Extreme Fishing Conditions

Not much hope out here on the stone

Flying South for the Winter? ... Good Idea!

With the weather forecast projecting brutal sub-zero temperatures this week, yesterday was one of the last days to swing a line before the slush ice shows up.  Although the browns are done spawning (for the most part) and should be moving back to their normal runs and holding lies, it will take a dedicated angler to get out there and pursue them.  Nymphing will be your best method of attack as the water temperatures are so cold the fish are not in the mood to chase a streamer.  With slush ice flowing down the river this will make nymph fishing extra challenging.  The Spring Creeks will still be fishing well however, and from now until late March, they will pretty much be the only game in town.  There are still a few tiny blue wings out on the creeks (size #22-24) but as we move further into the winter months the fish will be primarily keying in on midges, scuds, and streamers.  Stop by the shop and we can highlight a few of our favorite winter spots for you and show you some flies that are working.  To book a day just give them a call.  Armstrong’s:  406-222-2979, Nelson’s:  406-222-6560, or DePuy’s:  406-222-0221.

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Spring Creek Report

Late evening scene on upper Armstrong's. Photo: Chloe Nostrant

A nice Streamer Eater near the springs... Photo: Chloe Nostrant

With the river flowing slush ice (or in some spots frozen over) the Spring Creeks have been the place to be.  Size #20-22 blue wing olives were coming off as soon as we arrived to the diagonal riffle at Armstrong’s, (around 10:00AM).  There were also a few midges coming off at the same time but the fish were skipping the midges and feeding on the small baetis.  We were lucky in the fact that there was little to no wind, and while the sky was bright we were able to fish to the occasional rising target.  Needless to say nymph fishing was more consistent.  Baetis emergers, slim baetis nymphs, and a variety of different color midge larva, (white, black, olive, and red) all worked well.   With a lot less angling pressure than the summer we were able to fish 5X to our top nymph and a 6X dropper.  For streamers we were able to get away with 2X, as the fish who were ready to chase a streamer were not leader shy in the slightest.  There were still quite a few redds (spawning beds) out there.  All the fish on or around these areas were chasing each other or  digging redds.  There were plenty of spots to fish to fish that were not spawning, most all the deep holes and undercuts had a willing fish ready to eat a small streamer.  Black and olive were our two best colors with a lot of chases on brown, yellow, or gray.  Check the weather on your next day off and if you have either clouds or no wind you might want to book a rod on Nelson’s, Armstrong’s or Depuy’s.  Winter rod fees are $40 until April 15th…

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Winter Fishing

Just chillin'...

Anglers are definitely now facing winter conditions on the Stone.  With real temperatures hitting -6°F this morning it’s pretty hard to get excited to gear up and go fishing.  Ice chunks are floating down the river today; yesterday ice was constantly building up in the guides.  That being said the fish are still biting.  Looks like later in the week we’ll have slightly warmer weather and sunny conditions.  Fall Baetis are pretty much over for the most part, and with the brighter days ahead, we’ll be fishing midges if there is any dry fly fishing to be had.  Rubber legs have still been working for nymphs, as have standard beadheads size 16-20.  If you plan to fish streamers try white, olive, brown, or black.  Dress appropriately and plan on wade fishing over float fishing the rest of the season.

Current Conditions looking pretty cold... but a bit warmer as the week continues...

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Spawn still on…

Little town brown, caught slow stripping an Olive Leadeye...

Junior Varsity but still nice colors...

Not much has changed over here.  Most of the browns are still on (or near) their redds.  Still, there are a few fish to be found in the classic swing water, runs, and riffles.   Typically these fish will be smaller than the spawning class, but are still fun for a quick half day float or for a few hours of wade fishing.  The nice part about fishing right now is that you’ll pretty much have the river to yourself.  Water temperatures have been lower so if you’re throwing streamers try swinging them deep and slow or dead drifting them.  Nymph fishing has been more productive than anything.  Be ready to bust out your baetis dries when / if the clouds roll in.  There have been a lot more midges than baetis collecting in the foam but the few fish that are actively feeding on dries have been keying in on the blue wings…

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Rainbows on the prowl…

More elbow room for rainbows... Photo: Jedwards

With most of the browns busy doing there thing right now we’ve been catching a lot more rainbows in the main riffles, runs, and foam eddies.  While the average size of fish hasn’t been huge, they are almost all healthy with thick sides and plenty of fight in them.  With very little angling pressure on the Stone we’ve been able to get away with 3X tippet for nymphs and larger size 14-16 parachutes and 4X for midge dries and droppers.  The river is really clear right now, so if you decide to fish streamers there’s no need to go too bright or flashy.  Drab olive or black streamer patterns have been working best for us.  Seems like the rainbows want to eat a size 6 or 8 streamer over a larger size 2 or articulated pattern.

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November on the Stone

A decent pre-spawn hen, caught on an olive Leadeye...

