Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 8/11/2022

by | Aug 11, 2022

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

The dog days of summer have finally arrived here in Yellowstone Country, fortunately for us, they are short lived! This time of the year has most of us avoiding the middle part of the day, when the sun is high and the temperatures are the hottest find a slice of shade and crack a cold one. We prefer to start the day early, when the weather is cool and finish up before the rivers get too warm. Or, we head out and fish those last couple hours of light when the sun has dipped a little lower and the air begins to cool. This is also the time of the year when we head into to those smaller out of the way mountain creeks and lakes to take advantage of the cooler air and water. Here soon, in ten days or so, Fall will begin to show it’s face as the cooler nights and shorter days set in.

If you haven’t already, now is the time of the year to start planning your fall fishing trips to West Yellowstone, Montana. Give the shop a call or shoot us an email, we’d love to help you plan your trip or suggest some flies to tie up for September and October. If you haven’t walked in the fly shop this season, take a walk downstairs the next time around and check out the new fly tying section of the store. We have filled the Travel Lounge with tying materials and if you are in need of a place to tie some flies, there is table, light and vice waiting for you.

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 high 70’s to low 80’s – on those cloudless days, low 80’s at this elevation is getting warm. Don’t forget that sunscreen, sun hoody or wide brim hat. Nighttime temps will be in to the mid/high 40’s so expect to don a layer early in the day only to shed it before lunch. There are some afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast this weekend so keep that layer and your rain gear handy.

Henry’s Fork River by Jonathan Heames

Henry’s Fork Streamflows

Island Park Dam: 777 cfs,

Ashton Dam: 1710 cfs

St. Anthony: 1070 cfs

Fall River: 355 cfs

The Dog Days of Summer are some of our favorite days to fish the Henry’s Fork, especially in the Ranch. As irrigation demand slowly drops, so too do the flows, and we begin to settle into the rhythm of late summer’s hatch cycle.

After a brief spike in turbidity this week, water conditions have improved, and clarity is good throughout the system.

Hopefully, this report will help you navigate your way to some success!

Box Canyon: No matter the conditions, the Box Canyon is always the workhorse of the Henry’s Fork. Despite higher turbidity in recent days, the Box continued to fish well, and conditions are improving rapidly. As water clarity improves and flows drop on the river, we like to shift our approach in the Box Canyon to smaller nymph patterns like #18 Zebra Midges, and #18 Bullet Quills. Dry / Dropper rigs can be a great way to target shallow water. There are still a few Golden Stones around, as well as some Grass Hoppers. So, don’t be too surprised to see a nice rainbow rise to the dry fly. Keep an eye on the weeds as flows drop, and be sure to check your flies frequently to ensure your getting a clean drift.

Railroad Ranch: As we approach mid-August the tides are turning on the Henry’s Fork. With improving water clarity and lower flows, the Railroad Ranch section of the river should settle nicely into its late-Summer hatch cycle. These days are some of our favorite times to take a long walk in the ranch and soak up the surroundings. Mornings will be your most likely times to see fishable numbers of bugs and rising rainbows. Trico and Callibaetis mayfly spinner falls, as well as sparse PMD spinners will be the most consistent insect activity. Localized populations of PMD’s are emerging around the springs, and these areas could produce opportunities late into the afternoon. Additionally, anyone venturing into the Ranch for the next several weeks should have a good supply of any patterns at their disposal. We have yet to see that first big flight of flying ants, but it’s imminent.

Canyon Country: Consistent with the prior weeks’ reports, the canyons of the Henry’s Fork provide both a shelter from the heat of summer and aggressive water that keeps trout active during these summer days. Dry/dropper rigs are the norm here, but streamer fishing can produce quality rewards for those willing to work for them. We like the BFE in both olive and black, Copper Zonkers, as well as the Sparkle Minnow in Sculpin color. Make sure you’re very comfortable on the oars before venturing down here, these sections are typically floated in rafts and navigated by experienced oarswomen and men.

Warm River to Ashton: This piece of water continues to put smiles on anglers’ faces, generally providing a good day’s trout fishing. We are primarily nymph fishing down here at this time of year, but it’s a good time to consider dry/dropper fishing. Rubberlegs, PTs 16-18, brown zebra midges 14-16, Bullet Quills and Spanish Bullet perdigons 14-16 will all do the trick. Hoppers, Chubbies and Micro Chubbies 8-12 will usually move some a few trout on the surface.

Have fun out there!

Madison River by Dinah DiMeolo

This next week of August on the Madison is looking to be a good one, as rain and cooler nighttime temps start counterbalancing these hot days we’ve been having. Flows dropped to 1070 cfs this week from Hebgen Dam and are still running at 1210 cfs at Kirby. Water temps are warming up in the afternoon here on the Upper Madison, so motivating yourself to be on the water as early as possible can be rewarding when casting to happy & hungry fish. Fishing this time of year, off the tails of peak summer hatches, can have its ups and downs, so be resilient and keep covering ground!

Not much has changed regarding the hatches on the Madison since last week. You’ll likely continue to see caddis and PMD’s hatching intermittently throughout the day, coming off heavier during lower-light hours. Missing Links, X-Caddis, or Iris Caddis (#14-18) are classic and reliable caddis imitations you can always throw both to rising fish or as blind casts. A #14 rusty spinner, we like Jojo’s Rusty, is also a solid choice. As we move further into August, it’s much more of a dry-fly/ hopper game, dropping a Jig Napoleon or Bullet Quill Nymph (#16-18) under your dry can help you find less-interested fish.

