Report July 22, 2018

To say that fishing on the world famous “Railroad Ranch” section of the Henry’s Fork has been disappointing would be an understatement. I’ll stop at disappointing because if I call it anything less my boss probably would not post my report. Most seasoned “Ranch” fishermen attribute this disappointing fishing to the skimpy or total lack of the rivers famous hatches. Foremost among these has been the very weak to non-existent PMD hatch. I experienced a very good hatch on opening day and thought this was a harbinger of great things to come. I took a very good fish on that day on a PMD spinner. I personally did not encounter another PMD on the water until the 4th and 5th of July when once again I found myself in the midst of a very good hatch. And, the fish were up and feeding on every stage of the insect (emergers, stillborns, cripples, adults and spinners). I have not seen a PMD since then although I have had reports of a few sporadic and isolated hatches occurring on various sections of the river. We had an odd green drake hatch. By odd I mean the hatch was never very intense. It occurred for brief periods of time in the afternoons over a period of three weeks (much longer than usual). If you happened to be on the water in the Last Chance area on any of those afternoon emergences you probably had the opportunity to test your skills on some nice Henry’s Fork rainbows. The caddis is yet another one of our famous hatches that has been strong over short periods of time and absent altogether at others. Because of this inconsistency it has been imposable to predict when and where to encounter the hatch. The one shining star so far was the brown drake hatch. The bugs came off in good numbers for at least a week (which is about normal) and for three or four nights they provided “Ranch” fishermen with the kind of challenging fishing opportunities we all dream about and come to expect. The flav’s are quickly becoming another anomaly. There are a few around and anglers have reported taking a few decent fish on adult and spinner imitations (myself included) but overall the hatch has been disappointing (there’s that word again). I am not saying that you cannot catch a fish on the “Ranch” but you are going to have to come to the river expecting to spend more time and energy seeking out those areas of the river where the hatches are occurring. Case in point: After work on Wednesday I gathered up my gear and headed over to the river. The first spot that I arrived at was dead calm and void of any kind of activity. The same was true of the second place I looked at. The third place turned out to be a charm. Caddis were everywhere along the bank and it wasn’t long before they moved out and onto the water. As soon as those caddis hit the water the fish were on them. I am glad to report that I observed more respectable fish rising that evening than I have seen all year. I quickly tied on one of Rene’s CDC Spent Caddis patterns, moved into position, and began working one of those good fish I had spotted. It didn’t take long before I was hooked up to a very nice fish. Maybe the best fish I have had on to date. I would like to report that I landed that fish but unfortunately the weight of the fish combined with the force of the 1300+ cfs flow caused the fly to come unbuttoned. I was easily able to move into position to cast to another nice fish but I ran out of daylight before I was able to figure that fish out. So, like I said, there are fish out there you just need to be at the right place at the right time.
Box Canyon: The “Box” has been producing excellent fishing with both dry flies and nymphs. The surprising thing is how good the dry fly fishing is. The fish have been rising aggressively to adult golden stone imitations. A couple of our favorite patterns are the Henry’s Fork Foam Golden Stone and the Egg Drop Golden. If you want to drop a beadhead under your dry fly we suggest a Duracell, a Red Neck, a tungsten Split Case PMD, a Hot Spot or a Tactical Nymph.
Last Chance: This short section of the river is still producing decent fishing primarily in the mornings and evenings with flav spinner and caddis imitations.
The “Ranch”/Harriman State Park: See my story above. There has been some action around “The Islands”, “Bonefish Flats” and “The Avenue of the Giants”. There has also been a fair number of anglers around these areas. I might suggest walking into the “Ranch” from the “Mail Box” and checking out the water around “Pelican Shoal” and the back channels at the “Middle Islands”. Over the years I have had some good fishing during the trico hatches that occur here. We have been seeing tricos hatching as far back as two weeks ago. I might also suggest walking upstream of the Osborne Bridge along the north bank and fishing the area around the “First” and “Second Channels”, the “Flats Above the Channels” and the “Brown Drake Bank”. On several occasions over the past couple of weeks I have driven into Harriman State Park to look at Millionaires’ and have observed several big fish working the opposite side of the river in the areas I have just mentioned. Lastly, I might consider walking into the “Ranch” from the “Gravel Pits”. I like to walk upstream and cover the water referred to as the “Gravel Pits Pebble Point”.
Wood Road: Like most of the water upstream the fishing has been inconsistent and unpredictable. I will say there have been a few more PMD’s spotted down on this section of the river than there has been up above.
The “Slide”/Cardiac Canyon: For the adventurous angler this section of the river has produced good fishing with dry flies, nymphs and dead drifted streamers. This is not match the hatch fishing. Dry dropper rigs are the way to go here. Fish a Chubby/Tubby Chernobyl, M’s Golden Hopper or Ninja Cicada and drop a tungsten Flashback Pheasant Tail, beadhead CDC Pheasant Tail, Jake’s Doublebead Red San Juan Worm, beadhead Silver Lightning Bug or #10 tungsten Black Rubber Leg.
Warm River to Ashton: The same report as above covers this section of the river also. You will fish some smaller dry flies in here as well. You will want to have some PMD, caddis and yellow sally imitations and a few attractor dry flies such as Renegades, Trudes, beetles and ants.
Ora to Chester/Chester to the Fun Farm and below: Warm day time water temperatures make this a very early morning fishery at best. Mid-day and later it just gets too warm for any kind of effective fishing.
Other area waters: Madison River (Montana): Fishing continues to be very good to excellent from Quake Lake all the way down to Ennis Lake. Good hatches of caddis, golden stones, yellow sallies, PMD’s and Epeorus have the fish on the feed.
Gallatin River (YNP): The Gallatin has been fishing very well with yellow sally, caddis and PMD patterns. If you decide to fish along the Gallatin be sure you wear sun gloves, bug off buffs and bring plenty of insect repellent. The biting insects have been out in epic numbers.
Yellowstone River (YNP): Something is going on over there because Grizz has been taking his clients there the past four days in a row. Really, I don’t think they have been catching lots of fish but they have been landing some Yellowstone Cutthroats in the 20 to 24” size range. Oh yea, and on dry flies.