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Jun 26, 2023 | Sam Hall
Howdy! Welcome back to another edition of the 2023 season fishing reports. It’s been cold of recent but things are really starting to heat up on the river. Currently on the Henry’s Fork we are at the beginning of what I’m sure many anglers have been waiting for… mayflies. With that, the focus of this report will primarily be concerning the arrival of the mayflies and also other avenues of effectively finding fish. As always, feel free to stop by the shop for further inquiry and fly recommendations for your time on the water.
As mentioned in the previous report, fishing in the Box has been slower than most stretches of the Henry’s Fork. Flows out of Island Park Reservoir are currently running at a rate of 649 cfs making it more than wadable. Wading here can be more advantageous than floating due to the fact that a wader has the ability to drift flies through runs and pools that drift boats cruise right over. Excitement for a decent salmonfly hatch in the Box Canyon was spurred by a very decent hatch in the canyon waters below Harriman State Park, but unfortunately the salmon flies in the Box were nothing to write home about. You still may see a handful of fliers and because of that you still may get some rises on top. Furthermore, the path to success here is going to be nymphing good pockets and dry dropping the bank. Running a purple chubby or golden stone to a type of perdigon such as a #16 Bullet Quill or Tungsten Mic Drop is going to be your best bet in the Box. Fish are few and far between but there are still nice sized fish to be caught and good days to be had. Compared to what other sections of the Henry’s Fork are offering right now, it might be wise to spend your time elsewhere especially if you are floating.
We are now a week into the opening of the park and it’s a game of patience right now. We’re almost in a state of purgatory between us being able to fish it and it being able to fish really well. Fish are absolutely to be found right now and bad days are also very possible to be had, but I am optimistic. The weather has been poor for the ranch as temperatures have been low and the wind has been blowing keeping those bugs down and mostly off the water, but the forecast shows improvement and warmer weather. My optimism is boosted because of this and the nearness of the drakes appearing in the park. I imagine they will begin showing up in the next several days if the warm weather prevails, so keep your eyes peeled. For now, the bugs to match are caddis, PMDs, and march browns. I would suggest a Missing Link or Splitsville caddis #14/16 and a splitsville rusty spinner size 14 or 16 as well. Sparkle Dun March Brown size 14 is the fly of choice for those march browns. Another effective fly to use is a pmd emerger, such as a PMD Halfback Emerger #16. Longer leaders and lighter tippet is the best way to keep from spooking these finicky fish. To me, fish or not, I have yet to have had a bad day on the ranch. As always remember to be respectful of this incredible stretch of water and the other anglers who are enjoying it alongside you.
Henry’s Fork Mesa Falls to Ashton
The salmon flies in the canyon have mostly come and gone, although there are still handfuls of fliers to be found which leads me to believe that you may still get a rise to a large salmonfly like Lawson’s #4 Foamstone Salmon Fly. However, throwing a golden stone or smaller sized chubby could be wiser. Fishing a streamer can also be an effective way of getting strikes especially below the falls where some nice browns can be tricked. Below Stone Bridge green drakes are hatching at a low degree and you may find some trout rising to them during a decent hatch. The majority rising however are commonly coming up to caddis and PMDs. Still, the most effective way to catch fish is going to be nymphing. Dropping a size 12 pheasant tail, #10/12 rubber legs, or #16 split case pmd off a golden stone is your best bet to get some takes.
