Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report 7/16/2020

by | Jul 15, 2020 | 0 comments

Hello there from West Yellowstone – the Trout Capital of the World!

The past month as been a whirlwind of guiding and traveling from the Henry’s Fork, to the Madison, to the Missouri and back again to the Madison River. My guide schedule has slowed down a little bit and I’ll now be spending time in the shop helping Justin and Jonathan manage the flow and getting on the water a bit for myself. Yellowstone National Park is coming into prime time for the Yellowstone River and the tributaries and while Jonathan is away guiding the Missouri, Justin and I have planned to make a day of it on the Yellowstone River for Opening Day. It’s been close to 20 years since I have been able to fish the big river on July 15! By the time you read this, we will have hopefully fooled a few of those Cutthroat in Hayden Valley. 

The fly shop is OPEN from 7am to 9pm, seven days a week. Our guide staff is on the river daily; the Henry’s Fork in Idaho, the Madison in Montana and the Missouri River in Craig are all fishing quite well. The east side of YNP is shaping up as the West side begins to warm pushing our interest in the Firehole and Madison aside until late August. The fly shop is a clean and healthy environment for both our customers and staff members. There is a sanitation station at the door complete with hand sanitizer and masks if you choose to wear one; the staff will continue wearing masks for the unforeseen future. Our fishing report is written on the whiteboard right outside the door for your enjoyment, but as always, the freshest report is inside the doors of the fly shop. Stop on by, say hello and we’ll get you taken care of. 

Take care and read on, 
~ Joe 

Henry’s Fork of the Snake – by Jonathan Heames

While water levels are on the decrease in rivers around the west during the middle of summer, the Henry’s Fork begins to show some of its unique characteristics of water management. Flows begin to increase and some years these flows in June and early August can rival the high flows of the runoff season. This is the time of year that the water stored for irrigation is being called for and is being moved through the system. 
In the Box Canyon, just below Island Park Reservoir, flows are now close to 1500 cfs, having stepped up consistently each day over the past two weeks. Fishing will stay relatively constant and this remains a good time to fish the Box. These high flows seem to energize the trout in this boulder-strewn section of water and they remain actively feeding on mayfly nymphs, caddis pupa, as well as the odd stonefly nymph. Lengthen your nymphing leaders accordingly and you will find yourself adding a BB shot to reach the bottom in some of the faster runs. 
In the Railroad Ranch, the high water will taper some of the action off. There will still be trout sipping on the surface but the hatches become less consistent. It’s still worth searching for morning spinner falls and keeping your eyes open for bank feeders. This is a time of year that we can begin to see the first flying ant falls, other terrestrial patterns now taking a hold on the fishery as well.
The canyon country below the Ranch remains consistent, flows are higher but, as in the case of the Box Canyon, the trout are livened up by the increase in flows and good fishing will be found all the way to Ashton Reservoir. The scenic section just above Ashton provides some of the most consistent fishing found anywhere in the area and is one of the best sections of water we know of to introduce someone to the sport, youngster or adult.
The increase in flows through the system is intended for the land and area surrounding Ashton, so the draws begin to diminish the river’s size below Ashton Reservoir. Fishing below the reservoir has small windows of opportunity but is generally best left alone for the next 6 weeks due to higher water temps and low water levels.

Madison River – by Joe Moore

The flows below Hebgen Dam have flatlined for the past week and we are sitting at 813 cfs. While this is a decent flow it would normally be about 200 cfs higher, but we’ll take it! Way downstream at Varney Bridge, the river is moving right along at 1590 cfs. We have found the fish to be sitting off the bank, at times 6-10 feet off the bank until there are caddis around. Once those caddis begin hatching mid morning or laying eggs late in the evening you will find fish on the banks in shallow water. Overall, the Madison is fishing really well throughout the day. There will be sections that are slower than others and parts of the day that fish better. The cooler overnight temperatures are keeping everyone and everything happy as a clam at high tide. 
PMDs and Caddis are hatching in solid numbers; green drakes and Flavs are still showing up in a few places. Goldens and Salmonflies are still around in specific spots, we won’t go into details on the Big Bugs, but stop by the shop if you want to know more. Jojo’s PMD, the Parashuck PMD, Riffle Riser Crip, X Caddis, Tom’s Caddis, Comparabuzz, Missing Link, Lawson’s Golden, Lawson’s Salmonfly and the Chubbinator are the soup de jour. Fishing subsurface with rubber leg stone flies, biot stones, Prince nymphs, tungsten PT’s, olive Arizona Hare’s Ear, Hare & Copper, Dips and of course a smattering of different perdigon nymph patterns will produce if you need to go there. We suggest that you knot on a dry fly, cover some water and leave the nymphs in the truck. Take a few moments to observe the river and watch the natural world unfold. It will show you the way if you let it. 

