These hours of sunshine are not just a boon for anglers wanting to make up for the time lost in winter when the sun swings low on the horizon causing the sun’s heat to do nothing much except burn off the frost on south-facing windows until the spring quinox occurs in March. No sunshine means fishing is limited except during high summer months. The boon is actually better for trout than for anglers because the abundant sunshine and resultant warmth create a smorgasbord of food for trout.
Once the sun has melted most of the snow and rivers and streams have settled down enough to fish safely, the rays of the sun also begin to warm these flowing waters. As water temperatures rise, the result is a plethora of insect hatches. Moth-like insect called caddis flies, mayflies and prehistoric-looking insects called stoneflies begin to emerge from rivers and streams once water temperatures hit 50 degrees. Late June is typically the end of snowmelt and also the time the water temps climb.
As trout begin to see the increased insect activity, their desire to feed on these insects also increases exponentially. This is why fly anglers, particularly, can wax poetic for hours on end about hatches of mayflies, caddis and stoneflies with other anglers who share the same predilection for matching wits with salmonid species by using various dry or wet versions of whatever insect activity is garnering the most attention by feeding trout. This is also why fly fishing can be so rewarding some days and so frustrating on other days when ‘matching the hatch’ and fooling a trout seem as difficult as solving a calculus problem.
Already, waters that warm first, like the Firehole, Gibbon and Madison rivers inside Yellowstone Park, have given anglers the opportunity to see all three of the above insect orders hatch or emerge throughout the day. If you haven’t been inside the Park to take advantage of fewer traffic and less anglers on these streams, shame on you. The hatches have been outstanding and, once figured out as to which fly to use, so has the catching.
June 20 is also the time more of Yellowstone’s streams that surround Yellowstone Lake open to angling. Until this time, these streams have been closed to protect the lake’s native Yellowstone cutthroat trout during their spawning season. Now that most of these trout have spawned, anglers can now fish the numerous creeks that feed the lake’s 114-mile shoreline. Some are accessible by horseback and walking, others only by boat, where these streams feed into the southeast, south and other back bays of this large body of fresh water.
The Yellowstone River where it begins just south of Fishing Bridge is still closed until July 15. However, if you want to watch fish feed on the insect hatches of mayflies, caddis and stoneflies, the area just above and just below LeHardy Rapids is a great place to observe trout behavior. If you’re a fly fisher, you might even learn a few things before wading into this famous river come mid-July.
Improving water conditions are also occurring on local rivers and their tributaries. By July 1, when the North Fork of the Shoshone’s closure is lifted for another year, this river and all the rest draining the Absaroka Mountains in the Shoshone National Forest and Yellowstone Park will be in good shape for wading or rafting. Water temps will be cold in the mornings but warming enough by midday to produce some great insect activity. The same holds true for the northeast corner of Yellowstone where the lower Yellowstone and Lamar rivers are open for angling already. So are Soda Butte, Pebble, Slough, Buffalo and Hell Roaring creeks that feed these two rivers. Access to the Park is better through Montana’s Silver Gate or Gardner entrances since the road from Canyon to Tower inside Yellowstone is closed to traffic for the summer.
There is so much to get excited about once the summer solstice occurs. I encourage everyone to read the fishing regulations for Wyoming and Yellowstone Park. Separate fishing licenses are required if you plan to fish both. Yellowstone’s regulations lean more the to the preservation of self-sustaining fishing populations, while the state of Wyoming has been slow to respond to ever-increasing pressure on wild trout rivers and streams surrounding Yellowstone Park. The other recommendation is to pack bear spray and mosquito repellent the next few weeks. You might need to use both deterrents while fishing.