Happy 4th of July Weekend!
One might typically expect that this would be the kickoff week for fishing on the Yellowstone. Salmonflies, river levels below 10,000 cfs and the “Good green” water clarity. Two out of three should be good, right? We’re just over 10k in flows. And there are reports of a few Salmonflies in the valley. But the river clarity still leaves a lot to be desired. Still brown. The wait continues. The river definitely has the last word! This is the longest free flowing river left in the Western United States. And when the Yellowstone wants to do something, it does. On her terms. We are optimistic there will be good opportunity to be on the river. The fish are resilient. Yes there are a lot of changes from what we used to know about the river physically. Channels have changed and bank structure has moved; in some cases significantly. We get this most years with runoff. Especially with big water years. In terms of river access sites post flood, here is what we know going from Gardiner downstream:
Queen of the Waters FWP FAS- closed (FAS is Fishing Access Site)
McConnell- Forest Serivce- open
Brogans FAS -closed and will be for the season.
Cinnabar- Forrest Service- TBD, opening soon, considerable work has been done
Slip n Slide FAS (walk-in)- closed
Joe Brown/Yankee Jim- Forest Service- TBD, same as Cinnabar
Crystal Cross- FAS- walk in only- closed
Carbella- BLM- stated as closed
Point of Rocks West (boat launch) FAS – open
Point of Rockes East walk-in FAS- open
Unofficial but often used site “26 mile”- closed and not looking good for use this summer
Emigrant East (boat launch) FAS- open
Emigrant West (walk-in) FAS -open
Grey Owl FAS- closed by FWP website though the big log across the road has been moved
Loch Leven (boat launch/campground) FAS closed but opening soon
Loch Leven (day use/walk-in) FAS also closed but hopeful opening soon
Mallards Rest FAS- closed for the season. Road down the steep hill is undermined and no safe alternative can be found.
Pine Creek FAS- open
Carter’s Bridge FAS- open
Mayor’s Landing FAS- closed by FWP website, supposed to be SAR only.
Highway 89 North FAS- Closed, suspected ramp is undermined and needs significant repairs
Sheep Mountain FAS- supposed to open 7/1
Springdale FAS – supposed to open 7/1
Grey Bear FAS- was walk-in only, supposed to open 7/1
Otter Creek FAS- open
Pelican FAS- open
Bratten- had been walk-in only, don’t have new status
Indian Fort/Reed Point- don’t have official status
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks website has closures and restrictions are updating on their pages regularly. The list only has those sites that FWP manages and if on the list, they are restricted/closed. If not on the list, the sites are open.
While we continue to be patient and wait for conditions to be right on the Yellowstone, there are other options throughout the area and good fishing to be had.
The lake fishing continues as one option. Good callibaetis hatches are showing on the lakes mid to late morning with the trout keying in. Prior to the emergence, finding the active callibaetis nymphs at the right depths, weed bed edges etc is producing. During the emergence and following during the spinner fall, finding “gulpers” on the surface has been a very fun way to target the cruising trout. If the wind comes up, going back subsurface with leeches and the like can find a few more fish.
Paradise Valley spring creeks have been very good. This is the peak or close to of the annual Pale Morning Dun mayflies (PMDs). Daily hatch activity is largely dependent on the weather, but reports of solid emergences from mid morning through mid afternoon have been coming in. Fish have been on the PMD nymphs first thing in the morning after getting on the creeks with the yellow bugs starting to pop around 10 and fish then transitioning to eating dries. Being a studious angler and really watching the rise form can help an angler determine if the fish they’ve spotted and gotten into position on is eating emergers just under the surface, duns just hatching and on top, or the subtle rise form of a fish eating PMD spinners. Patience, good technique, 6 or even 7x tippet, and everything PMD from nymphs to spinners and all in between is the name of the game if you can get a reservation.
Beyond the Yellowstone, the Madison has been fishing very well. Higher water has dropped nicely and is in the very good zone for both the Lower Madison and the Upper (above Ennis Lake). On the Lower, there has been PMDs, yellow sallies, some goldenstones and caddis as far as hatch activity. Well- aquatic bug hatch that is. With the lower water and sunny weather, the innertube and raft hatch has become quite prolific. Anglers, however, can still find good fishing by getting out earlier. Dead drift nymph setups or streamer fishing on the drag have been more consistent than the dry fly. On the Upper river, it’s all about the Salmonflies right now. Big bugs are somewhere around Ruby/MacAttee. With them, though, are goldenstones, PMDs, Caddis, yellow sallies, and even a few green drakes.
We’re all watching, waiting, and are hopeful for the Yellowstone..