Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 7/28/2022

by | Jul 28, 2022

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

It’s late July in Big Sky Country, the peak of summer, the days we dream about all winter, full of great fishing, friends, and family. We’ve enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces in the shop and over at the GSI, and we look forward to seeing many more in the coming weeks and months.

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

Henry’s Fork Streamflows

Island Park Dam: 1420 cfs

Ashton Dam: 2340 cfs

St. Anthony: 1260 cfs

Fall River: 245 cfs

As we come to the final chapter of the growing season, irrigation demand for water from the Henry’s Fork is beginning to decrease, and flows out of Island Park dam are slowly coming down. This decrease is resulting in a slightly improved water clarity throughout the system, we expect this trend to continue over the next couple of weeks. Cool nights and mornings are keeping the river in good condition for morning and early afternoon sessions.

Box Canyon: As the flows begin to come down, fishing in the Box will benefit from less turbidity in the water and anglers will enjoy water that is more easily read and accessible with less weight on their nymph rigs. Most days, anglers should plan on nymph fishing with indicator rigs, but the Box is still a fair option for a dry/dropper run for those looking to find a nice fish on top. A cicada or golden stone pattern makes for a good choice on the dry fly side of things, a rubberlegs or your favorite beadhead is still a good dropper. Midges make up the morning activity in here, now is a good time to make sure you’ve got red and brown zebra midges 14-16 aplenty, PTs 14-18, Perdigons 14-16, and Olive Partridge Caddis Pupa 14 are good choices. We still like the use of a modest hot spot and a little touch of red in the fly selection.

Railroad Ranch: Morning spinner falls have been the name of the game on most of the Ranch, which can provide good game until the wind picks up or about 1pm. Flav, gray drake, PMD, Pseudo, and trico spinners are all on the menu. Hatches have been slim through the heat of the day, but PMDs can be found near cool springs in the midday hours. Expect difficult situations with many trout keying in on emergent patterns, with PMD half backs, BSA’s PMD Klinkhammer, and PMD transitional duns being important flies to have in the box, sizes 14-18. We are entering the time of year where terrestrial insects will play a larger role on the Ranch, so be sure to bring along some of your favorite hoppers and maybe throw a cicada pattern or two in there for a windy afternoon. Also on the horizon are flying ants, something to be prepared with in the weeks to come, a honey ant in a 14 and a small black ant in 18-20 are good choices. Look for fishing to gradually improve as clarity does.

Canyon Country: Hard to beat a day spent in a beautiful canyon, bouncing down aggressive water in a rubber raft on a hot summer’s day. These are nice days in the canyon country for those who are looking for something different and have some skills on the oars. Dry/dropper rigs reign supreme, but don’t take streamers off your list, it’s always worth giving a BFE or Sparkle minnow a sling when in these sections.

Warm River to Ashton: Lots of floaters in this section these days but plenty of fishing fun if you can start before the rubber hatch shows up at the ramp. This is a beautiful section of river that can be enjoyed by anglers of all skill levels with typically good action for a good portion of the day. Things can slow down by the end of the float on these hot summer days as water temps rise to near 70 degrees, but angling efforts in morning and early afternoon are typically rewarded.

Below Ashton Reservoir: At over 2300 cfs, there is still the odd opportunity for a morning run down here, but keep a thermometer handy and consider doing something else once the temps hit 70 by 1 or 2 o’clock.

Have fun out there!

Madison River by Dinah DiMeolo

As the end of July draws near, we continue having successful opportunities at fish on the Madison. With that being said, it is important to be mindful of water temps and aim to fish outside the late-afternoon peak temperature window. Recent afternoon water temps exceeding 70 degrees near Kirby Ranch can insinuate that fish will be less active come later afternoon, and extra consideration to quick handling & release is advised. Plan to be on the water early to beat the heat or later in the evening once the water has cooled off. Slightly bumped flows running at 1250cfs this week will keep fish happy in this heat, and August is shaping up to be a continuation of the great fishing we’ve had so far this summer.

Caddis are the main players in the Madison game now that Salmonflies & Goldens have dissipated. Consider throwing smaller dry fly patterns in the mornings & evenings, and stock up on X-caddis, Iris Caddis, or Missing Links. Spent Partridge Caddis or Cornfed Caddis (#16) are especially useful for picky evening eaters once the sun sets and you’re looking to use an imitation with a darker silhouette. PMD and Epeorus maylfies are a close runner-up when it comes to consistent hatches out near Raynold’s & $3 Bridge, so be sure to have plenty of emerger, dun, and spinner patterns on deck, such as PMD Hackle Stacker Epeorus or Hotspot Comparadunns (#14 & #16).

