Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report 8/6/2020

by | Aug 5, 2020 | 0 comments

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Hello there from West Yellowstone – the Trout Capital of the World!
The Dog Days of Summer are here, that’s for sure. The Greeks coined this phrase way back when and it refers to the timeframe of late July to early September when dogs and men could be driven mad just from the extreme heat alone. While we may not be driven mad from that nowadays, the fishing might drive you mad depending on your luck as well as where and when you have been angling. Fishing early in the day is the best approach right now as the hot summer afternoon temps are bringing river temps above 65 degrees on some of the local rivers. Taking time to revive a fish caught in the afternoon hours of the day will pay dividends to your fishing karma, no doubt. Like we mentioned last week, taking a hike to the higher mountain streams of YNP, Montana and Idaho is never a bad idea. While you’ll find smaller fish in those streams or lakes, they tend to be a bit more eager to eat your offerings.

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 Joe Moore

Lamar River

The Lamar is back to gin clear and fishable, but it’s been getting a little on the warm side for river temps later in the day. We’ve seen some mid to high 60 degree temps here lately so its been best to fish the river early and call it day before the heat really sets in. If you do fish in the later afternoon and evening hours, take good care of those Yellowstone Cutts and spend some time reviving them before returning them to faster current. As for the bugs, terrestrials are the name of the game. When in doubt, feed em’ a beetle! Also be on the look out for spruce moths in the treed sections of the Lamar River. Many a day can be saved with the moth when they are out and about. The USGS chart online is always a helpful tool to follow flows on the Lamar. A quick call to the shop, or better yet a visit, for up to date info on water conditions is always a strong move too.

Yellowstone River – in YNP

Flows are good, hatches are in full swing, and the river has more Cutthroat Trout in it than we’ve seen in a long time. It’s prime time to be stalking these trophy fish with a dry fly. As always, this is a technical, sight-fishing game. Be prepared to hunt for your targets, and plan a stealthy approach. PMD’s, Green Drakes, Golden Stones, and caddis will have fish looking up, but these big, old fish have been around the caldera a time or two, and require a good presentation and perfect drift.

Yellowstone Lake

It’s time look for Callibaetis spinner falls on any calm, warm mornings. The shallow weed flats near Bridge Bay, Gull Point, and Sand Point all provide opportunities for the wade fisherman to cast dry flies to cruising Cutts.

Slough Creek

This past week, the section below the Campground down a mile or so was closed off due to bear activity on a bison carcass. By the time you read this newsletter, that bear has most likely moved on to eating berries or rolling logs on the look out for ants and grubs. As always, you will want to be prepared with Bear Spray anytime you fish Slough, especially in the backcountry meadows.

If you are up for the hike, the backcountry meadows of Slough Creek are entering their prime. It’s a good idea to bring along a water filter and not pack a day’s worth of water; the weight alone will break your back! Water conditions are perfect, and mid summer hatches have Slough’s resident Cutts looking to the surface. Expect to see PMD’s, Gray Drake’s, Golden Stones, and Caddis. Hoppers, ants and beetles are patterns not to forget when you need to “throw the box” at the picky risers. If you havent tried sight nymphing, this is a fantastic way to fool these fish all the while upping your game.

Biting flies are still around and at time they are Biblical. So, make sure you have your favorite bug dope on hand. If you don’t have a favorite, stop by the shop and pick up some of ours, Ultrathon. We have it in both the lotion and spray, and have found nothing better short of full strength deet to deter those sinister little bugs. Good enough for the US Armed Forces, good enough for us, this is the stuff that works.

Gallatin River – in YNP

Warm weather brings out the best in the park waters of the Gallatin. This is a great afternoon or evening option after an am session on the Madison. Not much has changed here bug wise since last week. PMD’s, caddis, yellow sallies, Green Drakes, Flavs, and the last of the Golden Stones are all on the menu. Spruce Moths have shown up in decent numbers, so be sure to have a few of those as well.

