Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 8/25/2022

by | Aug 29, 2022

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

Somehow, this is the final fishing report for the month of August. Summers fly by (excuse the pun) every year in Big Sky Country, but this year seems to be in fast-forward. It feels like just last week the arrow-leaf balsam root were in full bloom and we were waiting on the green drake hatch. Now the hillsides have turned golden brown, the nights are getting longer, and the first aspen leaves are beginning to turn yellow in the high country.

This is a wonderful time of year to wander around our neck of the woods with a fly rod. Whether you’re casting to Gulpers on Hebgen Lake, hunting heads on the Railroad Ranch, or exploring the backcountry of Yellowstone Park, the rhythm and pace is slower and more methodical. This is the time of year that you see Bison and Elk bedded down right in the middle of the afternoon, soaking up the sun as if they had nothing else to do and not a care in the world. They know, if only by innate intuition, what comes next. Soon it will be fall, with winter bearing down, and the rhythm and pace will change once again. So, embrace the slower cadence of late-summer in Big Sky Country. Take some time to soak up the amber hillsides, bright blue skies, and hot August sun. Before we know it, those hillsides will be white, and we will be left only to dream of days like these.

While summer churns on, and we inch ever closer to Autumn, we begin to lose some of our talented shop staff as they return to scholastic pursuits near and far. We are lucky to have a fantastic shop staff, and many of you have come to know them, and depend on them for thoughtful advice and terrific information about fishing gear and conditions. We would like to take the opportunity to say THANKS to Marshall, Peter, Trevor, Lucas, Jack, and Finn for all of the fun and hard work this summer! Can’t wait to have you all back next year!

A reminder to everyone that our annual Trout Spey Days event is scheduled for September 9th and 10th, and is sure to be a good time as always. Lots to learn this year from our great lineup of presenters that includes Simon Gawesworth, Eric Neufeld, Lee Davison, George Cook, and Matt Klara. Head over to the event website via THIS LINK to get all the details. The presentation schedule was modified this past week to best take advantage of ourtime at the river. Call us at the shop to get signed up. Spots are filling up!

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 70’s to low 80’s, with minimal chance of rain. Nighttime temps will be into the low 40’s s and possibly hitting the high 30’s! So expect to don a layer early in the day only to shed it before lunch. As always, bring that rain jacket with you as you can never totally count out an afternoon thunderstorm in the high country.

Henry’s Fork River by Jonathan Heames

Island Park Dam: 923 cfs

Ashton Dam: 1320 cfs

St. Anthony: 886 cfs

Fall River: 339 cfs

The beautiful days of summer persist in Henry’s Fork country, but behind the scenes the nighttime temperatures are dropping as the days get shorter. We are starting to feel the early chill of fall in the first hours of the morning and things are beginning to shift in the fisheries. We are seeing fishing on the upward trend at this moment. Riverwide, clarity has improved quite a bit this last week and the river is in good shape at the moment. Weeds are a part of daily life, knowing how to deal with them on your flies will help to keep you an efficient angler out there.

Box Canyon: Flows and clarity are in good shape in the Box Canyon, and it is fishing well. Now is a good time to be thinking not only of the bugs that you’re imitating but the colors that may trigger these fish into action. Red and brown zebra midges 14-18 are a staple in here this time of year. Mayfly imitations should be smaller, 16-18, generally. We like PTs, Olive Hot Spots, Duracells, Bullet Quills, and Jig Napoleons for this. An Olive Hungarian Partridge Caddis Pupa in a 16 is a good bet for the few caddis that are around these days. Streamer fishing is a good option in here, we like a Copper Zonker, Olive/Black BFE, Bouface Leech and white Sculpzilla.

Railroad Ranch: The Ranch is beginning to show more signs of life as we near the end of August. Good spinner falls in the mornings, with both honey ants and small black winged ants sprinkled about are contributing to more trout seeking their food on the surface. Water clarity has greatly improved overall and this is helping the midday hours’ terrestrial fishing. Trico and pseudo spinners in 18-20, Callibaetis spinners 14-16, Harrop’s Honey Ant 14-16, Shimazaki Ant 18 will have you covered for most situations. Mahogany duns are right around the corner, now is a good time to make sure you have a couple of patterns 14-16 in case you’re on the water the day they decide to show up to the party.

Canyon Country: It remains a great time of year to enjoy some of the solitude that can be found in the sections of river above and below Mesa Falls, water clarity is good through these sections and the aggressive water keeps the trout bitey. Hopper/dropper rigs are a good choice, as ever, but don’t leave the streamers behind when heading down here. A proper reminder is in order for anyone headed here that skilled oarsmanship is a must, and a raft is highly recommended, even required for the water below the falls.

Warm River to Ashton: With kids returning to school in the coming week, we expect the pleasure floating crowd to begin to wane a bit. This section continues to provide most visiting anglers a fun day of fishing with decent action throughout the day on small to mid-sized trout. Larger trout can be found by searching with a hopper pattern or by committing to streamer fishing for the morning hours.

Below Ashton Dam: The lower river is generally not where we’d steer anglers at this time, flows are decreasing and daytime temperatures are still high. It can be worth a foray in the morning hours, but after noon your time will generally be better spent upriver.

Have a great week out there!

