Winter has arrived meaning accessing certain waters is no longer available. To see which roads are closed o the the Yellowstone Park web site and look for road closures. Sunday, November 3rd is the last day for the 2019 park fishing season.
Winter has arrived in the park. Snow is on the ground in most places, and daytime temperatures at or below freezing are the norm. The brown trout runs continue in the upper Lewis River, Madison River ( accompanied by rainbows), lower Gardner River and Snake River at the south entrance. There is not much time left to enjoy these events because fishing season here closes after Sunday, November 3rd.
Terrestrial insects are out of the scene as a trout food. The Firehole River offers the best top water fishing in the park, especially during unsettled weather when small BWOs emerge in good numbers. A few small BWOs may do the same on the Madison River, but the big attraction here are run-up browns and ‘bows from Hebgen Lake. That means presenting streamer patterns, whether they be large soft hackles (including those tied with marabou wound soft hackle style) or more traditional feather or deer hair wing versions. The other famed brown trout run (that in Gardner and Snake Rivers yet to peak) is that in the Lewis River system where good numbers of browns are now in the channel between Shoshone and Lewis Lakes, migrating to the river just below Lewis Lake, and moving in the river below the falls. This activity means presenting large streamer patterns through deeper holes, runs, or undercuts is the best way for encounters. It also means not disturbing redds, active or inactive, by any means. They hold the beginnings of our future brown trout population.
Thanks to colder than normal weather including some snow and killing frosts, hopper season is about to end on just about every park stream. So if you pursue big fish, streamers or big nymphs will get best results. This applies to Lower Gibbon, Madison, Lewis, Bechler, Fall, Snake, Lamar, and upper Gardner Rivers. Other than that, good top water fishing is reduced to the Firehole River where BWO and white millers make for good daytime fishing especially during unsettled weather.
For still waters, action on Beulah Lake is slowing because of cooling water. Wait a few weeks before trying Trout Lake. Some of the best lake fishing will be along Lewis Lake shoreline where wading to pitch streamer patterns (especially below the campground) can interest migrating browns and an occasional juvenile lake trout. Weather and physical condition permitting, carrying a flotation device with all accoutrements down the DeLacey Creek Trail to Shoshone Lake will get you into juvenile lake trout foraging around sunken weed beds. Use a full sink line, black or olive leech patterns, and dress for the weather.
Firehole River is as good as it gets for this time of year. BWOs and white millers are the reasons. Really big fish are quite rare here, but the nearby Madison River hosts an increasing number of trophy size browns and ‘bows coming up from Hebgen. They are in the river from Madison Junction on down to Baker’s Hole, and they are best encountered when the weather is stormy or at dawn or at twilight. The Lewis River, anywhere above the canyon, also hosts migrating browns. Either place, Madison or Lewis, streamer patterns are the best for meeting up with them. In a few weeks there are more park waters we can recommend for migrating browns.
The big attraction here is browns becoming active in migrating to spawning areas. Run-up browns (and rainbows) from Hebgen Lake are beginning their move into the Madison River and on to the lower Gibbon River. In the Lewis River system browns are moving from both Shoshone and Lewis Lakes into the river between the two lakes as well as into the river just below Lewis Lake. In total, this Lewis River system run makes the largest concentration of brown trout in park waters. Later this fall the Gardner and Snake River runs will be worth trying. Fishing during low light conditions will be the best time to encounter any of these these fish. Presenting streamers during these times is the best strategy, but large nymphs presented deep also brings results.
The current cool weather means the Firehole River is worth fishing again. BWO life cycle and white miller caddis patterns offer good ways to obtain action. So do soft hackle patterns. Be ready for stormy conditions! Look for early in the day trico activity on most streams. Terrestrial insect patterns will continue to work on all streams until a killing frost arrives. Most crowded streams include the Lamar in roadside meadows, Soda Butte Creek, Slough Creek’s lowest meadow (pressure on upper two meadows is thinning), Firehole River, Madison River, and lower Gibbon River on which the upper section is closed due to ongoing native salmonid restoration project.
Certainly the best current dry fly option for park streams is to present terrestrial insect patterns. These should include those for spruce moths especially if you intend to fish near forested areas holding spruce and fir trees. These areas include much of the Gallatin and Madison Rivers within the park. Other areas where spruce moth patterns are productive include the forested section between Slough Creek’s first and second meadows above the campground and around the campground, Lamar River Canyon, Duck Creek above its meadow, and Yellowstone River flowing through pine forested areas. Be aware of the thick, stop and go tourist traffic presently on park roads. Minimizes delays because of it by entering as early as possible.
Many park still waters are in the summer doldrums. These seem not to impact Beula Lake where Yellowstone cutts remain active throughout summer. You have to “pay some dues” in the form of a 2.5 mile walk off the Ashton-Flagg Road ( no worries about traffic here!) to get there, but inlet and east shoreline walk-in wade fishing or packing in a flotation device will result in a worthwhile experience. Use speckled dun life cycle patterns, cinnamon caddis adult patterns and your favorite small leech patterns.
A word of caution if you intend fish Park back country waters during mid-August. The huckleberry season is ongoing and therefore the chance of encountering black and grizzly bears is on the increase. Huckleberry aroma is enticing and can be detected at distance, even by humans. Bears can detect the aroma much more easily and depend on berry crops for food. Consider that ripe berry patches near waters hosting good fishing bring increased potential for an encounter. Thus if you smell huckleberries while in the back country, realize bears do the same, and are likely nearby or on the way to feed. Have bear spray very handy and make noise to announce your presence. If Park officials suggest avoiding certain locations because of feeding bears, consider their suggestions to be excellent advice. Good back country fishing will be present after berry season is over.