Gallatin River – outside YNP

Great fishing continues on downstream through Big Sky and the canyon waters. Afternoon action is slower here than up in the Park waters, but morning and evening sessions will produce good numbers of fish rising to Size #14-16 rusty spinners and caddis. Spruce Moths have shown up in decent numbers, so be sure to have a few of those as well.

Hebgen Lake – by Matt Klara

Gulper season is now in full swing on Hebgen Lake. Callibaetis and tricos have the fish looking up during calm or lightly wind ruffled conditions. In the timeless words of Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar. “GAME OOOOON!”

Not much change on the chironomid scene from last week – fish seem to be focusing in on smaller offerings, in sizes 16 and even 18. Likewise, if you are chasing gulpers, but the wind starts messing with you, don’t be afraid to drop sub surface and slowly retrieve a Callibaetis nymph.
Damselflys are a true sign of summer. They entertain us with their colors, skillful flight, and seemingly endless interest in the top 1/3 of our flyrods when we are retrieving a fly slowly. Take the hint. If nothing else is really happening, strip a damsel nymph!

Madison River – by Joe Moore

The flows below Hebgen Dam have been stable this week and she’s still sitting at 1170 cfs. Way downstream at Varney Bridge, the river is moving along at 1700 cfs. We are super thankful around here to see these flows this high as hot daytime temps in the valley are in the forecast for the next 10 days. Long floats and rolling dry flies in the middle of the river will be important. Watch out for those late afternoon thunderstorms and be mindful of the lighting!

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.

Terrestrials are becoming more important by the day. Have a solid stock of beetles, ants and hoppers in your box. Epeorus mayflies have made an appearance as well and nymphing an emerger is a sneaky little trick. Nocturnal Stone flies, fished early in the morning and late in the evening can offer some fantastic takes, just be ready and let the fish eat it. Fishing a cinnamon colored parachute, Jojo’s PMD, the Parashuck PMD, Riffle Riser Crip, X Caddis, Tom’s Caddis, Comparabuzz, rusty parachute, Missing Link and, Thunder Thighs Hopper, Lightning Legs Hopper and Jojo’s Ant are on the menu. Trout are definitely looking up for ants and hoppers so be prepared with those after in the afternoon hours. Fishing subsurface with rubber leg stone flies, biot stones, Prince nymphs, tungsten PT’s, olive Arizona Hare’s Ear, Hare & Copper, Dips and of course a smattering of different perdigon nymph patterns will produce if you need to go there. Take a few moments to observe the river and watch the natural world unfold. It will show you the way if you let it.

Henry’s Fork of the Snake – by Joe Moore

The Ranch has been fishing pretty darn well during the high water with mayfly spinners; a smattering of Callibaetis, Tricos, Rusty Spinners and Grey Drakes should do the trick if presented correctly the first go around. It’s a fantastic idea to take a sunrise walk along the Fork right now to optimize your time on the water. By mid-day, things are heating up quickly and those rainbows generally don’t like bright sun. Don’t forget those caddis, ants, beetles and hopper patterns as well now that we have entered terrestrial time. The honey ants have not shown up just yet, but any day now that could happen. When it does, being knee deep in the Henry’s Fork is the place to be. The banks are your go to spots but wading, carefully that is, out into the river is a solid option as well to find those mid river risers. The flows out of the IP Reservoir are running 1320 cfs, that is still high and one needs to be extra careful when stepping away from the banks.

The Box Canyon will continue to fish as it slowly returns to non-irrigating flows. That said, it’s still pretty high at 1320 cfs. Water clarity has improved and the trout are still biting. Towards the end of the float be on the look for Grey Drake spinners and sneaky rising fish upstream of the boat ramp. So, it’s time to get techy again with those nymph rigs. 4x or 4.5x Flouro, lengthen out that leader, use a 90 degree rigging and dig out the tungsten Zebra Midges, Bullet Quills, and Red Necks.

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