May 28, 2020
Madison below Quake: The river is getting fairly brown now, and we anticipate that will only get worse over the coming week, with forecast temperatures in the 70s for the next five or six days. Flows will also begin to increase out of the dam as well to account for all the water coming into the lake, so with poor visibility and increased flows, wading will become more difficult and possibly even dangerous. Most of the fish will slide into the softer water along the banks anyway, so we recommend not getting in the water and simply fishing close to shore. Nymph fishing with big flies like a #6-8 black Rubberlegs, #14 Golden Stone Two-Bit Hooker, or #14 Euro Stone should be productive, and stripping a streamer like a black Prospector or Montana Intruder along the banks can often get some good looks during runoff as well.
Gallatin: The Gallatin is high and quite dirty, and flows will only increase during this stretch of warm weather. If you do decide to try the Gallatin, we'd focus on the canyon stretch downstream of Big Sky, and find the calmest water you can tight to the banks and fish it with a #6-8 black Rubberlegs and a #14 Golden Two-Bit Hooker or pink San Juan Worm.
Firehole: We've heard very little in the way of actual reports from the Firehole so far, but from what we can tell it sounds like there are some Baetishatching, along with a few PMDs and caddis. The river is on the rise, though, and we anticipate that this coming week the best action will come swinging soft hackles. Try a #16 Micro Beeley, #14 Hot Spot Soft Hackles in bronze, orange, and purple, #12-14 March Brown Spiders, #14 Tungsten Pheasant Tail Soft Hackles, and even a #10 Yellowstone Soft Hackle.
Hebgen Lake: Lake fishing is a great option during runoff season, and Hebgen will be the best bet right now. Midge fishing on the surface has been sparse this past week with the unsettled weather, but we're hoping it will improve over the next few days. Look for a warm, calm day and focus on the late morning and evening hours to try to find some risers. If you do, try a #16-18 Parachute Adams or Missing Link, and don't be afraid to drop a small nymph like a #16 Flashback Pheasant Tail off the back. Fishing subsurface should provide plenty of action when the fish aren't rising. Chironomids like the #12 Driskill's Midge, #14 Perdigonomid and #12 Pheasant Tail Chironomid in 8-12 feet of water can be dynamite, and stripping leech patterns like a #14 Pine Squirrel Leech or #12 Twin Lake Special along the rocky North shore can also yield some nice fish, particularly during morning and evening hours.
Cliff & Wade Lakes: The warm weather may just bring out some early Callibaetis mayflies here. Fishing a dry-dropper setup with a #16 Callibaetis Cripple or Parachute Adams and a red Copper John underneath can be absolutely deadly. Stripping leeches and crayfish patterns on a sinking line can also work very well here, with the same flies listed for Hebgen as well as a #8 brown Woolly Bugger.
May 21, 2020
Madison below Quake: The river is picking up some more color now from snowmelt, though runoff will ebb and flow a bit in the next week with the cooler weather we have forecast for the next few days. The main action now is with nymphs, and a #8 black or coffee Rubberlegs is always a good choice during dirty water season. We usually fish it tandem with another nymph pattern such as a #14-16 brown $3 Dip, #16 Psycho Prince or pink San Juan Worm, though sometimes we'll even fish a double Rubberlegs if the fish demand it. The streamer bite should continue to pick up as well, with black and olive/white Prospectors, copper Zonkers, and black Sculpzillas all being great choices.
Gallatin: We are in the midst of runoff on the Gallatin as well, with the river running big and dirty from the Taylor Fork downstream. Similar tactics to the Madison should work here, with big nymphs and streamers being the ticket. Our top rig is a two-nymph setup with a #8 black Rubberlegs on top and a #14 crystal $3 Dip or #16 Lightning Bug, fished through the slower water close to the banks.
