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Midsummer on The Ranch

Jul 10, 2012 | Mike Lawson


Written by Mike Lawson

I normally don’t fish the Ranch much in June and the first part of July. It isn’t that I don’t like to fish there during that time. It’s mostly because it has been a busy place in the past couple of years. Visiting anglers don’t need me to compete with during that time. I have plenty of time to fish the Ranch later in the season after the crowds have moved on. My favorite time to fish the Harriman State Park is from now until the end of the season.

The fact that you sometimes can’t find a place to park in June but you can almost have the entire place to yourself in August has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. The fish don’t go away. They live there. In fact, I think there is a strong chance that there are even more trout in the Ranch in August than in June. This might be because higher flows due to irrigation distribute some of the trout downstream from the Box Canyon. All I know for sure is that there are a lot of good fish feeding with a lot less competition from other anglers.

Midsummer brings about some great hatches of both aquatic and terrestrial insects. Pale Morning Duns continue to emerge through August. The duns can become quite sporadic but the spinners are usually dependable on calm clear mornings. Callibaetis mayflies, normally a lake species, emerge in abundance in the quiet weedy sections of the Ranch. The duns emerge sporadically during the early morning hours. The trout often key in on the fast swimming nymphs. Size 16 pheasant tail nymphs will normally do the job. The best fishing occurs later in the morning with the spinner fall. There are also a couple of species of caddis that make for good action in the morning hours.

Terrestrial insects really come into their own in midsummer. You normally won’t see large concentrations of beetles, hoppers or crickets but trout definitely know what they are and key in on them. I’ve often said that if I were restricted to a single dry fly I would choose a black beetle. Flying ants are another story. Large amber flying ants can really cause a feeding frenzy. If you don’t have some good size 14 imitations you’ll have a tough morning. Some say that they’re aquatic wasps. If you ask me, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the fish really eat them and trout don’t care if they are ants or wasps. If the wind kicks up in the afternoon you can blind fish hoppers along the bank. Hoppers also get blown out in the middle of the river. You’ll need a very realistic pattern like the Henry’s Fork Hopper on the smooth waters of the ranch.

There are lots of good places to fish in our area during midsummer. We have quite a few guide customers who time their trip so they can fish the gulpers on Hebgen Lake. The Madison fishes very well then and provides a great opportunity to fish Hebgen Lake in the Morning and the Madison in the afternoon. The Gallatin is another good midsummer river. The South Fork of the Snake is another good bet especially later in August when the early morning stoneflies get going. Some waters of Yellowstone National Park like the Yellowstone River, Slough Creek and the Lamar are a good bet for great fishing.

Maybe the reason the fishing pressure is light in the Ranch during midsummer is because there are so many other good places in the months of July August! Whatever the reason, it is time for me to fish the Ranch.