Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 6/2/2022

by | Jun 2, 2022

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

Last week brought on one more of those lovely late Spring storms that cooled things off, dropped snow across the region, blew out the local rivers and made us all wonder if Summer is ever coming. We need the moisture folks and the wet trend shall continue!

We have now entered the coveted month of June, one of the most highly anticipated four-week periods of the fishing season. Soon enough, the chatter of bugs and hatches will fill the air around the bins, at the counter, out back where the guides park, and over a few cold beverages each evening. Big bugs, adults, drakes, spinners, sailboats, and cripples are words that seem foreign to most and yet commonplace for anglers who frequent Yellowstone Country. For now, the rivers are swollen with rain and snowmelt and nymphing is king. Hang on, the best is yet to come. 

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 8am to 8pm 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.

Take care and fish on,~ the BSA Crew

Weather Outlook 
Rain is in the forecast this weekend, so bring those waders and jackets out once again! We don’t ever put them away this time of the year here in Yellowstone Country. Daytime temps look to be a bit warmer than last weekend with less of the white stuff. Bring your coffee thermos and hand warmers again this next week, we expect chilly mornings! 

Henry’s Fork River by Jonathan Heames

Henry’s Fork Streamflows

Island Park Dam:  630 cfs

Ashton Dam:  1890 cfs

St. Anthony:  2610 cfs

Falls River:  1380 cfs

Well, spring’s grip on May held through the end of the month and in Henry’s Fork country much of the anticipated fishing opportunity was held back with it.  However, the effect of last weeks’ heavier than forecasted rains was well received and very welcome!  Last week brought quite a bit of fresh water into the Snake River system, earning us both a bit more water to hold back during irrigation season and an otherwise impossible spring freshet through the Henry’s Fork system that has a real and positive impact on aquatic insects for this season.  

Box Canyon:  Last week we saw the flows change from 300 to 450 to 1200 cfs and they are now back to 630.  After a long spring of low flows, this may have given the residents all they needed to spread out and get into feeding positions for the salmonflies that should be in the near future.  There have been a few around, but the Box hasn’t yet released her stoneflies to the skies.  We hope to see some around this week, keep an eye on the weather and flows to optimize your chances!  Generally we have been indicator nymphing in the Box, but if there are salmonflies around it’s a good chance to bring those stubborn, nymph-eating rainbows to the surface, so dry/dropper rigs are on the menu.  If they’re looking for the dry, lose the dropper and present that bug like you mean it!  Lawson’s Henry’s Fork Salmonfly and BSA’s Water Walker Salmonfly are our two top choices for easy-fishing bugs.  Not a bad time to swing by Bob Jacklin’s Fly Shop and see if he has any original Jacklin’s Salmon Flies tied up as well, one of my all-time personal favorite imitations out there for the dry fly purist.  For nymphs, zebra midges in red and brown 14-16, olive hot spot perdigons 14-16, Bullet Quills 14-16 and rubberlegs 4-10 are all a good choice.  A single B split shot is a good addition to the rig at times as well with these flows.

Railroad Ranch:  Closed until June 15th

Canyon Country:  It’s hard to say whether the canyon country has passed its peak for salmonflies as they can emerge during cold weather and somehow not be very noticeable.  It is safe to say that any bugs that hatched a few days ago are not living today, but there are likely more to come.  Like the Box Canyon, keep an eye on the weather and the skies, lots of potential here still.  Generally dry/dropper rigs will get you through the day around here, having some fun along the way.  “Chubberlegs”, the Chubby Chernobyl to a rubberlegs dropper is a fine choice.  Streamer fishing is a good choice here as well, the whole system just had a giant refresh, and a desirable attitude adjustment.

Warm River to Ashton:  This section of river has been a fair choice for those willing to nymph, dry/drop or dry fly fish.  There will likely be a few spotty stoneflies around this week, but be on the lookout for the first PMDs of the year and some caddis as well.  Indicator nymphing with a rubberlegs and a smaller dropper is a fair choice.  Dry dropper fishing with a salmonfly imitation will offer some style points and a few nice trout to the dry.  DFO, Dry Fly Only,  is a great way to fish water that isn’t being covered and will likely produce a few memorable moments.

Below Ashton Reservoir:  The “Tragedy of the Henry’s Fork Salmonfly” has been in full premiere mode this week.  Many large bugs hatched but never had a moment warm enough to take to the air, lots of stillborns around.  The peak of the hatch has likely evaporated into the squalls of May, but the good news is that the river should start coming into good form in the next week.  Be ready for spotty PMD, caddis, and golden stone hatches and spinner falls on warm, stable mornings and evenings.  Dry fly fishing opportunities will likely be very minimal still, but these hatches will start to be reflected in your nymph selections, with trout beginning to spread out from their winter waters and keying in on specific hatches.  Dry/dropper rigs will increase in efficacy, but nymphs fished deeply under an indicator will likely still be on the menu.

