Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report 7/23/2020

by | Jul 22, 2020 | 0 comments

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

Nostalgia set in last week as Justin, my Dad and I headed over to Hayden Valley in search native cutthroat downstream of Yellowstone Lake. Years ago, back in 92′, my Dad brought me to West Yellowstone on a fishing trip of a life time. I have fond memories of fishing yellow Humpies to rising cutthroat near Buffalo Ford, now known as Nez Perce Ford. Back then, one could fish dry flies all day and catch more cutthroat than you could shake a stick at. It was on the Yellowstone that I was forced to perfect the reach cast and stack mending as well as fishing dry flies up stream. While cutties aren’t known to be tricky fish, they will become smart once fished over without a drag free drift. We have entered the time of the year when upping one’s game will greatly increase one’s chances. Practice casting before your trip! 

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 

Yellowstone National Park – by Steve Hoovler

The mercury has been on the rise this week across Big Sky Country bringing water temps up, and slowing down the fishing in many low lying areas. This is the time to look to the cold, high country waters in Yellowstone Park for consistent fishing. 

Yellowstone River – in YNP

Sight fishing for large, dry-fly-sipping Yellowstone Cutthroats has been great in the technical flat water of the Caldera. An assortment of bugs are active now. So, bring an inquisitive eye, and a fly box full of size #18-12 mayfly spinners in rusty and olive. PMD and Green Drake duns, as well as Salmonfly and Golden Stone adults will also be important. 
The rugged waters of both the Black and Grand Canyons of the Yellowstone continue to fish well for those adventurous anglers willing to hike. Salmonflies and Goldenstones are giving way to Nocturnal stoneflies and Hoppers. So, you will be week served to have a robust supply of large, foam dry flies with plenty of rubberlegs. “Waterwalkers” in size 8-10 fit the bill. 

Yellowstone Lake

It’s time 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. 

Northeast Corner – Slough Cr, Lamar River

We’re 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 check with the shop for up to date info before you make the trip.

Slough Creek

As we enter the peak of our summer season the backcountry meadows of Slough Creek are entering their prime. Water conditions are perfect, and mid summer hatches have Slough’s resident Cutts looking to the surface. Expect to see PMD’s, Gray Drake’s, Golden Stones, and Caddis. 
As always, you will want to be prepared with Bear Spray anytime you fish Slough, especially in the backcountry meadows. 
Biting flies are still around. So, make sure you have your favorite bug dope as well. If you don’t have a favorite, stop by the shop and pick up some of ours, Ultrathon. We have it in both the lotion and spray, and have found nothing better short of full strength deet to deter those sinister little bugs. Good enough for the US Armed Forces, good enough for us, this is the stuff that works.

Lamar River 

The Lamar River is fishing very well right now. Flows and water clarity are perfect. Expect to see a variety of bugs hatching from PMD’s and Green Drakes, to caddis and Golden Stones.
You should always come to the Lamar Valley expecting to cover a lot of water and territory while fishing. This is big country, and as the river naturally decreases in flow each summer the fish slowly move and concentrate in only the most prime pieces of water. You’ll see many spots that look like they might have a fish or two and have none. Other spots will be just too good to pass up, and here you will find every fish in that section. Spend your time fishing these A+ spots, and pass up everything else. Once you’ve found a few fish, move on to the next spot that you just can’t pass up. 

Gallatin River – in YNP

Warm weather brings out the best in the park waters of the Gallatin. This is a great afternoon or evening option after an am session on the Madison. Not much has changed here bug wise since last week. PMD’s, caddis, yellow sallies, Green Drakes, Flavs, and the last of the Golden Stones are all on the menu. 

Gallatin River – outside YNP

Great fishing continues on downstream through Big Sky and the canyon waters. Afternoon action is slower here than up in the Park waters, but morning and evening sessions will produce good numbers of fish rising to Size #14-16 rusty spinners and caddis. 

Hebgen Lake – by Steve Hoovler

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 Is well 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.

Madison River – by Joe Moore

The flows below Hebgen Dam bounced up this past week and we are now sitting at 985 cfs. Way downstream at Varney Bridge, the river is moving along at 1460 cfs. Overall, the Madison is fishing well throughout the day, but she can be a bit moody at times. There will be sections that are slower than others and parts of the day that fish better. Various lulls throughout the day are to be expected, so pay attention to the bite and keep fishing. The warmer day time air temps and bright sun have these fish a little gun shy, but there is still plenty of game out there to be had. 
Caddis are still hatching in decent numbers and Epeorus mayflies have made an appearance as well. Fishing caddis and a cinnamon colored parachute, Jojo’s PMD, the Parashuck PMD, Riffle Riser Crip, X Caddis, Tom’s Caddis, Comparabuzz, rusty parachute, Missing Link and the Chubbinator are the soup de jour. Ants and hoppers are starting to turn a few fish as well, so be prepared with those. 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. Take a few moments to observe the river and watch the natural world unfold. It will show you the way if you let it.

