Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 9/15/2022

by | Sep 16, 2022

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

Fall has arrived fashionably late this season, rolling into town over the past couple of days with cold morning temps, cloudy overcast days, a little bit of rain on the level and snow in the high country. This first shot of scuzzy weather is highly anticipated around our part of the world and marks the shift into Fall. These next seven to ten days will likely bring on some serious moisture here locally, so be prepared with warm layers, hand warmers and your waterproof jackets and waders. Now is not the time to have leaky waders, now is the time to be warm and dry with tackle that works so you can capitalize on this weather window. Need a Stanley thermos or Hydro flask for that morning commute to the Barns Pools? No problem, we got you covered. The shop has a pile of stocking hats, beanies, gloves, warm socks, rain gear just incase you forgot it at home!

We are now a full two weeks into September, are you coming out to fish? 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. 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 
Make darn sure you’re watching the forecast right now, gone are the sunny and hot days of the last several weeks. The forecast is for cloudy, rainy, possibly windy days with rain and even snow gracing us here at 6667ft. Bring the layers, that stocking hat and a positive attitude and this is the weather we fisherfolk have been waiting for.

Henry’s Fork River by Jonathan Heames

Island Park Dam: 559 cfs

Ashton Dam: 1670 cfs

St. Anthony: 1040 cfs

Fall River: 393 cfs

We always look forward to the second half of September on the Henry’s Fork, it likes this time of year as we transition into fall and good fishing opportunities can be found throughout the system once again for those who take the weather and conditions into consideration. Flows are decreasing gradually, conditions are generally stable, and clarity good. Cool overnight temperatures are keeping water temps in a good range for fishing conditions, and weather forecasts are showing plenty of the weather we like for Fall on the Fork in the coming week. Weeds are a staple this time of year and can be a nuisance in some of the sections, learn to deal with them early in the day so they don’t cause you frustration when they get worse in the afternoon!

Box Canyon: As flows continue to decrease, we will see trout become more and more concentrated into the better holding runs. Smaller flies and lighter tippets will help entice trout as more anglers focus on these zones of concentration. Indicator nymphing rigs will still dominate, but anglers can start to lose the split shot and use flies that are appropriately weighted for the water they’re fishing. Perdigons are excellent for this as they come in a variety of weights and sizes, and are designed to sink to the right depth for any given rig. Now is a good time to try and unweighted dropper fly like a small PT off the back or off the leader on a tag. We still like Zebra Midges in red and brown #16-18, PTs #14-18, and Perdigons: Jake’s Soft Hackle, Bullet Quills, Spanish Bullets, and Olive Hot Spots in #14-18, Rubberlegs #8-12. Streamer fishing remains a good option, be sure to have some BFEs in black and olive, as well as Bouface Leeches in the same colors, Copper Zonkers, and a white Sculpzilla.

Railroad Ranch: The Ranch has had quality angling on more days than not lately. True to its reputation and personality, it is offering anglers of all skill levels a daily lesson in humility but dishing out enough rewards to keep any discerning angler smiling and eager to return. Daily morning spinner falls are bringing some trout to the surface but anglers should be prepared to cover some ground to find quality targets. Late mornings and afternoons are sprinkled with mahoganies, trout keying in on both the duns and emergers. There are still some hoppers around as well as flying ants from time to time to sweeten the pot. Late afternoon spinner falls are productive if the wind isn’t too pushy. Be mindful of your wake when wading as lower flows make for slower water and your footprint goes further out there. A long, slow approach is key in many areas, your final steps should be taken with care and in tune with the frequency of the target you have in mind. Weed banks and wind chop can help to hide your approach, so strategize before you make your move.

Canyon Country: Great fishing can still be found in the remote canyons sections of the Fork, but anglers should keep an eye on the weather, this is no place to be stuck on a cold, wet day. Dry/dropper rigs will still produce throughout the day, but streamers make for some variety and a shot at a larger trout.

Warm River to Ashton: This is a great time of year to enjoy this beautiful stretch of water, good action can be found with nymphing rigs and some quality trout are usually in the mix. This is a great time of year for streamer anglers to get creative and try different line/fly combinations. We like a floating line with a heavy fly most days, but there are plenty of places to experiment with sink tips, and plenty of trout in the system capable of putting a big bend in the rod.

Below Ashton Dam: Things are beginning to get interesting again down here, not quite the explosive fishing that we find in the early season, but some quality trout can be found in the lower reaches. Once again, the Henry’s Fork has opportunity throughout its length, this can be a great time of year to explore some of the lower sections that have been relatively inactive these past months. Generally, we expect to fish subsurface in the mornings with streamers, dry/droppers, or nymphing rigs and are looking for noses in the late morning/afternoon.

Have fun out there!

Madison River by Dinah DiMeolo

Rise and shine- it’s streamer time. This week’s cool temps paired with the incoming rain later this weekend are prepping the Madison to be in prime streamer fishing condition. Water temperatures are on a slow and steady decline since last week, with average daily temps in the low 60s and dipping into the 50s at night. Flows this week are running 1040 CFS at Varney and 875 CFS at Kirby, just slightly lower than last week. With flows dropping and storms forecasted the next few days, this rain could bump the Madison a little bit and move some fish around, especially in the Madison above Hebgen Lake.

