Are you itching to get outside and get after some trout fishing this spring? Don’t forget that we have angling packages available throughout the year, but there is no greater value than the packages we offer in the early season. For dates before Memorial Day we have packages that start out at $1699 for a 2 days’ fishing/3 nights’ lodging, double occupancy. That’s about $850 per angler for a terrific weekend’s angling pursuit. Stay longer and fish more days if you’d like, we can accommodate and have various packages available.
Our early angling opportunities are primarily located on the Henry’s Fork in Idaho, and the Madison River in Montana. Both offer great pre-runoff fishing, and are a solid choice prior to Memorial Day. Early season hatches of spring baetis, march browns, caddis, and salmonflies can be found from April through May.
CLICK HERE to read an article by BSA co-owner Jonathan Heames, and learn why he looks forward to Spring fishing on the Henry’s Fork all winter long.
Our Golden Stone Inn is well designed for the Covid-conscious traveler with individual cabins available and plenty of room to spread out. Every room has its own entrance to the outside and is well appointed with the comforts you’d expect to enjoy after a day’s fishing. The Golden Stone Inn is located in West Yellowstone and makes a great starting point for the day’s adventures whether you are headed into Montana’s Madison Valley or to the Henry’s Fork in nearby Idaho.
For those anglers wishing to take a day to rest and visit Yellowstone National Park (closed to fishing until the first Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we can accommodate that as well. We have a staff guide that offers guided tours into Yellowstone and the early season is an excellent time to visit the park, especially for wildlife viewing. The cooler weather has the wildlife active during the daytime hours, the larger carnivores are still snacking on winter kills, and the bison are in the midst of their calving season, a dynamic time in our nation’s first national park.
Call us today at (406) 646-7801 to talk about Spring fishing and lodging packages. Once you experience Spring fishing in Big Sky Country we’re sure you will dream about it all winter too!
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking public comment until October 30th, 2020. The results of this will affect your fishing on the Madison River.
Some of you may have heard the buzz about Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks moving forward with a Madison River Recreation Plan. This is an important next step in a movement that has been discussed for the past 10 years. This plan has ultimately come to a head because of perceived overcrowding on the river. Users wishing to preserve and protect the quality of the experience on the Madison River have been convening to discuss the many points of view and perspectives on how best to manage this. In many ways, this is a discussion and plan that will set the standard for other rivers in the West for years to come, so it’s worth taking a moment to understand what is at stake here and offering your public comment where you are able. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is accepting public comment until October 30th on this and the commissioners will come to a vote on November 18th, 2020.
It is our goal to inform those of you that are interested in what Big Sky Anglers’ stance is on these issues, to offer some interpretation and navigability of the current proposals, and include links to the original documents so that those of you that wish to read and decide for yourselves are able to do so easily. The Madison is truly a special river that belongs to all of us (Montana residents and non-residents, commercial users and public users) and we hope that a reasonable plan that achieves the goal of limiting the perceived crowding and, most importantly, protecting the resource can emerge from all of this. As with all public resource management issues, the current discussion needs your opinion, it needs to hear from the public.
We and others have found the current rules being proposed to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Commissioners are a bit muddy and difficult to navigate, so we are hoping to put the current discussion into simpler terms here. A link to the actual language for anyone who wishes to read through it more carefully is located here.
FWP has clearly stated that this plan will be developed based on the comments received by the public.The Madison River is a public resource with rulemaking driven by public comment, not by commercial users. Your voice is needed more than you might imagine.
Public Comment can be submitted by the following methods and must be received by October 30, 2020:
Rule 5: Closure of Walk/Wade section to boats, alternate plan to Rule 3
Rule 6: Management of Limited Commercial Users
Rule 7: Transferred Permits
Rule 8: Flex Trips
Rule 9: Transfer of Guided Trips
Rule 10: Mandatory Guided Trip Reductions
Rule 11: Permit and Application Fees
Rule 12: Reporting and Use Fees
Rule 13: Plan Evaluation
Rule 14: Commercial Use Working Group
Rule 15: Madison River SRP Trip Distribution Pool
Rule 16: Madison River Use Stamp
In short, there are 16 rules being proposed, and these three are standing out as contentious and worthy of comment: Rules 2, 3, and 5. The rest deal with the management of commercial permits and we accept them as they are. We believe that limiting our own impact, as commercial users, is critical to any proposed plan.
Rule 2: Rest and Rotation**Being proposed here is a Saturday closure of all commercial use from Varney Bridge to Ennis and a Sunday closure from Lyons Bridge to Palisades. These closures will be active from June 15-September 30**
Our position is that Rest and Rotation as it is currently defined will not work on the Madison River and will in fact make crowding worse. The method needs improvement.