Henry’s Fork below Ashton
The gist below Ashton is the green drakes and the fishing down here is what gets me excited for what’s to come in the near future on the Upper Henry’s Fork. The Ashton Reservoir is currently releasing water at a rate of 1780 cfs and the fishing has been more than satisfactory. However, I am not the only person who knows this and sections of the river can be very crowded with boats and waders alike. With that said, be mindful of the other anglers around you. Moving on, fishing in the morning for the most part has been slow with this colder weather, but fish can be found with nymphs like a size 12 pheasant tail or rubber legs. As things warm up throughout the day the first to arrive are the thick caddis hatches on the bank accompanied by PMDs. A Hemingway Caddis size 14 and a Tilt Wing PMD #14/16 are effective flies to tie on when these bugs are flying. As the day moves into the mid-afternoon around 3 pm is when the green drakes begin to hatch and the whole river really comes to life. At this time, tie on your favorite green drake pattern or come into the shop and grab some Last Chance Cripple Green Drakes #10/12 and some #12 Lawson’s Extended Body Green Drakes. Another option is to throw a #12 Guide Winna Spinna Green Drake if the rises to your fly subside as the Green Drakes could be at that part of their cycle by then. Green drakes are not the only mayfly to be excited about as flavs and an encouraging amount of Gray Drakes are hatching as well. Hudgen’s Gray Drake Spinner #10 and the Last Chance Cripple Flav #16 can be effective flies when the fish are rising to these bugs. I would imagine we only have a few more days down here of these quality hatches so get down there while you can. Again, many anglers are fishing these stretches so be prepared for a crowded day on the water for some time.
The Madison is still yet to fish as well as we know it can. The flows have subsided for the most part but the recent rain has definitely not been helping especially in terms of water color and clarity. It is not chocolate milk by any means but it can be quite cloudy in places and stained a chalky green color. Fishing here can be very slow with only a few fish days but the state of the river should only get better as the weather warms up. The Lower Madison is the best stretch of the river to fish as temps are lower and the water is clearer. The state of the Madison should improve greatly as the salmon flies begin to show up which should be in the next two weeks or so. Throwing a #4 or #6 rubber legs could produce some bites as we near the beginning of the salmon flies. Throwing a streamer such as a #4 Goldie Articulated has tricked some fish for me personally up on the Madison below the lakes. The bites are few and far between for the most part but there are still good sized fish to be caught. The cold, rainy weather is our biggest adversary and time our greatest friend right now.
South Fork of the Snake
The flows have settled down to about 12,000 cfs on the South Fork and things are starting to happen. Fishing here is still a nymphing game until we begin to see some salmon flies and we could very well be seeing them in the next week or so. As one of our guides, Elden Berrett, just told me, historically “when June 24th comes, look for salmon flies on section four.” Since we are nearing their arrival, throwing large #4 or #6 rubber legs are likely to produce a solid number of strikes. Dropping down in size to a #16 Bullet Quill or Tungsten Mic Drop is also an effective way of catching fish.
The flows on the Teton near Saint Anthony have dropped the last two days and it is currently running at a rate of 1700 cfs, which is still a tad high but is a more than acceptable rate to fish this stretch. I don’t have much to advise about this stretch because not many people have been down there and that is exactly what makes the Teton so exciting. If the drakes are as thick there as they are on the Lower Henry’s (and I think they are) then we should all be in for a treat.
Throwing the same patterns as you would on the Lower I’m sure will be successful if those drakes are out. I plan on getting out there this coming week so come back next week to check the new report where we will likely have some more specific information about what is happening on the Teton.
The Firehole and the Gibbon have been fishing far better than anywhere in the park right now. Now is the time to take advantage of the cooler water on the Firehole as the water will warm up quickly due to the geothermal heat in the park making the fishing unethical once those temps near 70 degrees. The temperature now is currently 56 degrees so the period to fish here is waning day by day. For now, tying on some flav, yellow sallie, or white miller patterns are a good idea. Specific flies like a #16 Sexy Yellow Sallie, #12 Spruce Almighty for those white millers, and #14/#16 Last Chance Cripple Flav are all effective in imitating these bugs. The Firehole is not your only option by any means as all three of these flies can be found hatching on the Gibbon. The Gibbon River at the Madison Junction is currently flowing at 201 cfs making it more than fishable to the wading angler. The Madison in the park is also fishing well with decent caddis and flav hatches influencing those fish to rise. Stripping a streamer is also a great idea to pick up those bigger fish. We’ve heard that the Gallatin is getting very close to being ready for some really good fishing but right now the flows are too high and most parts of the river are unpassable. Stay tuned for more information about the Gallatin as the flows subside and the water temps warm up. Again, with the rivers that flow through Montana and Wyoming it is the salmon flies that most anglers are waiting for.
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