Fall Fishing on the Yellowstone

On the ‘Stone in Paradise Valley

Snow is already covering the Crazy Mountains on the ‘Stone.

Early snows and fall colors make fishing area rivers and streams a special experience. Brown trout are active preparing for the spawn and baetis are hatching! It doesn’t get much better than a day of streamers and dry flies on a nice fall day in Montana.

Look for the little olive dry flies in the afternoon. Sparkle duns are a good choice for rising fish. An olive parachute is a good searching pattern pre and post hatch.

As always, the Grinch and black bunny fur streamers are key, with Sparkle Minnows and the Barely Legal taking big browns all day.


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Still Hammerin’ the Hopper

The bite on the Yellowstone slowed some the last couple of days. The return of hot weather and high pressure put the trout off a bit. The current cold front with it’s low pressure system should turn things back on. Even on the slow days, fish are eating the hopper here and there. Nymphing and streamer fishing have not been as effective as the big dry. Some fish are rising to spinners in the big slicks in the morning. Look for more mayfly activity this week with the cooler temps.

Area small streams are fishing very well on size 14 dry flies. Parachutes, Royal Coachman and small stimulators are getting it done!



Hoppers are Yummy!

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Hopper Time on the Yellowstone

We’re having a real hopper season on the Stone for the first time in three years! Trout are active due to plenty of water and cool nights. The banks are full of hoppers. A couple of windy days this week really got the bite going, blowing bugs into the river.

Look for tricos in the mornings. Some fish are taking the spinners in the slicks and tail-outs. We turned a big brown two days ago with a #18 double trico spinner. Got to see him nose to tail. He came to his wits before eating it.

Droppers are hit and miss. Today was good on the prince. The dropper can be key during the lulls in hopper bite.

Good Bugs:

Yellowstoner (red leg) #12

Any peach foam hopper if it’s #10 to 12

Prince Nymph, #14

Hare’s Ear, #14

Some fall mayflies are starting to pop, but not a factor yet. Have seen a few ghost flies and grey duns already.

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The Big Bug is Back!

One Happy Angler!

Couldn’t Resist the Big Bug!

Stoneflies are making an appearance on the Yellowstone and Stillwater rivers. The shucks are everywhere on the rocks at waterline. Browns on the Stillwater were hammering them in the bright sunshine earlier this week.

Small caddis and smaller grey mayflies are also popping on the Stillwater and Rock Creek. The caddis are hatching a few at a time, but good numbers can be seen laying eggs. Fish are keying on them in foam lines, so keep you eyes peeled for risers.

The Stillwater and Rock Creek are dropping fast. Wade fishing is getting better and better. Crossing is a challenge on the Stilly. Rock Creek can be crossed in certain places, but choose your spot carefully.

The Yellowstone is clearing. It hasn’t reached optimum condition yet. Some fish are on the big stonefly dry, but nymphs are taking the most fish. Hoppers are around and fish are eating them on windy days. This should only get better as the water comes down and clears.

Here’s your list of must have flies:

Stimulator, #8

Yellowstoner Chubby, brown, #8 (Remember that our stoneflies are not orange)

Parachute Adams, #16

Elk Hair Caddis, black body, #16. I tie mine with no hackle and a little antron trailer. Good for both emerging or egg laying caddis. The traditional dressing is working, but the antron really seems to seal the deal.

Drop a beadhead Prince, Pheasant Tail, Montana Prince or any other dark pattern off the big dry to maximize your catch.

Montana Trout Scout



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Wade Fishing Starting to Turn On

Flows are dropping and some spots are beginning to be fishable on foot. Crossing Rock Creek, the Rosebuds or the Stillwater is impossible, so be content with the water on your side of the river. The bite is good on both sides!

Fish are looking up for Stimulators, PMX, Chubbies, etc. Yellow is the best color. PMD’s are around on the Stillwater and fish are eating them in flat spots and along banks.

Dropper flies are deadly. Use a long dropper line because the flows are still high and fast. Two to three feet, depending on depth and speed. Prince, pheasant tail and Montana prince are getting hammered.

The Yellowstone is marginal right now. People are floating it and catching fish nymphing deep. Throw something big and ugly with rubber legs. Streamer fishing is fair to slow. The water is still pretty dirty.

The high mountain lakes have turned on. Try a black or olive bugger with a prince trailing it. A size 16 parachute Adams is a good choice for dry fly fishing. Black ants are always a winner.



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Flows Coming Down, Fish Eating the Big Bug

Rainbows and Browns living together… chaos.

Flows are dropping fast on the Stillwater. Fish are starting to look up. The golden Chubby and the yellow PMX both saw action today. A pheasant tail dropper killed.

