In a word, the fly fishing outlook for the Yellowstone River this weekend is good. The river continues to fish well with nymphs and streamers. The weather looks decent for fishing, though perhaps less so for comfort, with a moderate chance of showers both Saturday and Sunday. A little breezy, but not blowing a gale like it sometimes does. The river is still low, so if you’re floating expect to leave a little paint behind on some of the shallow riffles. For wading anglers, the lower water makes the Yellowstone more accessible and less intimidating.
You might have to work a little harder to find the fish than you did a few weeks back. Warming water temperatures have the trout moving around a bit. They’re no longer podded up in the deep runs like they were when the water was hovering just above freezing. We’ve found fish in just about every water type lately, including some in relatively fast and shallow riffles.
The trout continue to munch on a variety of nymphs. Various medium-sized (size 6 or 8) stonefly patterns have been the most consistent producers. My most productive patterns last weekend were a peacock Rubberlegs and a Beadhead 20 Incher. A bunch of smaller beadhead droppers have also caught fish, including a Tung Dart, Jig Prince, black Copper John, and gold Psycho Prince, all in size 14 or 16, and red or black Zebra Midges in size 18 or 20. Smaller (size 18 or 20) patterns that imitate baetis mayfly nymphs should also be effective. Try a small Pheasant Tail, JuJu Baetis, Radiation Baetis, or Beadhead Anatomical Baetis.
The streamer bite is heating up. We’ve heard good reports from both in the Paradise Valley and below Livingston. Folks have even been having good luck with some of the big, articulated patterns, such as a Bottom’s Up. If you’re in it more for numbers, rather than a trophy fish or two, I’d start with something smaller, maybe a Sculpzilla or a Conehead Sparkle Minnow. Dark olive and black have been good colors, but don’t be afraid to try a lighter color if things are slow. And don’t think that you have to cast and strip all day. Dead-drifting a streamer can be equally or more effective, especially this time of year when the fish are still a little sluggish.
Still no reports of consistent baetis (blue-winged olive) mayfly hatches yet, either on the Yellowstone River or the Paradise Valley spring creeks. A few bugs here and there, but not enough of a hatch to really get the fish interested. It could be any day now, so have some baetis dries in your box. I did come across a few small fish rising to midges the other day and managed to catch my first couple of dry fly trout of the year. They weren’t exactly trophies, but still a welcome milestone. A size 20 Sprout Midge did the trick.0