Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – August 29, 2019

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – August 29, 2019

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.

West Yellowstone Forecast

MT Streamflows

ID Streamflows


Henry’s Fork

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.

The Gardner

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.

 

Madison River

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.

Hebgen Lake

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.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – August 8, 2019

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – August 8, 2019

One week into August and the weather still feels as if it’s late June. Hot and muggy afternoons have been met with thunderstorms rolling in to cool the air. This has been a near daily event some weeks. The high snowpack combined with a mild spring is now paying dividends with high flows and cool water in what is normally the hottest month of the year.

August is primetime for terrestrial enthusiasts as grasshoppers are plentiful throughout the Northern Rockies. Fisheries at higher elevations are still producing mayfly hatches and caddis hatches. Don’t overlook tossing a black streamer post-thunderstorm when the air pressure and temperatures drop down in the evenings. This can be an opportunity to search for a larger trout in the “dog days” of summer.

The fish in heavily pressured main-stem streams (such as the Madison) have shown to be a little tricky at times. Don’t be surprised to have a couple of “follows and refusals” underneath a dry fly in these waters. Fret not, these fish are still catchable and can turn onto a feeding frenzy at any moment.

Pack a rain jacket and keep up with the weather forecast, because being caught in a severe thunderstorm in Southwest Montana in the wrong spot is somewhere no one wants to be. Stop by the shop for tackle, gear, and advice as needed. Also, NFL training camps are in full swing. There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks!

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.

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.

West Yellowstone Forecast

MT Streamflows

ID Streamflows


Henry’s Fork

Terrestrial mayhem is imminent on the Railroad Ranch. More hoppers are showing up every day and flying ants remain as a reliable option. The Flav and PMD action is pushing well into August, no doubt a result of cool June and July temps. Keep an eye on the Ranch water in the mornings and post-afternoon storms as a spinner fall may be in the cards.

Flows out of Island Park Reservoir have dropped to sub 900 cfs from last week’s peak of 1,200 cfs. Box canyon remains a reliable option to lock into some chunky rainbows with sneaky-good hopper fishing being available. The hillsides continue to be lush and green, perfect eye candy to go along with a day on the water!

Yellowstone National Park

Cold water and favorable flows continue to be the story of this year’s YNP fishing season. Anglers from all over the Park are passing on reports of successful fishing endeavors and memorable wildlife encounters. It’s always worth putting a pair of binos in the fishing pack for excursions to the Northeast corner. Remember to respect the wildlife and be “bear aware.” Enjoy these marvelous creatures from a proper distance and respect their space.

 

The Northeast Corner

The Lamar River, Slough Creek, and Soda Butte Creek have been producing bent rods and countless smiles this past week. Reports of fishing the Valley have been on the positive side—until the flows spiked as a result of rain. As of the last two days the Lamar has cleared up and is fishable, but it doesn’t take much to turn conditions south again. If the Lamar blows out Slough Creek remains a solid option for those who venture to this area.

Various mayflies (Drakes, PMD’s, etc.) and caddis are still occurring with terrestrial/hopper action rising as fast as the Patriots’ Super Bowl odds. Foam bugs are flying out of the shop’s fly bins over the past week. Don’t put away those Salmonfly and Goldenstone patterns quite yet. They can make for excellent hopper patterns, as well.

 

Yellowstone River

It’s business as usual on the Yellowstone River in YNP: a combination of “the best day ever” and pure frustration. Every year more cutthroat trout have returned to this fishery, and more importantly smaller fish (10”-16”) have been making an appearance. For those that haven’t kept up with the status of this population over the years, this is favorable news in the recovery there from what was viewed as rock bottom about ten years ago.

Drakes are still present but will be tailing off soon. An assortment of PMD’s, caddis, stoneflies, terrestrials, and smaller streamers/leeches could be exactly what the doctor ordered to hook into one of the hogs lurking in this watershed.

