading staff, as the square boulders are perfectly designed to trip wade anglers. Nymphs and streamers will provide the best action, the former fished on shallow rigs or dry/dropper style and the latter best fished on floating lines with a weighted fly. They’re still eating red and brown Zebra Midges 16-20, beaded and non-beaded PTs 16-20, small stonefly nymphs 8-12, and your favorite perdigons 16-20 (Olive Hot Spots, Duracells, Spanish Bullets, and Jake’s Soft Hackle are some of our favorites). For streamers, try a black or olive BSA Bouface Leech, olive/black or white BFE, Copper Zonkers.

Railroad Ranch: Though low and weedy, the Ranch fishes well in October with these flows. During hatch periods, you can find lots of trout rising, the real difficulty lies in differentiating small fish from large fish. Be on the lookout for the unmistakable signs like the slurping sound of a large trout, fins that become visible and indicate the size of the trout they’re attached to, heavy but slow pushes of water, noses, roaming feeding patterns, etc. It often requires using all senses to determine whether or not the trout you’re scoping out is a prize specimen or not. When in doubt, take a shot, you’ll find the small trout are great practice as they also require a careful presentation. This is a fun time for anglers of all skill levels to take a walk along these hallowed waters, with lots of rising trout around most foiks can find something to fish to and practice their approach. Small bugs are the name of the game now: baetis 18-20, pseudos 18-22, and mahoganies 16-18 are all on the menu, so bring emerger, adult and spinner versions of each. Cloudy days will delay the hatch but will help increase its longevity and intensity. Sunny days will keep things sparse but game is there to be found for those who search it out.

Canyon Country: Though a beautiful place to spend an October day, the forecast makes this option less than ideal. Low flows make for a full day endeavor in here, so be prepared with plenty of layers and don’t get too late a start if you’re headed down this way.

Warm River to Ashton: This section is a fair bet most days, with good nymph, dry/dropper, and streamer options, something for everyone. Start with the same suggested selection for the Box Canyon and go from there. Browns on their annual journey are changing locations every day at the moment, so surprises can show up anywhere, be sure you’re tackled up to handle a larger trout if you happen to hook one up.

Below Ashton Dam: Decent fishing to be had down here, but a little foul weather will help liven things up and increase the intensity and duration of the hatch periods. It will also delay the bugs, on a cold and nasty day you might not see significant bugs until 2pm, so don’t give up early. Mornings are generally fished wet with streamers on floating lines, dry/dropping or fishing shallow nymph rigs. Water temps are cold and the river has good fishing opportunities throughout its length to its confluence with the South Fork. You are likely to begin to encounter spawning brown trout in some areas, be sure to give them the same respect you might expect in your own bedroom and let them do their thing, careful not to trample spawning beds (redds).

Embrace the forecast and enjoy!

Madison River by Dinah DiMeolo

October has continued to haunt us with unfathomably warm weather, which has held the Madison back from its explosive fishing potential but do not fret. After weeks of all of us at Big Sky Angler’s praying to the fishing gods for just a hint of better fall fishing juju, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel in next week’s weather forecast (and we mean it this time). While recent warm temps have kept fish practically superglued to the bottom of the Madison, consistent cold temps coming in are bound to pull up these tricky fish. Flows are staying low and slow this time of year, sticking around 650 below Hebgen, 750 at Kirby, 960 at Varney. With less water pushing through this time of year, you can expect fish to be stacked up closer together, so be sure to cover enough water to find those holding spots.

If you’re going for quantity over quality, nymphing will be your best option. This time of year, I look towards old-standby flies I know a fish can’t resist in the event of it drifting drag-free downstream right in front of their noses. Those flies include Olive Bullet Quills, Tungsten Jig Hares Ears, Pheasant Tail Cocktail Nymphs, or CDC Beadhead Pheasant Tails (#14-18). Pairing any of these beadheads with a size 10 Pat’s Rubber Leg above it is a recipe for a fishing miracle.

To those committing to the streamer game, I would suggest also sticking to the basics and throwing simple leeches and baitfish patterns with decent weight that will get you deeper in the water column where the fish are hunkering down and right where you need to be. Olive or Copper Zonkers, Peanut Envys, or Boufaces would be my top picks on streamers. Whether using a floating or sinking line, I would experiment with your retrieval speed and make sure to be casting into your deepest pools and pockets. Keep crossing your fingers and toes for next week’s weather to stay the way it’s looking, and get ready to hook into your next big fish.

Yellowstone National Park by Patrick Johnson

The biggest news out of the Park this last week was the opening of the NE Entrance Road on October 15th. Anglers and regular ol’ tourists alike can now drive the entire length of the Lamar Valley clear through to the gateway communities of Silvergate and Cooke City. Early reports have all come back more-or-less the same: the Lamar and Soda Butte Creek look radically different in some stretches, with their contours and bottoms forever changed from the springtime floods. Mother Nature’s makeover aside, both rivers have been fishing lights-out — those Yellowstone Cutthroat haven’t seen a fly all summer, and have been readily inhaling small hoppers and ants throughout the day. Don’t expect this to last much longer with all the cold, scuzzy weather on the horizon, but do try to catch these two rivers before they close for the season, and make sure to bring a handful of Baetis or bigger generic mayfly patterns (I like the Orange-post Paranymph in #16) in case those clouds roll in!

Fishing elsewhere in the Park remains relatively constant with the weather holding up as it has. Despite the constant sun, it does seem like anglers are catching more of those fall-run browns and rainbows throughout The Madison system — perhaps those stubborn Hebgen trout got tired of waiting for dark, wet days, and decided to push on up. Until these upcoming storms decide to roll through, the key to fishing for the big runners remains getting out early, fishing your streamers while the light is still low, and getting those double-nymph rigs heavy and deep enough.

As with last week, the Firehole river remains a welcome relief from the drudgery of long days spent indicator fishing the Madison. Those itching for dry fly eats will find plenty of risers between Ojo Caliente and Biscuit Basin when things are slow elsewhere: those bright, warm afternoons are primetime on the Firehole, with clouds of White Millers, tan, and small black caddis swarming in droves along the sulfurous banks between 12 and 4pm. With colder and colder overnight temps, the prime window for dry-fly fishing seems to be 15 or so minutes later each day. I’d plan on swinging small pheasant-tail and hare’s ear soft hackles until things really heat up and the fish start rising. My best caddis imitations so far have been the Iron-X caddis in #14 and #16 alongside the CDC Para-Caddis in Tan (Sizes 14 through 18). The river should really start to shine for its last two weeks of fishing with the coming storm-front on the horizon and all the Baetis that will follow. Don’t forget to bring along a heaping serving of Olive Sparkle Duns and Quigley’s Flag Duns.

Swing by the shop before you head into Yellowstone and we’ll be happy to answer any other questions you may have or get you sorted with some of our favorite streamer patterns — and remember, fishing closes on October 31st this year!

Stay up to date on YNP roads below


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