Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report 7/30/2020

by | Jul 29, 2020 | 0 comments

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

It’s late July; while we are still rowing the Madison and Henry’s Fork our mind leads us to other locales like the Hebgen Lake and off the beaten path places in Yellowstone’s Backcountry. The angling options around West Yellowstone is unmatched to just about anywhere in the World; and we’ve tried hard to find it! Spending the day on one of our local lakes chasing gulpers or strapping on a backpack and taking off down the trail in Yellowstone National Park in search of solitude and rising trout is truly what fly fishing is all about. The game of sight fishing requires practice and dedication, some days you’re the hammer and some days you’re the nail. Regardless, the pursuit is what drives us to keep going back and getting better at all aspects of fly fishing. Along the way, the total experience is what all of us are after and it’s a huge part of what we offer at Big Sky Anglers. 
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 and the Madison in Montana are having some banner days. The east side of YNP has shaped up and the West side is too 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 don’t have one, we are now under Governor’s mandate to wear them when 6′ of social distance isn’t possible indoors; 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

Lamar River 

A stubborn shot of scuzzy weather, complete with lightning, thunder, hail, and heavy rain, swept through the area this week bringing up flows and adding color to the water on the Lamar River. Prior to the rain event flows were hovering around 500 cfs. They peaked yesterday at close to 700cfs. Overall, that’s not a huge bump, and the situation is improving almost as quickly as it deteriorated. As a rule, when trying to judge the water conditions in the Northeast Corner, once flows return to the level they were at before the weather event clarity will be good too. The USGS chart online is always a helpful tool to follow flows on the Lamar. A quick call to the shop, or better yet a visit, for up to date info on water conditions is always a strong move too. 
Warm, dry weather is back in the forecast for the next week. That’s good news for the Lamar where eager, Yellowstone Cutts will likely be feeding on hoppers, ants, PMDs, and caddis. 

Yellowstone River – in YNP

Flows are good, hatches are in full swing, and the river has more Cutthroat Trout in it than we’ve seen in a long time. It’s prime time to be stalking these trophy fish with a dry fly. As always, this is a technical, sight-fishing game. Be prepared to hunt for your targets, and plan a stealthy approach. PMD’s, Green Drakes, Golden Stones, and caddis will have fish looking up, but these big, old fish have been around the caldera a time or two, and require a good presentation and perfect drift. 

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. 

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.

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 and Matt Klara 

We’re transitioning into prime Gulper season on Hebgen Lake. Still wondering what the hell we’re talking about? Swing by the shop for more info about one of the most exciting games you can play with a fly rod. 
On the chironomid scene, fish seem to be focusing in on smaller offerings, in sizes 16 and even 18 lately. If you are chasing gulpers, but the wind starts messing with you, don’t be afraid to drop sub surface and slowly retrieve a Callibaetis nymph. These sporty swimmers often garner more than their fair share of attention from the trout, and grabs can be surprisingly hard, so keep a light grip on your line and/or angle your rod tip slightly off to the side of the line to protect against breakoffs! Damsels are also in the air, under the water, and on the trout’s menu these days, so remember those as another potential option if the gulpers don’t materialize for you.

Madison River – by Joe Moore

The flows below Hebgen Dam bounced up again this past week and we are now sitting at 1170 cfs. Way downstream at Varney Bridge, the river is moving along at 1660 cfs. We are super thankful around here to see these flows bump up as hot daytime temps in the valley are coming for the next 10 days. Long floats and rolling dry flies in the middle of the river will be important. NOTE: this next part of the report will not change for the next four to five weeks and is super important to one’s success – 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. For those anglers on foot in the wade stretch, the key will be to cover water and not spend too much time in one particular place. The Madison’s mood seems to change throughout the entire river, if one stretch isn’t fishing well then another probably is. Keep moving and slow down your pace when the fish are biting, speed up when they aren’t. 
Caddis are still hatching but their importance is dwindling for the time being. Epeorus mayflies have made an appearance as well and nymphing an emerger is a sneaky little trick. Noctural Stone flies, fished early in the morning and late in the evening can offer some fantastic takes, just be ready and let the fish eat it. Fishing a cinnamon colored parachute, Jojo’s PMD, the Parashuck PMD, Riffle Riser Crip, X Caddis, Tom’s Caddis, Comparabuzz, rusty parachute, Missing Link and, Thunder Thighs Hopper, Lightning Legs Hopper and Jojo’s Ant are the soup du jour. Trout are definitely looking up for ants and hoppers so be prepared with those after in the afternoon hours. 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 Steve Hoovler

One of my favorite aspects of fishing the Ranch is the slow, methodical pace that the river demands in order to be successful – the waiting, the hunting, the observing. Whether it’s the traffic on HWY 20, the currents of the river as they leave Box Canyon, or the rhythm of a rainbow trout rising to freshly fallen spinners, everything slows down in Last Chance. It’s a place where time almost stands still, where your patience, thoroughness, and finesse are rewarded, where we get the all too uncommon opportunity to sit and reflect. There’s no rush. 
As this crazy summer bleeds into August we’re entering my favorite time of year on the Ranch. The Hollywood Hatches of June and July will be long gone, and so too will the crowds.  It’s been a busy, uncertain season in Big Sky Country, and I for one am looking forward to some slow, timeless days wandering, sitting, and fishing in the Railroad Ranch. 
In the meantime, summertime irrigation demand has passed its peak, and flows are stepping down from Island Park Reservoir. Morning spinner falls, and PMD emergences have been good, as well as isolated Callibaetis spinner falls, and caddis. Hoppers and Honey Ants are imminent. 
The Box Canyon will continue to fish well as it slowly returns to non-irrigating flows. Water clarity should also improve. So, it’s time to get techy again with those nymph rigs. Bring back the 4x or 4.5x Flouro, and dig out the tungsten Zebra Midges, Bullet Quills, and Red Necks. 

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