Water levels have dropped significantly since the opener on July 15. The later we get into the summer the more fish will return to the lake. But this has been a higher than average water year which could keep many of these fish around in the stream longer. The Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states. This means the water level drops naturally on a daily basis throughout the summer. The drop in water levels will cause this fish to move around and redistribute across the stream throughout the summer season. Just because the fish are in one location one day doesn’t mean they will be there the next.

Gallatin River

The Park section of this river offers incredible scenery and consistently hungry trout. Caddis, PMD’s, and terrestrials are the name of the game. Keep an eye on weather patterns as this is another body of water that can muddy-up from rainfall, but generally clears up after a day or two of dry conditions. Two grizzly bears have been seen on just off the west side of the highway near Bacon Rind Creek with some frequency. Move with caution when weaving through willow patches, stay vigilant, and make your presence known. With any luck you may see them (from a safe location) as grizzly bear sightings are one of the Park’s premier attractions.

Blue Squiggly Lines…

This week’s challenge: 1) place a map of YNP on a corkboard. 2) Grab a dart and a blindfold. 3) Stand roughly 10 feet away from the map, grab dart, and place blindfold over eyes. 4) Throw the dart at the map (ideally without missing). 5) Find the closest “blue squiggly line” on the map to the dart and check the YNP regulations to ensure it isn’t closed to fishing. 6) Go fishing to said location. 7) Claim that any pictures of fish caught at randomly selected location came out of Bozeman Pond.

Madison River

The Madison River is the LeBron James of trout streams. It may not be the greatest trout stream of all-time (although some circles may argue differently), there may be streams that do specific things better, and it isn’t necessarily the “flashiest river.” But it’s consistently one of the most reliable options throughout the year and more often than not produces favorable results.

Basketball analogies aside, the Madison River continues to be the staple of this region. Hopper fishing is in full swing offering productive dry fly action throughout the day. The Madison Caddis Factory continues to pump out bugs with consistency. A box with various hoppers, nocturnal stoneflies, caddis, and tungsten nymphs for droppers would make for a solid arsenal on this river.

The fish in the wade section have become timid at times after heavy pressure from the stoneflies hatching. Don’t be surprised to see fish elevate and refuse a well drifted dry fly. Downsizing in fly and tippet size can sometimes be the ticket if this occurs.

Hebgen Lake

Stillwater enthusiasts have been doing well on Hebgen Lake in recent weeks with the Callibaetis and Trico hatches in full swing. Shallow areas and weed beds have been providing exciting sight fishing opportunities in the mornings and evenings on dries as well as leeches, nymphs, and chironomids stripped below the surface. Flies fished in deeper water can provide action mid-day, as well.

Missouri River

Flows have dropped slightly in the last week down to 4,700 cfs. Our Missouri River guide staff continues to hold down the fort up in Craig. Give us a call if you’re interested in a trip on the legendary Mo. Tricos continue to make their presence known in smoke stack-like clouds over the water. A hopper or ant pattern with a dropper can offer results while moving between runs in search of tricos, and the nymphing remains consistent.

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – August 1, 2019

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – August 1, 2019

It’s hard to believe, but June and July are history. You wouldn’t know it if you were poking around in Big Sky Country right now. Hillsides around the region remain green. There’s still a few specks of snow in the high country. And, area fisheries are flush with water. If you didn’t know better, you might think it was still the end of June.

The weather has certainly made it feel like June. An unsettled weather pattern has been persistent since the beginning of the season. Week after week we have reported on stormy weather with cooler and wetter than average conditions.

Well, this week is no different. On Tuesday night, an evening thunderstorm ripped through our area the likes of which many of us haven’t seen in years. Jet black thunder heads loomed over the western horizon in the Madison Valley, and by 8:00pm the malicious clouds dominated the sky with streaks of lightning illuminating every twist and fold of the towering cumulonimbus. By 8:30pm the heavens unleashed a powerful deluge and 20 solid minutes of deafening hail. Heavy rain followed before the storm passed on it’s way across the north shore of Hebgen Lake and on into Yellowstone Park. By 9:30pm it was all over, the stars were out, and you could see the tail end of the storm flashing in the night sky to the East.

