West of Yellowstone late July/early August trip planning

AZFalconer

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Hey now... Finally got the stars aligned and I've booked 10 days at Campfire Lodge Resort just west of Hebgen lake in late July into August. Got a riverside RV spot. Pricey but that don't really matter. It looks wonderful... Now for the planning...
I'm looking at doing at least a couple days guided on the Madison, maybe one float, one wade, and then maybe some guided days on one or two of the other rivers in the area.
I've never fished up there so it's uncharted (fishing) territory. I've talked to Gallatin River guides, they seemed nice. Also going to reach out to Madison river outfitters, Big Sky anglers, and any others that are recommended. The resort has a guide service as well.
I'm also amazed at the plethora of fly shops in the area. Looking forward to dropping some bucks at those...

So... for those of you who have been; Recommendations along these lines please?
Rivers to fish - Madison, Yellowstone, Gallatin, others?
Stores to hit
Gear to have - have decent 5/6 wt 9 ft rods, 4 wt 7 1/2 ft. Considering longer, esp for nymphing - any gotta have stuff to take (or buy there)? Good pattern selections for that time of year?
Guides you love
Anything else.

Very stoked to get this booked especially with late notice (delays with time off approval at work).
Thanks in advance!

Charlie
Kingman, AZ
 

mikemac1

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Plan your trip carefully. Campfire Lodge is a great location for fishing the upper Madison and Hebgen Lake. However in late July-early August, the west side waters in YNP do not fish well and should be avoided. That puts other fishable waters in MT (except the upper Gallatin) a bit of a drive. Two reasonable options are taking a Yellowstone float out of Gardiner, MT with Park’s Fly Shop. (About a 60 mile drive through the park). Twin Bridges, MT is about 90 miles away on the Big Hole. A float with 4 Rivers Fly Shop or Stonefly Outfitters and Fly Shop on the lower Big Hole in mid-summer is a great trip and will be significantly less crowded than the Madison. The upper Gallatin in YNP is good in July and outside the park as well but don’t expect trophy fishing. Decent fishing in YNP in late July is pretty much limited to the Lamar Valley streams but those are at least 150 miles one-way from Campfire Lodge. Also consider the Snake River and Tribs in ID just south of West Yellowstone. Good Luck.
 

AZFalconer

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Mikemac1; when you say the waters don't fish well, what do you mean? Too hot? Too low? other? Thanks for the info!
Charlie
 

mikemac1

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Mikemac1; when you say the waters don't fish well, what do you mean? Too hot? Too low? other? Thanks for the info!
Charlie
@AZFalconer - The Gibbon, Firehole and Madison — the west side rivers are usually far too warm to fish in July and August because of the thermal influence of the Geyser basins. Not only are the fish lethrgic, catching them almost always stresses them to the point of death. On the Firehole in particular, a great many fish leave the river and seek refuge in a variety of cold water tributaries where they are exceptionally difficult to catch. Walter Wiese of Park’s Fly Shop has a good overview of MT and YNP fishing season by season.

You’ll see plenty of tourists trying to fish the Gibbon, Firehole and Madison in the heat of summer but its not a good fishery in July and August. Most veterans avoid these streams during July and August.
 

planettrout

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This is the hatch chart for the Yellowstone area:



There can be closures on most of the rivers in Southern Montana due to high temps. What is restricted can only be know when it occurs. I never fish in the Park until late September or early October. Too many people. Prefer fishing the Madison, Boulder and Stillwater River which may be found here:


There are numerous fly shops in West Yellowstone and a couple in Ennis and one in Gardiner. These are my favorites:






I always take these rods when I go there:

9'4wt.
9'6' 4wt.
9' 5wt.
10' 5wt.
9'6wt.
9'6" 7wt.

The Campfire Lodge has a good fly shop, especially if one is looking for excellent Whiting feathers:




Fishing between the lakes is at it's best in October when the big Browns run up from Quake Lake:



This is where I spend a lot of time when I go there. I have been fishing that area since 1975 and have never found it necessary to use a guide:




PT/TB
 

Longs for Cutts

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Thanks for the mentions above, but it's Walter Wiese of Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing nowadays. I still answer emails for Parks because he is an 80 year-old technophobe, but only 3 of about 45 trips booked so far this season are for them.

www.flyfishmontana.biz (many hatch charts and so forth there, too.)
 

Redrock

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Without hot spotting the not so famous, there are several smaller waters in the area that will fish well at that time. The Ruby is a hike from Hebgen. The Big Hole is a good bit further. If you fish guide hours (9-6) either is doable. If you fish evenings, you are in for a very long day with a return trip over a hilly, winding road. The upper Gallatin has a ton of smallish fish and lots of flies and mosquitoes. It is a fun river to fish. The best water in the Park at that time of the year is just too far for day trips, imo. You might consider a day trip down to the Henry’s Fork. Again there are lots of smaller waters in that area to fish. Henry’s lake used to be an amazing fishery. It might be work checking out. I don’t lake fish, but you might check into whether the gulper fishing on Hebgen Is on. But, I personally would fish the upper Madison, particularly the evening caddis hatch. If you know how to row, you might want to rent a raft for a few days. There is a place in Ennis which rents rafts. So much water, so little time!
 

