Madison River, Montana:
The Madison starts in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, but the most popular segment is probably in southwestern Montana from Quake Lake to Ennis.
The upstream segment, between Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake, the "walk-wade" stretch, is open year round to fishing. A dirt road runs along this stretch of river and access is good. Boat fishing is not allowed on this portion of the river. The stretch from Quake Lake to the Lyon Bridge is also closed to fishing from boats but is fairly accessible by walking along the riverbank and provides great pocket water fishing.
From Lyon Bridge to Ennis Bridge, about 20 miles, is a popular section to float. A longer segment, it has at least four major access points with maintained facilities, but is less accessible for wading than the upper stretch.
July and August attract the most anglers because that is when the bug activity is at its peak. But look for good activity from June through September. Don't overlook October or even February when midges emerge on warm winter days.
Try salmon flies or big stonefly imitations during early season as the hatches move up river. Caddis on a mid- or late-July evening can be good and terrestrials work during summer dog days. Work streamers in the fall when the big brown trout become most active. And don't forget that the baetis hatch into the cooler days of October.
Best bet for a fly rod is a 9-foot, 5- or 6-weight, which will cover most fly-fishing situations on most of these waters.
Gallatin River, Montana:
The Gallatin starts as the outflow from Gallatin Lake. It flows about 25 miles before entering Yellowstone National Park. For 12 miles, just above the park, the river flows through a series of meadows, providing easy casting and easy access. Through the park it meanders quietly and provides relatively easy fishing for beginners. Yet, the rainbows are hard fighting, prone to aerial displays and a challenge to land. The two most popular areas are the park stretch, where there are special regulations and park fishing license requirements, and the Gallatin Canyon stretch.
The park's ecosystem is quite diverse with lots of undercut banks. There is good fishing access through the park. Be versatile, bring lots of flies and talk to locals to get the latest on what is happening in the park stretch. Basics include the green drake, salmon flies, caddis, may flies and baetis. Bring terrestrials later in the season, such as hoppers, crickets, beetles and ants. Most angling activity occurs during the tourist summer months of July and August.
The Gallatin Canyon stretch is bigger, but the same techniques apply as in the park stretch. U.S. Highway 191 runs along the river so even though the canyon is dotted with private land, there are access points along the highway.
Silver Creek, Idaho:
Silver Creek offers brown and rainbow trout, with most anglers using access through the creek's upper section on The Nature Conservancy's Silver Creek Preserve. The preserve has special regulations, including sign-in and barbless hooks. It is the most popular for both walk-wade and float fishing and offers an excellent variety of opportunities and hatches.
The stretch below the preserve is accessible as "float only", but some limited access points are below that stretch.
The upper section offers rainbows with a typical Spring Creek hatch of 8 to 10 different insect species. Hatches typically start in June, continuing into October. The creek is spring-fed and offers rainbows and browns. Look for a good terrestrial hatch, especially hoppers, in the summer. Fall fishing offers a good baetis hatch during a short, golden period from about 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The insect hatch is similar to what anglers will find on the Henry's Fork.
St. Joe River, Idaho:
One of the best cutthroat trout fisheries in the United States, the St. Joe River in northern Idaho provides excellent cutthroat throat activity with some in the 18- to 20-inch range. About the only slow time on the river is during high water runoffs, with most activity starting around July 1 and continuing through September and even into November.
In the spring through summer, look for pale morning duns or baetis and a good terrestrial hopper hatch in July, as well as caddis. The St. Joe is typically fished using attractor patterns.
Access is excellent, with a road following the river for walk-wade or float.
Green River, Utah:
Spring is the time to fish Utah's Green River, especially the "A" section in mid-March to mid-May when the blue-wing doll hatch is in its glory along with cicadas.
Bluewings are also out in the fall but the hatch is less consistent, and it is more difficult to judge.
The "A" section, from the dam to Little Hole, has excellent walk-wade and boat access where anglers have their choice of walking or wading the shoreline or using any of the several public boat launch areas. "B" section runs from Little Hole to Red Creek, and "C" section is everything below Red Creek.
The "A" section is most popular with an abundance of brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout, while further down, fish numbers decrease somewhat, but the most common species is apt to be brown trout.
Bring a 9-foot, 5- or 6-weight fly rod and floating line with dry flies.
North Platte River, Wyoming:
Two locations on the North Platte may come to mind for fly-fishing anglers - the free-flowing stretch near Saratoga and the Miracle Mile near Korte Dam.
Another, lesser-known stretch that offers big, fighting trout is near Alcova, west of Casper, Wyo. from Gray Reef to Casper. Special regulations apply - flies and artificials only and only one keeper over 20 inches. Even though most of the river is bordered with private land, there are more than a dozen public access points for walk-wade anglers. Many anglers put in at an access point and float.
