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BIG SKY ANGLERS WEEKLY FISHING REPORT – 9/23/2021

by | Sep 23, 2021 | 0 comments

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Late last Saturday night and into Sunday morning a shift in the weather was underway. We woke to overcast skies and light rain, the scuzzy weather we have all been waiting for showed up. Monday morning gave way to 26 degree temps, clear skies and snow covered mountains. With that came puffy jackets, gore-tex gear, BWO dry flies, big soft hackles, freshly packed streamer boxes and hope. Hope, is a word that anglers know all too well! The forecast for the weekend is sunny skies, late summer will reappear so don’t put away those hoppers and ants just yet!

West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days is happening Friday and Saturday…gonna be a good time folks, the weather is perfecto and the presenter lineup is top notch!

If you’re coming through the area and would a like tour of the Golden Stone Inn, please stop by the shop and let us know. We are more than happy to give you a tour!

Big Sky Anglers is OPEN from 7am to 8pm seven days a week. Remember, the freshest fishing report is found at the counter of our fly shop. Our shop staff and guides are out daily all across the Greater Yellowstone Area. The 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:  120 cfs

Ashton Dam:  672 cfs

St. Anthony:  698 cfs

With the recent cold snap and overall change in the temperature and weather, Fall on the Henry’s Fork is officially underway.  The river is fishing well from top to bottom with a little something available for anglers of all skill levels.  Flows are low, having significantly dropped in the past week, but the fishing quite good overall.  Low flows now are intended to conserve water that will be critical to winter flows for the coming year.  Apart from making a few boating trips a bit more bumpy, these flows are not adversely affecting fishing.

The Box Canyon being one of the bumpiest rides of them all at this moment in time is fishing very well and can be worth the few ounces of fiberglass you might leave behind.  At these flows, it’s worth considering wading the Box Canyon, a good option on most any day.  Nymph rigs are the usual game, but at these flows, dry/droppers are a good bet and streamers worth a try.  Our favorites are a tactical PT nymph #18, red and brown Zebra midges #16-18, a variety of perdigon nymphs #16-18, black rubberlegs #8, Copper Zonkers and BFEs.

The Railroad Ranch has been fishing very well these past weeks and continues to do so.  With the lower flows, there are more exposed weed beds and many more swirling current lines than in the summer.  Long tippets and upstream presentations can help.  Mahoganies #16, Baetis #18-20, and Pseudos #20-22 are all around in good number.  There are a few callibaetis spinners around still as well as some hoppers.  Day to day, small spinners #20-22 seem to be doing the trick, but come prepared!

The canyon country below the Ranch is very fishable at these low flows, the holding water that is typically impossible to reach with flies is now readable and accessible.  This is a fun time of year to spend in the canyons, the scenery is magnificent and the fishing both active and fun.  Dry/dropper rigs and streamers are the usual program in here.

The river below its confluence with the Warm River has been turning out great reports of good flyfishing fun.  Some very quality trout are being seen here and there, and the overall good action has been keeping anglers of all skill levels engaged all day long.  Nymph rigs, dry/droppers, and streamers will all produce here.  Black rubberlegs #6-8, Pts #16-18, perdigons #14-18, red and black Zebra Midges #16-18 are great nymph choices here.  For streamers, try a Thin Mint, Olive, White or Black BSA Bouface, BFEs, and Copper Zonkers.

The Henry’s Fork below Ashton Reservoir is springing back to life a bit in its usual fall shade.  Decent dry fly fishing during the mornings and early afternoons.  Later afternoons will benefit from having some cloud cover or rainy weather for action up top.  Otherwise, look to the nymph to round out the PMs.  

Good luck out there!

YELLOWSTONE PARK – BY STEVE HOOVLER

After our first official fall storm, complete with wind, snow, and cold temps, we have settled nicely into a period of stunning Indian Summer conditions. These are some of the most spectacular days of the season. So, be sure to take some time on the stream bank, or the tailgate to sit back, enjoy a cold one with some friends, and soak it up!

Clear, bright skies are ideal for the chamber of commerce brochure, and epic landscape shots on Instagram, but they are less than ideal for storied fall angling pursuits. There is still plenty of good fishing to be found on these stellar days, you just need to be more targeted in your approach, and be sure to bring your “A-game” to the water. 
Fall fishing in YNP revolves around streamer fishing, and fall hatches (mainly Baetis), both of which are better when weather conditions are super scuzzy. However, just because the forecast has you reaching for your SPF instead of your Gore-Tex, doesn’t mean you can’t find some good fall fishing. 

On bright days, streamer fishing, especially for migratory fish, will be more productive during periods of low light levels. That means early in the am, and late in the pm. These are the days to be on the water as early as you can. Brave the cold temps to capitalize on a few hours of fish activity, and then take some time to bask in the sun, and enjoy a late breakfast or early lunch. Alternatively, the last few hours of daylight will also see an increase in activity with fish becoming more comfortable as the sun gets low over the western horizon, and shadows grow long and dark across the water.  

