It’s brown trout season in the park with all streams hosting brown trout having migrations to spawning areas. Gallatin, Gardner, Gibbon, Lewis, Madison and Snake Rivers are being targeted for productive streamer fishing. Some of us fished the Beaver Meadows of the Madison River yesterday and experienced not only brown trout migrating out of Hebgen Reservoir, but rainbows doing the same. Even the weather participated with overcast skies, no wind, and a drizzling rain. Overflow of fly-fishers from the Park’s West Entrance Highway participated making fishing somewhat crowded, but the further away one traveled from access points the more solitude could be realized. Word was out that the Firehole River BWO hatch was going on big time. So for those folks favoring dry fly fishing for fish to moderate size, this was and likely remains a great location until the park fishing season closes end of the day the first Sunday in November.
The Madison River drainage is very popular for fly-fishers these days for two reasons. First, run-up Hebgen Lake browns and rainbows are making for good streamer fishing in the Madison and lower Gibbon Rivers. BWO emergences on the Firehole River and Gibbon River are making for good action, and with a storm likely coming on, could be even better. Outside of the Madison River, Yellowstone River browns are beginning to move into the lower Gardner River. Browns are in the Lewis River Channel big time, but so are anglers. Its the most numerous run of browns in park waters. Strategy for best fishing here is to camp overnight at the outlet, and be on the river at first light, because after the hoards of anglers move in, the browns develop “lock jaw” from resulting human turmoil. The same applies to browns going to the Lewis Lake outlet: stay the night at the nearby campground and get to the water at first light to beat oncoming crowds. Do you prefer presenting dry flies? Terrestrial insects are still numerous along Fall River Basin streams, but likely NFL (not for long).
The Forest Service is closing the Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road in late September through October in order for heavy equipment to perform some upgrades. More details on the closure can be obtained from the Caribou-Targhee National Forest web site. We place this announcement here because the road provides access for fishing waters in the south side of Fall River Basin within and outside the Park. Access to Grassy Lake Reservoir and the Beula Lake trail head will be available from the east end of the road at Flagg Ranch Resort. Speaking of Beula Lake, now that the nearby scout camp is closed for the season, your chance for solitude while fishing there is a lot better.
As with anywhere else you are considering to visit, expect crowds on Park waters. The best chance for getting away from crowds is to be willing to walk a bit. The second meadow above on Slough Creek would be a good choice. So would the Bechler Meadows streams Bechler River and Boundary Creek. In fact, the creek would be less crowded of the two, especially in the upper meadow. Walking downstream from Nez Perce Ford on Yellowstone River can get you into some large cutthroat trout, and the further you walk, the less the crowding. Lamar River above the cascades and in the meadows will be crowded, but walking upstream to such as Cache Creek will get you away from the bulk of crowds. Very few folks walk into the meadows along the middle of the Lewis River Channel between Lewis and Shoshone Lakes. The Gallatin River along the highway will be popular, but you can avoid crowds by walking up the Big Horn trail a few miles to a meadow reach or up Fan Creek a mile or so to another meadow reach. Spruce moths will supplement the other terrestrial insects on these.
I seem to be stressing meadow sections of these streams, and for good reason: terrestrial insects abound in these, and for now will provide your best chance of fishing success, even tho’ tricos are coming out on some waters. In all of these be “bear aware.” Bring the spray and a noise maker. The “noise maker” can be a loud talking buddy, but a boat horn, AKA “claxon horn,” is an even better choice. You can find one for under ten bucks at any marine supply shop or mega-store sporting goods department. It fits easily in a shirt or vest pocket and weighs next to nothing. Be assured that it will carry a lot further than any loud talking buddy you might have!
Terrestrial insect patterns bring the best action on all park streams this time of year. This is a fact, but trying a dry adult damselfly pattern brings the same response on still waters and slow moving reaches of all streams. Give one a try. You will be pleasantly surprised. Beula Lake continues to offer the fastest action in the park, and presenting a dry damselfly pattern there will cut you off a chunk of it.
If you fish the northeast corner of the park, expect company because so many easy to approach streams within the park are fishing slowly. There are plenty of anglers on the Lamar River in the meadows both above and below the cascades, on Soda Butte Creek, and on lower Slough Creek. We traveled through this area on Thursday, and we saw the Lamar discolored, likely because of thundershower related erosion in its upper drainage. Some cars were parked at the Trout Lake trail head. This time of year fishing there can be tough because of an algae bloom, so a speckled dun emerger pattern presented under an indicator is a good strategy if fish are rising.
Remember what we suggested a few days ago about fastest fishing in the Park? That still applies to Beula and Riddle Lakes!
Any stream you choose to fish in the Park, this is the season when terrestrial insect patterns should be in your fly box. Dry ant, beetle, cranefly, cricket, hopper, and sprucefly patterns fished near overhead cover, especially adjacent to deep water are the names of the game. Consider that the days are getting shorter meaning that it takes water and surroundings a bit longer to heat up for insects, then fish to become active. So concentrate your fishing efforts with these patterns into the afternoons. Fastest action currently in the Park, you ask? For moving water try Boundary, Obsidian, Soda Butte, or Slough Creeks. For still waters try either Beula or Riddle Lakes.
We do not get a lot of information on fishing at the northeast corner of the park, but we have heard that Soda Butte Creek is fishing very well with cutthroat responding to green drake and PMD life cycle patterns. Most of Soda Butte Creek flows along the northeast entrance road, and therefore can become crowded. Crowding increases on approaching the confluence with the Lamar River, so fish upstream from here to minimize company. Speaking of the Lamar River, its also fishing well. But it is a good idea to check weather conditions before a visit because this river has a reputation of discoloring when thundershowers dump on its drainage above its reach along the highway. Beula Lake continues to fish as well as any still water in the park. Gulpers are working these, but when wind comes up, switch to small olive or black leech patterns.
Lamar River drainage streams are in great shape now. Strong thundershowers can create erosion that can temporarily discolor water, especially in the Lamar River. Right now morning spinner falls, caddis and diminishing golden stonefly activities, and increasing interest from fish in terrestrial insects provide the ways to best success.
The Snake River is another Park stream that can become discolored because of thunder storms causing erosion. It seems more overlooked than the Lamar River, but it offers interesting fishing for those taking time to give it a try. This time of year it hosts brown and Snake River fine spotted cutthroat trout as well as whitefish. All these reach trophy sizes. Caddis life cycle patterns, golden stone fly adult patterns, traditional dry attractor (it’s almost sinful not to try humpys on Wyoming waters!) and terrestrial insect patterns and streamers presented in low light conditions bring interest. The Snake River is easily approached from where it exits the Park. Park at the South Entrance picnic area and head upstream on either side of the river. You will encounter a lot fewer anglers than on the Lamar, Madison, or Yellowstone Rivers.