Starting last Thursday and continuing on through Monday, Mother Nature blessed us with rain showers and cooler temps. Thunder and lightning rang from the hills and thus far, no new fires have started up in our neck of the woods. It was so nice to see moisture fall from the sky, a rarity indeed this summer. Sunshine showed back up mid week and the next seven days will bring us cooler temps, with highs in 70s and low 80s here in Yellowstone Country. It actually feels like we are living in the mountains again! The smoke is back and will likely continue to infiltrate the basin as the fires in Western Montana and the west coast continue to burn. The bright side to that is that fish seem to enjoy rising on Hebgen with the smokey filter.
We are seeing folks plan their Fall fishing trips, guides and rooms at the Golden Stone Inn are starting to fill in, especially for September. If you’re thinking of coming out, give us a ring at the shop and we can help you plan your trip.
Big Sky Anglers is OPEN from 6 am to 9pm seven days a week. Our fly shop remains a clean and healthy environment for both our customers and staff members. 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,
~ Joe, Justin, Jonathan, and the BSA Crew
HENRY’S FORK – BY JONATHAN HEAMES
Henry’s Fork Streamflows
Island Park Dam: 787 cfs
Ashton Dam: 1330 cfs
St. Anthony: 1110 cfs
The Henry’s Fork is now slowly dropping in flow as irrigation demand decreases throughout the basin downstream. Flows are still at a very comfortable and good level, and fishing conditions should remain good throughout the upper river and spotty further downstream. There are no Hoot Owl restrictions currently in place on the Henry’s Fork, with water temps remaining cool in most of the river above Ashton Reservoir. This week’s forecast calls for partly cloudy days and some afternoon showers are a strong possibility on just about any day.
In the Box Canyon, fishing has remained very good throughout the season, this year’s high numbers and good demographics have provided many anglers with great sport. As the flows drop, expect fishing to remain consistent, but weeds will be on the increase. Remember to check your flies periodically and make sure they don’t have any of the green stuff hanging on, those rainbows don’t seem to like salad on their bugs! Nymphing is the name of the game here, but there is always some dry/dropper opportunity for those wishing to focus on shallower water and have fewer opportunities. Good choices for the Box include: perdigons 14-18, PT nymphs 16-18, rubberleg stonefly nymphs #8-10, olive BSA caddis pupa #14, as well as brown and red zebra midges in 14-18.
The Railroad Ranch section is still producing good mornings, with afternoons remaining the wild card, insect activity can be sparse in the afternoons but present for those who are willing to keep at it and keep looking. These days are beautiful days on the Ranch, any morning is a good time to take your fly rod for a walk in this incredible setting. Be on the lookout for pmd and flav spinners in the mornings, as well as callibaetis and trico spinners while in their habitats. PMDs are still hatching in some areas, sparsely in most but prolific and spotty hatches can be found. Flying ants are making themselves known, any angler who has experienced an ant fall on the Ranch wouldn’t be without these at this time of year. Honey ants #14 and small black ants #18-20 are good patterns to have on hand. Hopper season is upon us and keeping a small selection in your Ranch box is an excellent idea, be on the lookout for aggressive rises and be prepared to cover those zones when you’re able.
The canyon country below the Ranch is at prime level for fishing, just low enough to both see the structure and to be able to effectively get your flies to the holding water. These are great days to enjoy floats through a pristine forested canyon and have a little hard to find solitude.
Warm River to Ashton, continues to produce quality days of angling for those looking for a little more action and smaller fish. There are always a few nice trout opportunities throughout a fishing day down here, and a great day’s fishing is usually had by the time the take out comes into view.
Below Ashton reservoir flows have dropped dramatically and anglers headed that way are encouraged to get an early start and get off the water by noon or so when water temperatures reach 70 degrees.
YELLOWSTONE PARK – BY STEVE HOOVLER
Historically low flows and localized warm water temperatures have forced YNP officials to issue Hoot Owl restrictions on all rivers and streams in the Park. Fishing on rivers and streams will be prohibited from 2 p.m. to sunrise the following day. Anglers can fish from sunrise to 2 p.m. Yellowstone Lake and other lakes will remain open to fishing from sunrise to sunset as specified in the Fishing Regulations booklet.
Last week’s much anticipated moisture arrived as advertised, bringing a wonderful soaking to the high country and blowing out flows on some YNP fisheries.
The Lamar, Soda Butte, and Gallatin all saw a spike in flows and muddy conditions this week as a result of heavy rains. Water conditions improved almost as quickly as they deteriorated, and are generally back to where they were prior to the deluge.
Flexibility will continue to be the name of the game this week with cooler, wetter weather in the forecast again for the upcoming weekend and Hoot Owl fishing restrictions still in place.