Tuesday’s storm may have been an anomaly in its size and strength, but it’s been the norm to consistently see storm clouds brewing in the afternoon on most days in Big Sky Country. As we enter the first week of August, the typical “Dog Days” of summer are looming. It’s anyone’s guess if they will appear, or if this stormy cycle will remain.

What we do know is that fishing has been great, and all of this moisture will certainly bode well for the remainder of the season, as well as help to charge the aquifer for seasons to come.

We’ve enjoyed hosting some of our extended family from Argentina at the shop this week. Benjamin Beale who owns and operates El Encuentro Fly Fishing was here for a few days, and El Encuentro’s power couple, Cecilia Harrington and Marcelo Widmann will be here next week. Their authentic, family owned operation, and the phenomenal fishing that they provide draws us to travel across the globe during the winter months to our home away from home in Patagonia. If you’re in the area, and interested in learning more about fly fishing in Patagonia, swing by the shop and chat with our dear friends about their special part of the world.

We’re also looking forward to a visit in September from our dear friend and Argentine guiding sensation, Diego Oliver of Patagonia Nomads.

Big Sky Anglers has a long history of not only working with both of these top shelf operations in Argentina, but helping to develop their programs and grow their businesses. Patagonia Nomads is located in Northern Patagonia in the area of San Martin de Los Andes, and El Encuentro Fly Fishing’s home is in central and southern Patagonia near Esquel. Stay tuned for more information on an intriguing trip that we are developing which showcases the best fishing and authentic Argentine experiences found in all of Patagonia by traveling with BSA from North to South.


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.

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.

West Yellowstone Forecast

MT Streamflows

ID Streamflows


Henry’s Fork

As we transition into August arguably the best technical fishing on the Fork is yet to come. Terrestrials like hoppers and flying ants can be responsible for some of the most memorable days of the season, but before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it still feels like early July out there on many stretches of the Fork. The Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork is still green, and July hatches like PMD’s and Flavs continue to drive the fishing. Spinner Falls of these two bugs are responsible for most of the action we’re seeing now with good sessions in the mornings and evenings.

Flows out of Island Park Reservoir have been running strong at around 1200 cfs this week,  but are now down under 1000cfs. Fishing in the Box Canyon was impacted slightly by high flows and turbidity. However, the decrease last Tuesday cleared up conditions. Expect to see consistent fishing with small tungsten bead heads as usual.

Yellowstone National Park

Cold water, and lots of it, has set the stage for a terrific fishing season in Yellowstone Park. The last couple of weeks have been great, and we’re just getting started.

The Northeast Corner

This will be a solid option in the upcoming week. As always, check the forecast or stop in to the shop for a report before making the long drive through the park. Thunderstorms can and will impact water conditions here.

Slough Creek and the Lamar River are still seeing some Gray Drake Spinners in the mornings and evenings. PMD’s, Caddis, and the first terrestrials of the season should also be in your lineup.

Soda Butte Creek has been fun, but crowded most days. Consider a long walk out into the meadows of the Lamar or one of the many short back country day hike options in this part of the park if you’re looking for some solitude.

Remember to carry your bear spray when you’re wandering around in the park’s backcountry, and always be heads up for wildlife of all sorts.

Yellowstone River

Technical dry fly opportunities with world class trout. That’s what happening on the Yellowstone River in YNP right now. Gray Drakes, PMD’s, Flavs, Caddis, Stoneflies, and terrestrials are all part of the game. Expect to find good spinner falls in the mornings and evenings, and emergences from late morning through early afternoon.

As usual, you will want to hunt for your targets on the Yellowstone in the park. Blind fishing can be an exercise in futility for all but the luckiest of anglers.

