Hello from West Yellowstone, Montana
– The Trout Capital of the World –
Whew! It feels like time has both stopped and also sped up to a feverish pace around here the past few days. As many of you have probably seen in the media, parts of our region have experienced severe and unprecedented flooding as a result of big rains this past weekend falling on ripe snowpack and already saturated ground. The northern region of Yellowstone National Park, and the communities downstream in the Yellowstone River watershed have experienced the most extreme conditions by far, with others effected in the Gallatin watershed as well. At this time, all entrances to Yellowstone Park remain closed while the park service can assess damages and make plans for the remainder of the summer. Their news feed is the best source for up to date information at this time. Our thoughts are with all of those effected at this time, and as things begin to settle and we learn more, stay tuned for information on how you may be able to contribute to recovery efforts. Trust us when we say that we have been feeling as helpless as others across the country.
Many of you have reached out to us to check on our well-being here in West Yellowstone. Thank you all for your concern. We have been very fortunate to this point, and while we saw very high flows on our local streams, the severe flooding and damage experienced in other areas has not happened here in and around town. Through the soggy conditions we have continued to fish and guide on local waters including the Henry’s Fork. Flows on the Madison remain high, and well above average, but are not at what we would consider extreme. In comparison, flows remain below peaks that we saw on the Madison in late June of 2011. For those farther down the Missouri River watershed, the combined high flows from the Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson are being greedily gobbled up by Canyon Ferry Reservoir, which remains over 8.5 feet below full pool at the time of writing.
Above all else, please remember that we are all currently waiting to see how a lot of things shake out for the rest of the summer. That said, we have fishing available in our area, and if you have plans to visit our area, we can hopefully help you make the most of your experience.
Take care and fish on,
The BSA Crew
If you’re coming through the area and would like a tour of the Golden Stone Inn, please stop by the shop and let us know. We are more than happy to show you around our quiet retreat tucked away in West Yellowstone.
Big Sky Anglers is OPEN from 7am to 9pm seven days a week. Remember, the freshest fishing report is found at the counter of our fly shop. Our shop staff and guides are out daily all across the Greater Yellowstone Area. Stop on by, say hello, and we’ll get you taken care of. Most importantly, stay safe, stay healthy, and enjoy your time outside.
Warm weather is predicted (highs in the upper 70s) through the weekend, with minimal chance of precipitation, but some decent wind. Cooler through the early part of next week with highs in the 60s, again with minimal chance of precipitation with the exception of showers on Monday. We could definitely use a spell of nice, moderate temps and dry conditions after the soaking we’ve been taking. As always, we are in the mountains, so be prepated with layers, rain gear, puffy coats, sun hats, and shorts.
Henry’s Fork of the Snake River by Jonathan Heames
Island Park Dam: 1230 cfs
Ashton Dam: 2320 cfs
St. Anthony: 3990 cfs
Falls River: 2590 cfs
With the wild week of weather that we just experienced, like many of our regional rivers, the Henry’s Fork is coming out of a state of semi-shock. Unlike many of our region’s rivers, the Henry’s Fork should jump right into a fishing groove as flows and weather conditions come to stabilize this week. Flows should be dropping, water clearing, and hatches that have been pent up like citizens of the world during the height of the pandemic are ready to fire off. This week should bring hatches of PMDs and caddis, with flavs, drakes, golden stones, sallies, olive stones all on the horizon.
Box Canyon: With flows that have doubled in size this past week and on the slow decrease, trout should be spread out around the canyon, occupying lies throughout the section. Look for a shift to smaller nymphs (14-18) generally. Hungarian Partidridge Caddis pupa, Rensberg’s Tubby Morten, Olive hot spot perdigon, Bullet Quill, Frenchies and both red and brown zebra midges will all produce depending on the activity of the day. Large pheasant tail nymphs like the Tactical R/L PT in a size 12 or 14 are a good choice as flavs come into play near the end of the week.
Railroad Ranch: Open for the season as of 6/15! Relatively high flows and slightly off color water made for slim pickings out there, but the river is in good shape and should come into prime this week if the weather remains stable. Look for good hatches of caddis and PMDs as well as morning spinner falls when the first hours of the day are calm and sunny. It’s not a bad idea to have an ant or beetle pattern to throw over a sparsely rising fish as there have been a variety around, with the weather shifting to warm, we are likely to see spotty terrestrial activity as well as caddis and mayfly hatches. Be sure to enjoy the camaraderie of fellow anglers between hatches or sessions with rising trout, the opening week of the Railroad Ranch brings anglers from far and wide to celebrate this iconic piece of flyfishing culture. Some of those anglers tucked in between hummocks of grass on the banks waiting for riseforms are some of the finest in the world. A lot can be learned by watching some of these experienced anglers approach and angle to rising trout in the coming week.