Anglers can walk-wade the river year-around on the Miracle Mile section. However, during the winter it can get mighty cold, windy and snowy. Look for big brown, rainbow and even cutthroat in this section. The fauna is typical of many tailwaters, including scuds, San Juan worms, crayfish and leeches to name a few. A good midge hatch occurs, especially in the winter and spring, which can be imitated using Griffith's gnats (#16-22), Adams (#16-22), palamino midges (#18-22), brassies (#16-20)and serendipities (#16-22)
Other than the Miracle Mile, the best action is the upstream section from Gray Reef to the first access point. There are fewer fish closer to Casper with warmer water and a wider river.
Wet flies work best using 7- or 8-weight, 9-foot or longer rods, because of the Wyoming breezes.
Colorado River, Lee's Ferry, Arizona:
The Glen Canyon Dam tailwaters through majestic Marble Canyon make a boat fly-fishing trip an experience in itself. Then, add thousands of rainbow trout per mile, and it is almost indescribable. Anglers put in at Lee's Ferry and go upstream about 15 miles - jet boats recommended or bring extra props for your outboard.
There is also a 1 ½-mile walk-in stretch just downstream from the boat launch area for walk-wade anglers. All access is channeled through Lee's Ferry.
Most popular during the spring, fall and early winter when air temperatures are more palatable for people, anglers will find fewer crowds during the summer but just as good trout activity (the water temperature remains fairly constant, year round). However, summertime temperatures can top 100 degrees on many days.
Beadhead midge patters, size 19 to 24, work year-around, but are especially effective in the winter and spring. Scud patterns also work well, especially the unique Lee's Ferry shrimp, and midge flies. Try big attractor flies on top, with a midge or scud dropper during the summer. Egg patterns work well during the rainbow spawn, from November through early April.
San Juan, New Mexico:
The blue ribbon trout fishery below the Navajo Dam on the San Juan River has excellent public access at Navajo Dam State Park. The first 5 miles below the dam fishes well year-round, although the most pleasant time to be on the water is from early fall until early winter, when the water flows are low and consistent and the air temperature is more pleasant than during the heat of the summer. In the spring, flows can increase dramatically, making wading difficult or impossible and during the summer air temperatures commonly reach the mid 90's or above.
The park has special regulations, including single barbless hooks, artificial hard-bodied flies or lures and the first 1 ¼ mile is strictly catch-and-release.
Access below the park is limited because of private land so most anglers are concentrated in the first few miles below the dam. The park offers lots of walk-wade opportunities, and the entire river is floatable, but check on access points.
Dry flies work year-around, especially midges. Look for baetis in the spring with pale morning duns in late July, and an excellent caddis hatch from mid-July into August. Couple that with the terrestrials that find their way into the water during the summer and there are lots of flies to choose from.
Because the water remains icy cold year round, the aquatic insects tend to be on the small side. Never-the-less, the midge hatches are prolific. Try 20 to 26-size midge droppers (pupae or larvae) tied off of an adult midge. Blue-wing olives work in the 18 to 22 size with the smaller sizes generally being the most productive.
Henry's Fork, Idaho:
Henry's Fork is a vibrant, nutrient-rich, spring-fed ecosystem with 12 different mayfly species alone. Fishing changes dramatically over the course of the summer. Try fish the salmon fly hatch as it moves up river in the spring and then fish hoppers against the banks in the summer. In the fall, fish streamers for big browns moving upstream, from Island Park Reservoir, to spawn.
The salmon fly hatch starts around Memorial Day and lasts through early June. A variety of caddis flies hatch from April through August with a golden stonefly hatch in mid-June to mid-July. One of the most constant hatches is the pale morning dun, from mid-June through mid-September. The end of June is most popular because three drake hatches - green, grown and gray.
But do not overlook August, when the summer doldrums set in. Angler numbers are down, the water flows low and clear and there are lots of terrestrials on the water. Look for terrific ant falls in August.
Access is generally unlimited, however, seasons and fishing regulations vary from section to section along the river. The upper river is largely on Forest Service or state owned land. Down lower, above and below the town of Ashton there is a lot of public land and the best way to fish is to float the river. There are public access points every few miles. Wade fishermen should try around the Riverside Campground and in Harriman State Park.
South Fork, Snake River, Wyoming/Idaho:
Draining all of southern Yellowstone National Park and with several tributaries joining the main river above Jackson, the South Fork of the Snake is a huge water.
The South Fork is one of the premier cutthroat trout fisheries in the west. The native Yellowstone cutthroat are aggressive and will readily rise to a dry or smash a stonefly nymph drifted through their feeding lane.
Don't look for action to pick up until early June on a typical year, but with low runoff, the water should clear and fishing action could start sooner. Look for it to fish well by mid-June. The South Fork has less insect variety than Henry's Fork; try salmon flies around the 4th of July, mahogany duns in September. August and September generally see the most activity, but the fork can be an under-utilized treasure early or late season.
Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management land surrounds much of the South Fork. The best way to fish is from boat. The water is so deep and fast that wading in not practical until the river drops below 8,000 cfs, which might not occur until the fall. There are several sections that make fantastic floats. The canyon section and from Palisades Dam down to Spring Creek are both very popular.
Early summer and fall are the best times to fish this river.
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