Yellowstone Cutthroats drop down into the Yellowstone River from Yellowstone Lake in the Spring to spawn. On good water years, like the one we are having, the fish will remain in the system for much of the summer. Bear in mind, the Yellowstone river is the longest free flowing river in the lower 48, and that flow is naturally dropping every day over the course of the season. As the flows slowly drop, fish naturally redistribute and concentrate throughout the river. Just because you found good targets to fish in an area on one day doesn’t mean that they will be there a few days later.

Gallatin River

The park waters of the Gallatin have provided the best conditions on this fishery as evening thunderstorms plagued the river below Taylor’s Fork with muddy water this week. PMD’s and Caddis are the predominant hatches here, and we are starting to see a few fish eat terrestrials like ants and hoppers.

Blue Squiggly Lines…

For our latest installment of “Blue Squiggly lines that, if you can figure out how to get there, fish it, and get back with out having half your ass chewed off by a bear, you deserve to know about” we are highlighting Mist Creek. This small, rough and tumble stream, chalk full of stunning Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, is shining gem in the backcountry of Yellowstone Park.

Madison River

The Fifty Mile Riffle has been treating us pretty darn well this season. In the upper valley, we are still seeing good hatches of PMD’s, Epeorus, Flavs, and caddis from Quake Lake to Pallisades. Morning spinner falls have been strong, and, if we can get an evening that doesn’t storm, we’ll see good spinners and caddis then as well.

Last season was, by far, the best hopper year that any of us had seen in a long time. We are all waiting with bated breath to see what comes of the terrestrial season this year on the Madison. Hopper fishing was well underway by this time last year, but it’s considerably cooler and wetter now. We saw some of the first good hopper days this past week in the float stretch, but it hasn’t quite popped yet.

Nocturnal stoneflies can be found throughout the river now. You’ll never find an abundance of Nocturnals around, but it’s good to remember they are there. You will see random shucks concentrated in specific areas of the river, and on the odd occasion, you may see these size #8 flightless stones racing across the water’s surface close to the bank.

Hebgen Lake

We’ve seen some thick fog on Hebgen during the morning hours as the result of strong evening storms this week. Once the fog lifts and the air temps warm, good mating flights of Tricos and Callibaetis have been seen on all of the arms of the lake, as well as the usual bays on the south side. If the wind stays down, you will see some of the first strong gulpering sessions of the season this week.

Missouri River

The flows on the Missouri are holding strong this summer and currently she’s pumping along at 5460 cubic feet per second. Greg Falls, our resident Missouri River guide, has been sending us reports as Joe and Jonathan are now done guiding the Missouri until late September.  Greg has some openings in August so if you’re interested in fishing the Missouri, give us a shout!  As for the fishing…tricos showed up in a huge way and the iconic smoke stacks of tricos are what’s for dinner.  Blind casting a hopper or ant with a tung bead dropper through the mid-river riffles is always a great idea as you roll down the river looking for trico eaters.

Kenektok River, AK

Joe got back from the Kanektok a few days ago and had a wonderful backcountry float trip with Beyond Boundaries Expeditions and David Stelling and his crew of Skye and Capt. Chris. David has been running the Kanetok for the past 14 years and splits his time between Bethel, Alaska and Boone, North Carolina where he owns and operates High Country Guide Service.  Keep checking BSA Instagram for a sneak peek of the 100 Mile float trip and look for a blog post soon once Joe gets his feet back under him here at the shop.

Hatch Profile – Callibaetis – Three Geeky Bug Facts That Will Help You Catch More Fish

Hatch Profile – Callibaetis – Three Geeky Bug Facts That Will Help You Catch More Fish

In many ways the hopes and dreams of fly fishers rest on the existence of bugs. Sure, you can venture out onto your favorite piece of water on any given day and catch some fish, many times lots of fish, when there is seemingly no bug activity. But, those aren’t the days that get etched into your memory. Those aren’t necessarily the days that inspire you to make life decisions. Like, say, picking a college that is surrounded by the most prolific dry fly fishing on the East Coast, or, perhaps picking a wedding date in late September which, conveniently, doesn’t overlap with any major trout stream hatches…hypothetically speaking, of course.