Ippyroy

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I live in West Yellowstone and have been fishing the local waters for over 5 years. You will have no problem finding great waters to fish, be it freestone or tail. Big Sky Anglers is my favorite shop in town. The guides are fun and knowledgeable. The shop guys are always helpful, even for newbies. I would definitely get a guide form them. FYI, they are filling up quickly.
The temperature of the rivers in the western part of the park do fluctuate, mostly depending on the snowpack and snowmelt. We are rather warm right now, 40s during the day and single digits or below 0 in the morning. The fishing the last 2 years has been phenomenal from the biggest hopper bite I have ever seen to the longest lasting stonefly hatch.
 

AZFalconer

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Bumping this thread back up.... leaving Friday to head up that way. Been doing a lot of research but always up for last minute advice and recommendations.
Planning to stick with the cooler waters mostly, hit some smaller rivers/streams if the water temps hold. Figure fish those early AM, siesta during the afternoon, and jump back out on the Madison in the evening. Will spend the last 5 days camped on the Henry's at Riverside campground. Seems like the Henry's is holding its own temp-wise...
Charlie
 

dean_mt

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It sounds like you know the situation we are in here and have already adjusted your expectations. That is great, thank you for being responsible.

Only advice is to bring a thermometer and check the water temps, stop fishing when they reach 68 and you may have to reconsider the evenings. The hottest part of the day here is about 6pm and the warmest water of the day follows. The fish are super stressed after being caught and released all morning. I've read accounts of and seen pictures of cutthroats bleeding from the gills, and of belly-up brown trout.

Maybe the daytime temps will continue to stay closer to 85 than 95, and one positive of the wildfire smoke is it blocks direct sun on the water. It's a bad situation here, guys like you who have had their Montana trips planned for a year don't want to give it up, outfitters need to work, and the rest of us live here at least partially, to fish in the summer...

Fish it well from 6am to Noon or whatever is safe, that's still a great 6 hours of fishing everyday! Good luck.
 

AZFalconer

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I do indeed have a thermometer... I doubt I'd fish as high as 68; prob quit at 66.
I figured that between the lakes on the Madison should stay cool for the evening hatch; USGS says it's staying in the low 60s that time of day. Since we're camping right there, it lends itself to the post-prandial wading...
I have 3 guide trips planned and while I have my desires for those, I will defer to the guides on what's right. Just fishing anywhere in that area will be OK.
Considering a spot or two in the park; seems like the Gardner is not pressured too hard and might be high enough to stay cool. Can't find a lot of info on it, which might mean not a lot of people hit it. Seems like it has lots of smaller fish, which is OK. I also heard the upper Teton is staying cool enough right now too...
I've heard Henry's below the dam and above the boat ramp is a good spot for wading but there doesn't seem to be any temp info on USGS for it.
Charlie
 

mikemac1

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Considering a spot or two in the park; seems like the Gardner is not pressured too hard and might be high enough to stay cool. Can't find a lot of info on it, which might mean not a lot of people hit it. Seems like it has lots of smaller fish, which is OK. I also heard the upper Teton is staying cool enough right now too...
I think the Gardner will be just as bad as just about everywhere else. In fact it does get a fair amount of pressure in the summer because of its proximity to the road. Unfortunately in the summer most of the decent fish have left the stream and moved back into the Yellowstone. The lower section—BoilIng River to the mouth is way too warm—as Boiling River pumps in 20+ CFS of 270 degree water 24/7. Above the Boiling River the Gardner is much shallower overall and the lack of water will drive fish back down in the Yellowstone.

Take a look at this table of annual average median flows based on 71 years of data.


The Gardner is flowing today at 132, that’s typical flow for late September. But you will note that from June onwards into winter, the Gardner never gets MORE water, just less. If you do fish it, I suspect you will find only a few smallish browns as the rainbows and cutts typically move out in summer. Will be interesting to see how things turn out, but no one here is optimistic.
 

GAflycaster

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I tabled my MT trip until next summer, but I’m glad you are getting to go AZFalconer! I hope you can make the best of it. I’d like a report on that campground when you get back. I know exactly where it’s at and seeing how I love the Madison, that would a great spot for me. In case you are interested for the future, there is another great campground in Ennis for easy access to the Madison. I’m leaning more towards my future trips being in our RV. (Travel Trailer). Especially since air travel seems to be going through the roof again. I see you have already booked your guides but I will throw out there Wild Trout Outfitters in Big Sky. JD is the owner and he is top notch. His guides are very knowledgeable of the area that you are going.
Safe Travels and Good Luck!
 

Redrock

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Bumping this thread back up.... leaving Friday to head up that way. Been doing a lot of research but always up for last minute advice and recommendations.
Charlie
Have you checked the Goose fire report to see if the smoke will be blowing in the direction of your campsite?
 

wthorpe

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good question. smoke from Goose Fire has been all over the place in the West Yellowstone/Upper Mad Valley area, but it has been surprisingly not terribly heavy most days. Not ideal, but easily tolerable. everybody in the area is kinda focussed on Goose Fire cuz it's the one that's currently going fairly strong, but truth is, the real risk is probably the fire or 2 or more that have not yet popped up.
 

fishrite86

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What a terrible situation for the west. Wishing all those who are being impacted the best. This sucks for all including our trout.
 
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