Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report 8/27/20

by | Aug 26, 2020 | 0 comments

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

Smokey skies are the new norm this past week. It acts as a filter for the sun and makes the entire day feel pretty darn fishy. We have one local fire in Yellowstone National Park that is burning on Craig Pass south of Old Faithful and the northern California fires are producing most, if not, all the smoke we are experiencing. Fire season has always run alongside late summer trout season, some years are smokier than others, that’s for sure. Rain is in the forecast for this weekend, so that should clear the air and knock the smoke down. All in all, the we are not too far from the first snow, which is hard to believe. These summer days are dwindling, but there is still time to soak up a little more sunshine and fear not, there will be more. Just don’t forget your waders and rain jacket! 
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 early September. 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

Hints of early autumn are popping up throughout the high country in Yellowstone. The first aspens are showing a touch of yellow, bull elk are beginning to bugle, and fall drakes are hatching. It’s a terrific time to be fishing in the park. 

Northeast Corner – Slough Cr, Lamar River, Soda Butte Cr

Stormy weather is in the forecast on and off again for this week. So, be sure to watch water levels, or check in with us at the shop about water conditions. Fall hatches of drakes and baetis mayflies have brought fish to the surface most days from mid morning to early afternoon. Stormy days can prompt some good hatches of these bugs, but it may be later in the day. On sunny days, once the wind picks up in the afternoon, it’s a hopper and ant game. 

Yellowstone River

As we inch closer to fall, and the inevitable end of the season, fewer and fewer fish remain in the Caldera section of the Yellowstone River below Yellowstone Lake. Naturally, these fish return to the Lake each year to overwinter and prepare for another spring spawning run into the river, and subsequent summer of snacking on hatches. Summer hatches are also waning these days, making this a tougher and tougher fishery from here on out. Some excellent fish still remain in the river, and that will be the case until the season ends, but they will require some extra effort and hunting to find. When you do find a good target you can expect to get their attention with hoppers, ants, and fall hatches of Beatis and Margarita Dun mayflies. As always, sight fishing is paramount here. Fish are spread far and wide making blind fishing a fool’s errand most days. 

Madison River – in YNP

It’s far too early to be talking about fall run fish in the Madison River…but, it’s time to start paying attention to water temps, weather forecasts, and holes in your schedule during the early mornings and late evenings. Undoubtedly, there are already a few studly fish in the river, and the right combination of cool temps, and dark skies could produce a fun session or two in the coming weeks while we wait for the main event later this fall. 

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 is still on the list of great things to do around West Yellowstone with a fly rod in hand, but the end is in sight now. These cold mornings will take their toll on callibaetis and tricos, pushing the hatch later into the day as September rolls along. It’s not too common to have great gulper fishing after the 10th or so, keep an eye on the weather with a strong preference for windless days that warm quickly.
Callibaetis are the strongest hatch throughout the lake, but be on the lookout for flying ants, midges, and tricos. Now is a very good time to look for damselfly activity in the early afternoon, the weed beds have grown up and are covered up in these little blue and red guys. If you notice trout feeding recklessly but occasionally in the area you’re fishing, try sneaking up and placing a damsel adult in the area. Let it sit for a bit and twitch it every once in a while. Usually, right when I begin to think they’re not going to eat it, they do.
Have fun out there!

Madison River – by Joe Moore

The Madison has dropped quite a bit this past week and is sitting at 953 cfs out of Hebgen, hopefully these flows will remain stable for the time being. The hopper bite is still happening, be patience during the mornings and pray for sunshine in the afternoons; the river needs to warm up and there is definitely a window of hoppertunity after lunch. On the cloudy days, we have been dead drifting streamers, rubber legs, various dips and smaller mayfly nymphs. There are a few caddis around as well, and if you can float a #16 Caddis dryfly and get it in all the right spots, you will raise a few fish, that’s for sure. Our guides are down on the Madison every single day right now and have been for all summer.  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

As we near the end of August, fall on the Fork begins to change the way we think about fishing. Hot summer days with sparse hatches of callibaetis, pmds, caddis, punctuated by terrestrial activity will give way to cold, misty mornings with mahogany duns and baetis on the water. Some of the lower river options will begin to fish well again as the month progresses.
The Box Canyon remains the workhorse of the river, capable of pumping out quality fishing days for quality trout week after week. Fishing has been overall very good in there, flows seem high, likely because of the weed growth displacing the water. Look for fish tight to rock structures and think about using tungsten flies that will get there without external split shot if possible. Perdigon style nymphs and zebra midges are a good place to start. Takes are as light as ever, be ready to set on the slightest of indications. The Box Canyon is a lesson in setting the hook with a nymph rig, there’s no time for doubt!
The upper Ranch has had fairly sparse bug activity and sparse rising activity. Perseverance will pay off but don’t expect to find a trout sipping steadily, you’ll need to mark where you see the rise and present the fly to that spot based on memory. It’s a good idea to have a few small hoppers with you in addition to flying ants, pmds, caddis, and some callibaetis spinners.
The lower Ranch has more bug activity centered around the influxes of spring water. These fish are in the cold water but they are techy and difficult to catch. They make for some great sport this time of year. Pmds, dark caddis in a 14 and 18, callibaetis, flying ants, and some hoppers will round out the quiver nicely here.
The canyon country from Riverside Campground on down to Warm River will fish well with dry/dropper rigs and streamers for those looking for a wilderness float experience with plenty of trout involved. Warm River to Ashton consistently is providing anglers with a satisfying experience, usually one with good numbers of opportunities mixed in there. 
The lower river below Ashton reservoir will have spotty opportunity now, mornings are a fair bet, but after noon, conditions will determine how much longer you can stick around. A hot and sunny day will put these trout in hiding after lunchtime. Hoppers, droppers, and streamers are a good program here for the next week. 
Weeds in the system haven’t been very bad, but as the river begins to drop they will get worse. Be prepared for weed clumps and mats to be drifting through the water column and embrace that you will need to deal with them. Do your best to avoid the drifting clumps while playing fish, remember to keep a deep bend in your rod and maximize pressure to keep those trout on the line. If your dry fly isn’t floating very well, bring it in, clean the weeds off, blow out the moisture and re-dress. A high line speed backcast does a lot to keep things clean and fishy out there. 

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