Fishing conditions improved remarkably in the past week.
Flows appear to have stabilized on all rivers and streams in northwest Wyoming and Montana. This means anglers and other water users have seen rivers and streams drop as low as they will get for the rest of the year.
Flows are still dismayingly below normal, but when compared to past water years, they are still very close to the mean average for late August and as we head into the fall months.
Water quality in regard to clarity has also improved the past week. No longer are anglers grumbling about dirty river or stream conditions. They are now actively involved again in piscatorial pursuits throughout the Big Horn Basin and Yellowstone Park. With long-range weather showing little to no moisture for the next 10 days or more, it would behoove anglers to get busy fishing again to try and catch up on time lost when rivers and streams were blown out from rain most of August. Catching up is difficult, but it is better than not going fishing at all.
As mentioned in last week’s column, local lakes have seen a marked drop in water temperatures. This has resulted in more activity on lakes like East Newton, Hogan and Luce – all favorites for locals and visitors to the area. Because I am one of those anglers trying to play catch-up in the fishing department, I can attest to the fact that lake fishing has gone from so-so to very good. For instance, this past Thursday and Friday I went to East Newton to see how the trout survived the extreme heat and to see what condition the trout were in after continuous daytime temperatures in the high 90s and nighttime temps that seldom fell below 65 degrees.
Much to my surprise and to the delight of friends fishing with me, we “slammed” lots of rainbow trout in the 14-20-inch range on grasshopper patterns last Thursday in the middle of the day. This is typically the slow fishing time on most high desert lakes in late summer. Water temps were not cold, but they were measuring 64 degrees at 1 p.m. that afternoon. This temperature is well within the comfort range of all the trout species that have been stocked into this popular trophy fishery just five minutes from Cody.
The rainbows were not bashful about taking a hopper pattern Thursday. We were wading the shoreline and casting our hopper flies out beyond the weed line when we could find a break in the reeds lining the shore that actually allowed enough room for a cast to be made. When a trout spotted one of our hopper imitations, the reaction can only described as “savage” and could quite easily be compared to a great white shark attacking and eating a seal or sea lion. It seemed the three of us fishing together had a hook-up about every 5 to 10 minutes until our arms fatigued and we decided to call it a day around 4 p.m.
The fishing was so good we decided to forego fishing a local river and head back to the lake because the nighttime temperatures were to drop into the high 40s overnight which would mean the lake temps might drop another degree or two which would further excite the trout. Alas, Friday was our day for a lesson in humility at East Newton. Thursday, we couldn’t miss and had the complete attention of the trout, but Friday brought in a cold front and the trout would have nothing to do with a hopper pattern fished in the surface. To catch trout, we actually had to work at it.
Fortunately, we managed some success with bead head midge pupae patterns like ice cream cones and zebra midges fished 8-10 feet below the surface last Friday. The takes were subtle and certainly not “savage” by any means, but we did catch trout and we did enjoy the tugs and bent rods they provided. We even had a few hopper eats around 2 p.m. to somewhat satisfy our bruised egos. I guess that is why we call it fishing and not catching some days.
In regard to the general health of the rainbows, all were fat and appeared to be in good, if not great, condition with plenty of get-up-and-go when hooked. Only one rainbow that was caught appeared to be in an unhealthy condition. It was 15 inches long, thin, fatigued quickly when hooked and was slow to revive and swim away after being released from the net. Surprisingly, we caught nothing but rainbow trout both days. None of the other species stocked in the lake seemed willing to eat our offerings, nor did we see any while we were wading the shore Thursday, or when rowing around the lake and casting from a boat Friday.