Once again, water conditions on the Lamar and Soda Butte will likely deteriorate with rain predicted on Friday. Keep an eye on the flows, and expect to see dirty water with any increase in levels. As always, give us a call or stop by the shop for the most current info on conditions.
Slough Creek will remain a good option in the coming week. Look for spinner falls and picky fish in the early am, and emergences of pmd’s and cream colored baetis during periods of overcast and rain.
The Yellowstone River in the caldera stretch is another good choice for the time frame that’s available and the conditions that are in the forecast. Warm, sunny mornings will continue to have grey drake and flav spinner falls in isolated areas near the deepest sections. When clouds and rain roll in, be on the lookout for PMD’s, and even a sporadic Green Drake.
The park waters of the Gallatin River continue to fish well with cool water temps, and good bug activity until the 2:00pm limit. Afterwards, the river from the park boundary downstream to the hwy 84 bridge remains one of the only afternoon options in the area that is not under Hoot Owl restrictions.
All of the lakes remain open to fishing after 2:00pm. The stormy afternoon forecasts are not ideal, but calm evenings could produce some rising fish, and fun opportunities to sight fish for cruisers near the shore.
MADISON RIVER – BY JOE MOORE & JUSTIN SPENCE
Sparse caddis hatches can be found in the upper river, expect the fish to be a little pickier as we move further into August. Epeorus spinners are fluttering around each morning and evening, be sure to take those with you as well – a #16 and #14 Jojo’s Rusty will fool most trout as will a Parachute Adams. Don’t go to the river without Hoppers and ants! Our bins at the shop are stuffed so feel free to swing by and ask the staff what has been working for them. Everyone seems to have a little different spin on where they have been fishing and what has been working. Nymphing with rubber legs, BH pheasant tails, golden stone nymphs, perdigons, prince nymphs, and crystal dips has been effective in the deeper runs.
This hasn’t changed much from last week…get on the river early, if you want or launch on banker’s hours. But the one thing remains the same – No matter where one is at in the float stretch, once 2pm hits, reel em’ up, crack a cold beverage and enjoy the boat ride. Lyons to Ruby, Windy to Story or Ruby to Varney are all solid choices for float fishing and then enjoying the rest of the trip with a cold one in hand. You will find that it’s a ton of fun to sit back, look at the towering mountains and enjoy the ride. Most folks never look up from the fly while fishing the Madison, we hear quite often how pretty the Madison Valley is! As for the flies, drop a tungsten bead head from that Purple Chubby, Lighting Legs Hopper or a #12 Jojo’s Ant and get a long float with your dry fly. Let your drift roll and keep the fly on the river where it can get eaten. Epeorus mayfly spinners are throughout the river and there are fish eating them. Try fishing a single dry fly and if you are dead set on fishing two dry flies; lengthen the distance between the two flies. There are times when it helps, but this that longer distance between the two flies can be a little tough to tun over if the north wind comes your way. If rolling the middle of the river, dangle a tungsten bead under the big dry. Nymphing from the boat, especially in the cooler morning hours, is a great option as well with fish eating rubber legs, Hare’s ears, PT’s, Shop Vacs, guide dips and various Perdigons.
Please be respectful to those fish that do eat your fly. Land them quickly and take care to revive each fish with your anchor on the bank. Trout pics are something we all enjoy, but if you can avoid it in the afternoons please do so. Get creative with your pics and keep those fish wet. Celebrate the trout in the net and enjoy watching them swim away. We find that a slow mo video is the best way to capture the moment!
THE (Alpine) LAKES – BY MATT KLARA
In the past few days, several of us here at Big Sky Anglers took my suggestion from last week’s report and hiked to alpines lakes. A couple of us spent time at a mid/high elevation (between 7500 and 8500ft), fairly shallow and fertile lake, and others tramped high into the alpine (over 8500 ft) to a deep, clear, and relatively infertile lake. Comparing notes from our respective adventures highlighted a couple of very important tips when fishing alpine/backcountry waters.
On the lower elevation, shallower, and more fertile lake, aquatic insect imitations were the key to success. In particular, we found success using both adult and nymph imitations of the prevalent damselflies we observed when we got to the lake.
In the high alpine, with the exception of a few spent caddis and midges concentrated along a short section of bank by the wind, there was no aquatic insect activity. A few fish fell for buggers fished off the drops, but the best play of the day came when a stiff breeze deposited a smorgasbord of terrestrial insects on the surface. Ants, beetles, and hoppers all caught fish.
So, next time you hike into the backcountry, consider making your first fly selection based on whether the lake is shallower and fertile, or deep and less fertile. Likewise, don’t be too quick to curse the wind, especially in the high alpine, as it may be the delivery mechanism for a primary summer food source for the fish – terrestrial insects.
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.