If you’re not already, now is prime-time to start carrying more terrestrials in your boxes. Grasshoppers are out and about these days, so have a handful of your favorite foam hoppers ready to go when fishing up on grassy banks. If you’re down on your luck with hoppers, try experimenting with color variations and presentation. Tan, pink and gold are the general shades, but you might be surprised by throwing an unordinary color. Having a light “plop” on the water isn’t a bad thing either when you’re casting hoppers. More often than not, a less-gentle presentation with a little twitch can draw the attention of a fish from further than you’d expect. Additionally, the cooler, wetter weather we’ll be approaching come late-summer will likely bring more action with flying ants & beetles. Jojo’s Ant (Royal or Honey), Arrick’s Black/Cinnamon Flying Ant or Jake’s Gulp Beetle (#12-14) will be handy after wind or rain events, when terrestrials get tumbled into the water.

Whether you’re floating or wading, keep an eye on your drifts when throwing dries. Drag is the secret killer when it comes to lost opportunities, be critical of your drifts and watch for sneaky microcurrents. Best of luck beating the August heat, and make the best of this mid-summer mania on the Madison!

Yellowstone National Park by Patrick Johnson

Summer continues to roll on in Yellowstone Park and — much like the weather — not much has changed in the last week. We’re in the prime of our hot, dry season, and Terrestrials (Hoppers, Beetles, and Ants) now reign supreme when it comes to dry fly fishing in the park, without question. The age of delicate presentations, long/thin leaders, and size 18 PMDs is (pretty much) over at this point — it’s time to tie on that 7.5 ft 3x leader, add some 4x, slap a juicy ant against the bank, get a good drift, and remember to let that fish eat the fly before setting the hook. It can sometimes take nerves of steel watching those fish come up to your fly, nose it, splash it around, and not jump the gun on setting the hook. If they’re getting tricky, I always recommend keeping your terrestrials on the smaller end of the spectrum: as fun as it is to throw those giant size 6 and 8 hoppers or chubbies, our resident fish have seen a lot of flies by this point in the summer, and often times a size 10-14 hopper is a more accurate representations of the naturals anyhow. Don’t forget ant’s and beetles either — we’ve got plenty of tricky little terrestrial patterns here in the shop that you won’t find elsewhere.

As with the last few weeks, most of our fishing in YNP has been focused on finding that cold water: the Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Gardiner rivers continue to fish exceptionally well alongside the park’s higher altitude lakes. If you’re strapped for time and can only fish this western-half of the park, I’d stay off the Madison and Firehole and would really only recommend fishing the Gibbon in the earlier half of the day — that water just gets too warm otherwise. If you’ve got the itch to travel further afield, however, we’ve been hearing great reports from some of the Park’s more “backcountry” waters: Slough Creek just opened up on a permit-based application basis (more info here), and there are plenty of other waters that are only a few hours away by trail. Biting flies and mosquitos are on their way out, water levels are good, and the weather isn’t too miserably hot — all in all, perfect conditions to escape the crowds. Our first backcountry pack trip just went out this week, and we’re all excited to hear about how the headwaters of some of our major waterways are fishing. Give us a call here at the shop if you’d like to discuss hiking into the back country in more detail!

Stay up to date on YNP roads below


The Lakes by Matt Klara

We had some cool, damp, turbulent weather this past week that goofed up the gulper action a bit, but the weather stabilized and so did the fishing on the local lakes the past couple of days. With afternoon storms expected on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday expect a similar situation to play out, though with an overall subtler effect. Callibaetis and Damsels remain at center stage this week. Gulpers are happening on Hebgen with a mix of success on both dry callibaetis imitations, ants, and callibaetis nymphs fished either as a dropper or naked, sight cast to risers. Remember, some of those riseforms you are seeing may actually be trout swirling to feed on nymphs very near the surface. There is no shame in fishing the nymph, especially if you are looking to extend a lake session beyond the window of dry fly opportunity!

And, regarding the nymph, let me offer this suggestion. We have likely not fished together, but if I had to bet money on it, I would say that you are moving your flies too fast/too much! I do it too, especially after I catch a fish and I get excited to catch another. Even a fast bug is pretty slow in the grand scheme of things. Slow down that hand twist, and shorten your pulls. After a foot or two of swimming, most nymphs also take a break and hover or slowly sink back down towards bottom. Add pauses to your retrieve. Sometimes LONG pauses. How long? Usually just a couple or a few seconds, but occasionally as long as 20 seconds! Boring? Maybe. But, hear me out and give it a try next time you fish. Feeling the line snap tight like a bolt of lightning while you chill out and enjoy a view of the mountains is pretty great.

For you appreciators of the Grateful Dead, know that the chorus from Ripple is about 15 seconds long. Just hum it to yourself and quit messing with the flyline.

Ripple in stillwater

When there is no pebble tossed

Nor wind to blow

Come to think of it, if you see a ripple sans pebble or wind, it might be a trout!

If you haven’t fished the alpine yet this year, now is the time. Terrestrials are really coming on strong and will take on a very important role on those lakes where aquatic insect life is less prolific. Anabatic winds often deliver terrestrials like ants and hoppers into the alpine from the valleys, so even if the hoppers aren’t hopping around the lake, they can still end up on the water!

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