Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 9/22/2022

by | Sep 23, 2022

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

While we did not end up with snow in the high country last week, there is snow in the forecast for today! Last week’s rainy weather brought out the brown trout as well as the streamer fisherfolk, dry fly enthusiasts and the trout Spey swingers. Town is still pretty busy for this time of the year, but honestly, things have mellowed out quite a bit and the rivers are a fantastic place to find some solace and reflect on all things fishing. Autumn is in the air and this one in particular feels pretty darn fishy. There seems to be a solid number of fish running up the Madison this year, big browns and rainbows have been pretty bitey thus far. For those wanting to fish dry flies, BWO, Drake Mackerels and Mahogany mayflies have been hatching in their respective locations. The foliage in the basin is not far from exploding in every shade of green, yellow, orange and red.

We are now well 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, as things are changing daily around here. The forecast for today is cloudy, rainy, possibly windy with rain and even snow here at 6667ft. There is a slight warm up for next week with highs in the low 70s and sunshine, so don’t forget the sunscreen either. The mornings will be chilly, you can bet on that.

Henry’s Fork River by Jonathan Heames

Island Park Dam: 385 cfs

Ashton Dam: 1020 cfs

St. Anthony: 974 cfs

Fall River: 355 cfs

The Henry’s Fork has had a good week of trout fishing, with some weather days in the mix, fall fishing has shown its face and is here to stay. The cogs of the wheels that drive the autumnal cycles of the river are now pushed into gear, there are still some summery moments out there, enjoy them when you can, but be prepared for the opportunities that foul weather can bring. Flows have come down quite a bit these past couple of days, but should held relatively constant out of Island Park for the week to come.

Box Canyon: The biggest news here is that the flows have reduced drastically, the Box is now a bumpy endeavor, be prepared to leave a little fiberglass on the rocks on a run through, but be prepared for good trout fishing as well. Low flows in the box make for water that is more easily read and allow for the use of lighter nymphing and dry/dropper rigs. For nymphs, smaller is generally the rule, size 16-20 is a good place to start. Be sure to have along a variety of your favorite perdigons like the Olive Hot Spot, Bullet Quill, Duracells, and Frenchies. Zebra midges in black, red and brown are a mainstay, #14-20. Unweighted PT nymphs are a great dropper. Streamer fishing can still be a great option, so bring along some favorites.

Railroad Ranch: The Ranch has had a good week of fishing and it looks like some great opportunity ahead lies in the forecast. Stay adaptable and stay alert, it is a changing environment out there that feels like fall at times and summer at others. It pays to be ready for hatches of baetis and mahoganies, but don’t forget to keep some ants, beetles, and hoppers on hand. Small spinners are still a staple, the fish are still not eating them all that much, but there are moments. Mahogany hatches seem to start the bite, then anything else on the water keeps it alive. It’s good to have a couple of profiles of mahogany adults in your box, so you have something to change to after a refusal or a miss. My box currently has mahoganies #14-16, baetis #16-20, tricos #18-20 and pseudo spinners #20, a handful of hopper patterns #6-10, beetles, and flying ants from #14-20. Hatches are sparse, so observe the targets you find and get yourself into position as quickly and smoothly as possible, slowly to minimize your wake.

Canyon Country: Some good adventure still awaits down here, but anglers should keep an eye on the forecast, the Henry’s Fork Canyons are less than ideal places to be when the weather turns foul unexpectedly. Still, there is some great streamer and dry/dropper fishing to be found down here for those solitude seekers.

Warm River to Ashton: Still putting smiles on anglers faces down there, good indicator nymphing, dry/dropper and streamer fishing. There is something for everyone down here and it’s a nice place to float on a fall day. Crowds are down a bit and the trout are hungry!

Below Ashton Reservoir: Some good fishing to be found down here, generally better with some cloud cover, but sunny days have their advantages as well. We’re usually fishing wet in the morning (nymphs or streamers) and looking for dry fly fishing in the afternoon. Lightweight streamers on floating lines are worth considering, but sink tips can help in some water, be prepared to adapt to the weather and conditions!