Streamer fishing has its virtues; “the tug is the drug”. And, nymph fishing most certainly produces more than it’s fair share of memorable days and 3-dimensional challenges. But, nothing in our sport tops the visceral experience that is watching a body of water come to life with an exuberance of bug activity, and the ensuing trout feeding frenzy. In my opinion, nothing illustrates that better than a Callibaetis spinner fall on western stillwaters.

Callibaetis mayflies have a massive distribution across most of North America. It is the western subspecies (Callibaetis ferrugineus hageni), though, that produces inspirational fishing on countless lakes, and several notable rivers, in the Rocky Mountain West.

Callibaetis mayflies live in stillwater environments. They thrive in water that has rich weed growth. And, while the emergences are often inconspicuous, the spinner falls are the stuff of legends.

Callibaetis mayflies, along with their diminutive brethren Tricos and Midges, are responsible for the legendary “Gulper” fishing that happens on Hebgen Lake each summer from late-July to mid-September. The shallow, weedy arms of Hebgen Lake are such ideal habitat for Callibaetis mayflies that they produce an awe inspiring amount of insects. Dense spinner falls occur here, and trout rise to the spent adults with such rhythm and regularity that you can hear the fish rising with an audible gulp that resonates across the glass flat waters.

Warm, calm mornings are ideal conditions for these size #14-16 speckle winged mayflies to form mating flights. It is impossible to miss them when they are around as seemingly billions of adults will dance above the water in a rhythmic undulation. When it is good, and it often is in Big Sky Country, spinners will blanket the water, and everything on the water, including fishermen.

Callibaetis spinners are unmistakable due to the unique speckled blotches present on only the leading edge of their fore wings, and their two long, widely separated tails. Their bodies range in color from brownish-olive to tan to light grey with a majority of spinners displaying a lighter tanish-grey coloration on the bottom of their abdomen and a darker, blotchy charcoal color on the top.

Here are Three Geeky Bug Facts about Callibaetis that will help you catch more fish.

 

1. Callibaetis are Multi-brooded

When we think about the life cycle and seasonality of mayfly hatches, we generally reference a particular bug with its spot in the seasonal lineup of hatches. Certain bugs, like March Browns, hatch in the early season, and they are followed by summertime hatches of PMDs, and autumn hatches of Mahogany Duns, etc. These hatches occur at roughly the same time every year with the progeny of those hatches growing and developing in the river until the following season when it is their turn to complete the cycle.

There are certain bugs, however, that breed multiple times during the course of the fishing season. Like their cousins the Baetis (Blue Winged Olives), Callibaetis will begin hatching early in the season (June in Big Sky Country), and those early bugs produce the ones that we fish later in the season. Also, like their Baetidae cousins, the size of individuals decreases with each brood of the season. Spring hatches of Callibaetis can have duns as large as size #12, whereas September emergences will produce size #16.

Early hatches of Callibaetis are often available in fishable numbers far earlier than when we begin paying attention to them. Unfortunately, the unsettled early season conditions of June in the Rockies don’t often produce dense mating flights of spinners, or the glass flat lake surfaces required for dry fly fishing.

Most years, those early season emergences go largely unnoticed, and it is their offspring that draw our attention later in the summer when weather conditions are more conducive. The warm, calm mornings of mid-summer in Big Sky Country provide both the perfect environment for massive flights of spinners and the glass flat waters needed to bring hordes of trout to the surface.

