Welcome to the Big Sky Angler’s Weekly Fishing Report.
On this week’s edition of Drift Boat Time Machine we’re taking a trip back to 1996. The remnants of a huge winter snowpack have left area fisheries flush with water. Salmonflies and Golden Stones are still active on the Madison River in mid-July. And, we’re seeing great fishing on the Yellowstone River in YNP.
The late 90’s were a terrific time to be fishing in Big Sky Country, but to many, living through that decade the first time was enough. So, if you’re looking to revisit the 90’s without experiencing grunge music, Doc Martens, and Friends all over again, all you need to do is head to Big Sky Country and check out the terrific fishing we’re seeing right now.
We’re more than half way through July, and the wet cool weather trend that has been persistent since February remains firmly entrenched over Big Sky Country. The first truly warm days of the summer occurred this week with temps reaching the mid-80’s. Just as we thought Summer had finally shifted into gear, though, dark and stormy clouds grew on the horizon, and reminded us that the weather can be anything but predictable here. We’ve seen daily thunderstorms in much of the area this week with some storms dropping impressive amounts of rain and hail.
We’ve enjoyed showing off our new lodging project to everyone this summer. The Golden Stone Inn is open, and it’s great to finally have a lodging option for our guests that allows us to provide the personalized, unique experience that we want. The Golden Stone Inn was born from this desire to provide a customized, unforgettable experience that goes above and beyond our guests’ expectations.
West Yellowstone is a special place to us, and we know it is to you too. More than just a place to rest your head at the end of the day, we hope the Golden Stone Inn will be a place where we can cater to you, our extended family, and share with you all of the amazing things that make West Yellowstone so special.
So, if you’re planning an upcoming trip, consider staying with us at the Golden Stone Inn, and let us show you the best that Big Sky Country has to offer. Already got your lodging booked somewhere else for your next visit? No sweat. Swing by anyway and get a tour of the Golden Stone Inn. Hang out for a while by the fire with a cold beer, and chat about the fishing. We’ll look forward to seeing you!
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.
If you fancy yourself a proficient, technical dry fly angler with a deft knowledge of trout stream entomology, there may be no better time than right now to see how you measure up against the ultimate challenge that is the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork and it’s resident population of trophy Rainbow Trout.
Bring your patience, perseverance, and an impeccable line up of Flav and PMD imitations in dun, emerger, and spinner forms. Be sure to have your terrestrial box too, as ants and crickets are always a good pattern to put into the lineup for the more persnickety trout. Mornings and evenings will provide the best opportunities for your test, but on some days, the exam will last right on through the afternoon.
If you find success, count yourself among an elite few who have measured up to one of the most storied challenges in the sport of fly fishing. If you fall short, don’t despair. You’re not alone. The Ranch has a ruthless reputation for illustrating, in painstaking detail, the shortcomings of even the most experienced anglers. Failing is never fun, though many times we learn the most from our defeats, and nowhere is this more evident than on the Ranch.
Flows are predicted to rise slightly by the weekend, but shouldn’t drastically impact the fishing.
Elsewhere in the system, the Box Canyon and Warm River to Ashton sections of the Henry’s Fork are a fun choice for productive fishing with nymphs and dry-dropper rigs. Golden Stones are still around in the Box providing yet another good dry fly option.
Yellowstone National Park
Half of our shop staff hasn’t been alive long enough to remember what the “Good Ol’ Days” of fishing the Yellowstone River in YNP were like prior to the collapse of that fishery in the early 2000’s. Luckily, they don’t have to be subjected to us “Old Timers” (over 40) regaling them with stories of how it “used to be”. They can go and see for themselves, and they have, and it’s been good.
The legendary waters of the Yellowstone River in the caldera, between Yellowstone Lake and the canyon, opened to fishing on July 15. We have all been anxiously awaiting this opener as the river has been slowly recovering from a population crash of cutthroat trout that has endured for nearly two decades. Last year showed promising signs of recovery with decent numbers of fish in a variety of size classes, and, with another strong water year under our belt, we have been optimistically anticipating this season’s opener to find out if the population has continued to develop, or if last year was a fluke.
