The moisture and cooler weather has been a welcome relief in recent days. The forecast is for the mild weather to continue during the coming week. This should help the fishing conditions throughout the area, especially on the Madison where the water temperature has continued to inch upward.
Upper Henry’s Fork
Box Canyon is what it is, consistent fishing with nymphs. You might have to dodge a few inner tubes, rafts and canoes but with close to 3000 trout per mile you can expect to catch fish. Best patterns are size 14 & 16 Tungsten Flash Back Pheasant Tail, Red Zebra Nymph, Brown Zebra Nymph, Olive Electric Caddis, and Olive Rick’s Tungsten. The flow from the Island Park Dam is slightly above normal at 1260 cfs. This increase in flow actually works to the advantage providing cool water during the heat of the summer. Wading is tough but manageable especially in the lower section below the campground.
The Ranch has been spotty. There is a little bit of everything coming off including PMD, Flav, Callibaetis Spinners and caddis in the morning, PMD Duns in the middle of the day and more spinners and caddis in the evening hours. We’ve seen some gargantuan caddis egg-laying flights in the late evenings at Last Chance but it usually doesn’t happen until the sun drops below Thurmon Ridge. It’s also time to dust off and organize your terrestrial box as ants, beetles and small hoppers can mean the difference if you find a good fish feeding.
Some of the most consistent surface feeding activity has been below the Osborne Bridge downstream from Osborne Springs and Wood Road #16. There are numerous springs that provide a great volume of cold water in this area that attracts good numbers of large trout. On calm afternoons you can almost be guaranteed lots of big trout feeding on the surface. This doesn’t mean they are easy. Pale Morning Duns mayflies emerge throughout the afternoon. It is a rare case to see a trout actually eat a dun. These difficult trout focus almost exclusively on nymphs, emergers and cripples just under the surface film. One option is to use a slender size 16 Sawyer Pheasant Tail. Grease the tippet down to within a half inch of the fly. You can also try dropping the nymph a few inches below a cripple. This fishing is not for the faint of heart.
The forest service started a construction rehab project on Wood Road #16 to improve access. This effort has met with distain from many Wood Road #16 aficionados who, instead of improving access, would rather see some of the old potholes and mud holes could swallow a minivan up to the door handles. This work is scheduled to continue through July 20th so travel on Wood Road #16 may be a little inconvenient.
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.
The river from Ashton downstream to the Fun Farm is not on our “hot list” right now. This productive stretch of the Henry’s Fork has not lived up to its past reputation mainly because of ongoing construction work at the Ashton Dam. On Monday, July 9th the flows were jacked all over the place in an effort to repair a problem with a synthetic coffer dam that has caused problems from the day it was installed. The work at the Ashton Dam has been a royal pain in the butt from day one. Our hope is that everything will be back to normal when construction is completed at the Ashton Dam and we won’t need to worry again for another 100 years. Ditto for the construction project at the Chester Dam.
The Madison is slammed. It’s hard to argue that statistically the Madison River receives some of the highest angler use of any river in Montana. Golden Stones, Caddis, PMD and Flav patterns have been taking lots of nice fish. Dropping a Zebra Nymph, Pheasant Tail or Serendipity below a dry fly will help increase your odds. Hopefully the great dry fly fishing will continue for the next several weeks. A lot will depend upon what happens with the weather. As of this writing the water temperature at the Kirby Ranch is 19.4 Celsius (+67F) and 20.1 Celsius (+68F) at Cameron. When warm weather drives the water temperature up past 70F, as has happened during the past several summers, the trout feeding activity will drop dramatically.
South Fork of the Snake
Dry fly fishing has really picked up, especially from the Cottonwood (Fullmer) access downstream to Byington. There are still Golden Stones although the big stonefly activity is definitely on the wain. Smaller stoneflies like Yellow Sallies have been very active in the riffles. There are also good hatches of Pale Morning Duns, Pink Alberts and caddisflies. Cripples and emergers are most effective on trout feeding selectively in the riffles. I like to use an emerger or Nohackle as a dropper 8 – 10 inches below a parachute or high riding dry fly. Small nymphs are also productive when dropped below a dry fly. Larger Chubby Chernobyl patterns with a Zebra Nymph of Rubberlegs droppers are very effective on the banks and drop offs. The water is quite high and floating can be very treacherous. Unless you an expert on the oars, leave the rowing to the experts.
The best fishing within close range of Henry’s Fork Anglers is the Gallatin River and tributaries both within and outside of the boundaries of the Park. The water level has dropped enough to nymph fishing very productive in the pockets and deep runs. Attractors have been providing good dry fly action. The fishing on the Madison and Gibbon Rivers has slowed but if the weather is cool and cloudy you can expect some good action, especially in the evening hours.
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.