Fishing season in Yellowstone Park is closed after Sunday November 3rd. That leaves only eleven days remaining this season to enjoy trout responding in the many lakes and streams there. Better hurry if you want to do so!
Lower Blackfoot River
As offered earlier in these articles describing regional fishing locations, the Blackfoot River varies in character from a classic meadow stream in upper reaches to being confined to a steep canyon in lower reaches. Here deep holes punctuate the abundant riffles and runs. Most of this canyon reach is below Blackfoot River Reservoir, and water management practices there make for very seasonal best fishing in the river below. Here the river (but not above the reservoir where a July 1 opening applies) is currently open during the catch and release season as well as the general season. Fishing can be good during the catch and release season as long as water flow remains low and flow constant. However when the irrigation season begins, flows can vary widely through being subject to irrigation demands in the Snake River Plain below. This variation impacts fishing success the same as changing flows out of Palisades Dam on the South Fork or Island Park Dam on the Henry’s Fork immediately below. Nevertheless some success can be had, and the summer season will see drift boats and such on the reach from below the dam to Morgan Bridge. Below this point there are no practical boat launch facilities except with difficulty at the Trail Creek Bridge and campground. Below this location the river gradient increases steeply to the point that even kayakers avoid certain sections. Access for fishing is also limited here until the river enters the Snake River Plain. So irrigation water and terrain limit fishing on the lower river. Below the Trail Creek bridge and campground the south bank of the river is on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation and therefore subject to reservation access regulations. Also as the river approaches the Snake River Plain increasing private land limits access, although the angler who stays within the high water level is legal.
Yellowstone cutthroat are the native inhabitants here and make up the bulk of salmonid population. Rainbow trout were introduced into the reservoir decades ago, and escapees are in the river below. Brush Creek features stair-step beaver ponds holding numerous brook trout. Some of these make it to the river below the Brush Creek confluence. Resident trout have abundant caddis, leeches (small, black, with imitations tied on 3X long streamer hooks, size 10-12), snails, a reduced number of mayflies (BWO, PMD, tricos) because of silt, and some yellow sallies. Sadly, the silt also limits the number of large stoneflies in the river below the dam, but faster waters above the dam host the largest giant stonefly nymphs I’ve seen anywhere. Also present are crayfish, actually in the river above and below the reservoir. That presence provides evidence that this river is extremely rich in nutrients, particularly bicarbonates. Without question the best time to fish this part of the river begins the first of October when irrigation water is no longer needed and extends into November or when winter makes roads tough to negotiate. The low water concentrates trout into the deeper holes and runs. What flies should be in the fly box for fishing the river below the Dam, you ask? Streamers in both colorful and somber shades are your best bet for encountering the largest trout. Thick bank side grasses host volumes of hoppers which stay numerous until killing frosts hit. Rocky banks host ants and beetles in abundance. Of the mayflies present tricos seem the most numerous, but they are in good concentrations only at specific locations. Look for their spinner falls to provide some good late morning and mid day fishing at these locations. When October rolls around PMDs are rare, but BWOs are active. As in any water their hatching numbers are best during overcast conditions. Traditional attractor patterns, wet and dry work well in riffles and runs. Visit us for more information on this river which is one of the last strongholds for Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
Now is the time to get out and enjoy our local lakes and reservoirs before most of the m freeze up for the winter. We have had good reports from Henry’s Lake, Island Park, Daniels, Springfield, and some okay reports from Chesterfield. Of all the lakes Daniels and Springfield are providing the most action. Springfield has been stocked with its annual fall batch of fish and people are having success fishing with dark leech patterns on full sinking lines or small chironomids under indicators. Daniels has been fishing very well with chrionomid pupa under indicators in water from 5-12ft deep. Most of the fish at both locations are under 20″ but a fair number of larger fish have been taken out of both recently. Henry’s Lake continues to produce when the weather is nice enough to fish (like this week!). People have been having better success in deeper water 8-12 as opposed to the shallow water traditionally fished this time of year. Fly choice doesn’t seem to be terribly important but experiment with different sizes and colors of leech/scud patterns until you find what is working best. In the deeper water you need to fish a full sinking line to get you down where the fish are. Of all the area reservoirs, Chesterfield seems to be fishing a little slower then the others. The water is slightly discolored, but fishable. There aren’t a lot of fish being caught, but the fish being caught have been nice.