This doesn’t seem too extreme at face value but it should be noted that the language being used for Rest and Rotation is flawed in that the Sunday closure of Lyons-Palisades incidentally results in the closure of AT LEAST 8 float section options to commercial use. Each of the following sections utilizes a portion of or all of the proposed closure and would be closed for guided trips on Sundays.
-Lyons Bridge to Windy Point
-Lyons Bridge to Palisades
-Lyons Bridge to Ruby Creek
-Lyons Bridge to Mcatee Bridge
-Windy Point to Palisades
-Windy Point to Ruby Creek
-Windy Point to Mcatee Bridge
-Windy Point to Storey Ditch
-Raynold’s Pass to Windy Point
-Pine Butte to Windy Point
-Pine Butte to Palisades
The incidental closure of all of these sections will force ALL guided float trips on Sundays into Palisades and downstream, into those sections that have much lower fish counts per mile than the upper reaches and cannot handle the inevitable increase of fishing pressure. The concentration of guide boats caused by the proposed rule will also result in circumstances that we believe will be perceived as overcrowding of the river below Palisades on Sundays – the exact opposite of the intended result of the rule.
Closing of the entire section doesn’t work on the Madison, perhaps we can explore rest and rotation on the individual fishing access level as a possible alternative. For example, Lyons Bridge access could be closed on Sundays to commercial use. Another consideration might be to close that particular float on a given day, but still allow for other floats that overlap the same section to occur. Allowing boats to spread out is the key to avoiding crowded situations.
Rule 3: Closure of Walk/Wade Section to boats**Being proposed here is a closure to ALL boats (not just commercial) in the sections of river commonly referred to as the walk/wade stretches (Quake Lake outlet – Lyons Bridge and Ennis to Ennis Reservoir) on weekends: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. These closures will be active from June 15-September 30**
Our position is that we do NOT support the ban of watercraft on the wade section at any time and we do NOT support fishing from boats in the wade section.
At face value this rule seems noble, but it’s worth noting several things here to consider. Firstly, the issue we are facing on the Madison is overcrowding, taking boats out of the wade section on weekends lessens anglers’ ability to spread out, forcing everyone into the same wade fishing accesses. Secondly, several landowners in the upper wade section have become increasingly aggressive about confronting wade fishing anglers, accusing them of trespassing according to their own interpretation of the Montana Stream Access Law. They are aggressively posting no trespassing signs, arguably illegally, and chasing anglers off of the public water adjacent to their property.
We believe that actively limiting stream access to public water does not represent Montana values, and establishes a dangerous precedent that flies in the face of our beloved Stream Access Law. Limiting access in this instance may also result in future litigation, wasting both taxpayer money and State resources. When combined with Proposed Rule #2, this rule has the potential to cause even greater crowding of boat-based anglers and recreational floaters into the sections of river downstream of Palisades. This rule is an access issue and should be looked at with a more critical eye as it benefits very few (a handful of property owners) at the cost of many (the angling public).
Rule 5: Closure of Walk/Wade Section to Boats-Alternate to Rule 3**Being proposed here is an alternate rule to Rule 3: this is presented by FOAM (Fishing Outfitter Association of Montana) and proposes a closure to boats on the two walk/wade stretches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Leaving Sunday open to boats to accommodate the Rest and Rotation closure of Lyons to Palisades to commercial use in Rule 2. It also proposes to allow fishing from the boat in the walk/wade section from Sunday through Wednesday. These closures will be active from June 15-September 30**
Our position is that we do NOT support the ban of watercraft on the wade section at any time and we do NOT support fishing from boats in the wade section.
As mentioned, this is intended to be an alternate to Rule 3. Best case scenario in our view is the omission of BOTH of these Rules, retaining the status quo in the walk/wade sections. We believe that there is significant value to the angling public in retaining the existing rules banning angling from a floating craft upstream of Lyons Bridge.
MT FWP Needs Your Comments
We encourage you to make comments of your own, but if you are inclined to agree with Big Sky Anglers’ positioning on these matters and don’t have time to draft a personal comment, please feel free to utilize any of the following text in your comments to FWP on their website, by mail, or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please feel free to contact us at email@example.com with any questions or if we can help clarify any of these complicated issues.