Van Gravage with a lifetime Yellowstone fish...

Unfortunately the nice browns we were catching two weeks ago are no longer running up the heavy runs or holding along the deeper, undercut banks.  The reality is that most the larger browns are either up a tributary, on their redds, or staging somewhere in deeper water near their redds, (usually below them).  The good news is that the rainbows and cutthroats are starting to take over the prime runs and riffles.  While fingers are always crossed for cloud and less wind, we’ve been seeing rises in the foam even on bright days.  A Purple Haze or a purple Parawulff have been the all star dry flies for us although parachute adams are always a great fly this time of year.  For nymphs try rubber legs, baetis emergers, two bit hookers, small olive or black buggers dead-drifted buggers… Looks like this week we have lots of clouds in the forecast – should be good for both the streamer bite and the baetis hatch.  Dress warm and possibly pick a shorter float than you typically would float in the summer, with slower flows, later starts and 15-20 mph winds, 7 miles is about right for most anglers.

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Fall on the Missouri

Hank Bechard with a nice bow caught on a baetis nymph

George wade fishing below the Untouchables bridge

We fished the Missouri last weekend and as usual it was pretty solid, perhaps a little slower than usual.  It had been quite sunny over their, making it more of a nymph game.  We saw a few pods of fish actively feeding on dries, but these fish were in the 8-16″ range.  While we had clouds a huge number of midges came off in the morning along with some small size #20-22.  The fish were definitely more interested in the baetis.  It definitely paid to stop, get out and nymph a riffle thoroughly.  A czech nymph plus a B split shot, perhaps a little more and a heavily tied baetis nymph was our best combo.  For most of the day we stuck with throwing streamers, which wasn’t exceptionally effective… oh well, we kept at it and in the end, we did move a few nice browns and managed to farm a couple 20+ fish on streamers.  Small and natural was the way to go, larger “Yellowstone style” streamers got us nothing.

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Weather Change

Bright and sunny? Try fishing smaller streams or YNP until the clouds move in on Sunday.

The past few days have been bright and sunny on the Yellowstone, making it more difficult to fool fish on big streamers.  Although we’ve had some decent dry fly reports in the Valley, we expect the fishing on the Yellowstone to get better once the clouds from next week’s front move in.   If you are looking to streamer fish, look for shady areas of the river or fish the last couple hours of evening light.  Mornings have been pretty darn chilly over here!  Speaking of chilly, expect some seriously cold air to be moving down from Canada on Monday / Tuesday, with this season’s coldest temps, (highs in the 20′s and 30′s).

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Clear River but watch the wind…

A healthy hen falls for one of Hank's articulated creations...

Ken and Donna Perrault with a nice brown. Photo: Paul Bloch

Clarity on the Yellowstone is looking good (at least 3 feet or more) from Gardiner to Big Timber.  The only deterrent really has been wind.  This time of year a steady 10-20 mph wind is more or less par for the course.  Gusts up to 40 or higher can be difficult and even dangerous to row.  Give us a call anytime for a wind report.  Sunday looks great on paper with a slight chance of showers, 10-15 mph west wind, and a high of 48 °F.  Early next week looks like mostly sun, so if you can get out tomorrow and enjoy the clouds while you can.  As for bugs not much has changed.  There have been small Fall baetis on the water nearly everyday, offering good dry fly fishing in the valley (or lower on less windy days).  Most of the fish eating dries have been in the 10-14 inch range, with a random larger riser.  Purple Haze has probably been our most consistent dry, however Harrop’s CDC baetis emerger has really been the top fly for matching the hatch the past couple weeks over here.  Nothing new as far as streamers go.  Everyone has their favorite color combos, we’ve been having good luck with white, olive, black, or tan.  If you’re fishing the same section of river over and over be sure to switch it up.  For those who are interested in nymph fishing, a rubber leg is a good lead nymph to help get your dropper nymph deeper.  Two Bit Hookers have been fishing well, as has the Micro May Fly.

Ravens -vs- Browns??? Photo: Hank Bechard

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Yellowstone still fishing…

Josh Edwards back on track! Photo: Van G.

Van Gravage, keeping the legend alive!

The weather this weekend was a little chilly, however those who were willing to brave the storm managed to land a few nice fish.  The good news is that this week looks like warmer temperatures (Tuesday high 48 °F, Wednesday high 52 °F, Thursday high 48 °F, and Friday a high of 53 °F).  So far Thursday looks like the best clouds.  Now is a great time to get out there before the browns settle down on their redds.  For whatever reason flashy and white streamers weren’t working nearly as well as last week.  Olive, brown, and black were a little more consistent talking to most folks.  Stinger hooks (located right at the end of the fly) have definitely helped catch a few fish that were just barely hooked, especially the larger browns that have likely been caught before.  For dry fly enthusiasts, there have been lots of baetis out right now, although most of the trout eats look like they taking emergers over the duns…

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