The crisp air of fall is nipping at our faces in the early mornings as we approach the month of October. The fishing reports coming in from our guides are looking good, with some large trout coming to the net this week. The fish numbers are above average for this time of year with a few large trout chasing streamers as well as dry flies. Our weather over the next week looks like chance of rain later in the week while turn back to clear skies and sunshine for the following week. We all are looking forward to the month of October as the crowds start to thin out with most the summer vacationers heading back home to the daily grind of life. The cooler weather of Ocotber triggers the fall browns to start thier annual spawn migration and become aggressiive towards the streamers. Speaking of fall, elk are starting to sing their fall love song, as we had one of our customers come in and share his story about hearing a bull elk bugle on his way out to the river. This is just one of the pleasures we get to enjoy during this time of year being a fly fisherman in the field.
Upper Henry’s Fork – Last Chance, Harriman State Park and Harriman East-Riverside Campground to Warm River
On September 3rd the flow from Island Park Dam was reduced from 600 c.f.s. to just under 400 c.f.s. where it remains today. This makes floating through the Box Canyon very difficult and challenging but it can still be done. You’ll need to get out and walk your boat through the shallow areas. You will likely have better fishing by wading the river. There are many good walk-in access points to fish the Box Canyon. Small beadhead nymphs ( Zebra midge, Baetis nymph, Cocktails, Hide-a-bead PMD) size 16 and 18. The fish are getting concentrated in the deeper pools. Early mornings and evenings, when the sun is off the water can produce some big rainbows with streamers like Slump busters and Sculpins. There are sporadic hatches of Mahogany Duns in the mid-morning hours. Use size 16 or 18 Mahogany Dun No-hackle, Parachute or Sparkle Dun to imitate the duns. You should also have some emerger and cripple patterns. Mahogany Spinners will likely be on the water in the evening hours. There are still some good Trico spinner falls in the morning hours. There are also some very good hatches of Blue-Winged Olive mayflies in the mid-afternoons if the weather gives us overcast days. Terrestrial imitations including hoppers, beetles and ants will continue to produce good dry fly fishing until the weather gets cold and nasty. The fishing is challenging in bright, sunny weather but there are some very large rainbows feeding on the surface throughout the day. Riverside Campground section of the river is very much like the Box Canyon. Best flies to use are the same as those described in the Box Canyon section. In addition you should consider using a dry/dropper set up with a hopper or larger attractor fly on top followed with a nymph dropper about 2 – 3 feet below the dry fly. Streamers can also be very productive. I like black, brown or olive leech and wooly bugger patterns in this section. If you don’t mind a little hiking you can have most of this water all to yourself.
Middle Henry’s Fork – Warm River to Ashton
This is one of the best float fishing stretches in the area. It is about 8 miles from the boating access at Stone Bridge below Warm River to the county boat landing downstream from the Highway 20 bridge. This is a great stretch of water for good numbers of small trout and whitefish. There are also some big browns in this section. Dry/dropper rigs ( Morrish Hopper, Red Copper Johns) and streamers (Slumpbusters, Sparkle Minows) are very productive in this water.
Lower Henry’s Fork – Ashton Dam to St. Anthony
This water continues to improve as we get later into September and October. As the water temps continue to cool the river will have less vegetation, the trout will start to feel the urge to spawn and become aggressive, so look for the streamer bite to increase in the coming weeks. There are good hatches of Blue-Winged Olive mayflies and Tricos on the lower section towards St. Anthony and with the lower flows in the fall this section becomes more accessible to the wade fisherman. This is one of our more productive stretches of water during the fall with good dry fly action as well as streamers. The trout aren’t normally as selective as those in the Harriman State Park. Best patterns are size 18 – 20 BWO Thorax, Parachute, Sparkle Dun, Organza Trico and Vis-a-Dun Trico. There are lots of medium to large rainbows as well as some large browns.
August provided much needed rain and cooler temperatures to allow the Teton to be in prime shape for Late September and October. Hoppers and terrestrials with nymphs dropped below are the name of the game right now on our bright sunny days. Fall is the time for Mahoganies, Baetis and green drakes as well as midges. Flows are around 310 cfs and are average for this time of year with gin clear water clarity. With these conditions a call for longer leaders, lighter tippets and a stealthier approach to present your fly to trout that might be a little on the spookier side. The Teton river is also a great place to view the changing fall colors
The river has been bumped up from 6400cfs to 7550 cfs and is holding there at the moment. As we move towards cooler daytime and water temperatures the Mahoganies and Baetis hatches will start to kickoff as well as a few leftover PMDs and Caddis throughout the river system. . Dry dropper rigs are still the go to produce fish, when casted tight to river banks, seam lines, eddies and riffles. Don’t forget to bring your streamer box as streamers on cool and cloudy days can produce some good size fish.
Montana – Madison & Gallatin Rivers
The Madison is always a good bet for good autumn fishing. Nymph fishing with an indicator is the most popular way to fish the Madison. There are also some good mayfly hatches in September and the fish will feed on the surface. Look for rising activity in the slicks and margins of the current. Often the larger trout will hold in these quiet areas. Even if you don’t see rising activity it can be very productive to fish these fish holding areas. For top water use Lime Madam X's, Missing Link Caddis, CFO ants and elk Hair Caddis. As for Nymphs try Rubber Legs, Hot Wire Prince, Red Copper Johns and Serendipities. The Gallatin River is another favorite late season stream and it normally doesn’t get a lot of pressure. I like the stretch that flows through the corner of Yellowstone Park even though most of the trout are small. Use a dry/dropper rig for lots of action. There are larger trout in the waters downstream from Taylor’s Fork near Big Sky. Streamers can produce some surprisingly large browns from this water.
The gulper fishing has definitely slowed on Hebgen Lake but there are still trout feeding on the surface on calm mornings. With cool mornings the fishing is later in the day and often the breeze is up by the time the fish start rising. However, trout continue to stage near the mouths of the inlet streams. If you miss out on rising trout, try using a leech or wooly bugger.
Henry’s Lake has been tough due to warm, clear weather. We expect this to change and the fishing should start to really produce as we get into October. There are large Brook Trout staging up near the mouths of the tributary streams. These brookies normally don’t bite well when the sun is on the water. Best action will occur in the early morning hours before sunup. Look for large hybrids and Cutthroats in the channels and springs. Wooly buggers, leeches and Henry’s Lake specific patterns like the Mitey Mouse are the top patterns. Island Park Reservoir has been relatively tough. This could change with cool weather. Look for the best fishing near the mouths of the tributary streams and the large springs.
Autumn is our favorite time to be in the park. The scenery and wildlife alone is worth the trip. However, there is some very good fishing to be had. The Gibbon is a good bet with Hoppers and other terrestrials will work well long as the weather holds. There are also starting to be some big trout staging in the Madison near Baker’s Hole prior to their annual spawning migration into the park. Nymphs, soft hackles and streamers will produce. Best fishing is early in the morning and late evening unless we get some cool cloudy weather. There are some decent hatches in the fall of Green Drakes on the Lamar River and Slough Creek. These waters can be difficult to access with all of the road construction that has been going on in the park. Make sure to check before you plan to drive up into this great fishing area. Terrestrials are also a good bet on the Lamar and Slough Creek.