Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report, 9/17/2020

by | Sep 17, 2020 | 0 comments

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

That cold weather last week made for some difficult fishing around our neck of the woods to some extent. The Madison in MT took a solid shot in the arm, but the Henry’s Fork, Firehole and Madison in YNP woke up a little bit. Those 17 degree morning temps definitely made fish begin to change their feeding patterns, that’s for sure. The smoke has made it’s way back to southwest Montana again; things are dry as dirt around these parts so please do your part and put those campfires out! As much as we all enjoy watching fames dart around while sipping on a cold beverage, it would be best to not even dare light a campfire during the next few weeks. Our hearts go out to all the folks on the West Coast dealing with an epic fire season; they need rain in a big way. 
The fly shop is OPEN from 7am to 8:30pm, 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(watch out for rain storms) and the West side has now cooled off; it’s time to fish the Firehole and the Madison. 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 still 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

Henry’s Fork – by Jonathan Heames

Though Fall on the Fork is one of the more desirable times to be there, at the moment, the Henry’s Fork is experiencing a few issues that anglers will want to pay attention to.  Currently, the river at the top of the Box Canyon is experiencing a turbidity issue that has to do with a recent and quick turn over of the Island Park Reservoir combined with shoreline erosion from the last blast of north wind last week.  The river is coming out of the dam fairly dirty at the moment, and is a shocking sight if one is not prepared.  The good news is that it is clearing slowly and the turbidity is caused by vegetative matter, not dirt, so the material settles out over distance, leaving a number of good fishing options still available.  Flows are dropping quickly out of Island Park Reservoir, the river is a changing environment, so stay tuned.  
The Box Canyon has not been fishing like its usual self this week, but hope is on the horizon, it doesn’t take much visibility for things to turn around in there, especially when the flows are low.  Be ready with rubberlegs, leeches, streamers, and the usual suspects like zebra midges, mayfly nymphs, and caddis pupa patterns.
The Railroad Ranch has also been affected by the dirty water, but is still providing some opportunity for anglers that are looking for it.  Baetis, pseudos, caddis, and mahogany duns should be your focus, but be prepared for the odd callibaetis, pmd, flying ant and hoppertunity.  When times are tough, find the springs and focus your efforts on the consistent and stable conditions found there.
The canyon country below Riverside campground is fishing well and turbidity isn’t much of an issue from this point downstream.  Great dry/dropper fishing can be found down here on most days and for those willing to throw a streamer around, this is a great time of year.  BFE’s and copper zonkers are at the top of our list.
The river below Ashton Reservoir has been fishing fairly well, again the turbidity isn’t too concerning down here.  The weeds haven’t been bad lately, but as the river drops be prepared for a change in this situation.  We’ve been having some pretty decent hopper/dropper fishing down there and some fun streamer moments.  Weather conditions have been variable and anglers need to be ready to change with them, the onset of scuzzy weather will really liven things up down there.

Yellowstone National Park – by Steve Hoovler

Firehole River

Water temps on the Firehole are looking good especially in the upper reaches, and during the morning and early afternoon hours. The best fishing on bright days has come from swinging soft hackles during the cool mornings and prospecting with hoppers once things warm a bit, usually by midday. 
A shot of cooler, wetter weather is heading our way for the weekend which bodes well for fall hatches of Baetis mayflies on the Firehole. Saturday looks like the best bet to see a concentrated emergence. Daytime high temps are forecasted to be in the low 50’s. So, expect to see some bugs hatching by 1:00 or 2:00pm. 
Keep in mind the Firehole is an exceptional place to get your ass handed to you by 10-12” fish in the fall. Be sure to bring your A-game, complete with a stealthy approach, long fine leaders (12’ 6X), well executed dry fly presentations, and a full lineup of techy dry flies and emergers. 
Swing by the shop for our best recommendations on any and all of the above. 

Madison River – in YNP

Fish by fish, day by day, the Madison in the park is looking more and more like a world class spawning tributary as browns and rainbows from Hebgen Lake begin to sniff their way upstream in preparation for the upcoming spawning season. Each day will have more fish in the river than the last, and this weekend’s scuzzy weather will provide the perfect conditions to head in and see for yourself just how the early run of fish is doing. Don’t expect to see a ton of fish just yet, but the ones that are in there should be active. 

Gallatin River – in YNP

We’ve seen some downright cold mornings around Big Sky Country in the last week, and the upper Gallatin is routinely the coldest spot in the area. However, fish have been active once temps warm a bit, and afternoon hopper fishing has been a blast here. When fish aren’t on the hoppers, there’s been a consistent nymph bite with small Baetis and Caddis imitations. Look for good hatches of baetis mayflies here as well on any scuzzy afternoons. 

Gardner River

The Madison in the Park is far from the only spawning tributary in the area that gets a run of brown trout. The Gardner river sees a few nice browns every year that move up from the Yellowstone to spawn later in the fall, and this is a fun time to chase one of those early runners with hoppers on warm, sunny afternoons. If you happen to hit it on a scuzzy day, then you’d be better served to dig out the streamer box and throw some meat. 

Madison River – by Joe Moore

The Madison is sitting at 890 cfs out of Hebgen; flat lined is always a good place to be. Hoppers are still on the menu after 2pm, but we are getting closer to the end of their reign. This weekend looks to be on the cloudy side of things, have those BWO’s ready to go. On the cloudy days, we have been dead drifting streamers, rubber legs, various dips, red SJWs and smaller mayfly nymphs. There are still decent caddis around as well, and if you can float a #16 Caddis dry fly and get it in all the right spots, you will raise a few fish, that’s for sure. Those caddis patterns are better left to the nymphing game; #14 and #16 shop vac and guide dips are our go to flies. Ants are still a solid player right now as well. Streamer fishing is a great option on the chilly mornings, but the fish seem a little shy and unwilling to grab them on a regular basis. That will change here soon enough. 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 enough 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. 
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. We find the nymphing in the wade stretch to be pretty good right now with caddis and midge patterns. As for rising fish, the morning bite is not that great, but those fish are still looking for ants and sometimes hoppers in the afternoon. For those willing to risk it all and wade out into the big river, you will find fish willing to rise in the afternoons out amongst the big boulders and slicks. Be careful out there! 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. 

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



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