Significant rain fell from the sky this past week for the first time since late May, as you can imagine, we all rejoiced! The daytime temps have reduced a little bit and next week’s forecast is for cooler temps, bring it on Mother Nature. The Goose Lake fire, down in the Madison Valley, is still burning and it hovering around 7200 acres as of July 21st. Yesterday’s rain definitely helped out the fire fighter’s cause, those folks need all the help they can get right now. The big news this week is the Hoot Owl closures on rivers throughout Southwest Montana. Scroll on down in the newsletter to find out more about that.
Big Sky Anglers is OPEN from 6 am 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
Henry’s Fork Streamflows
Island Park Dam: 1450 cfs
Ashton Dam: 2940 cfs
St. Anthony: 1040 cfs
Fall River: 154 cfs
Stable flows and high water have been the norm on the Henry’s Fork this week, this is keeping the fish happy and healthy and has given us lots of opportunity at some great trout fishing. These hot and dry days are keeping irrigation demand high, lots of water moving through the system to water the fields in the upper Snake River basin.
In the upper river, the Box Canyon is rolling along at a high but healthy flow, keeping the trout willing and in good shape for sporty fishing. The water is still a bit off color but the fishing remains solid, giving many anglers a memorable day’s fishing in a spectacular setting. Nymph rigs are the norm here, most days we are starting with a BB split shot and adjusting the weight from there. The reports are in from Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) and the box is host to a robust population of 12-15” rainbow trout this year as well as a very solid population in all of the up and coming age classes. This year’s report shows better populations of 15-18” fish than prior years as well. At this time of year, lots of approaches can yield results, ranging from the standby rigs of perdigons, PT nymphs, red and brown zebra midges to copper zonkers trailed by prince nymphs or your favorite and most trusted trailing nymph patterns. Dirty water lends itself to flies with hot spot collars and the sparing use of fluorescents as well as the old standards in your nymph boxes. Lots of floaters of all types are using the Box these July days, so be prepared to share the water with recreational floaters and other fishing folks.
The Railroad Ranch section has been fishing well but is a bit spotty these days. Good fishing generally is found in the upper reaches during the mornings and early afternoons. Evening fishing is a good bet as well, but the hot summer days without cloud cover call for an early dinner and a return to the water a couple of hours before sunset. Flav spinners are the bug to be on the lookout for, but anglers will also find opportunities with tan and olive caddis, sizes 16-18, some gray drake spinners, and pmds. The perfect day here is a calm and warm morning with lots of spinners, followed by a pmd hatch through the midday, and a thunderstorm-generated flav hatch in the afternoon. Seek the bugs and you will find the fish. The lower Ranch has been very spotty, but we are shifting to a period where the areas with spring influence will provide good sport. Be on the lookout for callibaetis spinners, flying ants, and grasshoppers as they will all be arriving on the scene here in the coming weeks.
Canyon country below the Ranch remains high but stable, those who are wishing to escape the crowds found in other parts of our area’s rivers can find solitude and lots of willing trout in fast-paced pocket water. Dry/dropper rigs are the norm here, but streamers are a good idea during a period of cloudy weather or afternoon thundershower.
The river below Ashton Reservoir is unusually high for this time of year, but these hot and sunny days take their toll. The heat of the afternoon is best avoided, but some opportunity can be found in the first half of the day as well as the evenings. Hatches are almost non-existent, so be on the lookout for opportunistic food sources like the odd golden stonefly, grasshoppers, ants, and small mayfly spinners. Nymph fishing will produce some results as well, but be sure to keep an eye on the thermometer, as the water approaches 70 degrees it is worth considering the health of our trout and moving on.
Good luck out there!
YELLOWSTONE PARK – BY STEVE HOOVLER
With Hoot Owl restrictions in place on so many area fisheries, the higher elevation, cold water fisheries in Yellowstone continue to be a great option for anglers in Big Sky Country this week.
Get through the gate early, pack a cooler with plenty of chow and drinks to last through the day, and take your time exploring all of the fish-filled waters in Yellowstone.
THE NORTHEAST CORNER (SLOUGH, LAMAR, AND SODA BUTTE)
Fishing remains consistent in the Cutthroat Corner of the park. PMD’s and Caddis will make up the bulk of the bug activity in the coming week, but there is still a chance at seeing a Green Drake, or a Gray Drake Spinner. Hoppers, Beetles, Crickets, and ants are not to be forgotten as well.
As always, keep a close eye on the forecast and flows as afternoon/evening thunderstorms can bump flows and muddy waters in some of our favorite fisheries in the Park. Follow the links at the bottom of the report to check flows, or better yet, give us a call or swing by the shop in West for up to the minute info.
GALLATIN RIVER (IN YNP)
The Gallatin River drains a large watershed high up in the southern Gallatin Range of Yellowstone Park. It’s waters are always the coldest in the area making for a great option during these especially warm days.
Late afternoon and evening fishing has been good with caddis emergences and mayfly spinner falls bringing fish to the surface well past sunset.
As we are seeing throughout the region, water levels are extraordinarily low for this point in July on the Yellowstone River. Flows naturally drop each summer, and fish slowly return to Yellowstone Lake. This year, however, we are beginning the season with flows that resemble September levels more than July.
