Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report 8/20/20

by | Aug 19, 2020 | 0 comments

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

August is flying right on by, just the like the rest of this crazy season. The past week has brought on chilly mornings and hot afternoons. We’ve seen early morning temps as cold as 32 degrees here lately! Flows are dropping to late summer levels all across Yellowstone Country. The foliage in the mountains has begun to yellow and the sun is setting before 9pm. For me, August 22nd represents the very beginning of the changing of the Fall season. While Fall is not yet here, it is definitely getting closer by the day. I would bet there are bull elk pushing out a short squeal somewhere within a few miles of Town. I would say for certain there are brown trout making their way up a river around these parts, they might be rising to hoppers for the coming weeks, but they are on the move. Not all of them, but some of them. That first scuzzy day in the near future might be day to strip some streamers or take out that Trout Spey rod and get dailed in. 

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

The Park waters continue to be a great choice this week for anyone looking to chase wild fish in iconic landscapes with dry flies. 

Lamar River

Keep an eye on flows, or give us a shout in the shop for the most current info on water conditions in the Lamar Valley as we’ve seen a few showers and passing thunderstorms lately. 
Hopper and ant fishing on the Lamar River is still strong, though afternoon water temps have been a bit too warm on several of the hottest afternoons. Be sure to take extra care when handling and reviving your fish. If you notice fish struggling to regain their vim after a big fight, consider using heavier tippet and fighting fish more quickly, or better yet, go check out the wolves that have been feasting on a bison carcass along the Northeast Entrance Road, and give the fish a break until the evening or next morning. 

Slough Creek

There may be no finer sight fishing venue than the placid, meandering waters of Slough Creek, and no better time to hunt for its native Cutthroat Trout than right now. Hoppers, beetles, ants, Baetis mayflies, and Boreal Toads will all garner attention from these magnificent fish, and if you’re skilled enough to deliver the right presentation, you just might get one to slowly rise up and yawn on your fly. 

Yellowstone River

It’s been a great Gray Drake year on the caldera stretch of the Yellowstone River. Good numbers of these big, size #12 rusty spinners have been consistently flying in the mornings and early afternoons in well known spots like Nez Perce Ford and Cascade Picnic Area. After the spinners die down, the river’s trophy Cutts have been on the hunt for hoppers, great big, hulking hoppers. 

Blue Squiggly Lines

It’s prime time to head off the beaten path, and chase one of the countless Blue Squiggly lines that fill Yellowstone’s backcountry. Break out the map, grab your pack, and start exploring. 

Hebgen Lake – by Jonathan Heames

Gulper fishing remains a strong bet for the coming week, and we are seeing good fishing throughout the lake. A bluebird windless morning marks the right conditions for Hebgen, I usually look at the forecast and try to get an hourly breakdown. If the wind is predicted to stay below 10mph until at least noon, a morning on Hebgen is a pretty safe bet.
Primarily, Callibaetis are on the menu throughout the lake, starting their emergence around 10am, with the spinner fall occurring around noon. This will go on until the wind creeps above 10mph but doesn’t usually last much after 2 or 3pm on a windless day. There are some variations to the Callibaetis activity, depending on where you are fishing. 
First thing in the morning, you may encounter trout gulping on midges; this is characterized by faster moving fish with a rise form that appears to be pushy just under the surface. These midge eaters make for hard but entertaining targets, usually involving high speed run downs, very spooky fish, and presentations that include a slight twitch.
Flying ants can be found just about anywhere on the lake and are difficult to predict. If you see them, think about where they came from and try it again the next day. A size 14 honey ant imitation is a must have if out there these days. We like Harrop’s honey ant, Jojo’s ant, and Arrick’s flying ant patterns. When trout are feeding on ants, they aren’t usually rising with the frequency of a spinner eater, try leading them a bit more and give them more time to find your fly. This is a seek and destroy mission they are on.
Tricos make for a great spinner fall and for fishy targets that rise with great frequency. Tricos are typically limited to the Madison Arm, and though the targets are good, they are beginning to really get selective now. It’s time to break out the CDC trico spinners and 6X when chasing these trout around.
Damselfly activity continues throughout the lake and is usually found where there are shallow weedbeds and zillions of the little blue and red guys buzzing around. Often the trout are crushing the swimming nymphs near the surface, which resembles trout eating baitfish more than it does nymphs. They are also known to eat the damsel adults hovering just over the water or hanging off of weed stems. It pays to have a few damsel patterns in both nymph form and adult, there are many days that a well placed damselfly pattern over an aggressive fish adds a few trout to the day’s catch.
Have fun and be considerate of other anglers out there, these beautiful summer days are seeing more boats on the water than usual!

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!  Nymphing, 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, grasshopper fishing in the afternoons can be a crowd pleaser.  Callibaetis, pmds, tricos, and small dark caddis can all still be found.  Flying ants have made an appearance this week and it looks as though they’ll continue through the next week. Your day’s fishing can take a quick turn when these honey ants make their way to the water. PMDs can still be found on the springs for those wishing to bury their heads in a strong but technical emerger game.
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.
For those of you that wish to help support a great cause and a model organization when it comes to river stewardship, the Henry’s Fork Foundation is hosting their virtual auction this week and it ends this Saturday the 22nd. There are lots of great items on the auction block and proceeds go directly to supporting a cause that’s been doing great work since the 80s. Check it out at: https://events.handbid.com/auctions/2020-henrys-fork-days

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