While average June conditions are generally not optimal for Callibaetis spinner falls, it’s important to remember that the bugs are still active. Duns will continue to emerge, sometimes trickling off one at a time, randomly throughout the day. On the rare day in June, when conditions are cloudy and calm, emergences can be concentrated, and provide outstanding dry fly fishing with duns. The occasional warm, calm morning in June can also generate a fantastic dry fly session with Callibaetis spinners. More often than not, these early season spinner falls are sparse, providing just enough food on the surface to get fish hunting on top, but not so much that your fly is competing with hundreds of naturals for the attention of gulping trout.

2. Callibaetis Nymphs are Strong Swimmers and Fast Emergers

Callibaetis nymphs are a perfectly evolved product of their weedy, stillwater environment. Their bodies are slim in profile with feathery gills, and pronounced variegation on their tails. Coloration ranges from light olive to tan, or gray.

Callibaetis nymphs are agile swimmers, dashing from one weed tendril to the next with short, powerful bursts of speed. Frequently, nymphs will pause for a brief second between sprints, hanging motionless in the water column with their abdomen hanging down. This choreography is important to imitate when fishing Callibaetis nymph imitations. Short, swift strips of 4-6” with a definite pause between movements is the best retrieve as fish will commonly pounce on the fly at the pause.

Just as they move through the water with speed and momentum, Callibaetis nymphs emerge into duns quickly at the water’s surface. It’s common for the nymphs to make several trips back and forth to the surface in preparation to emerge, but once they commit to the meniscus and break through the surface tension, they make quick work of the act. During these “practice runs” the nymphs are prepared to make their quick escape at the surface with fully formed wings bulging beneath their dark brown thoracic carapace (wing pad).

For more great info about Callibaetis nymphs check out this great Callibaetis Nymph Article from our Blog archive written by our very own fanatic of all things stillwater, Matt Klara.  

3. Callibaetis aren’t just found in Lakes

Callibaetis mayflies may be the most infamous stillwater hatch, and Big Sky Country is home to some of the most legendary spinner falls of these speckle winged mayflies.

Hebgen Lake, outside of West Yellowstone, MT, is ground zero for the notorious activity known as Gulper Fishing. Named for the nail biting sound that echoes across the glass flat waters of Hebgen’s weed-laden arms and bays as large trout gulp Callibaetis spinners from the surface, Gulper Fishing is an annual pursuit that rivals the most celebrated spectacles in Fly Fishing.

As epic and addictive as Gulper Fishing is, it’s not the only Callibaetis game in Big Sky Country. The same slow water environments that harbor fantastic populations of Callibaetis on lakes also exists on several of our most legendary rivers. The Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, the Yellowstone River in YNP, and the Missouri River all boast substantial populations of these speckle winged mayflies.

When Callibaetis are found in riverine environments, they aren’t present in the same abundance as stillwaters. Emergences and subsequent spinner falls are generally sparse in comparison to the activity seen on legendary waters like Hebgen or Yellowstone Lakes. What Callibaetis lack in numbers on rivers they more than make up for in the influence they have on feeding fish. When Callibaetis are present on rivers like the Henry’s Fork and Missouri, they are usually the largest bug around at that time, and trout go way out of their way to feed on them.

Now Get Out There and Find Some Callibaetis Mayflies

If you haven’t experienced the thrill and suspense of fishing to cruising gulpers on a warm calm morning in Big Sky Country, do yourself a favor and explore one of the many still waters in our region during Callibaetis time. Remember, Callibaetis will be active as early as June when conditions permit. The bugs will be larger (size #14) in the early season, and later broods will be smaller (size #16). If you fish the nymph imitation, do so with short, brisk strips of 4-6”, and be sure to pause between strips. And, don’t forget to have some Callibaetis dun and spinner imitations when fishing the Henry’s Fork, Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers (in YNP).

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – July 25, 2019

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – July 25, 2019

Like a Green Drake dun awkwardly breaking free from the constraints of it’s nymphal shuck and the cold, wet submarine environment that it has called home for the entirety of its adolescence, summer in Big Sky Country has finally emerged in all of its warmth and splendor.

