Snow is on the ground and it is COLD in West Yellowstone. A lot of folks remain in town or are visiting from other places to fish for run-up browns and bows in the Madison River any where you go above Hebgen Reservoir. If you are considering fishing the Firehole River, which is fishing very good (BWO, white miller, soft hackle patterns),first check the Park web site for road conditions.
Other than the Firehole River with its BWO and white miller activity ( don’t overlook offering soft hackled patterns!) making fish active, the fall season brown trout run is ongoing on all hosting streams. All other streams offer tough fishing because of cold, low water. If you seek brown trout, no matter where you choose to go: the Madison River (which also offers run-up rainbows), the Gibbon River, the Firehole River below the falls, the Lewis River (anywhere but the steep and dangerous canyon), or the Snake River at the South Entrance, brown trout are migrating. The only problem is that there are more fly-fishers than trout on all of these! Nevertheless streamer patterns should work well. But for the most heavily visited locations ( Lewis River Channel, just below Lewis Lake, the Madison River within the park, the Gardner River, the Gibbon River, fish have seen streamers presented by the mass of visitors and may associate them with vibrations and disturbances from wading visitors. So try smaller flies ( bead head nymphs, egg patterns, etc.). Old Lewis River favorites pretty much forgotten these days include the Montana Black Nymph and Bitch Creek Nymph. They sure worked well decades ago.
For all these streams, please avoid spawning locations: let’s do everything we can to help a successful spawning season, on which future populations depend. Remembering that the Yellowstone Park fishing season ends on the first Sunday in November and winter is just around the corner, you do not have much time left to encounter those big park browns.
Brown trout runs in Gibbon, Madison and Lewis Rivers are in full swing. The same can be said of fly fishers accompanying them. The same will take place soon on the Gardner and Snake Rivers. Sales of streamer patterns and materials to tie them are sky high in regional fly shops.
Thinking of trying the Madison River above Hebgen Reservoir for migrating browns and ‘bows? Better get there at first light anywhere on the river because there are more fly-fishers visiting than there are fish moving! Streamers are the name of the game, and the best days are ahead because we are in for a stormy weekend. That stormy weekend will extend the current good fishing on the Firehole River.
We are in “brown trout season” with the Madison and Lewis River systems featuring large, migrating brown trout and the same soon to happen on the Gardner and Snake Rivers. That means streamer presentation. The exception is the Firehole River where the fall season is ongoing. That means BWO life cycle, miller and soft hackle patterns. Watch the weather: it can change to the worst in a hurry!
The big Park fishing event is brown trout migration. This is big time in numbers into the Madison River, but even more numerous into the Lewis River between Lewis and Shoshone Lakes and into the river below Lewis Lake. Streamer presentation is the name of the game. Use stout leaders and rods of at least six-weight. Be ready for changes in the weather towards cold and stormy because these conditions seem to make the browns most active. Bring a camera because you have the chance of encountering the fish of the year.
Crowds are beginning to thin making for faster travel to good fishing locations. The Firehole River is cooling to the point that fishing is improving with BWO emergences and terrestrial insects ( and soft hackled patterns) making patterns for them the best choices. Most large cutthroat in the Yellowstone River above LeHardy Rapids are back in the lake. Browns and ‘bows have begun their upstream migrations from Hebgen Lake. Meadow reaches along so many streams offer fish responding to AM trico and daytime terrestrial insect activity. Stealth is required for successful fishing on all these. Best still water fishing is at Beula Lake (damselfly nymphs, small leech, cinnamon caddis, and speckled dun life cycle patterns) off the Ashton-Flagg Road, presenting streamer patterns along Lewis Lake shoreline, or if you are able, through packing a flotation device into Shoshone Lake to fish scud and leach patterns around submerged weed beds.
Crowds should begin thinning after this weekend making travel more timely to fish so many waters. For many streams it is trico activity in the AM and caddis life cycle and terrestrial insect patterns in the PM. Most of the big cutts have moved back into Yellowstone Lake from the river. Hebgen Lake browns and ‘bows are migrating upstream in the Madison River drainage. Soon wading the Lewis Lake shoreline will give a chance to encounter migrating brown trout. Beula Lake will remain among the fastest fishing locations in the park through most of this month. Most meadow streams will feature trico activity in the AM and terrestrial insect in the PM. Stealth will be required as these waters are nearing base level flows.
If you intend to fish waters off the main park highways, expect big time delays because of hoards of tourists. Traffic lines at the west entrance extend for a half mile back west by mid morning. You can hear accents from all languages on the globe. The same is happening at other entrances. So get there early enough to be about the first in line. When you finally arrive at your fishing destination terrestrial insect patterns (including spruce moths around forested areas) are working as good as anything. Present these patterns with long, drag-free floats.