Autumn has arrived in Big Sky Country in all its splendor. Aspens are turning yellow, Elk are bugling, and our first widespread snow has coated the mountains. It’s a spectacular time to be exploring our area with a fly rod. Cooler weather has activated our perennial fall fisheries, many of which have been dormant during the warmer summer months. Some of the most beautiful days, and exciting fishing of the season are yet to come. So, get out and get your fix while the gettin’ is still good.
A multitude of good fishing options exist right now, and depending on the weather conditions, there are a variety of games to be played.
Bright sunny, Indian Summer conditions will produce some of the most jaw-dropping, inspirational, reconsider your priorities and adjust our life plan panoramas you will ever see. They will also prompt the last terrestrial afternoons of the season with hoppers and flying ants making one last go at it before the hard frosts do them in for the season.
Stormy days will trigger thick afternoon emergences of fall hatches like Baetis, Mahogany Dun, and Drake mayflies, as well as arouse brown trout into their fall routine of migration and aggression.
Regardless of conditions, there is some good fishing going on somewhere these days, though it’s critical to consider the weather and conditions when planning your day.
Several stunning Indian Summer days were punctuated with a day of proper autumn scuzz this week. Conditions transitioned from sunny and 80 to mixed precipitation and 40 in the matter of a day. As quickly as the last storm rolled in it evacuated, leaving glorious blue skies and snow capped peaks in its wake.
More of the same back and forth weather is in store for this weekend with another system coming through the area on Friday and Saturday.
Fall weather brings fall fishing, and we’ve had plenty of both. 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 fight to the death. Like gladiators thrown to the lions the Madison Valley’s grasshoppers are clinging to their last bits of existence. Frosty mornings threaten to put an end to them once and for all, but the fighting spirit runs strong in these combatants. Surprising numbers of hoppers remain in the valley, and fish continue to look for them on warm sunny afternoons. The action pales in comparison to what we saw earlier this summer, but it remains nonetheless, and can best be described as spotty and short-lived, but still really cool.
Nymphs and streamers have been the go-to for more consistent action. Baetis mayflies, midges, and Rhyacophila caddis are the main ingredients in the bug soup these days.
Cool, scuzzy weather has shifted the Henry’s fork firmly into fall gear. From the Lower River up onto the flat water stretches in the caldera, fall hatches are providing some great fishing.
Baetis, Pseudo’s, and Mahogany Dun mayflies are all active throughout the Ranch waters now. Cloudy days will provide the best concentrations of emerging mayflies and rising fish. Fall Baetis and Pseudo hatches can bring seemingly every fish in the river to the surface big and small, making it more difficult to isolate a “good” target. Conversely, these can be great opportunities for anglers who are looking to get their feet wet on the Ranch, and get a taste for how the game is played with an abundance of targets.
Yellowstone National Park
The Firehole River
There’s lots of options on this strangest of all trout streams on earth right now. Scuzzy days are your best opportunities to see thick hatches of Fall Baetis in the afternoons. Bright days are perfect for swinging soft hackles or possibly prospecting with a small grasshopper imitation.
The Madison River(in YNP)
The fall migration of fish into the Madison River in the Park is a lot like baseball season. It’s exciting at the beginning of the season. You’ve been anxiously awaiting the first game. You’re eagerly optimistic about the season’s prospects, but there’s really not much going on yet. Nobody is really in the groove. Slowly, game after game, the season ticks on. Before you know it, it’s the playoffs. Every game is important. Every game has an opportunity for that defining moment. That one instant that makes the whole season worthwhile, that makes you a fan.
It’s still early in the fall migration season on the Madison in the Park. There are some fun games to watch right now, but those defining moments that make you a fan are yet to come.
The Northeast Corner
Stormy days will bring great hatches of fall Baetis and Hecuba Drakes to this part of the park, but they will also bring muddy water and higher flows to the Lamar River and Yellowstone Canyon. Keep a close eye on flows here, and consider Slough Creek as an alternative if you’re hoping to fish the Lamar and clarity is prohibitive.
Keep in mind, now more than ever, there is no need to get out on the water early in this part of the park. The early bird does not get the worm here. Rather he and/or she freezes their ass off until late morning waiting for both their toes and the Cutthroat Trout to warm up.
The Yellowstone River
Day by day there are fewer and fewer fish remaining in the Caldera section of the Yellowstone River (between Chittenden Bridge and Fishing Bridge). Naturally, each fall the Cutthroat migrate back to Yellowstone Lake where they over-winter and rest before making a return trip back into the river to spawn again next spring. While numbers of fish are dwindling, some remarkable Cutthroat remain in the river, and fall hatches of Baetis and Heptagenia mayflies create an opportunity for technical dry fly fishing. These fish are spread out far and wide. You have to be prepared to cover some ground hunting for your targets, but when you find them, they will be some of the best dry fly targets of the entire season.
The Lewis River
If you’re in search of another technical dry fly opportunity, and you value quality over quantity, consider checking out the Lewis River in its meadow stretch between Lewis Falls and the Lewis River Canyon. This is flat, technical spring creek water resembling the challenging nature of the Railroad Ranch on the Henry’s Fork. Except, instead of targeting trophy rainbows on the Ranch, you’ll be hunting for large browns on the Lewis. There are not many of these big fish, and some days you will swear there are none, but scuzzy weather gets them in the mood and fall hatches of Baetis mayflies can bring them to the surface.