Welcome the to the Big Sky Anglers’ Weekly Fishing Report. It’s been a gorgeous, early-summer week here in Yellowstone Country. Bright green hillsides filled with wildflowers are backed by snow capped peaks. The skies have been blue, and the sun has been warm. Fishing has been pretty fun too, but it’s a dynamic time of year, and we have some changes coming this weekend.
You couldn’t ask for more pleasant weather than we’ve seen here over the last week, but June in the high country can, and should, throw anything your way. Our bluebird days are about to be replaced with some good old fashioned scuzz. By the time you read this report. A strong cold front will be dropping over the region bringing significantly colder temps and the chance for rain and snow through Sunday.
Warm temps have been whittling away at our snowpack this week. Across the region we saw a dramatic drop in snow levels, and a corresponding increase in runoff. However, there is still a significant amount of snow in the high country, and this weekend’s forecasted temps will put the brakes on snowmelt, and in some places even add to it. The Black Bear Snotel station, south of West Yellowstone, lost roughly 20” of snow this week, but there are over 60” remaining. Carrot Basin Snotel, in the southern Madison Range, lost a similar amount and now sits with approximately 40” on the ground.
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.
Yellowstone National Park
Fisheries on the west side of the park, namely the Firehole, Madison, and Gibbon, continue to be the best bet for consistent fishing and water conditions. Despite warm weather, flows have not risen radically, and water clarity has remained very fishable. Sunny skies and toasty temps have salmonflies moving in all of their regular haunts. PMD’s and Caddis have been active too, with mornings and evenings seeing more rising fish on bright days.
That will all change as scuzzy weather settles in this weekend. With high temps in the 40’s and the chance of snow predicted for Saturday, you can expect to see the little salmonfly activity that is going on now grind to a halt. But, don’t let the scuzz get you down, as these are perfect conditions for thick emergences of PMD and Baetis Mayflies. Look for these hatches to begin in the early afternoon (1:00-2:00ish), and be sure to have cripple and dun imitations for both the PMD and the Baetis (BWO). Remember, both of these early mayflies are larger than their late season counterparts. So, not only will you want to have PMD’s in the standard size 16, but in size 14 as well. You can see size 18 Baetis at this time too, which is a welcome change from the size 22’s that we finished the season with last fall.
Flows from Hebgen dam have been steady this week around 1200 cfs. However, tributaries like Beaver Cr, Cabin Cr, and the West Fork have all been on the rise. As such, the lower river below Quake lake has seen a steady increase, with flows over 2k cfs at Kirby, and more than 3500 cfs at Varney. Interestingly though, clarity has remained very fishable, especially above the West Fork. It’s not gin clear, mind you, but it’s very gamey. This is a great time of year to walk the banks of the Madison and fish nymphs or streamers right along the stream side rocks and willows. There’s generally no need to wade as fish are as close as possible to the bank right now.
Joe has been up on the Mo this week, and sent the following report…
“I’ve been up here for a week now and the flows have dropped significantly. We are sitting at 6360 cfs out of Holter Dam, 331 cfs our of the Pear and nearly 1800 and falling slowly at the Dearborn confluence. The river coming into Toston is 13,000 cfs and Canyon Ferry is 85% full. A year ago today the Missouri was huffing along nearly 19,000 cfs, what a difference! Historical flows for right this very minute are 8120 cfs. My guess is that the Missouri River below Hotler will see a bump in flows that matches Toston soon enough. Flows…yes we pay a lot of attention to them as they push fish and food in different directions. River temps are important as well; different stretches of river fish differently depending on the time of day. River temps dictate hatches and cloudy days have helped our cause. We are still seeing some BWOs, the last of the March Browns and a few caddis here and there.
The river below the Dearborn is a chalky mess and most of us have been leery of floating below Mid Canon. Some folks are venturing down there for a slightly different view and are catching a few fish here and there; its nothing to write home about at this time as the river is more brown than green. The lower River, while blown out, has some caddis bouncing around the bushes late in the day. IMHO, the Missouri River thinks that it’s May 10th or so and not June 4th. Winter has held on everywhere and we are seeing this in Craig as well. Sunshine, bright green hill sides and floats somewhere from Hotler Dam to Mid Canon have been the norm. The fishing is decent and there truly might not be a more beautiful time to be angling on the Missouri River. It’s light at 5am and not dark untill 10pm, summer is here.”
What a week we’ve had on the Henry’s Fork! Warm, sunny skies were just what the Salmonflies needed to get into full pandemonium, with no shortage of fun for both fish and fishermen alike. The big bugs are winding down on the lower river, but they are moving their way up through canyon country with good numbers of adults active all the way up to the Box.
But, don’t get too excited! Before you go running off half-cocked with a Yeti bucket full of your favorite size 4 foam salmonfly pattern, bear in mind that the forecasted scuzz for this weekend will put the brakes on the salmonfly hatch like a red MAGA hat at a Nature Conservancy retreat.
Conditions over the next few days will call for nymph fishing on the lower river, or head hunting around Last Chance with the last of the March Browns and Baetis.
When warm, sunny weather returns early next week it will be time to run into battle fully cocked with golden stones and salmonflies. By next week we should also be talking about Green Drakes, and the beginnings of the annual Henry’s Fork Parade of Hatches…stay tuned!
Afternoon thunderstorms and their accompanying wind have made for some challenging conditions on Hebgen in recent days, but local Stillwater fanatics report good action using chironomids and leeches in the mornings when conditions are still calm.
The impending scuzzy weather will make for more rugged fishing on the lake. However, once the storm system passes, it will be time to start looking for the first of the early season Callibaetis hatches.