The river is still running strong this year from an over abundance of snowpack last winter, but early reports from the first week of fishing have been terrific. Green Drakes, Gray Drakes, PMD’s, Caddis, Salmonflies, and Golden Stones are all present in different stretches of the river, and reasonable numbers of fish have been rising. Most importantly, we’re seeing more 12-16” fish so far this season than we have in a very long time.
This is a cutthroat trout fishery, arguably the best on the planet. But, don’t let the cutthroat’s reputation as a gullible glutton for dry flies fool you. These are wary fish, and the gentle glides of the Yellowstone River in classic spots like Cascade Picnic Area or Nez Perce Ford offer technical dry fly opportunities on par with the challenge and sophistication of the Railroad Ranch or Silver Creek. Bring your A-Game and come prepared to hunt for individual targets.
The park waters of the Gallatin are a great choice these days for consistent fishing with both dry flies and nymphs. PMD’s, caddis, green drakes, flavs, golden stones, salmonflies are all active. So to are a myriad of biting flies like mosquitoes and snipe flies. If you head to the Gallatin in the Park, and you should, expect the afternoon hours to provide the best fishing after water temps have had a chance to warm up, and don’t forget to bring a healthy supply of bug dope.
Afternoon thunderstorms and the accompanying downpours have brought color back to the waters of the Lamar this week. Keep an eye on the gauge, give us a call, or stop by the shop for the latest info on conditions in the Northeast corner. When conditions improve the fishing will get back to being fantastic on the Lamar with a variety of bugs present like PMD’s, caddis, drakes, and stones.
Fishing on Slough Creek, especially in the backcountry meadows, has not been affected by the recent storms, and both the fishing and water conditions are great. Slough is a perfect option for a morning session before you head on to the Lamar (once it clears) or the Yellowstone canyon. Expect to see PMD and Grey Drake Spinners along with egg laying caddis on warm, calm mornings.
In case you needed just one more great fishing option in Yellowstone to thoroughly complicate your decision making process, Yellowstone Lake is seeing some good flights of Callibaetis Spinners on calm, warm mornings. This is another example of the rebounding Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout population, and we couldn’t be happier to see numbers of fish rising to these spinners again in places like Gull Point.
While the entire region has experienced a prolonged period of unsettled weather, it seems that the Madison Valley has been ground zero for thunderstorm activity each and every day. It’s been a relentless cycle of storms, the likes of which we haven’t seen in July for decades.
Stormy weather has repeatedly suppressed the Salmonfly and Golden Stone hatches since they began to move upstream through the valley last month. That means we are still seeing the big bugs, especially Goldens, randomly throughout the system from the stretch between Hebgen and Earthquake Lakes all the way down to Varney Bridge.
The big bugs may only remain randomly, but caddis, PMD’s, and Epeorus Mayflies are abundant along the entire river. Strong emergences of mayflies have occurred during the worst or the weather, but breaks of sunshine in between storms have been especially active with clouds of caddis and spinners forming over the water and streamside willows.
Jonathan is up on the MO this week with great clients as he is every year at this time. He reports having beautiful summertime weather, strong caddis hatches and spinner falls, and great dry fly targets throughout the day.
Flows on the Missouri are still a bit robust at just over 6,000cfs which provides plenty of room for bank sippers, and opens up lots of acreage on prime dry fly flats.
High, cool flows in July should produce some great fishing in August. We’ve got our fingers crossed for another August like last year with strong caddis hatches and tons of rising fish.
Gulper season is getting closer with every passing day. On a scale of Tom Hanks movies, conditions on Hebgen Lake have ranged anywhere from Castaway to Forrest Gump. On some days we’re playing with Wilson on the sunny beach in the morning, and by the afternoon we’re hanging from the mast of the shrimp boat with Lieutenant Dan screaming into the storm.
When the weather finally settles down, expect to see the first of this season’s gulper activity in the Madison and Grayling Arms. Any calm, warm mornings from here on out should see some good gulpering opportunities.
Not sure what gulpers are or why gulpering is one of the coolest things you can do with a fly rod in your hand? Swing by the shop when you’re in town, and let us open your eyes to your next addiction.