Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 7/21/2022

by | Jul 21, 2022

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

July is one of those months that just keeps on giving. It gives us long summer days, amazing sunsets, a hint of rain when we need it and plenty of bugs emerging to the surface and rising trout. That late spring time weather we endured from April through mid June is now giving away to fabulous consistent dry fly fishing throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This time of the year makes me think of Billy Strings and Marcus King and their rendition of Summertime. Give that one a listen folks, those two are amazing musicians and soon to be legends of our time. As for the fishing, read on and check out the latest report.

Over at the Golden Stone Inn, we have some rare openings during prime dates in July and August. These rooms are normally booked well in advance, and we would like to offer a special Angler’s Rate to all of our BSA friends and family for these prime spots. Whether you are a DIY angler or looking to fish with one of our guides, we can put together a terrific trip for you. For reservations this July and August (2022) you will receive a special rate and a coupon good for 10% off your next purchase in the fly shop. Call Makenzy and her great staff at the GSI to learn more. (406) 646-5181.

For the freshest report, be sure to stop by the shop at 39 Madison Ave in West Yellowstone where you’re sure to find a few sun-burned trout bums, bleary-eyed from fishing the previous night’s hatch well into dark, and plum full of more good info and passion than any other staff around. While you’re there, don’t miss our newly expanded fly tying lounge in the basement. You just might catch Hoovie or one of our other bug-obsessed fly winders at the vise answering fishing’s great mysteries with fur, feather, and thread.

Big Sky Anglers is OPEN from 7 am to 9 pm seven days a week.

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 
Daytime highs for the upcoming week look to be in the mid 80’s and nighttime lows will dip in to the low 40’s. There is no significant risk of substantial rain in the forecast, but you should always be prepared for an afternoon or evening pop up thunderstorm in the high country. Last week was a great example of why one should always bring a rain jacket, it rained nearly every afternoon around 3pm.

Henry’s Fork River by Jonathan Heames

Island Park Dam: 1500 cfs

Ashton Dam: 2250 cfs

St. Anthony: 1050 cfs

Fall River: 187 cfs

Not much change this week on the Henry’s Fork. Both water flows and turbidity remain elevated as they often due in the peak of summer to irrigate crops downstream. Rob Van Kirk, Senior Scientist at the Henry’s Fork Foundation, tells us in his daily briefing that “Island Park Reservoir outflow remains high but appears unlikely to be increased. Turbidity is still above average in most river reaches, water temperatures are staying below 70 degrees for most of the day in most locations, and dissolved oxygen is good in all locations.”

Water conditions might be less-than-ideal right now, but that’s nothing that seasoned Fork Anglers aren’t used to dealing with in July and early-August. Hatches and rising fish are certainly not widespread right now, but they are there if you’re willing to put in the time to find them.

Box Canyon: With flows around 1500 cfs, the Box is rolling right along, this is a great time of year to enjoy the Box in either a quick float through or an all day endeavor. Indicator nymph fishing is the norm here in July, but dry/dropper and dry fly opportunities do exist with golden stoneflies and terrestrials. Indicator rigs should be between 4’ and 6’ from indicator to point fly, we like a BB shot at these flows and occasionally a double BB. With higher water, the fly selection begins to swing back to some of the larger flies, a rubberlegs or a leech pattern makes a great searching fly, while lots of fish will still be taken on smaller flies fished as trailers or up front as well: perdigons (now is a good time to consider one with a hot spot), PTs, zebra midges, and caddis pupa are all good choices. Streamer fishing can be a good option as well at the moment.

Railroad Ranch: The Ranch has been fishing well but is spotty. The upper reaches have been producing the most insect activity but pockets of activity can be found throughout Harriman State Park. This is a great time of year to look for spinners on an almost daily basis, on a good day that can keep you busy through 1 o’clock. For the afternoon sessions, be on the lookout for PMD hatches, terrestrial opportunities, and maybe some flavs as the afternoon matures or an early weather cell moves in. Hot, windless and sunny conditions are ideal for morning spinner falls, but having some clouds in the sky help the afternoons stay alive. Be on the lookout for flavs, green drakes, PMDs, caddis, cicadas and gray drakes.

Canyon country: The canyons of the Henry’s Fork remain a good place to journey for the next foreseeable future, high flows make for active trout in aggressive water. Dry/dropper rigs are the norm in here, but don’t overlook the opportunity that current conditions combined with fast-moving water present, streamer fishing can be a good choice as well.

Warm River confluence to Ashton: This section is still producing fun days of trout fishing in a beautiful environment for anglers of most skill levels. We are generally indicator nymphing down here, but dry/dropper opportunities should not be overlooked if you are finding trout in 2-3’ of water. Grasshoppers and other terrestrials make for a good dry that can double as an indicator of subsurface activity when a nymph is suspended below. A similar selection to the Box Canyon will do you right. Early and late runs might consider throwing a streamer for part of the day.

