The river is certainly beginning to slow but that does not mean that there isn’t good fishing to be had! Conditions have been the biggest factor regarding quality of fishing. We are beginning to heavily rely on the BWO hatch for any dry fly fishing to be had on the river. Sunny and windy days certainly have put a damper on that. Too much wind will keep the baetis off of the water and the sun won’t do us any good either. Instead, look for calm, overcast days that will allow the bugs to come out and get caught in the water as their wings dry. When floating the river, before to keep your eyes open for rising fish in slower water and back eddys or soft spots on the edge of riffles and riffle corners. It is good to try and identify what stage the fish are eating when you find rising fish. Scan the water and look for silhouettes if you can. If you see the upright wings of a dun then you can go for a #18-20 Comparadun, Para-Wulf or Parachute Adams. Likewise, if you see bugs that have wings still stuck together and are slightly stuck in the film, try #18 Klinkhammers or Hazy Cripples.
If you are going to focus sub surface, our fish are also focusing on those baetis as they are the most active bugs in the river right now. #16-20 Copper Johns, Pheasant Tails, Redneck Nymphs, Lightning Bugs, Military Mayflies, and Indigo Childs have been working. Anglers are also having success by fishing a heavier larger nymph on top of the smaller baetis imitations. Try a #8 Pat’s Rubber Leg, #10 TJ Hooker, or Marabou Rubber Leg.
The cold weather has suppressed the streamer fishing a bit. Many are out focusing on large articulated streamers to entice those large predatory browns as we approach the spawning season. Instead try medium sized single hook and articulated flies to move more fish of all sizes. Sculpin patterns have been working here on the Yellowstone especially well. Bow River Buggers, Schultz’s Sculpin, and Mini-Dungeons are a great place to start.