There are, no doubt, fewer fish in the system, and fewer places to fish for them than normal. But, that’s not to say that there are not terrific opportunities to hunt for trophy Cutthroat Trout with dry flies in the caldera stretch of the Yellowstone River in the Park.
Pmd’s, caddis, flavs, green drakes, gray drakes, golden stones, and even a few salmonflies have fish rising throughout the river from Chittenden Bridge upstream to Yellowstone Lake.
Be prepared to search for your targets, and cover a lot of water.
This is a good time to look for Callibaetis spinner falls on any calm, warm mornings. The shallow weed flats near Bridge Bay, Gull Point, and Sand Point all provide opportunities for the wade fisherman to cast dry flies to cruising Cutts.
MADISON RIVER – BY JOE MOORE & JUSTIN SPENCE
This week FWP announced Hoot Owl closures that went into place on the Upper Madison River for the first time in history. Yes, the river was getting a little warm in the afternoon below Story Ditch, but it was not record setting by any means. Scroll down to find more information on the Hoot Owl closure and a link to FWP’s website. The main thing to know is that anglers must be done fishing by 2pm and can’t wet a line again until 12:01am.
For the past few weeks, most of the guides on the river have been meeting clients early and getting on the water by 7 am. We basically instituted our own Hoot Owl because we were seeing warmish river temps by 3 pm and wanted to be off the river before peak river temperatures hit around 5pm.
The flows at Hebgen Dam were increased this week, twice, taking us to 1350 CFS up top and 1500 CFS at Varney Bridge. River temps are fluctuating about ten degrees throughout the day and the fishing is hanging right in there.
Caddis are still going strong with a pile of those bugs hovering in the bushes. Look for trout in the shallow riffles, blind cast your favorite pattern and cover water. Epeorus spinners are fluttering around each morning and evening, be sure to take those with you as well – a #16 and #14 Jojo’s Rusty will fool most trout. Don’t forget those hoppers and ants! Nymphing with rubber legs, BH pheasant tails, golden stone nymphs, perdigons, prince nymphs, and crystal dips has been effective in the deeper runs.
Like we have been saying for the past few weeks, go early! No matter where one is at in the float stretch, once 2pm hits, reel em’ up, crack a beverage and enjoy the boat ride. Lyons to Ruby, Windy to Story or Ruby to Varney are all solid choices for float fishing. Drop a tungsten bead head from that Chubby or a #12 Jojo’s Ant and get a long float with your dry fly. Caddis have been the main dry fly in the float stretch, but there are Epeorus mayfly spinners throughout the river. Micro Chubbys will take their fair share if trout as well and if you find yourself wondering what else to toss out there, ants will be solid choice for the rest of season. Hoppers are definitely making their way to the banks and on the windy days, they are falling in the river. Nymphing from the boat is a great option as well with fish eating rubber legs, Hare’s ears, PT’s, Shop Vacs, guide dips and various Perdigons.
Please be respectful to those fish that do eat your fly. Land them quickly and take care to revive each fish while anchored up on the bank. Trout pics are something we all enjoy, but if you can avoid it in the afternoons please do so. Get creative with your pics and keep those fish wet. Celebrate the trout in the net and enjoy watching them swim away. We find that a slow mo video is the best way to capture the moment!
THE LAKES – BY MATT KLARA
This week the focus is on Hebgen. The lake is getting low as water continues to be released into the Madison, and there will definitely be times of day and places on the lake where water temps on the surface are too warm to fish ethically if you plan to Catch & Release, so use that thermometer, and fish smarter, not harder. That said, we have fully entered the window where gulper fishing is our primary focus on this local stillwater. Subsurface tactics will certainly be effective, especially during periods of heavy chironomid activity or when the wind puts the damper on the surface feeding activity. Callibaetis spinners, duns, emergers, and nymphs are the primary hatch matching patterns needed for the gulpers, but certainly don’t forget to pack some tricos and even some caddis patterns to round out your arsenal.
One of the trickiest parts of gulper fishing is figuring out which way the fish is moving, and how fast, so you know where to cast your fly. There are some days and some fish that will always make you feel like you are playing a rigged game of Whack-A-Mole, but there are some tricks you can apply to better your success. First, when you see a rise, try and look for heads, dorsal fins, and tails. That is a dead giveaway of direction. Then, notice the bow wave pushing out ahead of the fish. The next rise will almost never be inside of that bow wave, so be sure to cast out ahead. Ideally, the fish will rise again and again moving in the same direction. Judging that perfect fly placement in 2-dimensions is the hallmark of the experienced gulper angler. If you think your casts are perfect, but no fish are eating your fly, my experience suggests that you may actually be casting 1-3 feet short! It’s a trick of the eye, perhaps. Don’t be afraid to lengthen that shot as an experiment. Lastly, one of the best ways to increase your odds is to find fish that are cruising and rising along some sort of defining edge. Taking away one direction they can zig or zag adds to your odds. Edges formed by aquatic vegetation, surface chop, or even the shore can all play to your advantage.
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.