Hello from West Yellowstone, Montana
– The Trout Capital of the World –
Alas, we have entered the last week of the angling season for Yellowstone National Park. Don’t fret my fishy friends, you can still angle in Montana on the Madison River and in Idaho on the Henry’s Fork until Old Man Winter really shows up as they are both open year around! (On the Henry’s Fork, the Harriman Ranch section is open from June 15 through November 30). There is A LOT of snow in the high country around Hebgen Lake and all the way down through the Madison Valley to Ennis. So, be careful driving around on those slick roads and slow down, no need to slide off in the ditch and ruin a perfectly good day on the water. You should remain diligent and watch out for spawning brown trout, leave them alone in the shallows and be aware that browns spawn in deeper runs as well.
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.
We would like to thank each and every one of you for reading our reports this season and expressing your delights via email or on the floor here at the fly shop. From time to time this winter we will reach out with a fishing report, although it might just be from Argentina, Chile or Cuba! Jonathan is heading down to Argentina this week, Justin follows the next and then Justin and Joe are heading back in December for a two week adventure along Route 40. So, stay tuned for updates from our travels this winter!
For all your fishing or fly tying(down stairs) 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 7ish pm. Starting November 1st we will be open from 9am to 5pm.
Take care and fish on,
The BSA Crew
Ok folks, we’ve had the scuzz all week long here in the Hebgen Basin and it looks like we will get a break from that for the last weekend of the season in Yellowstone National Park. Sunday and Monday’s weather will see a shift and could be banner days, get out there and make the most of it!
Henry’s Fork River by Jonathan Heames
Island Park Dam: 81 cfs
Ashton Dam: 709 cfs
St. Anthony: 910 cfs
Fall River: 440 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: The stretch of river is now extremely bumpy and the option to float the Box Canyon has come and gone. It can be done, but you’ll likely remove more fiberglass from your boat than you’d like! Expect to find spotty but good fishing. 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).
Madison River by Dinah DiMeolo
Through numerous weeks of ruthless heat and only getting a tiny taste of what fall has yet to bring, we’ve finally reached the end of what some crazy anglers consider the best month of the year. Streamer junkies & dry-fly addicts alike can both agree that while the last couple weeks have been less than ideal in terms of hatches and migration status on the Madison, there have still been a handful of great opportunities at quality fish for those willing to put the time into finding them.
Last week’s turn of weather gave us a small window for making fishing miracles happen, which some folks did happen to succeed in. After the never ending heat spell, three days of snow brought immediate relief to fish and fishermen alike. While many were hoping for an outburst of Baetis after seeing cold, cloudy weather in the forecast, hope quickly reduced to disappointment after the freezing weather nearly abolished their emergence. Alternatively, streamers have continued to be the most efficient (perhaps also the most explosive & enjoyable) way of finding and landing big fish. For those willing to brave the cold weather yet ahead, definitely be focused on covering water to find where those big, migratory browns are holding up. Stick to dark colored streamers, olive & black, maybe the occasional yellow or tan to spice things up. Boufaces, BFE’s, Mini Dungeons, and Peanut Envy’s are all bound to catch a fish’s attention if you’re casting in the right place at the right time. Keep swinging those streamers till your fingers are numb, have an eye out for spawning activity, and enjoy the remains of this late-season fishing!
Yellowstone National Park by Patrick Johnson
The Park should really shine in its’ final week of snow-dusted glory — after the sunshine and balmy temps of the last few weeks, it feels like Christmas came early in Yellowstone country – and it came just in time too. While we might not get much more of the white stuff over the next five days, daytime temps seems like they should hover in the low 40s, with consistent cloud-cover to boot. You couldn’t ask for better fall fishing conditions. With October 31st marking the final day of fishing in Yellowstone, it’s a truly special time to be out on the water for those still in the area. Regardless of how many fish you catch, just being in the water and enjoying the quieting down of the natural world is an wonder in and of itself — elk bugling, bison roaming, trees losing the last of their leaves, and – most importantly – way fewer humans getting in the way of your fishing experience. Get out there, commune with nature, be “zen,” and catch a few!
While these conditions are a boon to autumnal anglers across the board, those hoping to strip streamers for those lake-run trout along the Madison should have considerably more luck throughout the day. Though early morning hours are generally the most productive, we’re starting to have a lot more success fishing the “big stuff” well into the afternoon (thanks clouds!). My favorites have been the BFE and the Bouface Leech in olive, black, and white. While stripping has always been my go-to method of streamer manipulation it’s worth noting that we’ve been picking up a lot of fish on the swing recently as well. As always, nymphing continues to be super productive, with the usual suspects being the most effective as of late: Copper Johns, Prince nymphs, big Pat’s Rubberlegs, tungsten Duracell’s, and even the occasional squirmy worm— get ‘em down deep and fast!
For those anglers hoping to wring out the last few days of dry-fly fishing in the park, the Firehole River remains a solid option with stellar Baetis hatches popping off throughout the mid-day / afternoon hours — there’s truly nothing quite like catching fish on dries in October, surrounded by snowy geyser basins and grazing Bison. Outside of these few options, however, there’s not much else to write fishing-wise! While beautiful, much of the park’s other river systems are much higher in elevation and getting to be truly frigid at this point. Sure, you may catch a few, but it won’t be a very enjoyable (or warm) experience. I’d focus on this western-edge of the park closest to the shop, dress warm, and always remain bear aware!
It’s been a great season of writing these reports and fishing throughout the park — thanks for reading (I hope I’ve been at least somewhat helpful!), stay safe, and we hope to see you all next Memorial Day back here in Yellowstone country!
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