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Fishing Report

Aug 27, 2012 | Mike Lawson

This week we received some great news from the Henry’s Fork Foundation. A proposal from Pacificorp, the company that manages the Ashton Dam, planned to draw the reservoir down an additional 5 feet to complete their project to rebuild the dam. If you fished the lower river since last fall you’ve noticed it hasn’t been clear. In fact it was completely unfishable last fall and early this spring because sediment was pouring out of the reservoir. The latest proposal would have spewed at least 10,000 more tons of sediment into the lower river. We appreciate the efforts of the Henry’s Fork Foundation to pressure Pacificorp to find an alternative to lowering the reservoir an additional five feet.

Upper Henry’s Fork

Kokanee Salmon have started moving upstream from the Island Park Reservoir. Large trout are certain to follow. We’ve had good reports from anglers fishng below Coffee Pot Rapids downstream to the McCrea Bridge.

Box Canyon has been spotty. The flow is still pretty high at 1200 cfs but we expect things to change with less irrigation demand. Best fishing has been with a double nymph system with Zebra Nymphs, Hot Wire Prince, and Flashback Tungsten Pheasant Tails. Streamer fishing has also been productive in the early morning and evening hours. Hopper / Droppers have also been working in the lower Box Canyon. We could use some clouds.


Flat Water

I was a little hard on the “Gravel Pit Gang” in my last report. I apologize. There was plenty bitching and whining in June about all of the crowds in the Ranch but I shouldn’t have singled them out. The fishing was rather tough after opening day and the complaining was universal. I appreciate a couple of emails to help me get my foot out of my mouth.

The point I was trying to make is how the fishing is as good as or even better than June after the opener. You need to bring your "A" game because it isn’t as easy as hooking a big trout with a Green Drake with 4X tippet but the crowds are light, there are no gulls, and the water is high enough to make the trout comfortable.

I didn’t put on my game face my last trip into the Ranch. It all started when I was riding into the Ranch on my bike with my brother Rick. He stopped me and asked why I was dragging my reel 20 yards behind my bike. I didn’t have a good answer for that one but after I cleaned the grit out the reel seemed to work fine. We parked our bikes above Bonefish Flats and walked upstream about 200 yards. When I rigged my four-piece rod I realized it was now a 3-piece rod. The tip section was gone. I told Rick I’d walk back to the bikes and if it didn’t turn up I’d ride back to the parking lot to get another rod. By some miracle I found the tip. When I got back to the river Rick was already set up on a big rising to Tricos.

I worked across and upstream of the islands where I spotted a big rainbow mowing down Trico spinners. I made a bad cast and chased him downstream. Poor casting ran off a couple more big rainbows. When I finally settled in I pulled the fly away from a trout when he ate my fly. It happened three or four more times. After that I started breaking them off on the strike. In the meantime, Rick was hooking up on a regular basis. I saw him playing a big one just upstream while two more big fish settled in feeding within his casting range. He picked off two more without even moving. Honey Ants showed up about 11 AM but I kept screwing up.

I had it coming. I fished the same water a few days before and landed the first four big trout I cast to. When you fish the Ranch you just never know what will happen. That’s what makes it such a great place. Rick and I headed to Ponds for lunch with the intent of fishing Wood Road #16 in the afternoon. It didn’t happen. It’s amazing how you can change your perspective after a long bike ride, a burger, an icy drink, and reflections of getting your butt whipped. However, Wood Road has been productive in the afternoon because dozens of springs cool the water. You need to bring your “A” game because those big trout are tough.

Riverside to Ashton Reservoir

The canyon water from Riverside Campground downstream to the confluence with Warm River essentially gets very little attention during mid-summer. The water is very similar to Box Canyon. Use the same patterns and techniques we recommend for Box Canyon. Now that the flows are high the fishing likely isn’t worth the effort unless your main objective is to get away from everybody. If you want to hike down into the canyon you likely won’t have any company.

The Warm River to Ashton float has been very productive. Most of the fish will be small but you will almost always hook up with a few trout in the 18” – 20” range in the course of the day. Whitefish are another treat that will keep the action going when fishing with nymphs. There are two good ways to catch trout on this float. Use a high visibility dry fly like a Chubby Chernobyl or Green Machine with a nymph dropper 24” below the dry. The most productive nymphs are Red, Olive and Green Zebra Nymphs, Tungsten P T Flashback, and Tungsten Prince Nymphs.

Ashton Tailwater

There have been some cool nights and the fishing below Ashton has picked up since my last report. There is a lot of drifting aquatic vegetation that makes fishing nymphs and streamers tough and landing fish even tougher. Look for this fishing to improve in the weeks ahead. Again, we are relieved beyond measure that we shouldn’t expect a sediment flush like we experienced last fall. The river below Ashton was essentially unfishable from the first of September on. Fall is one of the best times to fish this water.

Madison River

The water temperature has cooled some on the Madison River below Quake Lake and fishing has picked up. The fish are getting wise on hoppers but you can still do well with a hopper / dropper rig. Our favorite hopper this year is the Thunder Thighs Hopper (yes – there’s a new hopper with a new name every year.) This new pattern is highly visible, has a realistic profile, and floats a heavy tungsten nymph. Best nymphs have been Zebra Nymphs and Tungsten Flashback Pheasant Tail.

South Fork of the Snake

The flows have dropped and fishing has improved. It has still been spotty in the riffles. Things should continue to improve moving forward. The flow has been reduced and will continue to drop over the weeks ahead. There is a good hatch of large late summer stoneflies that can produce great dry fly fishing early in the morning and late in the evening.

Yellowstone Park

The water temperature is too warm on the Firehole, Madison, and Gibbon Rivers. These rivers will be closed to fishing until later in the season when the water cools back down. The trout numbers are thin on the Yellowstone River but the quality is high. There are some real big cutthroats that easily top 20 inches. Other good options in the park are the Lamar River, Slough Creek, and the upper reaches of the Gardiner River.


As always, Warm River and the Buffalo provide great fishing for small trout throughout the heat of the summer. Both streams are spring creeks that remain cool enough to keep trout active. Until recently Fall River has been quite high. The water level has dropped making the river much easier to access, wade and fish. If you haven’t fish Fall River you’ve missed a treat. It is one of the hidden gems in the Henry’s Fork region. Use tungsten bead nymphs dropped about 2 feet below an attractor dry fly. 


Warm weather has started to concentrate fish near the mouths of some of the springs and creeks. Targhee Creek has seen the most activity. Anglers have also been catching trout near Hope Creek near the cliffs, Staley Springs and in some of the deeper springs like the Blue Roof Hole out in the lake. Best patterns have been scuds, Mitey Mite, and Crystal Buggers.

Fly fishing at Island Park has been spotty but things are starting to pick up on the north side of the lake near Trude Bay and Grizzly Springs. Look for this fishing to improve as the reservoir level drops to meet downstream irrigation demand.

Gulper fishing has been productive on Hebgen Lake. Best action is during calm mornings when large trout cruise the surface feeding on Callibaetis mayflies. It is possible to catch trout from shore on the north side of the lake but in most cases you’ll need a float tube, pontoon boat or boat. Best action is to us a dry fly that is easy to see like a Parachute Adams with a size 16 Sawyer PT Nymph as a dropper about 8 inches below the fly.