Keep an eye on the weather and flows, and start stocking your fly box!  This week marks the start of the annual parade of hatches in Henry’s Fork country.  It’s a good time to make sure you have mayfly, caddisfly, and stonefly imitations in nymph and dry fly form loaded up in your boxes, and are ready for what the Fork presents!

Madison River by Marshall Fairbanks

We saw an increase in flows over the weekend as we experienced some runoff and then had a few cold days of rain and snow. The Madison is off-color throughout the way and nymphing will be the main game until it clears up a bit.

Expect changing river conditions over the next week or so as the tributaries come down after last week’s big storm and then potentially possibly go up again as we see a few warmer days of snowmelt in the next week. We are still seeing cold overnight water temps around 45 degrees and the fishing will noticeably improve throughout the day as the water warms up and fish become more active. Black rubber legs, San Juan worms, and caddis pupa imitations produce well in this water and it’s not a bad idea to run a smaller perdigon or midge imitation off the back of that on a double nymph rig.

Fish might hold in some of the softer water around the edges in the higher flows but look for them to slide in and out and be in different spots as the flows come down. The Madison will fish while it is off color but consider checking out some other local waters on the west side of the Park, Hebgen lake, and the Henry’s Fork in Idaho while we wait on the Madison to come into shape.

Yellowstone National Park by Steve Hoovler

Opening weekend has come and gone, and Mother Nature kept us on our toes. Wet forecasts materialized with even more moisture than predicted, and water conditions on the West side of the Park deteriorated over the weekend.

Our favorite Spring fishery in YNP, the Firehole saw a big bump in flows over opening weekend and water clarity went from a very fishable “tea-color” to a not-so-fishable “latte-color”. The farthest upstream reaches, above Mid-Way Geyser basin had better water conditions and even saw some sparse hatches of Baetis and PMD mayflies.

By Monday, flows and clarity began to stabilize back down around 400 cfs. Weather conditions continue to be “buggy” with overcast skies and scattered precipitation prompting decent hatches.

The forecast continues to look good for both moisture and hatches with a chance for precip and cool temps predicted through the next week.

To keep an eye on flows, CLICK HERE.

Hatches of size #16-20 Baetis (Blue-Winged Olives) and size #14-16 PMD’s (Pale Morning Dun) mayflies will be the main attraction. Dry flies imitations of cripples and emergers will be especially effective during thick hatches and inclement weather.

During periods when fish aren’t looking up, a size #14-16 soft hackle swung through the riffles can provide hours of fish-filled fun.

Cooler, wetter weather will no doubt push peak emergences into the afternoon hours (1:00pm – 4:00pm), so there’s no rush to be on the water early. Be sure to fill up the thermos, pack some warm, dry clothes, and stop by the shop for our recommendations on where to hunt for hatches, as well as all the best flies and gear.

The Lakes by Matt Klara

Not much change to report on the local stillwaters from last week. The ice has been off the local lakes for a bit now and we are in that early season pattern where the diverse bug activity and dry fly action still isn’t quite revved up yet, but the subsurface opportunites abound. 

Among the insects, the most important early season food source is the chironomids, or midges. Be prepared with pupal and emerger imitations in sizes from 16 to 12 if you plan to spend time on Hebgen, in particular. How do you know when to tie on chironomid imitations? At this time of year, they are a primary food source on virtually all stillwaters, so fishing them “blind” is always a safe bet. That said, it is very easy to be a much more informed angler. When you get to the lake, take a moment to observe and apply the “SSS Protocol”. What the heck is that? SSS means Sky, Shrubs, & Surface. Watch the sky for signs of chironomid activity like buzzing insects and swallows zooming around and eating them. If there is a breeze, adult chironomids often head for the shrubs and bushes on the lake margins. You might see clouds of chironomids on the leeward side of the willows, or you might dive into the brush and see what you scare up. Finally, and most importantly, observe the water’s surface. Look for evidence of recent or ongoing chironomid emergence. That means empty shucks (perfect for determining what size fly to tie on), wriggling pupae (color and size), or even actively emerging bugs. You also want to check the surface for rises!!! Calmer conditions play to the favor of anglers looking for surface activity. It is then that emergers will serve you well and perhaps score you the first gulper of the year! Something to really focus on when fish are feeding on the surface – the rise form. Just because there is a surface disturbance doesn’t mean the fish are actually eating insect ON the surface. In many instances, trout key in on emergent pupae within 2 inches of the surface or on active emergers that are partially above and partially below water, rather than adult insect on top of the surface. Deciphering the code is part of the fun!

In early spring (it is still early spring up here) with the other insects still fairly dormant, scuds and leeches are extremely important, as well as small baitfish and larger crustaceans like crayfish if they are present in your lake. Work those scuds and leeches low and slow, but also don’t be afraid to pull a leech, baitfish, or other attractor pattern with a faster pace to try and trigger a chase and reaction grab.

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