Fall Is For Fishing

Now that the mud has cleared (again), the fishing on the Yellowstone River has returned to its previous state – very good. Now’s the time to get out, before the snow begins to fly. The dry fly bite remains good. Smaller hoppers (try pink) have still been taking fish on top, as have Chubby Chernobyls. So have smaller dries, such as Hippie Stompers, ants, and beetles. For a nymph dropper, the red Copper John in a size 16 or 18 is hard to beat. You might run into a baetis hatch out there, so have some small Parachute Adams or other blue-winged olive mayfly patterns at hand. And yes, the streamer fishing is picking up. Brown and yellow is a hard color combination to beat this time of year. J.J. Specials, brown and yellow Space Invaders, and brown Beldar Rubber Legs all fit the bill. This weekend looks a bit rainy and cooler, but the fishing should still be good. Or call in sick and do a Fall float on Friday. Enjoy the river now that the crowds of summer have gone home.

Fishing on the Paradise Valley spring creeks has also been well worth the rod fees. One of our guides had an epic day on DePuy’s the other day. Most of the fish were caught on nymphs, but the baetis hatch is also going on, especially on cooler, cloudy days. So be prepared with all life stages of the blue-winged olive mayfly, in sizes 18 and 20. I like the Sparkle Dun Biot for a dun pattern. CDC winged patterns are also very effective. Sprout Baetis and Harrop’s Captive Dun are effective emerger patterns. Cripples, such as Harrop’s Last Chance Cripple, can be good when the fish are being finicky. You should also be prepared with some nymphs for when the fish aren’t rising (a nymph fished in the surface film as a dropper from your dry, dusted with a powdered floatant such as Frog’s Fanny, can also be good during the hatch). Sawyer Pheasant Tails and Split-Case BWO Nymphs are a couple of favorites (and midge patterns, such as a Zebra Midge, are always effective on the spring creeks). Oh, and bring a few midge emerger/dries (Sprout Midge, Dom’s Midge Hanger), as a few fish have been up on midges as well. Stop in and see us on your way to the creek and we can point you toward these and other patterns.

Fall Is In The Air

Pat McIntyre scores a Fall brownie

Pat McIntyre snares a Fall brownie on a warmer day

Oh, wait, that’s falling snow! The good news is that this weekend should be lovely. And the fishing continues to be good. We didn’t really have a hard freeze, so I’d guess that the grasshoppers survived the cold nights. So don’t be afraid to try a hopper pattern this weekend. Chubby Chernobyls are still picking up fish (try black & purple). And the usual dropper nymphs will dredge up a trout now and then, in amongst the whitefish. Go with a smaller (size 8 or 10) rubberleg stonefly pattern or a small streamer if you want to limit your whitey catch.

Fall means baetis (blue-winged olive mayflies). And the afternoon baetis hatches have been good to spectacular. Fish up all over the river (admittedly, some of them whitefish, but plenty of trout as well). The Yellowstone River is not the spring creeks, so don’t stress too much about a perfect imitation. A good old Parachute Adams in 18 or 20 will fool plenty of fish. If you want to get more technical, feel free to bring out your spring creek fly box, but visibility at a distance is going to be key. CDC patterns with a darker wing (e.g., dark grey) are surprisingly easy to spot when the sky is cloudy.

Fall also means streamers. Yes, catching fish on dries and nymphs is good fun. But what really gets folks salivating this time of year in the opportunity to catch big browns (with possibly some rainbows thrown in) on streamers. Yes, it can be hard work chucking and stripping big flies all day long, and you’re unlikely to net a large number of fish, but the possibility of a trophy catch keeps the aficionados casting over and over. Imparting motion is key, both in your choice of streamer patterns and in your retrieves. Getting your fly down deep where the big trout hang out is also important, which is why most “streamer junkies” use sink-tip lines.  Good sink-tip lines include Rio’s StreamerTip and Scientific Angler’s Streamer Express.

These days, there are a ton of different streamer patterns available, both traditional-hooked and articulated. Having a variety of colors and sizes to try is probably more important that the particular pattern you’re using. If one color’s not at least getting some chases, try something in a different hue.

Some patterns we like: for single hooked flies – the Sparkle Minnow in the J.J Special or peacock color,  Morrish’s Sculpin in Olive, Bow River Buggers in White or Olive, the Conehead J.J Special, and the Zoo Cougar in Olive or Natural. For articulated patterns – the Sex Dungeon in Yellow, Olive, or Orange is super effective. Swimming Jimmies, Silvey’s Sculpin Leech in Olive, the Bottom’s Up in Olive or White, the Articulated Butt Monkey in Brown and Yellow, and Sculpzilla’s in Orange or Olive are all excellent choices to entice big trout.You can fish streamers, at least smaller ones, with your 5 weight. But throwing big articulated flies and sink tips all day will be a lot easier with a 6-8 weight stick (plus you’ll have more fish-fighting backbone when you get that monster hooked up). A fast-action rod is best, preferably with a somewhat softer tip to help you impart motion. Winston’s BIII-SX, Sage’s One, and Scott’s Radian are all good choices.

