Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report, 9/3/2020

by | Sep 2, 2020 | 0 comments

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

Brrr…it got cold this past week! Our first snow of the season was recorded on Sunday August 31st, we saw rain most of the day on the level, but up in the high country snow stuck to the sides of the mountains. There are rumors of snow ball fights at the base of Big Sky Ski Resort; ski season is only 90 days away. Monday brought back sunny skies, cooler daytime temps and white topped mountains in the Madison Range. Have no fear, the hoppers are still alive and kicking! Ants also made an emergence this past week as they often do in late August and early September, more on that later. By the time you’re reading this, Summer will have shown back up as high 80’s are forecasted by the end of the week and Labor Day Weekend looks to be promising for sunshine and dry fly fishing. Soak it up folks! 
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(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

Yellowstone National Park – by Steve Hoovler

After a stiff shot of autumnal weather last week here in Big Sky Country conditions have settled back into a late summer groove. High temps in the 80’s will reignite terrestrial fishing across Yellowstone Park making for fun fishing through the Labor Day holiday weekend. 

Northeast Corner – Slough Cr, Lamar River, Soda Butte Cr

Mornings are cold up in this corner of the park, so there’s no rush to be on the water before late morning. Hoppers and ants should be at the top of the batting order, but keep a keen eye out for Drake, Heptagenia and Baetis mayflies. 

Gallatin River – in YNP

Hopper fishing will be good in this stretch of the Gallatin on warm afternoons. Be prepared to cover a lot of water with your best possible drifts. These fish see far more than their fair share of flies by this point in the season, and are in no mood for a hopper that appears to have an evinrude behind it. Sporadic Baetis mayflies will also be present during the afternoons. It’s a great time to watch carefully for sporadic bank feeders in super-sneaky spots. 

Yellowstone River

As we inch closer to fall, and the inevitable end of the season, fewer and fewer fish remain in the Caldera section of the Yellowstone River below Yellowstone Lake. Naturally, these fish return to the Lake each year to overwinter and prepare for another spring spawning run into the river, and subsequent summer of snacking on hatches. Summer hatches are also waning these days, making this a tougher and tougher fishery from here on out. Some excellent fish still remain in the river, and that will be the case until the season ends, but they will require some extra effort and hunting to find. When you do find a good target you can expect to get their attention with hoppers, ants, and fall hatches of Beatis and Margarita Dun mayflies. As always, sight fishing is paramount here. Fish are spread far and wide making blind fishing a fool’s errand most days. 

Madison River – in YNP

We’re getting closer, week by week and day by day. Water temps are on the fall, and fish are slowly starting to sniff their way upstream. Afternoon water temps are still too warm, especially with hot weather like we have forecasted through the upcoming weekend, but it’s always worth a stop in the mornings and evenings for a quick session to see what’s up. 

Hebgen Lake – by Jonathan Heames

This may be the last dependable week of gulper fishing that we have for 2020, so if it’s on your list of things to go and experience, by all means do so!  Daytime highs in the high 70s and low 80s will keep things moving if the wind stays down until 1pm or so.  Callibaetis will progressively hatch later and later as the next two weeks move on and eventually the trout will begin to focus on other sources of food.  
If you’re out there and the trout aren’t moving too much, showing themselves only once in a great while, don’t be afraid to strip some nymphs or even better yet, a small black or olive leech!  I like to strip on a floating line as many of the trout are still cruising around shallow water, in depths of less than 6 feet.  The floating line also helps me detect a strike before I feel it, I am always watching the end of my line during the retrieve for any clue that something might have my fly in its mouth.  Be prepared for light grabs but also large, aggressive eats from cruising brown trout.  It’s worth taking the time to step your tippet up to 2X when playing this game.  This is a great time of year to have a couple of rods ready, a gulper rig and a leeching rig. 

Madison River – by Joe Moore

The Madison has dropped again this past week and is sitting at 880 cfs out of Hebgen. Hebgen Lake still has plenty of water in it, so hopefully we’ll see a slight increase. I personally like the river sitting around 1100 CFS this time of the year; the banks are sexier and longer floats are easier to manage. Hoppers are still on the menu and the bite is strong when the sun is out. On the cloudy days, we have been dead drifting streamers, rubber legs, various dips, red SJWs and smaller mayfly nymphs. There are a few caddis around as well, and if you can float a #16 Caddis dryfly and get it in all the right spots, you will raise a few fish, that’s for sure. ANTS have arrived…and not just any old ants, but the giant honey ants that we as fisherfolk and the trout both enjoy. August has been pretty dry right up until late last week. The honey ants always emerge from the ground in late August and early September after a rain shower. They take to the air for their mating flights and thus end up on the water. A drive home last Friday evening through the Madison found big swarms of these tasty morsels in the air throughout the valley. Nothing brings big trout to the surface like a swarm of honey ants. Be on the watch for them to come out again! 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 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. 

Henry’s Fork of the Snake – by Jonathan Heames

This first week of September really marks the beginning of a shift in our mindset that takes us from the warm summer days of August to thinking about the transition into the early days of fall.  Cold nights, with temperatures often below freezing, followed by sunny days that swing into the high 70s and low 80s for an hour or so in the heat of the day mark the transition of the seasons.  One of our favorite rivers this time of year is the Henry’s Fork and it begins to liven up as we approach fall.  
In the upper river, the Box Canyon will continue to fish well, small nymphs, dead drifted or stripped streamers, caddis pupa, and the occasional rubberlegs will usually do the trick.  It will be weedy in sections, but the trout are generally happy for a solid period most days.  Think of baetis, midges and fall caddis when selecting your nymphs.
The Railroad Ranch will begin to see its first mahogany duns this coming week, these will overlap with small pmds and pseudos on sunny days, with baetis on cloudy ones.  From now on, we will start to see more and more trout rising, many of them small.  A careful study of riseforms will reveal larger trout sipping amongst the groups of small ones.  Dealing with lots of drifting weeds is something we simply live with this time of year, develop a routine for dealing with them and don’t forget to keep your rod doubled over on trout to maintain maximum pressure on them during the fight.  These drifting weeds will catch your line and back out your hook if you don’t keep things taut.  You’ll find technical fishing with small flies to large trout when the weather is fair and calm.  When the wind picks up in the afternoon, it’s not a bad time to try out your favorite hopper or beetle pattern over the area you saw a fish blow up a while back.  Some of the best fishing of the year on the Ranch is to come in the next weeks.
The canyons below the Ranch above and below Mesa Falls will continue to fish well.  This is dry/dropper country and streamers are now coming back into play. Remember that there are brown trout in the sections below Mesa Falls and they are now coming back into action.  
The river below Ashton Reservoir is awakening, every day is a different one at this point, but nighttime temperatures are low enough to bring water temps back to where we want them to pursue these lower river trout.  Streamer fishing, dry/dropper rigs, terrestrials, baetis and mahoganies can all be on the menu right now, play the day and play the conditions!  The river is significantly more weed-filled than it is back in June, but the trout are coming back out to play.
We have some great weeks coming in the next month on the Fork, this is the first with many good ones to follow! 
For anyone interested in a guide trip on the hallowed waters of the Henry’s Fork, or any of our iconic Big Sky Country Waters, this fall, we still have a few spots available on prime dates during the end of September. Give us a shout at the shop to discuss options and plan your next trip. 

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