As August comes to a close, it’s a time of change here in Big Sky Country. After one of the wettest, most lush summers we have seen in years, the hillsides are finally shifting from green to gold. The days are getting shorter, the mornings frostier. And, the sun’s light is switching from the vibrant blue brilliance of summer to the golden glow of Autumn.
The persistent pattern of unsettled weather, which dominated much of the summer, seems to have finally broken down, giving way to some of the most radiant days of the season so far. Forecasts are calling for more of the same dry conditions through Labor Day weekend and into the first week of September. Daytime high temps should range from the upper 70’s to low 80’s and nighttime lows will be in the 30’s.
Terrestrial Time is still in full swing across Big Sky Country, and with consistent conditions in the forecast there’s bound to be more great days in the upcoming weeks.
We’re busy preparing for this year’s Trout Spey Days, which are only two weeks away. If you haven’t already, mark your calendar for Sept 13 &14. Once again, it sounds like there’s going to be a great turnout of folks coming to West Yellowstone this year to revel in all things Trout Spey. We can’t wait!
We’re also engrossed in plans for our upcoming season in Patagonia. We are thrilled to have a number of groups traveling with us and our partner operations this year, and we have some exciting adventures planned. It’s not too late if you’re still considering a trip for the 2019-2020 winter (November-April). Give us a shout if you’re interested in learning more.
Read on to see our take on this week’s fishing, and check out the links below to stay current on area forecasts and flows. Stay tuned as we report each week on hatches, flows, weather, and more. For the most up to date info stop by the shop, give us a call, or drop us a line.
It’s a quiet, lazy, beautiful time of year on the Ranch. With the exception of a few lingering PMD’s around the springs, the summer hatches have gone, and so too have the crowds. Tricos, hoppers, and flying ants are the main fare, and a patient, zen-like approach is requisite now more than ever. Fall hatches of Mahogany duns and Baetis are on the horizon, but for the meantime, relax and enjoy the pace of late summer on the Ranch.
Good water flows, and moderate temps have set the stage for fun hopper fishing on the lower river. This isn’t a ramp to ramp slugfest, but there is a chance to catch some beautiful brown trout on hoppers this time of year.
Warm River to Ashton is also a fun stretch right now. As the days get shorter, and nights cooler, brown trout here begin to activate, and there is a chance to find a few good ones with a hopper or streamer. In addition to the big brown game, this is always a solid bet for good numbers of fun-sized rainbows and white fish on nymphs.
The Box Canyon outflow is currently just below 1000 cfs, and nymphing remains solid as always here. Don’t forget to add a hopper to the line up in the Box too.
Yellowstone National Park
With a long stretch of consistent weather in our midst, we may see some of the best fishing conditions of the season in Yellowstone Park over the next couple of weeks. It’s been a roller coaster ride so far this year with the state of weather and water in YNP. Between a prolonged runoff and stormy summer, the fishing has been on start and go status all season. Those days finally seem to be behind us, though, and the fishing will likely settle into a good groove.
Be sure to keep in mind this fun fact about Yellowstone if you’re venturing out to fish in the pending weeks. Most of the legendary fisheries that we visit in the Park at this time of year are at high elevations. As the days get longer, morning temps will consistently drop into the 30’s. Cutthroat trout act like snakes when it’s too cold, lying dormant until water temps rise in the late morning and afternoon hours. There’s no hurry to get to your favorite piece of Cutthroat water if temps are still in the 30’s and 40’s. You might choose instead to check out your favorite greasy spoon for breakfast, or spend some time milling around your favorite fly shop, conveniently located at 39 Madison Ave in West Yellowstone, MT, mere blocks from the entrance to YNP. Another good option this time of year is to spend the cool morning hours hiking into the myriad of backcountry options in the Park, and focus your fishing time to the warm afternoon.
The Northeast Corner
Cutthroat Trout thrive on consistency. Stable weather and water produce happy trout on the Lamar, Slough, and the Yellowstone Canyon. Terrestrials like hoppers, crickets, and flying ants will continue to drive the fishing here until hard frosts set in sometime in September, but hatches and spinner falls of Epeorus, Baetis, and Heptagenia mayflies can bring good fish to the surface these days too. The first hatches of fall drakes, Timpanoga, are also imminent, adding another exciting bug to an already full lineup.
The Yellowstone River
As we enter into September we usually expect to see fewer and fewer fish in the caldera section of the Yellowstone River in YNP. This year, however, with great water flows and an abundance of hatches continuing through the summer, good numbers of fish remain in popular spots like Nez Perce Ford, and Cascade Creek. It’s a mixed bag of bugs these days on the Yellowstone with several different mayflies on the water most mornings. Emergences and spinner falls of Baetis, PMD’s, Gray Drakes, Flavs, Epeorus, Attenella, and Heptagenia can all be seen in varying levels from spot to spot along the river. Rusty and olive spinner imitations in 12-18 are a must during the morning hours, and a good foam hopper imitation with long rubber legs, or a flying ant pattern will do the trick in the afternoons.
The Gallatin River
Consistently warmer weather is benefiting the Gallatin as well. As with all of Big Sky Country, hoppers and ants have the top marquee billing. Remember to let the water temps warm up a bit before you head out, and keep an eye out for the Grizzlies that have been seen between Divide Lake and Bacon Rind Creek.
This is a fun time to explore the pocket water stretches of the Gardner around Mammoth Hot Springs with a big, foam hopper pattern. Come prepared to cover a lot of water, and be on the lookout for the odd rattlesnake.
The Firehole and Madison (in YNP)
Hmmmm…It’s been considerably cooler than normal all summer, nighttime lows have been in the low 30’s in West Yellowstone, and we’re having an epic hopper year…just sayin’.
Blue Squiggly lines…
For the latest installment of “Blue Squiggly lines that, if you can figure out how to get to, fish it, and get back with out having half your ass chewed off by a bear, you deserve to know about” we are highlighting Mountain Creek. This spawning tributary to the upper-Yellowstone River in Thorofare country is staging a comeback, as is the main stem of Yellowstone, and any trip through this area should include a stop to fish both.
Ok, here’s the deal. This has been, without question, the finest hopper fishing any of us has ever seen, period.
Is it bonkers all day every day? No. Are drift boats doubled up from ramp to ramp all day long? No. Is there a section of river somewhere in the valley that will blow your mind for a few hours every afternoon? Absolutely. Do we find that mind blowing section every day? Nope. How long will it last? Probably for a little while longer, certainly not past the first hard freezes in September.
We seemed to have skipped past summer and straight into early fall on Hebgen this year. It’s felt like September out there most mornings for the last couple of weeks, and soon enough it will actually be September. Cool to downright cold mornings have delayed most of the Callibaetis activity on the lake to the late morning hours. Luckily, fish have been cruising through the shallows and weed beds in the morning hours, before the Callibaetis spinners get rolling, on the hunt for flying ants, damsels, and nymphs. Keep a close eye on the wind forecast in the next week or two. This is the time of year when we get those glorious bluebird days with calm conditions that last through the entire afternoon.