We haven’t completely escaped the trend of daily thunderstorm activity that has bedeviled Big Sky Country so far this season, but we are seeing conditions that more closely resemble summertime these days.

Daytime high temps routinely reached the 80’s this past week with a few afternoons pushing up into the 90’s before evening thunderstorms rolled through and cooled things off. The upcoming forecast looks to be a return to more seasonal conditions with highs in the upper 70’s and lows in the mid 40’s at West Yellowstone.

For the first time this season we can say with full certainty that runoff is a thing of the past. Several fisheries, especially those in the Northeast corner of Yellowstone, will continue to be influenced by snowmelt, but this is the slow and steady thaw of the highest alpine snow in the region, and won’t impact water clarity. We cross our fingers every year to have this situation where high elevation snow feeds our watershed with a supply of cold water deep into the summer months.

We are excited to host several members of our extended Argentine family from El Encuentro Fly Fishing in Big Sky Country. Benjamin Beale, Cecilia Harrington, and Marcello Widmann will be visiting and hanging around Big Sky Anglers and the Golden Stone Inn over the next few weeks. Swing by with any questions about fishing in Patagonia, or to say Hi to our Argentine friends. Stay tuned for an announcement about a Patagonia Evening at Big Sky Anglers with a slide show and talk about our Argentina program soon.

We’re looking forward to the Third Annual West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days this upcoming September 13 and 14. Check out a recent BLOG POST with details about the event. If you plan on checking out this awesome event, and you should, come stay with us at the Golden Stone Inn, the unofficial headquarters for Trout Spey Days. This is your chance to stay with the industry reps and pros that are in town for the event, and soak up as much information and experience as possible. If you’re not staying with us, don’t feel left out. We will be hosting a Spey Days Social on the evening of September 13th at the GSI. So, there’s still a chance to check out the GSI, and get the most out of the event.

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.

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.

West Yellowstone Forecast

MT Streamflows

ID Streamflows


Henry’s Fork

We’ve settled into our summertime routine on the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork. Morning and evening spinner falls of PMD’s, and Flavs will generate targets in places, at times. This is definitely an occasion to settle into the rhythm and flow of the river. It’s essential to take what the river offers, and don’t show up with an agenda. Some sessions will have you engaged in an epic game of chess, strategically positioning and methodically presenting flies to adversarial Rainbows. Others will leave you sitting on the bank to ponder life’s great mysteries. Either outcome is a win, and you have to take the good days with the bad.
Whether you’re going round for round with a trophy rainbow, or sitting on your ass admiring the Tetons, keep an eye out for the beginnings of the next round of bugs in the seasonal hatch cycle of the Ranch. Tricos, Callibaetis, and flying ants are all on the horizon, and it’s time to add their imitations to the batting order.
Elsewhere in the system, the Box Canyon is enjoying a great Golden Stone hatch that has lasted for well over a month at this point. Standard Box Canyon nymph rigs with small tungsten bead heads are always a fruitful program.
Flows from Island Park Reservoir are currently running just over 1100cfs and should remain within 100-200 cfs of that mark.

Yellowstone National Park

This is a wonderful time to be wandering around Yellowstone Park with a fly rod. Fishing the Park waters are not without challenges these days. It’s hands down the busiest time of year for overall tourist traffic, and biting flies are omnipresent in many of the best fishing spots. But, the sheer number of fishing options, and the quality of fishing situations available far outweigh the inconvenience of tourists and mosquitoes.

The Northeast Corner
This region of Yellowstone is ripe with opportunity for the dry fly angler right now. Slough Creek, the Lamar River, and Soda Butte Creek offer daily hatches of PMD mayflies and caddis, along with the beginning of what we hope will be a terrific terrestrial season. Be sure to keep an eye on the forecast and flows as this area is always prone to muddy waters after thunderstorms. Give us a call or stop by the shop for the best updates on conditions and reports.

