Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report 8/13/2020

by | Aug 12, 2020 | 0 comments

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

“If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes” is the old saying around these parts. Red flag warnings mixed in with big puffy clouds, some rain, sunshine and a hopper bite has been the norm for the past week and is pretty typical this time of the year. We expect more of the same over the next seven days.  The fishing options abound here in August; you want to walk/wade in grassy meadows to rising Yellowstone Cutthroat we’ve got you covered.  Floating the Box with a solid nymph bite your thing?  Long floats on the Madison fishing dry flies, no problem. Stalking weary rainbows on Ranch excite you? We can do that too. Looking to DIY southwest Montana, eastern Idaho and YNP? We’ve got a fantastic selection of bugs and tackle and a staff who spends most of their spare time on the rivers here in Yellowstone Country.  Summer is sliding away from us folks, we’ve got a few more weeks of if we are lucky and then it’s anyone guess at what Fall brings our way. Come on out and see us, the best of summer terrestrial fishing is yet to come. 
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 is in shape 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

As another August melts away we find ourselves firmly entrenched in the dog days of summer here in Big Sky Country. Many fisheries at lower elevations are becoming too warm to fish, especially in the afternoons. Hoot Owl restrictions, which limit fishing to the cool morning hours before 2:00pm, are in effect on several rivers across the State. Fortunately, the watersheds found in and around Yellowstone Park remain cool as nighttime low temps continue to drop into the 30’s in the high country. It’s a great time to be exploring the park waters with a fly rod. 
We’ve been talking for weeks about the perennial fishing favorites in Yellowstone Park like the Lamar River, Slough Creek, and the Yellowstone river. All of these, and many more, are still great options, and not much has changed with the fishing. So, I thought we’d take a different spin on the Park report this week. 
Not only is mid-August a perfect time to be fishing in Yellowstone Park, it’s also prime time for Callibaetis mayflies. For a slight change of pace this week, we are going to highlight a few of the great stillwater fisheries in the park that have good Callibaetis populations and opportunities for rising fish. 

Yellowstone Lake

We’ve mentioned this massive lake, its prolific Callibaetis spinner falls, and rising cutthroat trout for a few weeks now. This is still a great option, both wading and from watercraft around the popular shores of Gull Point, Sand Point, and Arnica Creek. As always, calm mornings will be best, and take extra caution if you venture out in a float tube or boat as the wind, and subsequent waves can whip up in a hurry most afternoons.

Lewis Lake

Lewis is another great Callibaetis lake, and can produce some good dry fly sessions, especially in the vicinity of its outlet into the Lewis River on the south end of the lake. A variety of different fish can be found cruising in the shallow flats here. Browns and Cutthroat are most common, though Brookies and Lake Trout are also possibilities. 

Shoshone Lake

This backcountry lake is most commonly fished by fly anglers early in the season after ice out, and late in the season before the Brown Trout spawn. Mid-summer Callibaetis spinner falls can be strong in shallow weedy bays around the lake, and brown trout can be found patrolling these zones during the morning and evening hours when water temps are cool. 

Trout Lake

Technically this little gem is a backcountry lake, though it’s only a long par 5 from the road – straight up hill. Large Cutts and Cutt-Bows can be found cruising, sometimes right along the shoreline rising to Callibaetis Spinners and hunting for scuds. 

Blacktail Ponds

We all drive by these serene, little stillwaters on our way to fish more acclaimed cutthroat fisheries in the Northeast Corner. Callibaetis mayflies thrive here as well, and resident Brook Trout and Cutthroat Trout can be found cruising in the mornings rising to spinners. 

Sportsman Lake

Mid-August is prime time to head deep into the high backcountry of Yellowstone Park, and Sportsman Lake is a wonderful setting to find Callibaetis mayflies and rising Cutthroat Trout. It’s a commitment to fish Sportsman that requires at least one, if not more, overnight stays in the backcountry, but the 11 mile hike is well worth the sweat and boot leather. 

Hebgen Lake – by Jonathan Heames

Gulper season is in full force on Hebgen Lake.  Callibaetis, tricos, some flying ants, and damselflies are on the move and present throughout the lake.  The Madison arm is probably the best bet for the most consistent callibaetis and trico activity at this point, but bugs can be found in all regions of Hebgen.  
This last week has been a little wind-blown, lots of mornings with bugs all over the place just to have the wind pick up before the spinners fall.  Early convective breezes have been putting a light chop on the water which has made some of the usual areas a little more difficult to find rising fish.  The mornings have had us fishing with droppers on sparse targets that are linking up only a few rises at a time.  By 11:00 spinners are usually in play and dry flies are the name of the game.  
Damselfly activity has been present all over Hebgen, be on the lookout for fish crushing the swimming nymphs in weedy areas near shorelines and for trout crushing the adults around off shore weed mats.  

Madison River – by Joe Moore

There’s almost 1300 cfs pushing out of Hebgen Lake and into the Madison River, then add another 300 cfs from the tribs and you have a big river on your hands once it gets all the way down to Varney Bridge. These flows are fantastic for the fish and help insulate them from the summer’s heat.  This past week has brought on nymphing, a decent hopper and ant bite on the sunny days and a few more wet nocturnal shucks are drying out in the upper reaches of the Madison River. It’s not easy out there, but if you can float your flies, let them eat it and set the hook with the best of em’, you’ll find some good fishing on southwest Montana’s gem of a fishery. We are down on the Madison every single day right now and have been for the past couple of months.  Feel free to stop by the shop for the most up to date fishing report on the Madison – it changes by the minute down there! 
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. For those willing to risk it all and wade out into the big river, you will find fish willing to rise out amongst the big boulders and slicks. Be careful! This is best done when wet wading and if you go down, remember to face downstream and get those legs out in front of you. 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. 

Henry’s Fork of the Snake – by Jonathan Heames

The Henry’s Fork remains a great option during these weeks in August, the flows out of the reservoir are still relatively high while other rivers in the area are getting lower all the time.  August is the month that will see a drop in flows and that will make the river a much more weedy environment here soon.  At the moment, however, flows are strong and the weeds haven’t been bad at all. 
The Box Canyon remains an excellent choice for a day’s fishing just about anytime.  The higher flows have the trout feisty and ready to run, make sure you let them or you’ll soon be broken off!  Nynphing, as usual, reigns supreme here, though a few goldens are still flying around so a quick dry/dropper run is still a decent option. Clarity is slightly off as more water is being released from the overflow tube, so fly selections that have some fluorescents are a good idea.  Rubberlegs, perdigons, zebra midges, pheasant tails, and caddis pupas are all playing well. 
This is still a great time to spend a morning or afternoon on the Railroad Ranch.  Generally, bugs are more sparse now than at other times, but with a little careful observation an angler can locate trout and usually feed them.  We typically find better bugs during the morning hours until about noon here, then the focus turns to terrestrials.  Callibaetis, pmds, tricos, and small dark caddis can all be found.  Flying ants have been fairly slim but worth trying and definitely worth looking out for and grasshoppers are present throughout.  In the afternoons, look to the cold water springs for good bug activity.
The canyon country below the Railroad Ranch is still an excellent place to find highly oxygenated water and active fish, great dry/dropper and nymph fishing is found all the way down to Ashton Reservoir.  The lower river below Ashton is still a decent place to spend a morning hunting for a big fish or two, but anglers should keep an eye on water temps and not plan on being there after lunchtime.

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