If it’s especially warm, you might take advantage of the last of the terrestrial season with a few fish on flying ants, hoppers, or crickets. Otherwise, you could find sparse hatches of fall Baetis mayflies will still occur, and prompt fish to feed. Regardless of the dry fly you throw at fish this time of year, remember that these fish have been playing the game since June, and are in no mood for sloppy presentations, clumsy approaches, or the wrong pattern. Take your time, plan your approach, and step up to the plate with your best swing. 

Any plan to fish the park waters this week should also take into account the maddening fact that Yellowstone Cutthroat trout, the cherished backbone of angling in YNP, are a worthless quarry until water temperatures warm into the 50’s, at least. Waters that teem with fish willing to rise slowly, and inspect, then yawn on your dry fly to eat it one day will be virtually devoid of life on another if the water temps aren’t high enough for these persnickety, cold-blooded fish to feed. Keep this in mind when heading over to the Cutthroat Corner of the park, and be sure to plan the bulk of your fishing here to the warmest parts of the day. 

As always, the corner of 39 Madison Ave in West Yellowstone, MT is the best place for up-to-date info on conditions, flies, and tips before you venture into the Park. Be sure to stop by the shop, and give or get a report.

MADISON RIVER – BY JOE MOORE

The flows at Hebgen Dam pretty much stayed the same this past week and we are sitting at 815 CFS out of Hebgen Dam, 942 at Kirby and 983 CFS at Varney Bridge. In general, the cooler mornings will offer a slower start to the day for dry fly fishing but nymphing or streamer fishing is a great option out of the gates.

Wade Stretch: BWO’s have been seen everyday, but on the cloudy overcast days the hatches have been thick. Sadly, we are nearing the end of hopper season, but if the weather is warm and sunny(which is coming this weekend), don’t be afraid to plop one out there. Ants are still a thing, however, more so on the sunny days or as a lead fly. Jojo’s Royal Ant is the ant of choice (there are two other colors as well) but we also carry Arrick’s Flying Ant and Hoovie’s Ant in our boxes. Rhyacophila caddis are in the drift everyday and are of the utmost importance when nymphing. Check your boots for these little olive larva as they like to cling. Nymphing with a black rubber legs, #14-18 BH pheasant tails, golden stone nymphs, perdigons, prince nymphs, Cheeky fella(caddis larva), olive serendipities, zebras, shop vacs and crystal dips have been effective in the deeper runs or fish them shallow around the bars and drop off near the banks under a chubby. The Sparkle Minnow has been producing quite well down there, so hav KG’s mini streamers in all shapes and sizes.

Float Stretch: Nymphing from the boat, especially in the cooler morning hours or throughout the day, has been a great option this past week. As we like to say, it’s been pretty nymphy out there on the Madison. Fish are eating rubber legs, scuplins, zonkers, olive hare’s ears, cheeky fella, PT’s, Shop Vacs, guide dips and various Perdigons. As for the dry flies – Purple Chubbies, Lightning Legs Hopper, M’s hopper, a #12 Jojo’s Ant, #16 Jojo’s Chubinator are great choices. For the techy anglers, fishing small BWOs in the slicks will make fish come to the surface for sure. For those not wanting to stare at a bobber, then rolling the middle of the river, danglin’ a tungsten bead about 2-3 feet under the Hopper will produce. Let your drift roll and keep the fly on the river where it can get eaten. The streamer bite in the morning hours is always a good idea and if it stays cloudy, keep stripping. And if it doesn’t stay cloudy, keeping stripping until you’re blue it the face and willing to tie on nymphs or fish a small BWO in the slicks. We love olive and black streamers this time of the year and white is always a solid choice. Everyone has their favorites, that for sure. We like fishing a 150 grain line with various scuplin patterns like Ivan’s Dirty Dumpster and the Olive Peanut Envy. KG’s Mini Sex Dungeon in purple/black or the olive are solid choices as well. Pinch those barbs!

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. Pinch those barbs and learn how to keep tension on the line. 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 LAKES – BY MATT KLARA

While you may not have seen the memo regarding adding the cover sheet to all TPS reports, the fish have certainly gotten the memo that the seasons are changing and winter is coming sooner than later. Bows and Cuttys are looking to pack on some pounds ASAP and the Autumn spawning species like Browns, Brookies, and Lakers are gearing up, becoming a bit more agressive, and starting to migrate to their final destinations.

The bulk of the stillwater fishing has shifted back subsurface. Go early, stay late, and take advantage of longer periods of low light. Feeding windows are often short late in the fall, but when you hit them, they can be glorious. Hebgen and Henry’s are both great bets these days, just be aware of the changing weather, and afternoon winds. There are few experiences greater than sitting out a hail storm in your float tube. so choose your timing and access points accordingly.

As we get farther into the Autumn, insect hatches will decrease even further, and with that, the important food sources change. Look for fish to really start keying in on high protein food sources like leeches, scuds, and baitfish. These foods will be available more and more as weed beds die off and the trout slide back into the shallows to feed. Impressionistic patterns like Rickards’ Seal Buggers, Stillwater Nymphs, and Balanced Leeches in various colors are staples at this time of year.

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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