Missouri River – by Joe Moore

The Missouri River is humming right along at 5950 cfs. Last week Joe experienced a large drop in flows, the river fell darn near 6,000 cfs in a matter of several days. Fishing was still solid, but changing tactics during the plummet was key. Jonathan is up there this week and as luck would have, the flows haven’t changed too much. They have been feeding fish dry flies and having great success. Give us a shout if you’re headed up that way as we have a fresh report almost daily from Jonathan and Greg. Split back PMDs, Green Machine, Tom’s nymph, Pyscho Princes, Silvey’s Pupa and weight flies are working with the emergence of PMDs and caddis. For the dry fly angler, it’s gonna be a spinner and emerger game on the mayfly side of things and as always, caddis patterns like the Comparabuzz, Halo Caddis and Tom’s Caddis will fool most any trout on the Missouri River.

Yellowstone National Park – by Steve Hoovler

We’ve been waiting patiently, but the time has finally come to fully commit our attention to Yellowstone Park waters. Flows, temps, and hatches are all at or near prime right now, and the next several weeks will be the height of the season.

Yellowstone River – in YNP
The upper caldera stretch of the Yellowstone River from Chittenden Bridge upstream to Yellowstone Lake opened on July 15. This is among the best sight fishing venues in the sport, and it’s just coming into its prime. Flows are still a bit generous. So, don’t expect to cross anytime soon without a heroic effort. Luckily, you should be able to find some good targets from the bank with a little hunting. Expect to see Salmonflies, Golden Stones, PMD’s and Caddis with Gray and Green Drakes imminent. 
The Canyon stretches of the Yellowstone River are still a great place to take an adventurous hike to fish Salmonflies and Golden Stones. Bring your bear spray, plenty of water, and some good hiking boots/shoes. There’s not much need for wading here as flows are still aggressive, and all of your opportunities will be right along the banks.

Northeast Corner – Slough Cr, Lamar River, Soda Butte Cr

We’re finally seeing good water conditions and consistent fishing in the Cutthroat Corner. As always, keep an eye on the weather, be wary of any thunderstorms or rain events as they will bring color to the water (on Lamar and Soda Butte), and check with the shop for up to date info before you make the trip.

Slough Creek
Still a strong amount of water in Slough Creek, but it’s slowly coming down. Hatches of PMD’s, Caddis, and a few Gray Drakes are bringing Cutts to the surface. Biting flies are active here too. So, don’t forget your bug spray, long sleeves, and pants. 

Lamar River 
Both water levels and clarity have improved on the Lamar. Flows are low enough to wade throughout the valley. Stoneflies are still active in the canyon stretches. Caddis, PMD’s and Green Drakes are the main attraction out in the valley. 

Soda Butte Creek Good water conditions, PMD hatches, and rising Cutthroat Trout have made Soda Butte a favorite among visiting anglers for years, and this season is no exception.

Gardner River
This small, pocket water tributary to the Yellowstone River remains a good bet for some dry fly fishing with caddis, PMD’s, Golden Stones, and a few Salmonflies. 

Gallatin River – in YNP
Mornings are still cold (30’s), but warm weather has spurred some great fishing in the afternoons and evenings on the Park stretch of the Gallatin River. PMD’s, Caddis, Golden Stones, and Green Drakes are all active right now, and some good fish are looking for them. These waters are diverse in bug life and fish species alike with opportunities to catch browns, rainbows, Cutts, Cutts-bows, brookies, and whitefish. 

Gallatin River – outside YNP
The Gallatin near Big Sky, and through the canyon is also fishing well right now. Water conditions are great, and fish have plenty of bugs to keep them actively feeding throughout the day. These lower waters are considerably warmer than the Park waters, and feeding activity will begin far earlier in the day. Look caddis, PMD’s, Goldenstones, Flavs, and Green Drakes. 

Hebgen Lake 
Consistent, warm weather is a key ingredient to the early stages of gulper fishing on Hebgen Lake. Trico and Callibaetis mayflies are another critical component. All three are present now, and gulpering should soon be underway. If Gulpers and Gulpering are foreign words and/or concepts to you, swing by the shop for some enlightenment, and possibly an introduction to your next addiction.

River Flows and 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