Happy August everyone! Seems like summer just flies by faster and faster every year. Especially this year since we are about a month late getting on the Yellowstone! Things are shaping up to be a great August here in Livingston!
The Yellowstone River is flowing at just above 4,000 cfs at the town gauge as of this writing. It has been on a steady decline and is slightly below average for this time of year. It’s getting to a point where, while it’s still a lot of water, it’s certainly manageable for recreational floating. Just be mindful of new currents, eddies, obstructions and channels after the flood earlier this year. We are getting a lot of reports of debris in the water, and that will keep up as things continue to drop.
Water temp is something to keep an eye on. The river has reached 70 degrees in the afternoon every day since the 29th. A look at the forecast ensures that this upward trend will continue at least for a while. Daytime highs in the 90s make a float sound like a great option, but keep in mind that these higher water temps do put a lot of stress on the fish. We wrote a blog about keeping fish safe in high water temps last summer, it’s a good time to revisit the principles. Read it here.
The fishing has been best in the mornings until about 10:30 or 11, and then again in the evening. We’re seeing a ton of nocturnal stone shucks on the banks, and fishing a big chubby or stonefly pattern first thing can be very productive. Hang a rubber legs off the back of it and hold on. There have been scattered Yellow Sallies around, and caddis in the afternoon as well. If that’s not working, terrestrials will bring fish to hand. While hoppers are immediately what everyone thinks of, ants and beetles can be even more productive.
Nymphing has been more productive than dries, as it always is this time of year. Stonefly patterns or dead drifted streamers as a point fly can attract bigger fish, and draw eyes to a smaller dropper. Try something like a copper john, pheasant tail, caddis pupa, lightning bug, or something similar. You’ll find a lot of whitefish subsurface but a decent amount of trout too.
Lots of people are trying hoppers these days, and there are a ton of them out and around. The fish haven’t really keyed into them yet, but you can definitely give it a shot! It should be any day now. They make a great indicator fly for a smaller nymph if you want to fish two zones at once. We’ve got some great patterns available at the shop this year. They always sell out fast, don’t wait!
August is usually a month when things slow down pretty drastically on the Yellowstone River. This year it’s going to be really good.
The Lower Madison remains under a Hoot Owl Closure and will be until the end of summer. Given the amount of tubers and recreationalists on this stretch, give it a rest. There are lots of other great options around.
The Upper Madison is still fishing really well. There are options for floats and wading, but keep in mind that it’s very busy this time of year. Fish early or fish late. The stoneflies are done, but there are enough caddis, a few yellow sallies, and terrestrials to keep you plenty busy. If you don’t feel like messing with the river go try to find gulpers on Ennis Lake.
***UPDATE*** As of 8/1/22, FWP has enacted a Hoot Owl closure from 8 Mile fishing access to Ennis Lake. No fishing from 2pm to midnight!
The Gallatin River is a lot closer than the Madison and it’s continuing to fish well. We wouldn’t fish anywhere below Axtel Bridge, and anywhere in the Canyon would be our go to spot. From the Canyon mouth to Big Sky is quite busy, as it always is in the summer. Not only is the river pretty small with lots of easy car access (pros and cons for sure), but it’s a popular whitewater rafting float.
If you want some solitude, keep driving toward West Yellowstone. Fishing pressure on the Gallatin River immediately drops off past the Big Sky Meadow and once you cross over into Yellowstone Park it goes down even more. Please keep in mind that you’ll need a Yellowstone fishing license if you’re up that high.
This time of year is usually all about spruce moths, but they haven’t really been around this year. The salmonflies have come and gone, but you’ll find caddis in the afternoon as the main hatch. Given the faster nature of this river, general attractors such as Humpies, Royal Wulffs, Purple Haze, etc. work well. Terrestrials are in play up here too…
Keep an eye on water temps and fish early or fish late. Not only is this better on the fish, but you’ll beat the crowds too. Win win all around!
Boulder River and Eastward
We’ve had a lot of people in the store recently heading for the Boulder River or waters eastward. The Boulder can be a good choice in the summer, and is a great spot for dry flies and attractors. There is still a decent amount of water in it right now and wading can be a bit tricky, especially in the lower stretches. Be mindful of property boundaries and stay below the high water mark. If you drive upriver, be ready for some bumpy driving, but beating up your car could be well rewarded.
For other waters in our region, a lot of them are warming up past a point we feel comfortable recommending fishing. Pay attention to water temps and flow. Irrigation is kicking in across the state and waters are getting drawn down with that. With all the great options closer to home, we’d recommend sticking with that.
Late summer is the time to be in the mountains. Trails are dry, the small streams and high country lakes are still ice cold, and the trout are hungry. As we’ve written in previous reports, there are hundreds of lakes and hundreds of miles of small streams in our region that hold trout. Go exploring. Don’t get too wrapped up in finding the “perfect spot”. Look at a map, bring a few flies, and go have some fun.
One of the joys of small water is in packing light. Really all you need is what you see below. If you’ve ever wondered why you might need a 3wt rod, this is it.
Store and Livingston
August is a great month to visit Southwest Montana and Livingston. This is the time of year when hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking are in full swing and the fishing is going to be lights out this August. There is a lot going on around Livingston as well - live music, community gatherings, farmer’s markets… Always something to do!
Our store has everything you need to stay hydrated, comfortable, and safe out on the river and in the woods. It’s hot so don’t forget to bring a water bottle and UV blocking clothing. Sun shirts are a great choice this time of year - for any outdoor activity. Come shop our selection of late summer bugs and hoppers while we’re still well stocked.
Thanks for reading and see you on the water!