Last week, the weather cooled down quite a bit and we even had some moisture fall from the sky on Father’s Day! Early in the week things warmed back up treating us to more bright sunny days mixed with some big puffy Bart Simpson-like clouds. There is a slight chance of more rain over the couple of days, keep those fingers crossed!
We saw another much needed bump in flows on the Madison and things are really starting to shape up down there for sure. The Fork is up again this week as the call for water came through. The West Side rivers of YNP are now too hot to fish, leave those alone until later summer. There are all kinds of dry fly fishing opportunities throughout Big Sky Country, read on to find out where to you can get your fix; as always, the freshest report is here at the fly shop on the corner of Canyon and Madison.
Big Sky Anglers is OPEN from 7am to 9pm seven days a week. Our fly shop remains a clean and healthy environment for both our customers and staff members. 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,
~ Joe, Justin, Jonathan, and the BSA Crew
HENRY’S FORK – BY JONATHAN HEAMES
Island Park Dam: 1240cfs
Ashton Dam: 2150cfs
St. Anthony: 923cfs
Falls River at Chester: 151cfs
The Henry’s Fork has some great opportunity at the moment, ranging from good nymph fishing to technical dry fly fishing, with lots of dry/droppers in the middle! This is a good week to keep an eye on flows and play accordingly. Flows went from relatively low last week to pretty high this week, changing the game out there for sure. More changes to flows will affect your fishing decisions for the day.
In the upper river, the Box Canyon boasts a strong flow of 1240 cfs, this is indicator nymphing at its finest. I like a 90 degree rig with 3-4’ of 2X to my split shot and tippet knot, 18-24” of 3X to my first nymph, and another 18-24” to my second. For spit shot, a BB makes for a good start, I’ll fish without shot when passing through the shallows. Rubberlegs 6-10, pheasant tails 14-16, perdigons 14-18, as well as red zebra midges 14-16 will get the job done in there.
In the Railroad Ranch section, where the trout have been rising since the week before the opener, things have gotten a little more slim due to rising flows. The days that flows come up can get a little off color and throw off the hatches, but when it is stable and bugs are around it’s worth taking your fly rod for a walk. There are still green drakes around, some brown drakes, pmds, and caddis. With good mayfly hatches around, look for spinner falls and come prepared with both rusty and yellow bodied variations in 14-18. It’s always wise to carry several different Green drake patterns so that you can change up on selective trout. I like to start with Jojo’s Green drake with the black wing on a bright day and have several more emergent variations on hand like the Variant Cripple and Last Chance Cripple. Fishing has been a little spotty, so don’t be afraid to stretch out those legs while on the hunt for rising trout!
The canyon country is running pretty high right now but does remain fishable. At these flows streamer fishing again becomes a good option in addition to the standby dry/dropper rigs. I never come down here without a good supply of rubberlegs nymphs, some high-floating Chubbies, and tungsten-beaded nymphs in 12-14. For streamers, the Best Fly Ever usually does the trick, I like to fish it on a floating line with a 9’ leader and work it close range through the water column rather than throwing long casts and working it across the river channel. Olive/Black is a good place to start, but it’s always good to have a little something flashy on hand as well!
The Warm River to Ashton section continues to provide a wonderful day’s fishing for those looking for good action with small to medium-sized trout. The odd larger trout is found in here as well, but are not typically the primary target. Dry flies, dry/droppers, and indicator nymphing rigs are all producing good results. Match the water depth and type you’re fishing to the rig you’ve got on the end of your line and have fun!
Below Ashton Reservoir the river is running high, just over 2000 cfs out of Ashton Reservoir. There are still some bugs around, but the hatches and spinner falls are sparse. Patience is rewarded here, the observant and methodical angler can still find a decent number of targets before noon. The afternoons are slowing way down on the surface, but dry/dropper and nymphing rigs can produce some results during these afternoon lags. We are seeing sparse pmds and flavs, small brown caddis in 16 and 18, as well as some golden stoneflies still. It’s a good idea to arrive with some gray drake spinners in case they decide to show up to the party as well. Water temps are staying cool, but any dropping flows out of the reservoir will quickly result in warmer water. The current is pushy down there like it can be in early season, those big trout are hard to handle on 4X. Making your way to the bank and using a landing net will really help you handle these fish more efficiently, giving them a better chance of survival after release.
Below the Chester Dam the flows are noticeably lower and the water is warming much faster. Plan for a morning’s endeavor when poking around down there and avoid it on hot afternoons.