Hebgen Lake: Inconsistent weather over the past week has kept the dry fly fishing from really taking off here just yet, but subsurface fishing with Chironomids and leech patterns continues to produce some fish. Focus on the area along the north shore from the Narrows to Kirkwood, and try #12 Driskill's Midges, #14 Perdigonomids and #14 Ice Cream Cones under an indicator in 8-12 feet of water, or strip #14 black Pine Squirrel Leeches or #8 black or brown Woolly Buggers. If you do run into a warm, calm day, be on the lookout for risers during late morning and evening hours. Try a #16 Parachute Adams with a #16 red Copper John or Two-Bit Hooker dropped underneath.
Firehole: We anticipate that the Firehole should fish well this weekend for the opener on Saturday if you can get there, since the West Gate to the park is still closed, and access is currently limited to the East and South entrances. Cold weather the next few days should keep flows reasonable and we expect there to be some Baetis and perhaps a few PMDs hatching in the afternoon. We'd focus on the lower water from Midway Geyser Basin downstream for the warmest water temperatures and best insect activity. Take #16 Firehole PMD Sparkle Duns and PMD Razor Mayflies, #18 Baetis Sparkle Duns and Black Wing Cripples, #16 Micro Beeleys, #14-16 Tungsten Pheasant Tail Soft Hackles, #16 Hot Spot Soft Hackles in bronze, orange and mint, and #14 March Brown Spiders.
May 14, 2020
Madison below Quake: Clarity remains fairly good here above the West Fork, with only a green tint to the water at this time. Some dirty water has been pouring out of Cabin and Beaver Creeks off and on, but not enough to turn Quake Lake completely off color just yet. Fishing remains solid, with nymphs providing the bulk of the action lately. Try a #8 black or coffee Rubberlegs with a #14-16 brown or crystal $3 Dip, #16 Lightning Bug or #16 brown or cream Montana Bullet for a dropper. There are some Baetis mayflies still hatching in the afternoons, so if you happen to run into some risers, be prepared with #18-20 Baetis Sparkle Duns, Black Wing Cripples, and Razor Mayflies. There are also a few Skwalas flying around, so don't be afraid to try a #12 olive Summer Stone or #14 purple Chubby Chernobyl as well.
Gallatin: The Gallatin is currently off-color from the Taylor's Fork downstream, and flows and clarity will most likely vary quite a bit in the coming week. Cooler temperatures will freeze up the snowmelt temporarily and perhaps help the clarity a bit, but rain in the forecast could still add some color to the river. By the weekend we have warmer temperatures in the forecast that should get the snowmelt cranking once again. Regardless, the Gallatin can fish very well when the water is a bit dirty, and we'd recommend using a big #6-8 Rubberlegs with a #14-16 Pheasant Tail Prince, #16 Lightning Bug or #14 crystal $3 Dip. We usually focus on the canyon water downstream of Big Sky this time of year, and look for the deeper runs and slower water along the edges.
Hebgen Lake: The ice is completely off of Hebgen, and midges are starting to show. We've seen some surface activity already this week, so the time to get out is here if you are looking to chase some early season gulpers! Just be sure to look for a warm, calm day and you should see some fish feeding during late morning and early afternoon hours, and possibly again in the evening as well. For surface flies, try a #16-18 Parachute Adams or #18 Griffith's Gnat, Scotty's Midge or Missing Link, and be prepared for a challenge, as these fish can be quite difficult when feeding on smaller midges. If you are fishing subsurface, the Chironomid action is always worth the effort this time of year. Fish a #12 Driskill's Midge, #14 Perdigonomid, or #14-16 red Copper John under an indicator and hang on! Leeches are also producing well, especially in the morning and evening hours. A #10 bruised Balanced Leech or #12 Twin Lake Special should be all you need.
Cliff and Wade Lakes: If you're looking for an out of the way spot to try this time of year, check out Cliff and Wade. Stripping leeches and bobbing with Chironomids can both be very effective here with the same flies listed above for Hebgen, and dry-dropper rigs are also a great bet when fish are sporadically feeding on midges. Try a #14 Adams Cripple with a #16 red Copper John or Aaron's Callibaetis Nymph for a dropper with this method. The Callibaetis hatch happens much earlier on these lakes as well, and we could see some of these mayflies showing up soon if the weather stabilizes, so be prepared with a few #16 Callibaetis Sparkle Duns and Hi-Vis Spinners.