Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report 7/9/2020

by | Jul 8, 2020 | 0 comments

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

I left today, Monday morning, for the Missouri River. I’ll be up north guiding with Greg Falls for next several days. On my way through the Madison Valley my truck and drift boat somehow found their way parked along along highway 287 with me staring at the river. For the past nine days I’ve been rowing the Madison with all of my long time clients who have become dear friends along the way. We share stories from the past year and discuss the finer points of dry fly fishing. We discuss reach casts, up stream presentations, managing slack line, various hook sets and why trout eat dry flies the way they do. I don’t have all the answers to the trickyness on the river, but I do get to watch fish rise for a living. My initial plan was to arrive in Craig early enough to make a drive along the entire river and maybe drink a beer in the Trout Shop parking lot with the locals. That plan was quickly foiled once I observed a few fish rising along the highway. My new plan was to make thirty or forty casts, catch a few trout and then make my way north. At 3pm I jumped out of the truck, rigged a Winston and snagged an unorganized fly cup of used flies from this past week. Floatant, hemos, nippers and tippet rounded out my tools for this session. Caddis were now tumbling down the river and several fish showed themselves. I landed more trout than I should have but it felt so damn nice wet wading knee deep in the Madison River that I just had to keep fishing. When I finally looked down at the clock, it was 5pm! Two hours had flown right by and I could have kept fishing until dark. Twenty years ago, I would have done just that, no doubt. Between the Madison, Henry’s Fork, YNP and the Missouri River, there might not be a better place in the world to learn how to present a dry fly. We are more than fortunate to live here, thats for sure.

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

Henry’s Fork of the Snake – by Jonathan Heames

Tetons on the eastern horizon. Mid-summer is for the high country, and the upper Henry’s Fork basin in the Island Park caldera is a great place to spend these beautiful mid-July days.
This is the timeframe that reminds us just how important PMD hatches are to the daily routine of our trout. These bugs drive the daily bite in places like the Box Canyon and the Railroad Ranch, these are the insects responsible for the routine feeding behavior that creates angler opportunity virtually every day. No doubt, there are still flavs, caddis, golden stoneflies, and even a few drakes still around, and they can all come into play on any day, but I like to approach the water each day with an idea in mind, and for the next couple of weeks, keeping these little mayflies on your mind when selecting flies is a good move.
The Box Canyon continues to fish well, is running clear, and has been hovering in the high 800’s in cfs. This is enough water to allow trout to spread out and low enough that most all of the river’s features are reachable with flies. Daily hatches of pmds and caddis will drive the bite here, and golden stone adults presently inhabit the canyon. They will descend on the water at times throughout the month, sometimes en masse and create terrific and rather unpredictable dry fly opportunities, so be sure to have a couple good imitations along on any float down the Canyon. Successful nymph patterns will include rubberlegs, pheasant tails, perdigon nymphs, zebra midges (don’t be without a red one). 
The Railroad Ranch. An ideal day on the Ranch is often found in July, a bluebird, calm morning with a spinner fall that gets the trout steadily rising followed by an emergence of pmds will fill up a morning until lunchtime nicely. As the clock turns past lunch, it’s always nice to have the gathering of some white and billowing clouds sprinkled in against the blue sky. This will not only keep us anglers more comfortable but it also serves to get the pmds to keep it up, and encourages flavs to begin to emerge in the later afternoon rather than waiting until the last hour of daylight. More hours of hatching = more hours of fishing! Evenings will have good spinner falls and flav emergences with some great caddis fishing mixed in there. Caddis can be found during the days as well. It pays to have a well-stocked selection of size 14-16 rusty CDC or para-spinners, pmd emergers and cripples, as well as adults, flav sparkle duns, thorax ties, and last chance cripples. A handful of henry’s fork CDC caddis in both olive and tan, or a corn-fed caddis in the box is a smart move as well. It’s also a good time to make sure you have a flying ant or two just in case you luck into an early ant flight.
The canyon country below the Ranch will continue to offer consistent dry/dropper fishing with golden stones and rubberlegs or pheasant tails hung below, and the float section from Warm River to Ashton remains an excellent option for novice anglers and those looking for good action. Nymphing and dry fly fishing will produce here with pmd and caddis imitations.
Below Ashton Reservoir. Water temps on the rise as irrigation demand decreases the volume of water in the channel here. The heat of the summer is a good time to leave these fish alone. Early mornings hold some opportunity but most of the day’s fishing efforts should be focused in the waters upstream of Ashton.

Madison River – by Joe Moore

The flows at Hebgen Dam bumped to 813 CFS, a nice change for sure and with any luck we’ll get another 100+ cfs here soon. Hebgen is darn near full, maybe 6 inches from the top of the glass so we should see stable flows for the next month and change. The sexy bank water has filled in and the tributaries are kicking in their share to help keep flows higher as one moves downstream in the Madison Valley. Overall, the Madison is fishing really well. We are more than excited to see the plump rainbows and browns recklessly rising to Caddis; it’s a throwback to the old days, the old days being the late 90’s when most of us around here started guiding the Madison River. PMDs and Caddis are hatching in solid numbers; green drakes and Flavs are showing up in a few places. Goldens and Salmonflies are river wide, but mainly found in the upper end of the Madison Valley. Jojo’s PMD, the Parashuck PMD, Riffle Riser Crip, X Caddis, Tom’s Caddis, Comparabuzz, Missing Link, Lawson’s Golden, Lawson’s Salmonfly and the Chubbinator are the soup de jour. 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. We suggest that you knot on a dry fly, cover some water and leave the nymphs in the truck. Take a few moments to observe the river and watch the natural world unfold. It will show you the way if you let it.

