We are in the time of year when South Fork-Palisades Reservoir tributaries can be destinations.Those going into the reservoir from the south, McCoy and Bear Creek, still hold a few large run-up fish. A well maintained road runs the length of McCoy Creek, a good trail (motorized only for trail bikes) leaves the parking-corral area and runs for miles up Bear Creek. A good non-motorized trail runs for miles up Big Elk Creek (entering from the north) which around mid August features an afternoon western green drake emergence. These streams host only cutthroat trout. Terrestrial, traditional attractor, golden stone, yellow sally, and caddis patterns work best with PMD life cycle patterns the best in mayflies for each creek. Descriptions of campgrounds on these can be seen on the Caribou-Targhee N. F. web site.
Streams coming into the South Fork below Palisades Dam include Burns, Palisades, Pine, and Rainey Creek. Pine Creek is paralleled by State Highway 31 and therefore heavily fished for cutthroat trout. Palisades Creek is the only one with a campground, has a non-motorized trail paralleling for miles, and below Lower Palisades Lake hosts cutthroat and cutt-bow hybrid trout. Rainey Creek, paralleled by a gravel road hosts a diminished population of cutthroat trout, but offers good fishing in its upper reach. Burns Creek is reached from the 12-mile gravelled River Road upstream from Heise. A motorized trail parallels it for miles with the best fishing for cutthroat trout being in its upper reach. The same fly selection given for streams running into Palisades Reservoir apply to these streams.
Big stoneflies are out nearly to Conant. This means a float downstream from there is a good option. Strong PMD activity is ongoing up and down the river, yellow sallys are in good numbers, and a few green drakes remain. When fishing riffles during mayfly activity, use the life cycle progression of nymph, emerger, dun, spinner because fish will key on each of these as the day progresses. Do not overlook the side channels. Presenting super-X or super renegade patterns near overhangs while drifting by remains effective.
Flow in the river is normal for this time of the season, and the future looks good with time-to-time minor flow changes because of downstream irrigation demands.
Lower river is definitely warming, so we suggest fishing in the early AM when spinner falls provide some action. Presenting streamer patterns, especially during early in the day overcast conditions, can bring out some large trout. Fishing the upper river is more consistent with continuing AM and PM spinner falls and afternoon caddis activity. Look for mayfly populations to begin diminishing from the spring-early summer peak and for bank side terrestrial insects to increase in number. Depending on weather (mostly thundershowers and resultant winds ) some good fishing can be found in less crowded spots along the river such as the Coffeepot area, the Tubs area, and the Flat Ranch preserve. Spinner falls, afternoon caddis, yellow sallies, diminishing PMD and golden stones and increasing terrestrial insects will provide interest from trout. From now through Labor Day expect to share the river in Box Canyon and the Big Springs-Mack’s Inn section with floating recreationists.
The choice here is almost endless. Do you want some tranquility? Again your choice is almost endless. Contact us on which may be best based on current information. Do you want to fill a 25-fish legal daily limit of brook trout for an upcoming fish fry? Best candidates for doing so are Little Warm River, Robinson, Sawmill, Beaver, Cottonwood, Trail, and Partridge Creeks.
Flows between 600-700 cfs coming out of Mackay Dam make for treacherous wading below. If flow were cut in half, it would be safer for enjoying the golden stone and western green drake activity soon to come on. We still have no info on the river in Copper Basin, but USGS water flow gages tell us that Basin stream flows are are about normal. So that alone suggests that good fishing should be available.
On the upper river weather determines intensity and fly-fishing success during the PM brown drake emergence. Try to use good weather evenings for best chances. Recreating boaters are coming to Box Canyon, and they have the same right to use the river as anglers. Their numbers peak during mid-day, so to minimize interference consider early AM, or late afternoons for your visit here. AM and PM spinner falls, afternoon caddis activity, PMD,and beginning-to-diminish flav activity give the best chances for success in the Last Chance-Harriman section.
PM caddis activity and the same spinner falls as on the upper river provide good fishing on the lower river. Green and gray drakes provide action, but begin fading out there as the river warms. Another bit of good news is that the South Fork stonefly hatch has transferred many boat away from this part of the river. This week will see rising air temperatures on the lower river and therefore rising water temps.
From Bryce Oldemeyer, South Fork Initiative Project Manager, HFF: Discharge from Palisades Dam was reduced 1,000 cfs this afternoon (7/8, 2pm) and will be reduced another 1,000 cfs tonight. Discharge from Palisades Dam will be 13,300 cfs tomorrow morning. Dependent on irrigation demand, small decreases to Palisades Dam discharge may be made later this week.
Riffle fishing from PMD and yellow sally activity offers best action by early afternoons. Beforehand use your favorite small beadhead nymph patterns there. Rubberleg patterns may also work here during the early hours. Stonefly hatch is below Cottonwood and has been doing a great job of taking boats from the lower Henry’s Fork. Don’t forget the tip of slowing down your boat and pitching super renegade patterns underneath or just in front of overhangs and retrieving as you drift on by!
The Firehole is beginning to warm enough that the revival chances of C&R fish diminish each day. Fishing on the Madison depends mostly on quality of the PMD emergence. Because of the removal actions last year, the Gibbon above Virginia Cascade is essentially fishless. Meadow sections on the Gibbon below, however, are offering evening brown drake emergences. A more sporadic brown drake emergence is ongoing on Duck Creek.
Northeast side streams (Slough, Soda Butte, Buffalo Fork, and Pebble Creeks and Lamar River) are beginning to drop and therefore need more time to offer good fishing. Trout Lake is “mossing up” making dropper and surface fishing the only ways to go.
Fall River streams are under going erratic flows because of weather and snow remaining on Madison and Pitchstone Plateaus above. This is mosquito season in the basin (and at many other park locations), so dress accordingly. Beula Lake offers very good fishing especially for those willing to carry a flotation device into the lake. Speckled dun and damselfly activity there means life cycle patterns will work. So will small leech and bead head nymph patterns. The same applies on a smaller scale to Riddle Lake with a shorter walk (about a mile) off the South Entrance Highway
Streams of the upper Gardner River drainage, such as Glen, Indian, and Obsidian Creeks, etc. are now great places to take entry level fly-fishers. Small but aggressive brook trout make up the fishing here, and the best action is away from the roads.
The Upper Yellowstone River (above the Falls) opens July 15th. Below Grand Canyon the river is discolored from Lamar River inflow, but offers some success for those presenting streamer, woolly bugger, and rubber leg patterns.
The river in Island Park offers great late afternoon fishing during caddis activity. Brown drakes are beginning to show up making evening fishing quite interesting. Double nymph rigs work well in Box Canyon. AM & PM PMD spinner falls bring trout to the surface. Green drake are decreasing, but flavs increasing.
All these insects plus gray drakes are available to fish on the lower river where crowds are thinning a bit because fishing on the South Fork is taking off.
Be aware of the two construction zones on Highway 20 impacting travel to the river and beyond. We have given details on how to avoid hold-ups on the highway climbing Ashton Hill if you intend to fish in Island Park (use the Mesa Falls Scenic Highway). The other significant construction zone on the highway, the re-surfacing of the Lorenzo Bridge across the lower South Fork, impacts travel to the lower and upper river. Here the highway is down to two lanes for about four miles and accommodating the increasing traffic can mean delays of up to twenty minutes until piled-up traffic dissolves. Certainly, try not to be on this part of the highway during “rush hour ” times