July finds us fully immersed in the summer routine. The shop has been hoppin’ with folks fishing and visiting our area for the first, second, or 25th time. Our fishing has been nothing short of fantastic over the last week. Lots of dry fly action as the salmonflies work their way up the Madison. There are plenty of other hatches flying under many angler’s radar. But you better believe the fish are taking notice, so don’t put your “Big Bug Blinders” on. PMDs, several species of caddis, small stoneflies, golden stones, green drakes, brown drakes, chironomids, callibaetis, damselflies, and more will be on the trout’s menu in coming days! It is the season of the hatch matcher. You know the type – that angler who hauls around more fly boxes than your average fly shop, each stuffed to the gills from hours spent at the vice in the off season. The angler who will happily discuss (argue?) the pros and cons of various shades of CDC and the best deer hair for caddis and comparaduns. Does this person sound familiar? Is it you? Isn’t fly fishing the best?!
Warm/hot and dry conditions have kicked back in for the coming week. It’s no secret that the mountain west, including much of Montana is experiencing drought conditions. That not only effects where we fish, but also when and how we fish. As stream flows continue to wane, and hot days push water temps higher in the afternoons, it becomes increasingly critical that we make choices that minimize our impact on the resource. On Monday, FWP announced afternoon fishing closures know as Hoot Owl Restrictions for a number of rivers. Fortunately, our area up here in the headwaters was not affected. That said, we should be keeping an eye on the news in coming days and weeks. Additionally, the rivers on the west side of YNP that receive alot of hot spring water (Firehole, Gibbon, and Madison) are all now running quite warm, and should be avoided until temps drop again in a couple of months. If you don’t own a stream thermometer, we suggest adding one to your kit and using it regularly. It will not only tell you when it is too warm to trout fish (68 degrees is commonly referred to as a good cutoff), but in the spring, fall, and winter you may find that it really comes in handy in your own understanding of how and where fish feed, making you a more successful angler.
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: 1470 cfs
Ashton Dam: 2550 cfs
St. Anthony: 923 cfs
Falls River at Chester: 184 cfs
The Henry’s Fork continues to be an ever-changing environment with lots of different fishing opportunities. Irrigation demand continues to be high and water levels are incrementally on the rise in the upper river. This bodes well for these warm days we are experiencing, and though it may not always provide us with the best dry fly opportunities, one thing that trout don’t mind having is extra water! They remain hungry and in great shape.
On the upper river, high flows out of the Box Canyon are keeping our guides in shape as they hold boats in a pushy river, nymph fishing has been great on most days, but slows down a bit when water levels rise. It’s usually better in there when the levels have had a day to settle, but don’t let that discourage you, rising flows are great times to try a rubberlegs stonefly nymph, San Juan worm, or a leech pattern under the indicator. A caddis pupa, zebra midge, or soft hackle can make for a good trailer. There are plenty of golden stoneflies around and some trout are willing to take the dry on a nice afternoon.
In the Railroad Ranch, high flows make for shifting opportunities, but having bugs like flavs around will help to keep them looking for food on the surface. Look for pmd and flav spinner falls in the mornings, pmd emergences and caddis activity in the afternoons, and both caddis and flavs in the evenings. Afternoon thundershowers will bring flavs around earlier in the day, so keep an eye on the sky!
The canyon country above and below Mesa Falls is rolling pretty high, but still offers good opportunities in the section below. This is a fine time to fish the slide as well as the section from Warm River to Ashton. Dry/dropper rigs are standard fare and nymphing rigs will produce well when fished in 3-4’ of water.
The lower river below Ashton Dam is still running high as far as the Chester Dam, with flows at 2500 cfs out of Ashton reservoir, nymphing rigs are in play as well as some sneaky trout hiding along the banks, plenty of cover for them there. The higher water down there is helping to keep the water temps from getting prohibitively high, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it, if it feels warm to the touch, it’s probably getting close to 68-70 degrees and that’s the marker for calling it quits for those hot hours of the day.
Get out there and have fun!
YELLOWSTONE PARK – BY STEVE HOOVLER
Continued warm, dry weather has prime fishing conditions in much of the park running weeks ahead of schedule. This will be a great week to be fishing in the Park, but anglers need to remember that we are in peak tourist season, and plan accordingly. Be sure to get through the gate as early as possible, preferably before 7:00 am. Bring a lunch, or even a picnic dinner, enjoy the beautiful evening weather, and try to return later to avoid delays. As always, be sure to carry bear spray, and remember that all fishing is barbless in YNP and felt soled wading boots are prohibited.