Yellowstone Lake
Stillwater enthusiasts can once again add Yellowstone Lake to their circuit of lakes to fish in Big Sky Country. Daily spinner falls of Callibaetis mayflies have had Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout rising in all of their traditional spots on warm, calm mornings. When the dry fly opportunities aren’t present, think about fishing a leech or Callibaetis nymph imitation on an intermediate sinking line as a great way to find some sporty Cutts.

Yellowstone River
Stoneflies are still active throughout this system from the canyon waters up to the flat waters in the caldera. The big bugs, especially Golden Stones, will produce those slow, yawning rises so typical of Yellowstone Cutts well into August this year as water conditions remain robust after last winter’s solid snowpack.

In addition to the big bugs, expect to see a myriad of other insects producing solid dry fly action on the Yellowstone River. PMD’s, Flavs, Grey Drakes, and Caddis are all responsible for questionable decision making by Cutthroat Trout in places like Otter Creek, or below Le Hardy Rapids (the rapids themselves are closed to fishing). Be sure to have plenty of spinner imitations in size #14-16, and remember to hunt for your targets.

Carnelian Creek
This is one of those blue squiggly lines on the Park map that go unnoticed and unvisited by virtually every Yellowstone Park angler. So, why on earth would we mention it here for all the world to discover? Because, if you can find Carnelian Cr, or better yet, if you can figure out how to get into Carnelian Creek, fish it, and return without having half your ass chewed off by a bear, you deserve to know about it, and we’d love to hear about it.
It’s approaching the time of year to start exploring all of those little blue squiggly lines on the map. Yellowstone is full of overlooked and underfished waters, and the opportunity to go out and actually explore these fisheries is an all too rare occurrence in this day and age.
So, whether it’s Carnelian Creek, or one of the many more discrete waters in the park, get out there and see what you can find.

Gallatin River
The Gallatin River in YNP may be the best example of a fishery in our area that benefits from warm weather. This is the coldest fishery around, and, even on the warmest of days, it fishes best in the late-mornings and afternoons.
The Gallatin in the Park is also one of the most diverse rivers in the area with a plethora of aquatic insects residing in its cold, clean waters. PMD’s, Caddis, Flavs, Green Drakes, Yellow Sallies, and Golden Stones are all available in abundance right now, along with a multitude of less conspicuous Mayflies, Caddisflies, and Stoneflies.
This is also one of the best examples of a river that looks pleasant and inviting from the road, but can punish you with biting flies once you reach the water. Top notch bug spray, sungloves, buffs, and full cover are mandatory right now on the Gallatin River in the Park.

Madison River

It’s year two of post dam construction, and consistently cold water from Hebgen has set the stage for some of the best conditions that we have seen on the Madison River in quite a few years. Hatches have been strong, and the quality and condition of fish in all size classes has been impressive.
Mornings and evenings have seen good spinner falls of PMD, Epeorus, and Flav mayflies, as well as egg-laying and emerging caddis activity. Remember these spinner falls as weather conditions stabilize and warm. Those brawny Madison River Browns and Rainbows love to be sneaky and rise subtly to understated spinners providing a technical dry fly situation that is tough to beat. Remarkably, there are still some Golden Stones flying in isolated spots along the river. It’s approaching time to start thinking about flying ants and hoppers. More to come on this exciting fishing in the following weeks.

Hebgen Lake

There’s no time like gulper time, and conditions become more and more prime for gulpering activity with each passing day. Stay tuned to this exciting fishery from now through the middle of September for some of the most spectacular Stillwater fishing found anywhere. Be on the lookout too for a blog post in the coming week about Callibaetis mayflies, the high test fuel that powers the gulper fishing machine on Hebgen Lake.

Kenektok River

Our very own Joe Moore is currently halfway through a wilderness float trip on Alaska’s Kenektok River in search of ferocious, mouse-eating rainbow trout. Check back next week for news about Joe’s adventure.