Hello from West Yellowstone, Montana
– The Trout Capital of the World –
The theme this past week was moisture – rain, sleet, more rain, snow, hail and even more rain fell from the skies. For those of you who have continued to dance the snow & rain jig, please keep it going!
Fishing this past week kept our guides on their toes, all the rain bumped up flows and brought on some dirty water. Things have settled down here the past few days; the Madison in the Wade Stretch is back to a shade of green, the west side of YNP is back in shape and the Henry’s Fork is pretty darn fishy as well. The Madison Float Stretch is another story, from Palisades to Ennis, the river is muddy. 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 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.
Take care and fish on,
~ the BSA Crew
Rain is in the forecast once again this weekend and coming week, so bring those waders and jackets out once again! It could be sunny and beautiful one day and chilly with clouds the next. We don’t ever put out boots and waders 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: 736 cfs
Ashton Dam: 1720 cfs
St. Anthony: 2790 cfs
Falls River: 1890 cfs
The first week of June in Henry’s Fork country came in with a few nice days and some unexpectedly wet ones, we are thankful for the extra water into our system, and if we weren’t so ready for summertime dry fly fishing, we’d still be doing rain dances! This week has a good mix of warm days through the weekend and some more showers to kick the week off next Monday. Generally, we are eyes out for mayflies and caddis at this moment, opportunities are popping up throughout the system, but you’ll want to stay tuned into the weather and insect activity. This is the week that our trout generally begin to turn their focus away from stoneflies and on to smaller mayflies and caddis. With decent flows throughout the system, we expect the river’s residents to begin spreading out, reducing our reliance on indicator nymph rigs and leaning more heavily on shallow nymph, dry/dropper and even dry fly only rigs.
Box Canyon: The Box has been a steady producer this last week and is likely to keep this going for the next while. We are starting to see hatches of PMDs and caddis, even though the Box primarily is a nymphing fishery, its trout do key in on the hatch cycles here. There are still a few salmonflies flying around, so the big dry is worth a try during the midday hours. You’ll want to choose your nymphs based on what you are seeing or what you expect to see: midges in the morning, caddis and PMDs or baetis afternoons. Reliable patterns to try are: red and black zebra midges 14-18, Pheasant tail nymphs 14-18, Shop Vacs 14-18, Bullet Quills 14-18, MFC’s Olive Hot Spot 14-16, other perdigón style flies are useful here as well. For caddis imitations, we like the Hare and Copper 14-16, Duracells 14-16, and Rensburg’s Tubby Morten 14-16. Keep those stonefly nymphs handy as well, you never know when they are going to pay off, we like a black or variegated rubberlegs 6-10 and the 101 Stone. We’re generally using a single BB shot in the deeper water on indicator rigs, and going weightless in the shallower flats.
Railroad Ranch: closed until June 15th, coming soon, and it looks like it’s going to be a good one!
Canyon Country: The Canyons below the Ranch have produced some good activity this week with some good salmonfly fishing. This is now waning but you’ll find a few in the air for the next days. A Chubby Chernobyl or a Lawson’s Henry’s Fork Salmonfly are our bugs of choice here, often with a rubberlegs dropped off below. If the bit slows down, look to a perdigón or tungsten-headed nymph in a size 14 to liven things up. Nymph fishing and streamer fishing will be a solid choice throughout the summer from here on out.
Warm River to Ashton: We are generally indicatory nymphing or dry/dropper fishing down here at the moment, but this is a great time of year to target rising fish when you have strong hatches. Look for caddis, PMDs, and even the possibility of a few green drakes when the weather turns wet again next week. Streamers are a solid option when you have some cloud cover, and you’ll still find sporadic stonefly hatches down here through the next week or two.
Below Ashton Dam: After a slow start, things are starting to get a little buggier down here, so keep a dry fly rod handy as opportunities reveal themselves. Nymphs are still involved in the day to day fishing, but there are some surface-oriented periods many days. Now begins the time of year when you’ll want to have a well-stocked fly box down here, be sure to have versions of the following: Golden Stones, PMDs, Baetis, Western olive stones (size 12), green drakes, flavs, along with spent versions of the mayflies and caddis. It’s wise to have a selection of nymphs that reflects that assortment as well.
Lots of folks fishing out there, but we have more fishable miles of river coming into shape every day now. Remember to be courteous to your fellow anglers and give others the same room you hope they’d give you. If you’re in a boat, it’s ok to ask wade anglers which side they would prefer you to float past.
Madison River by Joe Moore
The tributaries throughout the Madison Valley bumped last weekend as we experienced some runoff from all the rain and snow. However as the week went on, the weather stayed cool and the Madison below Quake Lake came back in shape – its green and very fishable. The Float Stretch is fishable down to Palisades but the left bank is pretty dirty from the West Fork pumping in mud. Below Palisades, the river is off color and muddy, can you catch fish down there for sure, but expect the river to be a little on the tough side the further one gets downstream of Palisades. Expect changing river conditions over the next few weeks as the sun pokes out and warms up the recent snowfall. The tributaries will come in and out of shape after last week’s big storm and then will go up again as we see a few warmer days 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 will 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 Patrick Johnson
Like most of our rivers in the park, the Firehole has experienced many “highs and lows” over the past week owing to the massive amount of precipitation we’ve been lucky enough to receive. While the rain has been a blessing for our future summer fishing prospects, it can make our day-to-day angling a challenge with high flows and off-color water — most often, these variables simply require a change in tactics and location. On those heavy rain days, the lower Firehole in and below the canyon has been a raging, chocolate-colored slurry where we’re normally looking for salmon flies. Most of our luck has come from up high between Midway Geyser Basin and the river’s confluence with Nez Perce Creek.
Fishing in the morning has been slow — with most trout caught on beaded soft-hackles (#16-20) fished on the swing through the faster, “riffle-y” water. In the deeper runs, many fish can be found right up against the submerged banks thanks to the improved cover and slower current they offer during periods of high flows. Here, a tungsten San Juan Worm to a dropper nymph (think heavier, CDC-collared or “hotspot” mayfly nymphs) fished under an indicator has been the key to success. Recently, these slow, “sub-surface” mornings have given way to spectacular late-afternoon hatches of Baetis and PMD mayflies (#16-20) along with scattered clouds of caddis — particularly around Biscuit Basin and Mid-way Geyser Basin. These small bugs can be hard to see with the low light and heavy cloud cover we’ve been experiencing, so having something with a highly visible wing or parachute can be a great asset during these hatches (we’ve been really liking the Orange-post Paranymph in #16 and #18 for a Baetis, and the Sparkle Dun PMD).
Warmer, drier days are on the horizon, and we’ll certainly be looking forward to the Firehole leveling-out, clearer water, and more fish looking up throughout the day.
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 opportunities abound. The big news is that all of the moisture that has fallen over the past nine weeks has help to get Hebgen Lake on track to hopefully fill by the end of June. Currently the lake is 90% full and within 2 feet from full pond. Honestly folks, back in late March we were told by NWE that Hebgen would barely get to 4 feet from full pond by the end June.
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 in to 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