Madison River by Marshall Fairbanks

This past week has been another good one to spend on the Madison. We have found a good number of surface-oriented fish and look for that to continue as we enter another prized July week of dry-fly fishing on the Madison. Flows have bumped up a tad this week out of the dam from 900 to 1050 and the more eventful news was seeing water temperatures drop as Northwest Energy was able to start pushing cold water out of the bottom of the lake last Friday. This has dropped our water temps back into a much better 59–61-degree range out of the dam. It’s also worth noting that the biting flies are thick along the Madison, and you should bring some spray with Deet in it while fishing.

We said goodbye to the heart of stonefly season on the Madison and dry fly anglers should look to stock their boxes with a variety of caddis patterns, mayflies, and small terrestrials. Look to feed fish in the shallower gravel bars on banks that haven’t been walked or fished over yet. I have found the best consistent dry fly fishing to be when the light is lower in the mornings/evenings and fish are sitting in softer water. If you’re not seeing fish rise consistently, walk carefully and slowly on the banks and look closely for noses close to shore. Fishing 2 fly rigs has been great with a larger pattern like a big ant or caddis pattern, with a smaller fly that sits lower in the water behind it. Fishing a cornfed caddis, micro chubby (purple, rootbeer, royal, pink) #12-14, or ant patterns followed by a purple haze #14-18 or missing link #14-18 can make for an awesome evening of walking the river and blind casting into likely spots. During specific periods of the day, mostly mornings between 9-11 or before/during thunderstorms, look for a mix of hatching mayflies and for spinners in the calm mornings and evenings. We have seen green drakes, flavs, PMD’s, and Epeorus in different spots and conditions. Look to downsize your fly to something smaller when you run into a tricky fish that refuses the first presentation.

Nymphing has been consistent and can carry you through tougher afternoon sessions when the fish are pressured and out in the middle. Fishing a dry dropper with a chubby can be great in the runs and if you need to, throw on the bobber with a split shot or two to find a big fish on the rocks in the middle. I’ve had success with the split-case PMD #14-18, guides choice hares ear #12-14, Frenchie’s #12-16, perdigons (olive, brown, yellow) #14-18, and other PT style mayfly nymphs in a variety of sizes and colors.

Yellowstone National Park by Patrick Johnson

Finding that cold, clear water continues to be the theme for fishing in the Park these days. Put your blindfolds on as you drive through the park, and ignore all that fishy looking water on the Madison, Gibbon, and Firehole rivers — they’re simply too hot to fish in all but the earliest of morning hours.

Instead, turn your gaze to the Gallatin, Gardiner, and Yellowstone Rivers. While Salmonflies and Golden Stones are on their last legs in these stretches, it’s still worth prospecting with those bigger foam bugs in places — we’ve seen plenty of sizable fish come up to the surface even when the naturals aren’t around en masse — a large water-walker or Henry’s Fork golden with a split back PMD nymph dropper has been my go-to “searching” rig recently (have some generic chubbies in different sizes and colors in your box too!). If you’re getting refusals on the larger foam-bodied flies, caddis still remain in droves on most of our rivers, ranging from the “small black” variety, to their larger chocolate-colored cousins. Trailing a small spent caddis behind a larger dry or fishing a single, size 12 sunken stone can be a deadly option for those picky fish.

In Mayfly world, these scuzzy late-afternoon thunderstorms have been a boon to our PMD and Green Drake hatches. Though sometimes fickle and fleeting, keep your eyes peeled for these bugs once the clouds roll in. On both the Yellowstone and Gallatin rivers I’ve found several fish recently that almost seem to anticipate these hatches once the weather sours, readily eating my Jojo’s Green Drake or Morris May Emerger when the bugs haven’t even arrived yet.

Outside of the rivers, Yellowstone Park’s many lakes still provide a great option for a day of fishing. Those calm mornings and early evenings are your best bet while stripping buggers or leeches, and we’ve started to hear reports of cutthroat crushing damsel flies on the surface. While those mythical callibaetis-filled mornings haven’t quite reached us yet, they’re certainly on their way here pretty soon.

Stay up to date on YNP roads below


The Lakes by Matt Klara

Caddis, Callibaetis, Damsels, Chironomids, and even some early terrestrials are all on the menu these days, with relative importance varying depending on elevation, location, and time of day. It is the Callibaetis mayfly which often takes center stage at this time of year. We love when emergences and spinner falls trigger the gulpers to work steadily on the surface, tempting us, tricking us, and challenging us to make the perfect cast. But often times conditions do not line up for great gulper action, even if there is a callibaetis hatch happening. In those instances, the angler who recognizes the hatch and fishes imitations of the ereging nymph subsurface will often be rewarded with a bend rod and a big grin. Here are 3 blog posts that will help you dial in your callibaetis game from top to bottom.

How important is it to be aware of and dial in on callibaetis activity at this time of year? Last weekend a buddy of mine and I were out on a Montana reservoir during a nice callibaetis hatch. There was some wind breaking the surface up and we could see trout actively feeding on nymphs near the surface and deeper. We did a little experiment, matching our callibaetis nymph imitations against (gasp!) a live leech under a bobber. While the hatch lasted, we had nearly continuous success retrieving nymphs on floating and intermediate lines. The bobber attached to the live leech only twitched a couple of times, and never fully dropped!

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 Forecas