Too warm, folks. Let this legendary fishery rest until the Fall, when water temps drop.
Gallatin River (in YNP)
The park waters of the Gallatin are in prime shape, and we are seeing a great hatches of caddis, pmd’s, green drakes, golden stones, and salmonflies.Despite unseasonably warm weather, there is still no rush to hit the Gallatin River early in the day. Water temps will warm by late-morning, and bug activity should keep fish and fishermen alike busy until the evening.
The Northeast Corner (Slough, Lamar, and Soda Butte)
River flows and water clarity range from “fishable” to “choice” in the Northeast Corner, and the season’s first hatches of Salmonflies, Gray Drakes, Caddis, and PMD’s have begun in earnest.
There is a chance for afternoon storms throughout the upcoming week. So, be sure to check the USGS charts, or better yet, give us a call or swing by the shop for up to date info on water conditions before making the trek to these distant fisheries.
As with the rest of the region, flows on the Yellowstone River are running lower than normal for late June.
We are counting the days until the iconic waters in the upper river – above Chittenden Bridge – open on July 15. Water levels and bug activity should be ideal for the opener.
In the meantime stoneflies are active in the lower canyon waters, and moderate flows are providing good access to sections that are otherwise difficult to reach.
MADISON RIVER – BY Marshall Fairbanks
Flows on the Madison have increased slightly this week and we are now sitting just above the median. Water temperatures have increased during the midday hours this week as it has stayed hot and dry. The tribs have dropped down and are not bringing in as much cold water as of late. Water temps have been better in the mornings and evenings so look to get out there early and late. Lets all hope for some rain here soon. The Madison flows are sitting at 1090 at Hebgen, 1350 at Kirby and 1460 at Varney bridge.
Wade Stretch: The river below the lakes is clear and has been fishing well. Water temps have been in the high 50’s in the morning and getting an early start is something to consider as the water gets warmer in the coming days. There are stoneflies around, but the salmonfly and golden stone bite has been spotty. Nymphing with rubberlegs, BH pheasant tails, golden stone nymphs, perdigons, prince nymphs, and crystal dips has been effective in the deeper runs. Make sure you are getting enough weight on your rig to get down to the bottom. Check out some of our new Euro-style flies designed by Robert Van Rensburg which have oversized tungsten beads to help you get down. Caddis have been all over the river and fishing a double caddis rig has been a solid option in the softer water. The trout have been looking up and throwing X-caddis 14, swisher PMX 14, and purple haze 16-18 is a good option for those looking for dry fly eaters.
Float Stretch: Caddis have been the main ticket on the float stretch and will be present for the next month or so. There are still some Salmonflies hanging around from Lyons to Palisades, but we are getting to the end of them shortly. Don’t be afraid to throw a golden stone around as well, we really like the Sunken Stone and the HF Golden Stone imitations. PMD’s have been on the water and look for them especially on the cloudier, cooler days. Nymphing from the boat is a great option and will become more important here as we get into the dog days of summer. Fishing the banks has been good, but those fish are also pushing out into the mid-river slicks, pockets, and drop offs, so don’t ignore those.
Once again please be respectful to those fish that do eat your fly. Land them as quickly as you can and take care to revive them on the bank when you can. Keep them in the water as much as you can, and help them recover by submerging them in moving water when you are done with them. Now is not the time to be holding that fish out for too long to get the hero picture. The river will reward you later for helping keep our fishy friends healthy.
THE LAKES – BY MATT KLARA
With the warm weather, we are starting to see the beginnings of significant callibaetis hatches on our area lakes. Gulper time is right around the corner. If you are seeking callibaetis activity to drive your angling, remember that they are a very weed-oriented insect. Right now, the hatch will be strongest in sections of lakes with warmer, weedy shallows. In many of these areas, chironomids will also be compeating for the fish’s attention, so be prepared to fish both tactics during your sessions. This is the time of year where trout may be keyed in on one or the other depending on the level of bug activity, and it may actually switch from one to another throught the morning into midday.
For those looking to up their callibaetis game, navigate over to our blog and check out our posts about this high profile stilwater insect.
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.