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Rockin’ on the Stilly

Run-off is still in full swing, but the float fishing on the Stillwater is excellent. Wade fishing any of our area streams is still out. Floating the Stillwater or anything else is not for the inexperienced, but the fishing is great. Nymphing with small black bugs is really getting it done. PMD’s are hatching pretty much all day, but fish won’t come up through all that fast water to eat a size 16 bug. They are feasting on the nymph. A #16 pheasant tail or copper john is killin’ it fished deep.

I saw one big stonefly on the water yesterday. The first I’ve seen this season. Chris says he did well on the big bug dry today. About time. I’m tired of chasing a bobber down the river!

Flows are coming down again, but things are still spicy out there. Keep your wits about you.

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Stillwater Coming Down and Turning On!

Flows on the Stilly have moderated enough to float fish and the fish are willing! Water temps are coming up and the flow is going down. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still rippin’ out there. Wade fishing any of our area streams will be dangerous for a while yet, so be smart. Best to stay away from moving water if you are on foot for a week or so at least.

There have been PMD’s coming off on the Stilly every day for the last four days. Fish were not on them for the first couple of days due to high water. They are just now starting to eat the small bugs on the surface with any regularity.

Streamer fishing has been good, but nymphing is producing the most fish. We fished a big dry with a dropper today and killed it. Got a couple of nice fish on the Chubby, but the dropper nymph was red hot. Pheasant Tails and red Copper Johns were the big winners. Long dropper lines are the key. Three feet is a good starting point.

Started fishing with Paige when she was 8 or so. Always has been an Angler!

It was a real thrill to get Paige’s husband into his first fish on a fly rod today!

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Enjoy the Amazing Spring Weather!

We are experiencing some of the best springtime weather I can remember here in Red Lodge. Warm and sunny, bordering on hot and sunny! Quite a change from our usual two season pattern of winter and August.

Rivers are still blown out and will be for a couple more weeks. Flows from Yellowtail Dam are dropping. The Bighorn River is below 12000 cfs for the first time in weeks. That’s still very high, but better than the 14000 cfs it has been. Fishing is fair, with nymphing producing the most fish. The usual worm and scud combo is working. Prepare yourself to fish a long leader and lots of weight. There is a fair amount of grass to contend with.

Lakes are fishing well in the morning and evening. As usual, fishing is pretty slow when the sun is high and hot in the sky. Damsels and dragons are the prominent insects on area lakes with this warm weather. Try small olive or brown wooly buggers. Stubby, fat patterns fished deep in the grass for dragons, sparse patterns fished just below the surface for the damsels.

Not bad for a first timer!

Lake fishing in the Beartooth foothills. Amazing!

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Rivers are Rockin’ and Rollin’

Wow, this hot spring weather has rivers and streams near record levels. Makes it tough right now, but bodes well for fishing by the first week of July. With our huge snowpack this year, I was anticipating a late start to the season. For those new to fishing in the Red Lodge area, the entire month of June is almost always a bust for river and stream fishing. Our rivers are not controlled by dams. June is always when the snow really starts melting and the run-off lasts until the last week of June or first week of July. The heavier the snowpack, the later run-off ends. Unless we get hot temps in early June. If we keep this warm weather, especially overnight temps in the forties, we may get rid of most of this snow in time to start fishing the Stillwater sooner than later. BTW, overnight temps in the forties is hot weather around here in early June.

Chris Fleck and I fished the Big Horn yesterday. The ‘Horn is typically the only river within three hours of Red Lodge that is fishable in June. Because it’s controlled by a dam. The ‘Horn is flowing at an outrageous 14000 cubic feet per minute. They are releasing water from the reservoir to accommodate run-off from the huge snowpack in the Big Horn drainage. Let me tell you, we were flying down the river. We anticipated that the fishing would be marginal, and it was. Streamer fishing was very slow. Nymphing with the standard tail water fare was OK. Wire worms and sow bugs on a long, long leader with plenty of split shot did produce. The upside was the beautiful weather and the spectacular wildflowers. The ‘Horn is not known as a scenic float. This spring, it’s alive with blooming wild roses and a spectrum of other spring wildflowers. We floated 13 miles in five hours. Not many spots to anchor the boat, much less wade fish. Like I said, we were flying down the river. I was wishing for some of those goggles pilots used to wear in open cockpit airplanes! Pretty sure Chris had bugs in his teeth. He smiles a lot.

Smilin’ Chris Fleck on the Horn in February. He was wearing a Speedo yesterday in the 80 degree weather, so I did NOT take pictures.

The word is that the flows will be reduced to 8000 cfs by July.

Area lakes are fishing well in the morning and evening. Avoid fishing midday. Damsels and Dragons are active in response to the heat, so concentrate on Damsel and Dragon nymph imitations. Slow retrieves or dead drifts are most productive. Don’t expect much on the dry fly in the hot sun.

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