If you’ve been anticipating the start of hopper season as much as us, your wait is over. The hopper bite is just heating up, so start small with rootbeer & purple Micro Chubbies or tan and pink Lightning Legs (#12). If fish aren’t looking up, try dropping a tungsten beadhead nymph below to catch their attention. Slim bodied Perdigon style nymphs are always a go-to, along with jig-style Duracells, Rednecks, or Napoleons (#14-#18). Dry dropping a split case PMD’s below an emerger dry pattern is a good idea if there are rising fish acting picky on topwater.

As always, take your time, and fish thoroughly on the fifty-mile riffle. Keep your eyes peeled near banks and slow, deep water where fish will rest to avoid excess energy expenditure. Be sure to take your time wading upstream, as fish will tuck themselves tight below undercut banks, and try to find the fine line between covering enough water and spotting fish.

Yellowstone National Park by Patrick Johnson

Fishing continues to be great in the park if you know where to look. I know I may sound like a broken record, but it’s important to be mindful of water temps when fishing these days: if you’re planning to hit the Madison, Gibbon, or Firehole rivers, stick to the early morning hours and head elsewhere once that sun starts to make you question your decision to wear waders. 

If it were me, I’d rather be on the Yellowstone – either sight-fishing PMDs and Caddis to sizable Cutthroat on the upper section or prospecting with a chubby down in the canyon. Miraculously, there still seem to be a few Salmonflies and Goldenstones buzzing around most sections of the Yellowstone. Those cutthroat have seen so many of the “big bugs” by now, however, that you’ll often have more luck on a lower-profile golden stone or micro chubby (I like a #8 Jojo’s razorback golden or a #12-14 rootbeer chubby). Caddis of all shapes and sizes remain in healthy numbers alongside spotty hatches of PMDs and Drakes (Rusty spinners in the mornings, and duns in the late afternoon/early evening). The amazing dry fly fishing in this zone looks like it should continue through the whole summer, as a recent walk in the Yellowstone Canyon revealed hundreds of yellow-bellied grasshoppers flying away from our path. The fish have started to key in on these terrestrials a little bit, and I’d expect them to really start fishing well in the coming week. Don’t neglect the beetles and ants either: a quick inspection of the foliage along the river often reveals terrestrials of all shapes and sizes — now is the time of year that we start to notice that shift, where aquatic insects start to slowly be replaced in importance by their land-based neighbors. I’ve already had a few cutthroat eagerly hammer my Hoovie’s Crippled Ant or Jojo’s Cinnamon Ant, and I expect that trend to continue as we head into August. 

Just north of the shop here, the cold water of the Gallatin continues to produce for us as well. In a manner almost opposite to the other rivers we’ve mentioned, the Gallatin fishes best once that water has had a chance to warm up a bit. Take your time — sleep in, grab a coffee, read the paper or do a crossword, and don’t bother heading to the river until the sun is well over head because that’s really when the hatch-based fishing begins. While Salmonflies have still been spotted downstream near the Park’s northern edge, we’ve had the most luck throwing small stimulator-style chubbies, PMDs, and Drakes. Having an assortment of purple hazes, rusty spinners, and PMD or Drake duns in your box will pay you back in dividends. If they’re being tricky, you can always run a small (#16 or #18) nymph off the back of your dry fly and search that deeper holding water along the banks and behind rocks. If rises are few and far between, just look for that dark, deep water and keep walking ’til you find it. 

As always, the many lakes dotting Yellowstone also offer a great respite from the heat and high water temps. Start early, and bring a handful of damsel flies and blue chubbies along with some midge nymphs for droppers just in case. If you haven’t seen Chris Daniel’s recent Damselfly video, head over to our Instagram and check it out — those Yellowstone Cutthroat have been crushing the blue beauties recently.

Stay up to date on YNP roads below


The Lakes by Matt Klara

We have reached the point in the summer where the lower elevation stillwaters are getting into temperature related doldrums and the alpine lake are really coming into their prime. Fortunately, our regional stillwaters are all essentially mid to high alpine environments with the exception of a few shallower ones that warm up more than others. Callibaetis, Damsels, Caddis, Chironomids, and terrestrials are all on the menu these days, with relative importance varying depending on elevation, location, and time of day.

If you’re getting a bit bored fishing the same old lake you always do, this is a fantastic time of year to grab your hiking boots and maybe a float tube and head for the hills.  

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 Forecast