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Hatch Guide

Our Favorite Bug Hatches

Green Drake on the Madison River

The Yellowstone area has some of the most prolific and productive hatches in the world. The thermal features of the park add minerals to the streams, which helps support an enormous amount of aquatic insect life.

We've put together a list of some of the area's most important hatches. This isn't a complete list, so get in touch with us if you need more information or have any questions.

Stoneflies

Salmon Fly on the Madison River

From the giant salmon flies to the little yellow sallies, these bugs are important year round.

While most anglers think of stoneflies as the large bugs hatching in huge numbers in the late spring, or the large weighted nymphs often used as much for their sink rate as their attractiveness to the trout, one must not overlook the importance of the nymphs through out the year, especially the smaller species which are very common. While great fishing can be had on Salmonflies and Big Goldens, similarly good fishing can also be had with small smaller golden or black stonefly nymphs all through the season. Often little Golden Stones are the go to nymphs in the fall and winter.

Yellowstone Area Fishing with Salmon Flies

SALMON FLY — (PTERONARCYS CALIFORNICA)

HOOK SIZES 4 – 8

These large stoneflies can provide epic fishing but are difficult hatches to time. It is usually worth the effort to fish several areas in a stream to track down the places where trout are most keyed into the big flies. Floating a big stretch of river is really the best approach. There are more Salmon Fly patterns than just about any other insect for western rivers, but the consistently productive flies all tend to be dull colored and slightly downsized.

Our rivers and when to fly fish with Salmon Flies.
Madison River (E-L)   June 25 through July 10
Yellowstone River      July 5 through July 25
Gallatin River             June 25 through July 20
Henry’s Fork              May 25 through June

GOLDEN STONE — (HESPEROPERLA PACIFICA)

HOOK SIZES 6 – 8

These large goldens are often overlooked by anglers chasing Salmon flies. Don’t make the same mistake, as fish key on these insects long after their larger cousins have moved on. Throughout the early summer, a big golden stone makes a great searching pattern.

Our rivers and when to fly fish with Golden Stone Flies.
Madison River (E to QL)  June 25 through July 15
Yellowstone River           July 1 through August 15
Gallatin River                  June 25 through July 20
Henry's Fork                  June 15 through July 15

Salmon Fly Fishing on the Madison River

Caddisflies

Fly Fishing with Caddisflies

Caddis provide great fishing whether you're nymphing or fly fishing dry flies.

Caddisflies are very important insects to imitate throughout the season. Reliable hatches can often be found after the bulk of the Mayfly species have hatched out, making fish key on the remaining Caddis. Emerger patterns are especially important on the Madison and Firehole Rivers. Subsurface imitation of Caddis larva and pupa is a useful tool in the nymphs fisherman’s arsenal.

TRICOPTERA-MANY SPECIES

Hook Sizes: 12,14,16,18,20

Our rivers and when to fly fish with Caddisflies.
Madison River (C&R)                June 20 through August 15
Firehole River                           May 25 through June, September 1 through October
Yellowstone River                   July 15 through August 15
Gallatin River                          July 1 through August 15
Lamar & Slough Creek           July 1 through August 15
Henry’s Fork                           May 25 through September

Mayflies

Fly Fishing with Mayflies on the Gallatin River


Whether you're matching the hatch, or searching, these are the bugs many have in mind when they think of dry fly fishing.

Mayflies provide classic fishing to rising trout from April through November in the Yellowstone area. They are found in all of our trout water and their imitations provide the core of our fly selections. In addition to the great match the hatch fishing which makes mayflies beloved by head hunting anglers, fish often respond well to mayfly patterns when they are used in a searching role. Mayfly nymphs are an important food source through out the year.

PALE MORNING DUN — (EPHEMERELLA INERMIS & INFREQUENS)

HOOK SIZES 14 – 20

PMDs provide some of the best fishing of the season for dry fly anglers in the Yellowstone region. Look for insects to become smaller as hatches progress. Don’t ignore evening spinner falls for some really good fishing. PMD nymphs are also very effective during an emergence.