Missouri River – by Joe Moore

The Missouri River is dropping like a rock; flows have gone from 11,800 cfs on the 4th of July to 9300 cfs three days later. We expect the river to drop a little more and possibly hit the 6500 mark by the end of the end of the week. This is fantastic news for all anglers as the deep nymping is starting to wear folks down. The dry fly fishing should turn on and give way to Tricos soon enough. Give us a shout if you’re headed up that way as we have a fresh report almost daily. Joe is on the river this week and will be dropping in on our social media platforms with updates. Jonathan will be up there on his heels in the second week of July. 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. For the dry fly angler, it’s gonna be a spinner and emerger game on the mayfly side of things and as always, caddis patterns like the Comparabuzz, Halo Caddis and Tom’s Caddis will fool most any trout on the Missouri River.

Yellowstone National Park – by Steve Hoovler

Hmmmmm…it keeps raining. We’re all dying to head into the park to scratch that cutthroat itch…but, it keeps raining. Will this be the week things finally shape up and dry out…Yes…Maybe…Not sure. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime there is still some fun fishing in Yellowstone right now, and it will only get better as we cruise through July.

Northeast Corner – Slough Cr, Lamar River, Soda Butte Cr
Slough Creek
Of the three Cutthroat fisheries in the Northeast Corner that have us waiting on the edge of our seats, Slough Creek is the closest to having good water conditions and consistent fishing. Water levels remain a bit high and cold, but good bug activity has started here, and fish are responding in kind. Look for PMD’s, Gray Drakes, Salmonflies, and Goldenstones in the lower meadow stretch below the campground. You will want to be well heeled with both bug spray and bear spray for any venture into Slough Creek, even the lower, roadside sections right now. 

Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek
The remaining two Northeast Corner favorites continue to suffer from less than ideal water conditions as the result of recent rains and the tail end of spring runoff. We’re very close on both of these waters. If the forecasts hold out (I know we’ve been saying this for weeks) they could kick into gear this week. Once they do spring into action, expect to see some of the first emergences of PMD mayflies and tan caddis. 

Yellowstone River – in YNP
July 15 is the opener for the fabled stretch from Chittenden Bridge upstream to Yellowstone Lake (and above Yellowstone Lake). We’re excited to check out this fishery and see how the Cutthroat population is doing this season. There’s been a steady increase in fish numbers over the past few seasons, and we’re hopeful to see more recruitment to the population again this year. 
The river is still running high and cold, but water clarity is good around legendary dry fly spots like Sulphur Caldron, Nez Perce Ford, and Cascade Creek. It will be a while before we can safely cross the river. If you venture out for the opener, be sure to treat the big river with respect and wade cautiously. 
The Yellowstone River’s canyon stretches have seen their fair share of salmonflies, and muddy water (if you’re below the Lamar River confluence). Flows are still high enough to make for some adventure wading. Though, plenty of fish can be found tight to the bank right now. Keep in mind, the river access below Tower Falls remains closed. 

Gardner River
This small, pocket water tributary to the Yellowstone River remains a good bet for some dry fly fishing with caddis, PMD’s, Golden Stones, and a few Salmonflies. 

Gallatin River – in YNP
It’s time to add the Gallatin to your dance cards this week. Water temps are warming up, and the first hatches of PMD’s, Caddis, Green Drakes are bringing fish to the surface. Look for Golden Stones, and Salmonflies in the Park stretch as temps warm too. 

Gallatin River – outside YNP
This week’s stormy weather brought color back to the Gallatin River below the Taylor’s Fork. Clarity should be back to normal by the weekend, and fishing will be good with a combination of caddis, PMD’s, and the return of big stoneflies driving the fishing. 

Hebgen Lake – by Matt Klara

I had a chance to get on the lake a couple of times last week, and things are really shaping up for the stillwater angler who likes to play around with multiple approaches. While many stillwaters get very dialed in, creating scenarios where there may clearly become one primary approach to fishing, Hebgen offers us a diverse array of situations and food sources, particularly at this time of year. Fishing a day from dawn to dusk on Hebgen these days could be compared to fishing several different stillwaters in fact. If you look in the right place at the right time, you can find just about anything. At first light, if you dare to wake up that early, you’d be clever to work the shallow margins and flats with a bugger or baitfish imitation, stripped at a nice pace. Don’t fool with 4x or even 3x, as the grabs can be savage. As the sun gets higher, fish’s attention will shift to smaller, buggier offerings, and you will need to down size and slow down. Chironomid and Callibaetis nymph fishing continues to be consistent at all levels of the water column. Look shallow on calm mornings in the arms for fish cruising and gulping chironomids and callibaetis. This is challenging dry fly and emerger fishing that rivals any in the US. When the breeze ruffled the surface or the rises disappeared, we dropped subsurface and found fish feeding on the usual mid depth flats and drops, on both callibaetis and chironomids (with a focus on smaller chironomids in #14 and 16). Mid-day doldrums can definitely be a thing this time of year, especially on super bright days. Take a siesta or go low and slow off the dropoffs, perhaps with a damsel nymph (as they are beginning to become more active) or a generic bug like Denny’s Stillwater Nymph for searching. Late in the day, fish will move back shallow as the light fades. Look for callibaetis, chironomids, and even caddis to bring fish to the top (or near the top) and work to moving fish, or cover the likely flats at a bit more depth! Stay til dark, and then limp yourself back to town or camp for a classic 11pm dinner time. Oh, the fishing life!

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