Some solid choices to start off with would be an olive or black Bouface, Sculpzilla, Sparkle Minnow, or the simple yet steadfast Best Fly Ever (BFE). Any of these flies will help you cover ground and find fish, where you can then either change flies or commit to the streamer game. Whether you’re dead drifting, swinging, or stripping, be sure to keep an eye on the tip of your rod and properly manage your line. It’s important to be aware of how high or low your rod tip is, ensuring that your fly is sinking where you want it to, and not swinging up to the surface too early once the current grabs tension. When it all comes together and you feel that antagonizing tug on the swing or strip, you might be stuck chasing that feeling for the rest of the fall.

If you’re not too interested in fishing streamers, we expect to see Blue Wing Olives starting to hatch out on the Madison. Juju Baetis, Flashback Pheasant Tails or Olive Bullet Quills (#16-18) are all great Baetis imitations you can rely on nymphing to subsurface eaters. Either cover water with a deeper nymph rig to search for fish, or try your hand at sight nymphing. Same as mentioned earlier, mornings might be your time to shine as these cooler days keep coming and going. Pay attention to the overnight temps as well, if it’s super cold in the morning, the bite might start a little later in the day and push off the BWO hatch. Watch for fish to rise in the slicks anytime from 11am until 3pm; then promptly switch to your trusty BWO pattern of choice (we like the Purple Haze and Jojo’s BWO). For nymphs, I would be rigging a Baetis pattern below a heavier tungsten bead head like a Jig Duracell, Prince of UV Black, or Spanish Bullet Quill (#14- #16). Bundle up, pack a rain jacket, and keep getting after these fall fish.

Yellowstone National Park by Patrick Johnson

As of right now, I haven’t yet seen the sun today; this morning I needed not only my flannel, but also my insulated jacket; without even realizing it – almost on instinct – I had consumed two full mugs of coffee compared to my usual single. Like a bull elk shaking the rust off with those first few bugles, or a quaking aspen showing just the slightest hint of yellow in the leaves, these changes can only mean one thing: the beginning of fall fishing is here.

While we may have some brief warm/sunny spots here and there, it’s safe to say that most of us will be putting our terrestrial boxes in deep-storage here pretty soon. Our 10 day forecast currently shows at least a week of temps in the mid-50s/low-60s with healthy doses of precipitation every day, and I’m happy to say this should mean that the rivers closest to us (the Madison, Gibbon, and Firehole) will be back on the table for fishing all day long with some chances at catching larger, migratory browns and rainbows alongside the usual residents — though I’d still advise getting on the river early to experience the best fishing.

On the Firehole above the falls, light / delicate rigs are the name of the game. Swinging small (#16 and #18), weighted soft-hackles on 4.5 or 5x tippet are often our best bet and the most fun for catching those fish hiding along the banks and weed-beds. I’ve had the most luck swinging a purple haze soft-hackle nymph (#18 or #20) underneath Driskill’s Black Crystal Dip (#16) or the Tungsten Junior Mint (a deadly new arrival here at the shop). For the streamer-savy angler, stripping a size 8 or 10 Thin Mint or any smaller sized bugger on a floating line can initiate some savage strikes from those geyser-dwelling trout. In the coming scuzzy weather days, I’d also keep an eye out for some daytime Baetis (Blue Wing Olive) hatches — killer days can be had fishing a single dry on the Firehole this time of year should the clouds stay overhead!

Just downstream on both the Firehole and Gibbon rivers (below their falls) and along the Madison, we’ve begun to hear of more and more anglers picking up a few elusive fall-run browns as they begin their annual spawning run from Hebgen. Targeting these fish usually means two things: getting down deep, and covering water. For all you anglers out there who enjoy the exhilarating game of indicator fishing, I’d advise you to think heavy. Here, matching the hatch is less important than getting down fast and dangling something flashy in front of their faces. We’ve been having luck with heavy flies on top like the Tungsten Rubberlegs Stonefly nymph or the Tungsten Chest Candy with a smaller tungsten soft-hackle like the Duracell Jig in Rainbow or UV Tan down below. If streamer fishing is your thing, I’d recommend fishing a sinking line to get down fast and hitting those deep banks and walking-paced runs with depth . With both nymphing and streamer fishing, covering water is key — keep your feet moving and remain hyper focused on those juicy pockets of holding water. Remember that those migratory fish are both few and far between and on the move. Don’t overlook those shallow runs, they do hold fish on the overcast days. Fish a long floating line and a soft hackle, stop by the shop as we have a large collection of flies to swing.

The parks other waters – our main stomping grounds in the summer – remain fishable as well. The Gardiner, Yellowstone River, and Slough Creek remain solid options for the angler willing to drive or hike further afield. Stop in to the shop or give us a call if you plan on fishing in the park and we can set you straight with the latest conditions as our weather worsens!

Stay up to date on YNP roads below


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