OUR RIVERS AND WHEN TO FLY FISH WITH PMDS
Madison River (YNP)      May 25 through June
Madison River (*C & R)  June 25 through August 15
Firehole River                 May 25 through June
Slough Creek                 July 1 through July 20
Yellowstone River          July 15 through August
Henry's Fork                  June 1 through July

GREEN DRAKE — (DRUNELLA GRANDIS)

HOOK SIZES: 10, 12

Green Drake hatches seem as if they are tougher to hit than just about anything else, but if you get a cloudy day during the time of their peak activity, expect spectacular fishing. Always keep a few patterns on hand even if there is only an outside chance to find these flies. It does not take too many size 10 mayflies to get the fish looking to the surface.

OUR RIVERS AND WHEN TO FLY FISH WITH GREEN DRAKES
Yellowstone River                   July 20 – August 5
Lamar and Slough Creek        August 25 – September
Henry's Fork                           June 15 – July 5
Madison Between the Lakes  July 1-- July 10

BROWN DRAKE — (EPHEMERA SIMULANS)

HOOK SIZES 8, 10

Brown Drakes are often overshadowed by Green Drakes, but in general they are easier hatches to hit. Emergers, Duns and Spinners are all needed to cover a hatch. Look for them on warm calm evenings and expect to fish to rising fish well past dark.

OUR RIVERS AND WHEN TO FLY FISH WITH BROWN DRAKES
Gibbon River   June 20 – July 10
Henry's Fork   June 20 – July 15

TINY BWO — (BAETIS PUNCTIVENTRIS)

HOOK SIZES 20, 22, 24

You can love these tiny bugs, or you can let the difficulty in fishing them ruin your day. Regardless, when you come to this area in the fall, they may be your best chance to find dry fly fishing to steadily rising fish.

OUR RIVERS AND WHEN TO FLY FISH WITH Tiny BWOs
Madison River in Yellowstone             May 25 – June, September 1 – October
Firehole River                                      May 25 – June, September 1 – October
Henry's Fork                                       June, September, October

OTHER MAYFLIES 

HOOK SIZES VARY

In addition to the “glory bugs” of the Mayfly world, there are other Mayflies which often provide good fishing on the rivers and lakes surrounding West Yellowstone. March Browns (12-14) are inconsistent early season finds down on the Madison (C & R) but when they are present, fish respond to them. Mid-day in April and May is the best time for hatches. The Madison has another little known bug of huge importance. Hatches of Epeorus mayflies begin in early July and last until nearly the end of August. Duns and nymphs are good flies to imitate, but it is the evening spinner falls of these insects which make for exceptional fishing. Early in the season they are often on the water along with PMD spinners, Flavs and a wide assortment of Caddis Flies. A generic rusty spinner fished in conjunction with a caddis emerger is deadly throughout the first three weeks in July. Once August rolls around, other bugs start to thin out and Epeorus spinner falls are hugely important to imitate and fish in the evening hours. Fish can often be found steadily rising to these insects well after dark, making for challenging and exciting fishing.

You can fish all of them all year long with great success

 

TRICOS — (TRICORYTHODES MINUTUS)

HOOK SIZES 18, 20, 22

Anglers expecting to find Callibaetis hatches are often surprised by the huge numbers of Tricos seen early in the mornings. These small bugs can be frustrating to fish, but early morning solitude amongst rising fish is easy to find.

OUR RIVERS AND WHEN TO FLY FISH WITH TRICOS
Hebgen Lake                              July 15 – September 15
Madison River in Yellowstone    August 1 – September
Henry's Fork                               Augest 1 – September

 

LITTLE GREEN DRAKE — (DRUNELLA FLAVILINEA)

HOOK SIZES 14, 16

Flavs are a big deal on the Henry’s Fork, but they are often overshadowed in the mind of anglers on the Madison by PMDs. This is a big mistake. Their imitations are necessary not only for rising fish, but also make superb searching patterns.