The big freeze is coming but until it does, area stillwaters will continue to fish good. Contact us at the shop with any questions you might have and we can get you squared away!
The South Fork is fishing very well right now. With the cooler temperatures the fish are very active and with the flows around 1880cfs, the river is very accessible. On overcast days the streamer fishing has been great. Patterns like the sculpzilla and Galloup’s Peanut Envy in black have been the most productive. On the overcast days, the Blue winged olives have been hatching and providing some great late season dry fly fishing. Various BWO patterns have been producing, come down to the shop and we can get you squared away with the patterns you will want to have. If you happen to get out on a sunny day, the nymph fishing has been really good with a small rubberlegs and dropper like a zebra midge, san juan worm, or egg pattern. Be sure you are getting your nymphs right along the bottom! Streamer fishing has been okay on the sunny days, but it usually doesn’t turn on until later in the afternoon.
This is a great time of year to fish the river! As always, if you need any help with access points, flies, etc…. give us a call or stop in at the shop and we will get you set up!
Thanks to cooling weather and water at base level the next few weeks could be the “last hurrah” for the best of the fishing season on many area small streams. Currently Birch Creek, Warm River, Buffalo River and Blackfoot River below the reservoir are fishing well. All have good BWO hatches, but they can be only at specific locations on the Blackfoot River, especially during these bright days. Look for shaded areas there such as at the base of cliffs out of the sun. On the Blackfoot River your chances for action are better through using streamers. Make them small (size 8-10), and look for deep runs and holes for presenting them.
The Park re-opened its fishing season three days ago. Crowds are not up to usual amounts. This means that such popular locations like the Firehole River and the Madison River could be more enjoyable to fish. Streamer patterns will be your best bet for migrating browns in the Madison River. Likewise for migrating browns in the Gibbon River, Gardiner River, Snake River, Lewis River, and Yellowstone River where low light conditions give the best chance for action on each. Afternoon BWO hatches will dictate how to fish on the Firehole River. If you do not mind the long drive, now begins the fall season on Trout Lake. Colder water will convince lunker hybrids and cutts there to take leech and damselfly nymph patterns. Make sure you watch the weather in that neck of the woods before you go.
The Henry’s Fork is fishing really good right now. The entire lower river below Ashton has been producing well with nymph rigs, streamers, and BWO’s on overcast days. Nymph wise throw a rubberlegs and smaller bead-head dropper. It is getting to be the time of year when egg patterns work very well too. Streamer fishing has been great and the pattern doesn’t seem to matter too much, but flies like the sculpzilla and Kelly Galloups Peanut Envy have worked particularly well. For those wanting to float, stretches like Ora to Vernon or Ora to Chester have been popular, but wade fishing has been just as productive. The weather for the weekend looks great, so get out there and enjoy some of the best fishing of the year!
Flow out of Palisades Dam is 2250 cfs and will go lower. So walk-in wade fishing becomes increasingly practical (we can help with choosing locations). For the next few days when stormy weather is expected, BWO life cycle patterns will produce exceptionally well almost anywhere on the river. Currently that is the case, so strongly consider a visit during this weather! Better weather favors mahogany duns, but this is the time of year when streamers are most effective. The wise fly-fisher will always carry them in somber shades such as olive and black and colorful ones from yellow, ranging into the UV end of the spectrum to purple. Don’t over look streamers in white. Low light conditions will be best time for presenting streamers of any color.
Very low water makes it tough to launch anything bigger than a pontoon boat by the hatchery. But wading works as well there as float tubing or pontoon boating because a good number of fish are in shallow water. They will take leech patterns with black being as effective as peacock. Gold, olive, and purple crystal are also effective. Expect more cutts than brookies or hybrids responding. Beware of the wind!