Canyon Country: High and off color these past few days, the canyon country from the Ranch down to Warm River will continue to provide good sport this week. Dry/Dropper rigs reign supreme here, a Golden Stone dry to a stonefly nymph or your favorite perdigon nymph in a 14-16 will do the trick.
Warm River to Ashton: This section of river has lots of great surprises in store these coming weeks. Look for caddis and PMD action, but keep a keen eye out for larger bugs like golden stones, flavs or green drakes. Lots of great trout fishing to be had here in the coming week and all methods will find some success: dry flies, dry/droppers, nymphing, and streamer fishing.
Below Ashton Reservoir: PMDs and caddis have been dominating the scene, but a keen eye will show you when these trout are keying in on other insects like small sallies and western olive stones, flavs, goldens, and potentially green drakes. Pay attention to the bugs that collect on your wading boots as they may indicate what is not only wise to try at the moment but also what is to come. Flows are higher than normal as of today, so dry fly anglers may have to compromise and throw the occasional dropper to fill in the gaps, but the discerning angler will be rewarded with great opportunities if patience and observation are among the skills being employed. Keep your vest or fly pack loaded with a good selection of dry flies and nymphs alike, every fish encountered may be on a different program than the one before it.
Good luck and have fun!
Madison River by Marshall Fairbanks & Matt Klara
Like all of the rivers around here, the Madison saw a flow spike in response to the large rain-on-snow event this past weekend. Even though Hebgen Lake was nearly full before the storm, the reservoir was able to knock some of the sharp teeth off of the original surge of water from the upper watershed. In response to the large increase in inflows, Northwestern Energy has taken steps to increase flows out of Hebgen Dam, running 3200 cfs as of Wednesday, with flows down in the Valley in the 4000 to 5500 cfs range. These levels are currently below the peak flows we saw in the Madison during June of 2011, when we fished Salmonflies on the Madison until late July. Expect flows to change quite a bit this coming week, potentially up and down as the dam managers work through a challenging situation and tributary runoff responds to changing temperatures.
In terms of fishing, Cabin Creek continues to belch out some extremely muddy water which will probably have made it’s way through Quake Lake at the time you read this. Between the Lakes and Downstream of Quake are currently experiencing extreme turbidity and treacherous wading conditions, with high water and lots of floating debris coming from the tributaries. The float stretch is basically off limits for the time being, with flows making the bridges between Lyon and Palisades impassible. In addition, some of the access sites have been closed down to Ennis due to high water. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FLOAT THE UPPER MADISON AT THIS TIME.
This is probably a good week to let the Madison be and seek out calmer, safer angling opportunities elsewhere in the area. Maybe take a walk along the Henry’s fork or go explore one of the stillwaters in the region. We will be sure to let everyone know as conditions improve and the river comes back into fishing shape.
Yellowstone National Park by Matt Klara
No fishing report this week, folks.
All entrances to Yellowstone Park have been closed since Monday in response to unprecedented river flows that have damaged infrastructure in areas of the Park. At this time we are not aware of when the gates will reopen and which areas of the park will be able to reopen. We are sorry we cannot be more informative. We are also very anxious to hear how things will move forward this summer and fall. For the most up to date conditions, please refer to Yellowstone Park’s media channels.
The Lakes by Matt Klara
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Perhaps if it comes all at once this past weekend, we saw huge rain totals in our area, prompting huge spikes in runoff, and significant/unprecedented flooding in some areas. Hebgen, which was not expected to fill this year, is essentially full and NWE has taken actions to increase flows in the Madison to keep lake levels in check.
What does this huge shot of water mean for lake fishing? In short, different things for different places.
On the reservoirs like Hebgen that receive water from a large number of high elevation tributaries, conditions are likely going to be pretty challenging. Huge inflows of cold, muddy water have blown out the entirety of the Grayling Arm, and as of Tuesday when I traveled the north shore the turbidity plume was reaching down past the Happy Hour and nearing the High Country Tavern (yes, we still use bars are prominent landmarks here in MT). The turbidity coming in from the Madison Arm is less extreme and more tea colored than cocoa. If you do decide to venture out onto Hebgen in a motorized craft, be aware that there are many pieces of floating debris (logs, trees, etc) throughout the lake.
Other stillwaters which have fewer and smaller inlet tributaries that originate at lower elevations are likely to be less effected, and will offer anglers a nice alternative to rivers that are experiencing runoff conditions. Henry’s will likely be a good bet in coming days, along with other smaller regional stillwaters. Even on those lakes, be aware that water temperature have likely dropped a bit in the past week and insect activity may have slowed.
Chironomids remain the key insect food source, with fish also responding to leech and bugger type patterns. Experiment with presentation depth and speed before you give up on a favorite fly. Watch the weather and wind. As things warm up this coming week bug activity, particularly in the shallows should increase.
Please stay safe and be well.
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.