Please Feel Free to Copy and Paste this Text if it Suits You
To Whom it May Concern,
Thank you for allowing the public to comment on this important proposal for the Madison River, I agree with proposed rules 1, 4, and 6-16. I would like to issue the following comments on Rules 2, 3, and 5:
Rule 2. The language currently being used to define rest and rotation is flawed and I believe will have the reverse effect from that which is intended. Specifically, by closing Lyons Bridge to Palisades on Sundays to commercial use, this rule as written will ban commercial float trips on AT LEAST 8 popular float sections of the river:
1. Lyons Bridge to Windy Point
2. Lyons Bridge to Palisades
3. Lyons Bridge to Ruby Creek
4. Lyons Bridge to Mcatee Bridge
5. Windy Point to Palisades
6. Windy Point to Ruby Creek
7. Windy Point to Mcatee Bridge
8. Windy Point to Storey Ditch
9. Raynold’s Pass to Windy Point
10. Pine Butte to Windy Point
11. Pine Butte to Palisades
The incidental closure of all of these sections will force ALL guided float trips into Palisades and downstream, into sections that have much lower fish counts per mile than the upper reaches and cannot handle the inevitable increase of fishing pressure. The concentration of guide boats caused by the proposed rule will also result in circumstances that we believe will be perceived as overcrowding of the river downstream of Palisades on Sundays – the exact opposite of the intended result of the rule.
I encourage the Commissioners to explore other options for Rest and Rotation rather than closing an entire section to all commercial traffic. One alternative would be to close a particular access on a given day, rather than the entire section. Another could be to allow floats to occur that pass through this section but do not start at Lyons Bridge and terminate at Palisades. Allowing boats the ability to spread out on the Madison is the key to helping prevent perceived crowding.
Rules 3 and 5. I disagree with removing boats from the walk/wade sections of the Madison. This will only benefit the few landowners in these areas at the expense of the many public anglers. It will also increase crowding at wade fishing access points. I believe that there is significant value to the angling public in retaining the existing rules banning angling from a floating craft upstream of Lyons Bridge. I also believe that actively limiting stream access to public water does not represent Montana values, and establishes a dangerous precedent that flies in the face of Montana’s beloved Stream Access Law. Limiting access in this instance may also result in future litigation, wasting both taxpayer money and State resources. When combined with Proposed Rule #2, this rule has the potential to cause even greater crowding of boat based anglers and recreational floaters into the sections of river downstream of Palisades.
As we approach the middle of July each year, I tend to feel a little bit of anxiety as I begin to consider the bewildering diversity of fishing opportunities that surround us here in West Yellowstone. As a guide, now is when I begin to have almost TOO MANY good options and the difficult thing can be to decide which one to take each day. As an angler, I begin to think of all the places that are still on my list after a lifetime of exploring Yellowstone country and I grapple with the reality that I might only have time enough to tick just one more off of what seems to be a growing, rather than shrinking list.
We at Big Sky Anglers choose to live here in West Yellowstone because of its incredible diversity of water types and virtually endless fishing options for anglers of all skill levels and interests. We not only live here because of the opportunities found to engage all anglers as customers but also because we, as anglers, remain engaged in angling pursuits here even after a lifetime of flyfishing in the area. Draw a simple 100 mile radius around West Yellowstone on any map and you will have encapsulated more squiggly blue lines and world class fisheries than can be found in a 100 mile radius just about anywhere else on the globe. This place both keeps us on our toes and inspires us. We love to share it with others and look forward to chances to introduce anglers to new experiences.
The middle of July represents to us the heart of our season. It is exactly in the middle of what we would call our prime time, which arguably ranges from the beginning of May through the beginning of October. Summertime dry fly fishing is in full effect, good hatches are occurring during the daylight hours and good evening fishing can be found with regular spinner falls and caddis emergences. At this point in the year, there is more quality fishable water around us than at any other time. Terrific fishing can be found on the Henry’s Fork and Henry’s Lake in Idaho, Montana’s Madison, Gallatin, Missouri, Yellowstone Rivers as well as many of the region’s stillwaters, of which Hebgen sits atop our list due both proximity to the shop and the angling diversity it offers. Yellowstone National Park, with the exception of the waters warmed by geyser influence like the Firehole and Madison, numerically dominates the area’s options and great trout fishing can be found in any quadrant. Many of the high country and back country streams are just now coming into shape for their short but productive time of year.
Perhaps foolishly, I have decided to attempt to summarize some of the option available to us during the Heart of our season.