If you want more streamer-chucking advice, feel free to stop in at Sweetwater Fly Shop and talk to Beau or Ed, our streamer experts. Or give us a call at 222-9393 and sign up for our free streamer clinic on September 27 (4:00-6:00).

Sweet September

Wendy gets it done with the black Morrish Hopper!

Wendy gets it done with the black Morrish Hopper!

Things are shaping up for some great fall fishing. There’s plenty of water in the Yellowstone River, hoppers are still out and about, and soon the brown trout will start getting aggressive in preparation for their autumn spawn. If only we could stop having “mud events!” But things are clearing up from the weekend’s big rains. It did rain pretty hard in the Paradise Valley yesterday afternoon, so you should anticipate that Six Mile Creek will be adding some color to the river just above Emigrant. You might want to float up high, say Carbella to 26 Mile. Or low enough below Emigrant that the mud has had a chance to dissipate. Luckily, there were no spikes up high, on the Lamar or the Gardner Rivers, so we expect the water clarity to only get better as we head into the weekend.

What about the fishing? When the water clarity has been good enough, there’s been good dry fly action. Hopper/dropper rigs are still the go-to choice, especially when it’s relatively warm and breezy out, which it should be this weekend (the warm part at least). Try a Morrish Hopper, a Thunder Thighs Hopper, a Panty-Dropper Hopper, or a Kingfisher’s Red Legged Hopper. If one color’s not getting enough action, try a different color. Pink has been working well for us, as has a black Morrish Hopper (which took the nice brown in the photo). The real hoppers are getting bigger, so don’t be afraid to step up to a size 8 (or bigger). If you’re fishing in the Paradise Valley, we suggest a smaller dry as your dropper, unless you want to boat a host of whitefish. The whitey bite has been nothing less than spectacular on small nymphs. Or fish below town, where the whitefish concentration is a bit lower. You might tie on an ant or beetle, a Purple Parachute, a Sweetwater McDougall, a Yeager’s 409, or a Hippie Stomper. Or use a small streamer as your dropper. A small Zonker, Mini Sculpin, or Belly-Dancer Zonker is less likely to be eaten by the whitefish and might get you into a bigger trout. And that’s what we’re really after, isn’t it? Get out this weekend; you won’t have that many more chances for fair-weather fishing.

Don’t forget to download our free mobile app, so you can have easy access to these fishing reports, weather predictions, flow gauges, and so much more! Send us photos of your catch with the “Your Pictures” tab. And stop by Sweetwater Fly Shop and say “Hi” on your way to or from the river.


If you’re hardy enough to be heading out today, you may have to do a bit of searching for clear water in the Yellowstone River. It’s out there, but you’re probably going to have to go downstream of Livingston to find it. As you might imagine, the upper river is getting pretty muddy. The webcam at Pine Creek was looking good early this morning, but it now (~8:00) looks like the chalky water has arrived. All that said, the fishing has been surprisingly good the last couple of days. So if you’re up for a day in the chilly rain, you might be rewarded. Hoppers probably won’t do it for you today. But smaller attractor dries still might. And it should be a good streamer day, whether you’re stripping or dead-drifting the big stuff. So suit up in your layers, rain gear, and waders. And give it a try.

Yes, our regular free Saturday BBQ is a go for this evening (5:30-7:30). So stop by, grab a burger or a braut, and warm yourself up in the shop. And barring lightning, we’ll go ahead with our free Intermediate/Advanced casting clinic at 4:00. If you want to take your casting to the next level, this clinic is for you. Give us a call at 222-9393 if you’re planning on coming, or just show up. A little rain won’t stop Sweetwater Fly Shop!

Enough, Already!

Yes, there’s more mud in the Yellowstone River this morning. Right now, it’s up high, between Carbella and 26 mile. We won’t pass on how the color was described to us. Let’s just say that it’s not fishable. So stay down lower in the Paradise Valley, or go below Livingston. If you go below town, keep an eye open for standing waves – some down there (such as the one above Springdale) have gotten bigger with the lower flows. The good news is that the hopper bite is getting more consistent, if not yet spectacular. Especially in the afternoons. Though the forecasted cooler temps and rain later in the week likely won’t help with that. Chubby Chernobyls are still getting eaten, as are ants. There aren’t many caddis around anymore, but fish are still taking caddis patterns on top. Go figure. Other than that, run through your arsenal of attractors large and small, and your standard dropper nymphs. A King Prince picked up some fish yesterday, all natives, though some were released without fanfare, if you know what I mean. Check back tomorrow; every day’s an adventure this summer.

Addendum: The river is clearing at Carbella and is clear above Yankee Jim Canyon. So it’s just a short mud plug. If you’re heading out this afternoon, you could go above it, rather than risk getting caught lower down.

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