Madison River by Dinah DiMeolo

The last week of August has finally arrived, which means back-to-school, cooler weather, and more active fish on the horizon. These dog days of summer have been taking a toll on the Madison, and the pressure from heat should ease up here in the next week or so. Flows at Kirby bumped to 1300cfs this week, which have helped keep temps under 70 degrees for almost a week straight now, we are beginning to see the river liven up again. This is a positive sign for the week ahead, and folks should be prepared for the fishing to pick back up in the near future.

Similar to the last several weeks, terrestrials are still at the top of the fish-feeding totem pole. Foam attractor patterns like Moorish Hoppers, Thunder Thighs, and Chubbies (#6-14) are flies you don’t want to be on the water without this time of year. If action on the top is minimal and you think you should add on a dropper, I would start downsizing nymphs as we head further into the season. Serendipities, Pheasant Tails, smaller Perdigon patterns like the Spanish Bullet or Bullet Quill, or even little Micro Mays could yield success as droppers. In addition to hoppers, the recent emergence of flying ants is quite a sight to see and are an excellent fly to have on hand for late-summer fishing. Definitely have a couple two-toned ant patterns in your box, such as Jojo’s Black/Red Ant (#12-14) or Hoovie’s Crippled Ant (#14). These guys can be a sneaky imitation to trick fish into feeding.

As always, continue to be mindful of the water temperatures while you’re out fishing the Madison. While we are reaching the end of this sweltering hot period of summer, the afternoons are still getting pretty warm, so it is crucial to give the fish a bit of a break. Hit the water early in the day or late in the evening and find something fun to do with the time in between- after all, summer is almost over.

Yellowstone National Park by Patrick Johnson

Summer churns on in Yellowstone country, and terrestrials remain the tastiest menu item for the park’s resident trout. Luckily the weather has let up recently and it hasn’t been too oppressively hot – we’ve been blessed with some chilly mornings lately and even a few of those glorious late-afternoon thunder and rain storms – for us, this has meant longer viable fishing windows on some of the Park’s warmer rivers such as the Gibbon and Madison. We’ve had some terrific hopper and ant fishing along these stretches, namely on the Madison (up to its junction with the Firehole and Gibbon), and in the upper, meadow-ey reaches of the Gibbon above the falls. While it’s definitely still a great idea to get off the water in these sections once the afternoon hits (or once the water starts feeling more like a bath), early risers will be rewarded with some spectacular eats: A Thunder Thighs Hopper or a big Jojos Ant presented tight against those deep-cut banks can turn up some wonderful fish this time of year.

The same can be said about most rivers in the park at this point in our season. Hoppers, beetles, and ants still tend to dominate our boxes when fishing rivers like Slough Creek, the Yellowstone, or the Gardner. That being said, there are still some unique dry-fly opportunities to be had elsewhere. On the Gallatin, for instance, reports of decent spruce moth fishing have been trickling into the shop. While I haven’t yet experienced the mythical moths for myself this season, I’d wager it’d be worth it to poke around those more heavily-wooded sections of the Gallatin with a handful of Hare’s Ear Trudes, Fathead Moths or Koichi’s Snowshow Spruce Moths. If all else fails, prospecting with a #16 Spanish Bullet dropped off the back of your dry remains a recipe for success regardless of whether the bugs are actually on the water in large numbers.

The park’s many backcountry lakes are also still worth mentioning, as they continue to fish spectacularly. If you’re tired or frustrated with the terrestrial game, try taking a hike into one of these secluded oases – You’ll find Damsels still doing their thing en masse, flying ants mired and struggling in the surface film, emerging goddard caddis, and even morning mayfly spinner falls that bring the wariest of trout to the surface. If you don’t see much happening on the surface, however, a slow-stripped damselfly nymph or leech/bugger pattern will still do the trick more often than not.

Stay up to date on YNP roads below


The Lakes by Matt Klara

A little more excitement on the Stillwater front this past week as our local water, Hebgen Lake, has started to really liven up. Callibaetis hatches have been strong, with good spinner falls, and finally the trout are starting to get in “gulper” mode, patterning their rises. This gives the sight fishing angler some challenging and exciting fishing. When the trout are putting two and three rises together in sequence and then disappearing, we are still dropping a nymph below a dry fly or stripping a nymph across the target zone. When they are linking up their rises and staying near the surface, it’s time to go to a spinner pattern, they’ll often shun the nymph at this point of the hatch, usually around late morning or early afternoon. It’s important to read the rise and use the clues given to determine the velocity and direction of the target. With the dry fly and when fishing the nymph, the presentation must be clean and accurate to fool most of these trout.

As this summer weather continues, the lakes in this region will continue to fish well with callibaetis, damselflies, and terrestrial patterns. We are now beginning to see more consistent flying honey ants (#14) on the water as well. Any time you find these guys, there are trout eating them, so don’t be caught without the right fly! If you find yourself out there with no surface activity, remember that it’s hard to go wrong with a stripped leech, we usually trend towards olive, black or brown patterns, we have a great selection of leeches at the shop, swing by and stock up for what’s to come!

This remains a good time to fish the smaller backcountry and higher elevation alpine lakes. Once the thermometer begins to hover for longer periods below 70 degrees, we will start to see these higher elevation lakes slow in activity. Remember that our stillwaters can be fantastic places to spread out and find a little solitude and relief from summer crowds, it’s hard not to enjoy a calm morning on any of these bodies of water right now.

Regardless of where you are fishing, be aware of water temps. Lake fish are particularly susceptible to C&R mortality if temps climb and dissolved oxygen levels drop.

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