Let’s start in Idaho. The Henry’s Fork is perhaps the single most diverse river in our lineup. It has everything from technical spring creek fishing on a large scale to wild and seldom traveled wilderness canyon sections that offer a high quality outdoor experience on just about any day of the summer. Though some of the fantastic fishing that we experience in June on the Fork has shut down due to high irrigation demand and high summer temperatures in the valley, the river fishes consistently well all the way to the town of Ashton. Just below the Island Park dam the remarkably consistent fishery of the Box Canyon is entering its prime season, which will extend through the middle of October. The Railroad Ranch has good hatches throughout the month of July before shifting into more sparse and technical August fishing with fewer bugs and terrestrials. Evening fishing is still high on the list of great ideas here at this time and will continue to be so until the end of the month or first weeks of August. The canyon country below the Ranch and the water just outside of the caldera remains highly oxygenated and offers consistent fishing almost every day for beginner and intermediate level anglers. Henry’s Lake begins to weed up and the hardware/trolling traffic begins to lighten up a bit, leaving most of the water to fly anglers. This will continue into August and the fly opportunities continue to increase from now through the middle of October. The Henry’s Fork provides on very large piece of a large puzzle of opportunity at this time of year.
In the portion of southwestern Montana that is immediately around West Yellowstone, the Madison River and Hebgen Lake dominate the list of options. The Madison is now at its most active time of year and this represents the heart of the dry fly season on one of our nation’s finest dry fly fisheries. Good hatches provide great action for anglers of all skill levels throughout July, and the classically wide-open landscape of this iconic Montana river lends itself to the production of a great many terrestrial insects during the month of August. Water temperatures stay consistently cool throughout the heat of summer here, especially now that the Hebgen dam has been repaired, and dry fly fishing remains an excellent option through the end of August. If the Madison is on your list of rivers to experience, these next two months are some of the best times to experience it. Hebgen Lake is a robust Stillwater fishery, perhaps best known in the flyfishing world for its incredible hatches of tricos and callibaetis, as well the large trout that gobble the spinners from the surface of the water in easy rhythm, those we refer to as “gulpers”. This is some of the most entertaining Stillwater fishing available to fly anglers, and it is located right in our backyard. If you are a repeat visitor to Yellowstone country with a fly rod in hand, experiencing “gulper” fishing is something that should most definitely be on your list. Hebgen also offers an incredible variety of subsurface fishing opportunities throughout the summer, similar to Henry’s Lake.
There are over 1,800 miles of squiggly blue lines in Yellowstone National Park and just over 220 lakes within its boundary. Virtually all of this water holds trout of some sort: Rainbows, Browns, Brooks, Lakers and Cutthroats, both Yellowstone and West Slope. There are also Grayling and Mountain Whitefish to be found. Outside of the waters that directly receive geyser effluent (the Firehole River, portions of the Gibbon, and the Madison), most of this water is in prime shape and is now ready to be explored. In the Northwest, the Gallatin and Gardner Rivers are in their prime and will remain so through the end of August. In the Southwest, the more remote river systems beckon the backountry angler with some fine fishing, hot spring soaking, and waterfall exploring opportunities. In the southeast, lies the headwaters of two of the United States’ great rivers, the Yellowstone and the Snake. Much of this water hasn’t been fishable until just now due to regulations and runoff conditions. The Yellowstone and Lamar Rivers, as well as Slough and Soda Butte Creek in the northeast are now in shape and begin to draw anglers from around the globe. The open Serengeti-like terrain of this corner of the park provides not only exciting fishing but also some of Yellowstone National Park’s best wildlife watching. Now is the time to begin fishing in earnest the bulk of the water in the crown jewel of our National Park system.
Whether you are bound for Yellowstone country with plans to fish every day or have come to simply experience this part of the world and would like to fish for a day or two, the next two months offer some of the most consistent and diverse fishing to be found in this remarkable region surrounding West Yellowstone. We are truly and fortunately, located at the epicenter of trout fishing in the American West.
Fishing the iconic Salmonfly (Pteronarcys californica) hatch on the Fifty-Mile Riffle is an epic experience to say the least. Snow-capped mountains and lush green hillsides frame a robust river flush with the bounty of early season snowmelt. Tremendous browns and rainbows rise eagerly to engulf massive insects from the surface. It’s the stuff of legends.
Though, like many phenomenons, they are all too often elusive. One day you’re a bit too far upstream of the hatch, the next day you’re too far behind it. Sometimes you’re right smack in the middle of the hatch, but the fish have seen too many bugs and reject your fly as if to say “sorry Sucker, better luck next time”.
Every so often, when the stars align, you get to watch in amazement as big trout erupt on your dry fly, and tear upstream in a violent and powerful run. On days like these you can do no wrong, it’s as if every trophy trout in the river has been waiting all year just to eat your fly. Though, sadly, that’s not the norm. The reason those epic days are so special is because they so rarely happen.
