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Winter 2013 / 2014

Dec 7, 2013 | Mike Lawson

Winter has definitely come to Henry’s Fork Country. During the months of December and January it isn’t practical to post a current fishing report. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of opportunity to find good fly fishing if the weather is favorable. Conditions won’t change much through the cold winter months so this fishing report is designed to share our expectations for this time of year. We’ll start posting a bi-weekly fishing report when winter temperatures start to moderate in February. Until then, here’s what to expect for December, January and early February.

Upper Henry’s Fork
Fishing can be very good throughout the winter months in the stretch from the confluence of Henry’s Lake Outlet below Big Springs downstream to Highway 20 at Mack’s Inn. The problem is access. This area gets a lot of snow closing the road to Big Springs. The only access is by snowmobile, snow shoes or cross country skis. Several Island Park businesses rent snowmobiles by the day. You can also rent cross country skis or snow shoes at Henry’s Fork Anglers. Unless you are an accomplished Nordic skier we recommend snow shoes. The water temperature in this stretch is relatively constant due to the proximity to Big Springs. Midge fishing can be very good. Streamers and nymphs are also productive if you can’t find fish rising.  

Box Canyon
The water temperature below the Island Park Dam stays constant during the winter months providing good fishing opportunities at any day of the year. Nymphs provide the best fishing. Our favorites include red, olive or brown Zebra Nymphs, Tungsten Flashback Pheasant Tail and smaller black or brown rubberlegs. Leech and streamer patterns can also produce but you need to swing them or strip with a very slow retrieve. Access can be a big problem due to deep snow. You always have the option of renting a snowmobile or snow shoes. We also provide guiding opportunities here as long as we can get the boat in and back out at Last Chance.

Last Chance / Harriman Park
The water from the boundary of the Harriman Park downstream to Pinehaven is closed to fishing until June 15, 2014. However, the stretch through Last Chance is open year round. It isn’t uncommon to see nice trout feeding on midges on any day of the season. Water temperature can have a major effect on fishing even though it is only 3 miles below the dam. Keep an eye on the weather and if it is not too cold you can find great dry fly fishing. You might need a pair of snow shoes even though the river is only a short distance from the highway. Parking can also be an issue but you are welcome to park in our parking lot or several other businesses close by.


Wood Road #16 – Pinehaven
Fishing is closed from the south boundary of the Harriman Eas State Park downstream to Riverside Campground until the opening of general fishing season on May 24, 2014.


Canyon Water
Access to the Henry’s Fork canyon from Riverside downstream to the confluence at Warm River is not available unless you have a snowmobile. Even then, hiking down to the water in deep snow is very hazardous and not recommended. There is a good snowmobile trail from Bear Gulch up to Mesa Falls that provides awesome winter scenery and is worth the trip even if you don’t fish.


Warm River to Ashton
This stretch can provide great fishing throughout the winter months. However, the water temperature can fluctuate greatly with the weather. Sometimes it gets choked with slush ice. I recommend staying close to the confluence with Warm River if you are wade fishing. Warm River is a spring creek and the water temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much below the confluence. Use the same patterns recommended for Box Canyon. It is only possible to float this water if the boating accesses are not closed from snow. Normally these accesses are not available until at least mid-February.


Ashton Dam to St Anthony
The tailwater section from the Ashton Dam downstream to the Vernon Bridge is closed for fishing until May 24, 2014. However, unless it is bitter cold there can be good fishing near the Vernon Bridge access. You might find fish rising to midges. If you can’t find rising trout try fishing nymphs. Egg patterns can also be very productive. If conditions are right there can be good midge fishing at the Fun Farm.


St Anthony to Confluence
I have rarely found water conditions during December and January suitable for fly fishing. When things warm up it can provide fantastic streamer fishing. Look at the video we filmed last March.

Henry’s Fork Tributaries
Fall River is a freestone stream and as such it normally gets completely choked with ice. Even if the water is open it is normally full of slush ice during the winter months. Don’t write it off, however, because I’ve had some fantastic fishing as soon as the water shapes up, usually in mid-February. Warm River can produce good dry fly fishing upstream from the Highway 47 Bridge. Remember the water below the bridge is closed to fishing year round. Fishing the Buffalo is only an option near Pond’s Lodge.


Madison River
The fishing season on the Madison is a little complex so we highly recommend you check carefully with the Montana fishing regulations for more detailed information. The section from Hegben Lake Dam to Quake Lake is open year round. The stretch from the Quake Lake Outlet to McAtee Bridge is closed to fishing from March 1 until the third Saturday in May. The Madison is open to fishing year round from McAtee Bridge downstream to the Ennis Bridge. The fishing season is closed to fishing from March 1 until the third Saturday in May from the Ennis Bridge downstream to Ennis Lake. Fishing can be very good in this section between the lakes. We like Zebra Nymphs, Tungsten Pheasant Tail, Skinny Nelson and a variety of other small bead head nymphs. You can also find success by swinging a stream through the deeper runs. Access can be tough because of snow.


Area Lakes
Unless you like to fish through the ice wait until the ice goes out in late April or May.


South Fork of the Snake
There are a number of very good options on the South Fork during the winter months. For wading anglers we recommend you concentrate your efforts near the Heise Bridge or downstream at Twin Bridges. The upper river is also good from the Palisades Dam downstream to the Spring Creek Bridge above the South Fork Lodge. Access can be difficult but if you can find good water you’re likely to find good fishing with nymphs or streamers. Midge fishing can also be very productive. Best fishing occurs on mild overcast days. The South Fork can also be impacted by cold temperatures resulting in flowing slush ice but there are usually some good days when the weather is right in December and January. Another good option that is often overlooked is the Big Feeder Canal or Dry Bed. This large irrigation ditch holds enough water during the winter months to provide quality fishing.


Yellowstone National Park- CLOSED FOR SEASON