Have fun out there!

Madison River by Dinah DiMeolo

It’s really starting to feel like fall here in West Yellowstone this week, and all forms of life in and around the Madison are starting to feel it too. Hoppers are slowly diminishing after a number of freezing evenings, Baetis are beginning to emerge abundantly, and migratory fish are just starting to make their way out of surrounding lakes and into the river. Flows have been on a slight decline this past week, most recently discharging at 799 CFS at Kirby and 983 CFS at Varney. Water temps have been staying steady around the 60–64-degree mark and will likely continue to drop as more frigid nights cool off the water.

This time of year, it’s especially important to be checking the weather prior to making fishing plans. Maybe take an extra hour in the morning to sleep in and have that 2nd cup of coffee to prepare for a late morning hatch, or be out the door while the sun is rising to get out to swing streamers. Warmer, sunnier days would have me planning to be out on the water relatively early to be using up some of my last remaining hoppers & ants. Jojo’s Ant, Rootbeer Chubbies, and Lightning Legs Hoppers (#12-16) are some tried & true terrestrial patterns. Be sure to try some BWO emmerger patterns as the day carries on, maybe dropping a Juju Baetis, Little Green Machine or other BWO beadhead imitation behind your lead fly. The cooler mornings are not to be mistaken as bad fishing conditions though, as they can often present prime opportunities to throw a streamer. An Olive Peanut Envy, Sculpzilla, Swing Mint or Mini Dungeon is sure to get the job done. If poor luck persists, try swinging some soft hackles at any point in the day to gain the attention of fish. Thursday and Friday are looking to be the scuzziest days in this week’s forecast, so do with that information what you will.

Continue to be persistent on the hunt for fish as the weather draws drearier and the season continues on. These current conditions may not make for the best “numbers game”, but you may get lucky and hook into some of the prettiest (and potentially largest) fish you’ll ever lay eyes on!

Yellowstone National Park by Patrick Johnson

Luckily for us, the cool overnight temps are here to stay. Now, If we could only get some of these clouds and scuzzier weather systems to hang around for a while we’d be in hog heaven. While the park is almost fully in fall fishing mode temperature-wise, the midday sun has been confounding for anglers and fish alike — it often has us feeling stuck in this weird limbo between seasons and angling tactics. On these coming bright and sunny days, you may be able to con a few fish into eating a hopper on the surface — though there are still a few surviving naturals clacking about, chances are a heavy bead-head nymph hung below your dry or the classic double nymph indicator rig will remain your best bet. When the sun is high and directly overhead, I wouldn’t count on a good streamer bite either — if you’re really hankering to feel that strip-set, however, remember the age-old adage: bright day = bright streamer, dark day = dark streamer (I would opt for yellow or white in the coming days).

On the Firehole above the falls, light / delicate rigs are remain 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 Thinmint or any smaller sized bugger on a floating line can initiate some savage strikes from those geyser-dwelling trout. While I wouldn’t yet count on any amazing Baetis (Blue Wing Olive) hatches while the sun’s out full blast, I’d keep a handful of #18 Sparkle Duns or Quigley’s Sparkle Flag BWO patterns tucked away in your boxes in case the weather does decide to sour.

The Madison and Lower Gibbon rivers continue to fish well with more and more reports of lake-run browns filtering into the shop over the last few days. With things heating up and getting pretty bright by midday, I’d still suggest getting out on the water as early as possible if you’re targeting those wary spawners: being lake-dwellers, they often feel exposed in the sun and will retreat to the safety offered by deep, dark holes. Targeting these fish usually means two things: getting down deep enough, and covering water. 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.

The Park’s other waters – our main stomping grounds in the summer – remain fishable as well. The Gardiner, Yellowstone River, and Slough Creek are 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 (hopefully) 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