OUR RIVERS AND WHEN TO FLY FISH WITH Little Green Drakes
Madison River          July 10 – August 10
Firehole River           June 1 – June 25
Yellowstone River    July 20 – August 10
Henry's Fork            July 1 – July 25

BLUE WINGED OLIVES — (BAETIS TRICAUDATUS)

HOOK SIZES 16, 18, 20

If you are headed this way early or late in the season you need Baetis imitations. Cloudy days with a touch of rain or snow make for great hatches. Emergers and Duns are must haves, but one must not rule out the occasional spinner falls as a source of good fishing. Nymphs imitating BWOs are the best small nymphs on the Madison River throughout the fall, year after year.

OUR RIVERS AND WHEN TO FLY FISH WITH BWOS
Madison in Yellowstone       May 25 – June, September 1 – October
Firehole River                       May 25 – June, September 1 – October
Madison in Montana            May 1 – June 5, September 1 – November
Yellowstone River                August 1 – October
Henry's Fork                         May 25 – October

CALLIBAETIS — (CALLIBAETIS NIGRITUS)

HOOK SIZES 14, 16

These Mayflies can hatch in spectacular numbers on Hebgen Lake. Nymphs, emergers, duns and spinners are all keyed upon. Anglers underestimate just how finicky trout can be when they are rising in stagnate water to large quantities of insects. Carry multiple patterns and vary your approach.

OUR RIVERS AND WHEN TO FLY FISH WITH CALLIBAETIS
Hebgen Lake                       July 15 – September 15
Centennial Valley Lakes      July 1 – August

Henry's Fork                        August 1 – September 15

GRAY DRAKE — (SIPHLONURUS OCCIDENTALIS)

HOOK SIZES 10, 12, 14

Gray Drakes provide a lot of action with morning spinner falls.

OUR RIVERS AND WHEN TO FLY FISH WITH GRAY DRAKES
Slough Creek           July 1 – September 15
Yellowstone River   July 15 – September 15

Midges

Fly Fishing with Midges
Midges make up a large part of the trout’s diet in the winter time. The Yellowstone area does not have a lot of streams on which midges are very important during the warmer months of the year, though an angler heading to Slough Creek in the summer should make sure to have a few patterns. Winter fishing is a different story. Any given day between November and March, provided the wind is not blowing, an angler can find midging trout on the Madison. Griffiths Gnats, Adams, as well as tan and black midge emergers in sizes 22-26 are the ticket to fooling these pod feeding fish. Only the calmest flows will hold rising fish. One trick to locate these areas is to observe where foam accumulates in the river and then search the water for subtle rises. Look for hatches and rising fish through the warmest part of the day. Many anglers are put off by the cold and difficulty of tracking the drift of the tiny fly in winter light. This is not easy fishing, but it is good, honest match the hatch dry fly fishing through the dog days of winter and for that, we can thank, rather than curse, our friend the midge.

Terrestrials

Hopper fly fishing on the Madison River

 

Terrestrial insects have become have become synonymous with late summer fishing out west. “Hopper season” is how August is summed up for many anglers for good reason. However, as fish become more pressured, they become increasingly immune to large terrestrials. Instead of #4 hoppers and big foam Chernobyl style ants, we often find ourselves fishing #14 hoppers and tiny #18 ants. Dry summers grow bigger hoppers on the whole, though many different types of hoppers are often available at any one time. As with everything else, it is important to match the naturals. Do not just tie on a #6 Club Sandwich because it pounded on fish last summer. While hoppers often bring the headlines, ants and beetles account for more fish. Be sure to keep these smaller bugs on hand. Flying ants, when encountered, can make for once in a lifetime fishing. Crickets, Spruce Moths and Bees are less common, but fish can be selective to all three. If you are headed this way from July 15 through September 30 expect to fish terrestrials as a primary option.