Henry’s Fork of the Snake – by Jonathan Heames

Irrigation season remains in full force on the Henry’s Fork at this time, while other rivers in the area are experiencing rapidly decreasing flows and low water conditions, the Henry’s Fork is nearing spring flow levels out of Island Park Reservoir. This is one of the characteristics of the Fork that makes it such a unique and complementary fishery in Yellowstone country. On the Fork, we are back to nymphing rubberlegs and finding fish in shallows that three weeks ago were too low and fish had already moved out of.
The Box Canyon remains as consistent as ever, but flows are up to 1700 cfs out of Island Park Dam and that requires a shift in tactics that isn’t common this time of year in other fisheries. Trade in the 4X for 2X and 3X and put some BB split shot on a leader that might have an extra foot in length between the first fly and the indicator. Keep an eye on clarity in the canyon this time of year, if the water is off color, try flies with a touch of fluorescence. Rubberlegs nymphs and tungsten-headed nymphs will get you started off on the right foot.
The Railroad Ranch is running high and approaching a time of year where bugs become inconsistent at best. Plenty of water in the river means those bank lies will hold enough water to help trout feel comfortable again. This is good for the coming terrestrial season. Keep a sharp eye out for inconsistent and sparse rising activity and don’t be afraid to put a clean shot on a spot you thought you saw a rise in 10 minutes ago. Higher water levels encourage trout to remain in their lies and not go hunting and cruising for food like they have been the past month. Now is the time that the Ranch angler becomes more of a hunter than a shooter. Expect fewer rises overall but be prepared with food that will raise those inconsistently rising trout. Flying ants, beetles, grasshoppers, caddis, pmds, and flavs are all still a possiblility out there. Callibaetis on the horizon!
The canyons below remain consistent and offer great dry/dropper fishing at this moment, these summer periods are wonderful times to disappear fishing in one of the canyons. High walls with lots of trees provide shady spots to pull over on hot summer days, highly oxygenated water keeps the trout in these sections happy and busy.
The section just above Ashton Reservoir, from the confluence of Warm River represents the Henry’s Fork at its largest, this is the last section of the river before diversions begin to take water out for irrigation. The river is moving right along in here and be prepared to hunt the shallows for a few nice trout or fish the transitions with nymph rigs for good action. Rubberlegs, tungsten mayfly nymphs and caddis pupa are all essential for the quiver here. Don’t forget the size 14 brown and red zebra midges!
Though the odd large trout appear from time to time, now is the right time to give this section a rest unless you are fishing the morning hours or watching the weather and flows closely. This is not the fishery it was a month ago, and those tied mostly closely to it do well to keep a keen eye on conditions. Generally, temps are too high for these sections to be reliable throughout the day.

Missouri River – by Joe Moore and Jonathan Heames

The Missouri River is flowing at 4920 cfs and with any luck it will sit right here for a little while. Tricos have showed up, caddis are present and PMDs are on the decline. Caddis generally remain the fly to present first for dry fly fishing with tricos on the immediate horizon. Cloudy days will have both rusty and yellow spinners in the morning, sizes 14-20. It ain’t easy out there on the dry fly and that first cast is everything. After that first cast, one’s chances are reduced drastically. 
Don’t underestimate the value of a down-and-across presentation with a well-executed reach cast that lands 40 feet away with slack in the tippet. This kind of dry fly fishing is honest. Trout at this time of year demand a perfect presentation. If it’s not perfect…well, it’s not what works and it will put the trout down. 
For the dry fly angler, it’s gonna be a spinner and emerger game on the mayfly side of things and for the near future, caddis patterns like the Comparabuzz in grey and tan, Halo Caddis, Henry’s Fork CDC caddis in 16-18, Rusty Spinner, Trico Spinner and Tom’s Caddis will fool most any trout on the Missouri River. 
Nymph fishing has been productive, especially in the morning hours on a sunny day. If there are clouds around, you’ll notice a difference in the quality of the fishing. Even sparse cloud cover makes a difference. Give us a shout if you’re headed up that way as we have a fresh report almost daily from Greg, Ray and Mike. 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. 
The crayfish game is definitely in play right now. The Zirdle or Zit under a bobber, either short or long with a bead head behind it will make you smile.

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