Have fun and good luck!
YELLOWSTONE PARK – BY STEVE HOOVLER
Not much new in the Park this week as we transition out of our Spring fisheries and wait for the Summer fisheries to kick into gear.
It was a short Spring season on the Firehole this year, and we love to eek out as may days as we can, but the time has come to let this legendary fishery rest until the Fall, when water temps drop.
Gallatin River (in YNP)
With snowpack levels rapidly dwindling across the high country, the Gallatin River in the Park is running nearly clear weeks ahead of usual. Flows are low for this time of year, and there is a slight “fishy-green” color to the water.
Water temps are still cold on this high elevation river, and nymphing is the primary game to play. But, the first hatches of PMD’s, Caddis, and Stoneflies are underway, and will get progressively better every day.
The Gardner and the Gallatin Rivers are both born from the snowpack high in the southern Gallatin range. One river flows off the west side (Gallatin), the other flows off the east side (Gardner).
Like it’s sister river to the west, the Gardner is also lower and clearer than usual for the middle of June.
Again, nymphing is the ticket, but be on the lookout for the season’s first hatches to begin early here as well.
If you’re looking to beat this unusual heat, the icy waters of Yellowstone Lake could be a good option.
Leeches and Buggers fished on Type II or III sinking lines will produce some beautiful early-season Cutthroat Trout from Gull Point down to West Thumb.
The frigid waters of Yellowstone Lake demand extra caution, no matter how warm the air temps might be. Be sure to have all of the necessary safety equipment, and know the wind forecast before shoving off. If you access the lake with any sort of watercraft, be sure to get your boat permit and Aquatic Invasive Species Inspection. Locations and other info for boats in Yellowstone can be found HERE.
MADISON RIVER – BY JOE MOORE & JUSTIN SPENCE
Flows on Madison bumped again over the past week and we are finally close to the 82 year median at Hebgen Dam. The tribs are still pushing cold water, but expect to see that slow down due to no serious rainfall. The highest river temps we have seen thus far are 65 degrees around 5pm; that’s a bit much for right now. Fortunately, the night time air temps are keeping things cooled down for now. We need rain, folks. The Madison flows are sitting at 924 at Hebgen, 1250 at Kirby and 1420 at Varney bridge.
Below Quake Lake, the Madison is clear and fishing very well. The morning river temps have been hovering around 52 degrees, getting an early start is now something to consider but not necessary. Nymphing with rubber legs, soft hackle PTs, jigged Hare’s Ears, #10 Prince, splitback PMDS, Shop Vacs and perdigons will produce in the deeper runs. Running the banks with a Chubby and rubber legs is a solid approach, for sure. Caddis are popping and rolling down the river after lunch; the trout are giving them full attention so don’t be afraid to toss a dry fly in the likely spots. If you haven’t done it, fish till dark. The sunsets are amazing and you might even catch a few fish on #12 X-caddis. Or you could go old school with a #12 Royal Trude.
Caddis (big and little) are the name of the game out there but salmonflies will be found from Story Ditch all the way to Ennis. There are PMDs around as well so pay attention to those little yellow sail boats floating down the river, the fish definitely are! Cover some water, keep casting that big bug and if you hold your mouth properly, they will eat your fly. More to come on the Big Bugs, give the shop a call for the most up to date report. If you want to nymph out of the boat this time of the year, go for it, it has been pretty darn good out there. Honestly though, there is no better time to be fishing dry flies. Fish the banks, the mid river slicks, the gravel bars and use a reach cast and some 3X.
Play those fish that eat your fly with respect. Land them quickly, pull over and revive them on the bank when ever possible. Get them back in the water quickly and help them revive by keeping them in the net, submerged in moving water and until their gill plates are moving. Celebrate your catch, but if you can avoid the grip and grin most of the time, those fish will thank you down the road by eating your fly again. Don’t play the fish for 1000 yards, land the fish mid river and dump it back in the river – that will get you nowhere with the Trout Gods.
THE LAKES – BY MATT KLARA
This week we have a reality check in the Lake report. Virtually every river and stream in our area is popping right now with fantastic hatches, and the fish are fat, happy, and looking up. Unless match the hatch and dry fly fishing aren’t fun for you, we suggest skipping out on the lakes this week. If you do venture out on the local stillwaters, hit us up with a report, as all our shop staff have been head hunting.
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.