I’ve spent many days watching perfect drifts go unrewarded during the Madison’s salmonfly hatch with perfectly presented stonefly imitations. Over the years I’ve been forced to look past the obvious attraction of the Hollywood Hatch, and look deeper for other ways to feed these crafty trout. More times than not, the answer has been with Arctopsyche grandis.
Arctopsyche grandis is a large (size #8-10) chocolate-colored caddis that is conveniently at its peak of activity on the Madison River when salmonflies are hatching.
A. grandis are predominantly nocturnal, but at their peak abundance, the sheer volume of insects provides an ample supply of unlucky individuals who fall or get blown from stream side vegetation into the drift. Just like Salmonflies, Arctopsyche adults can be seen fluttering haphazardly across the surface, especially close to the banks, on windy afternoons.
Conveniently, many of the Madison’s best brown trout occupy those prime lies along the bank, hunting opportunistically for any and all insects that come their way, not just the immense stoneflies.
I generally prefer to present a single dry fly to these sneaky bank feeders. I like a 10-12 foot leader (depending on wind), with a long 2-3 foot tippet section of soft monofilament. When casting from the drift boat, I find a downstream presentation with a reach cast to be the most effective. When wading, I like to approach from below my target, fishing upstream with an elevated pile cast and a slight reach to the bank side.
Dry fly patterns like a size #10 Royal Stimulator, #10 Micro-Chubby, or #10 PMX are all great searching patterns when Arctopsyche are active. All of these flies are also great imitations for the multitude of smaller stoneflies which are present at these times.
When dry fly fishing isn’t producing, often in the week or so leading up to the hatch, larval imitations of A. grandis can be seriously effective. These large larvae are found in size #8-10 on the Madison with a bright olive body and a dark brown head. Nymph patterns like the BSA Beadhead Caddis Pupa, and a Tungsten King Prince are a great choice.
Don’t get me wrong, on days when the infamous fish on the Madison are crushing Salmonfly dries I will cast them until my arm falls off. But when they’re not, you will most likely find me fishing an Arctopsyche imitation….with a bent rod.
So, keep an eye out for these large, chocolate-colored caddis the next time you’re fishing the Madison during stonefly activity, and keep their imitations on deck if you’re watching too many of your own perfect drifts with a Salmonfly go unrewarded.
Well folks, we’ve held out as long as possible to update everyone about our summer community appreciation event. Formerly known as the Grand Opening Celebration. Turns out, those banners finally wore out. The simple fact is, now is not the time to invite all of our best friends, family members, and the entire BSA community into the flyshop for a party and BBQ. That said, we are not interested in cancelling the celebration all together, so we have been wracking our brains for ways to bring our community together in other, safer ways this summer.
So, what do we have up our sleeve?
First of all, the flyshop will be open on June 27th for regular hours, so please feel free to stop in and say hi. We plan to run some great sales, giveaways, and maybe a game or two.
The rest of this event, however, will be held online, taking advantage of the incredible technology we have at our disposal that helped keep us together and sane during lockdown. SO…
Join us ONLINE for Big Sky Anglers FOURTH ANNUAL Community Appreciation Celebration –
A celebration of summer, friends, family, and fly fishing.
Saturday, June 27th, 2020
Read on below for a listing and schedule of guests and events. Keep fishing, keep smiling, and we hope to see everyone at a bigger and better party at the flyshop in June 2021!
Joe Moore, Justin Spence, and Jonathan Heames
Owners, Big Sky Anglers
Special Guests and Events Schedule
We hope to add a couple more events in the coming week, so please check back in!
Saturday, June 27th
On Instagram @bigskyanglers
If you haven’t started following us on Instagram, now might be the right time to do it. We will be live on Instagram throughout the day, with IG Live videos, Q&A, special guests, fly tying, giveaways, sales, and more.
2 PM Mountain Time – Jonathan and Steve will be chatting live with Benjamin Beale of El Encuentro Fly Fishing. Watch for the IG Live announcement in your Stories via @bigskyanglers and @elencuentroflyfishing
4 PM Mountain Time – Justin chats live with the Patagonia Nomads, direct from San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina. Watch for the IG Live announcement in your Stories via @bigskyanglers and @patagonianomads.arg
6 PM Mountain Time – Justin chats live with our good mate and Kiwi fishing guide Ronan Creane, direct from the South Island of New Zealand. Watch for the IG Live announcement in your Stories via @bigskyanglers and @ronan_creane
8 PM Mountain Time – BSA’s Matt Klara on the tying bench sharing a few tips and tricks for tying some of his favorite stillwater and Trout Spey patterns. Watch for the IG Live announcement in your Stories via @bigskyanglers