Parks' Fly Shop: fly fishing yellowstone lakes, fly fishing montana lakes, fly fishing private lakes, private ranch lakes, trophy lakes fly fishing

Introduction to Fly Fishing Yellowstone-Area Lakes

Yellowstone region lakes and ponds come in many sizes, from intimate puddles up to 77,000+ acre Yellowstone Lake, the largest alpine lake in North America. For angling purposes they can be divided broadly into five categories, though of course each lake will fish at least slightly differently from any other. These categories are: fishless lakes, of which there are many, small private ranch lakes, small high-elevation public lakes, large reservoirs at low elevation (below about 6000 feet elevation), and large lakes and reservoirs at high elevation (over about 6000 feet).

While most rivers and streams in Yellowstone country hold fish, over half of all lakes do not. Some lakes are so shallow they freeze in winter, some lack suitable spawning habitat (usually inlet or outlet streams), some lack suitable water chemistry, and some feature some combination of these factors. For this reason, it's important to be sure the lake you plan to fish actually has any fish in it. Many times we've seen anglers merrily casting away in water where not a single trout swims. Yellowstone area lakes that do hold fish are often great places to get away from other anglers, since the rivers are what most people come here to fish. Better yet, most lakes have some of their best fishing early in the season, when many rivers are unfishable or before they really fish well.


Small Private Ranch Lakes

Introduction

The small private lakes in the Yellowstone region offer excellent fishing for large trout in relative privacy. They do this through their locations at relatively low elevation, which gives them a longer growing season than similar small (under 100 acre) lakes at high elevation, few of which hold large trout. These lakes are all located on properties that began life as cattle ranches, even if many now focus on dude ranching, hunting, and angling, and as such are located in open bowls with a few trees along their shores and perhaps some wetlands on their shallower sides. These lakes charge from $80-100 per day all year long. They are all at their best from ice-out in late March or early April through June and again in October.

The lakes within the Parks' Fly Shop operations area are the Story Ranch Lakes (two lakes), Burns Lake, and Merrell Lake. The latter lake experienced a fish kill in fall 2017 and so as of this writing is not a great bet. Alas for this: it was amazing in 2016, turning out numerous 4-6lb trout.

Description and Access

As noted above, these lakes are mostly located at comparatively low elevation in ranching country. Indeed, most started off as stock ponds. Some lakes still serve stock, or at least are located on working ranches even if the cattle are now fenced away from the lakes for benefit of the more-lucrative fishing. As such, access to these lakes is excellent. Most are served by dirt or gravel roads and some have picnic tables, grills, and other amenities. They generally don't fish particularly well on foot, however, as their banks are often mucky or steep. Some lakes have boats available for angler use, but the primary way most visiting anglers fish the lakes is on guided trips. Reservations on the lakes are required, and can be quite tight. Lower Story Lake, the smallest lake on which Parks' Fly Shop guides, generally accomodates only one guided party, for example. Reservations are particularly tight in late spring, when area float rivers are unfishable due to spring runoff. Fall is something of a sleeper bet, since cooling water temperatures make fish in the lakes get much more aggressive, but fewer anglers want to visit the lakes since the float rivers also fish excellent at this time.

Angling

Angling Quality
Private ranch lake angling quality by month
The Fish
  • Rainbow: Rainbows are the predominant fish in all private lakes. They are stocked as fingerlings, but routinely average 16-20 inches, and fish to 6+ pounds are possible.
  • Brook: Brook trout are present in the Story Ranch Lakes and Burns Lake. Those in the Story Lakes are wild. Those in Burns Lake are a mix of wild and stocked fish. In all lakes, they average 12-16 inches, but I have seen them to 22 inches, true trophy brook trout.
  • Yellowstone cutthroat: Cutthroats are occasionally present in Merrell and Burns Lake. They are rare elsewhere.
  • Brown: Brown trout are currently rare in all lakes but may get quite large if they are present.
  • Yellow Perch: Perch have overrun one formerly-productive trout property, the Dome Mountain Lakes. They are now about the only fish present and average under 5 inches in length.
The Fishing

As the fish in private lakes can be quite big, the rigs a bit messy, the weeds eager to eat your flies, and the water a bit stained due to the fertility of these waters, use stout tackle on the private lakes. I generally use a nine-foot six-weight. Floating lines are usually the best option, but you might find some use for a sink-tip or polyleader or even a density-compensated or intermediate full-sinking line. Tippets should be no lighter than 4X, and you can often get away with 2X.

Immediately after ice-out, and for about a month thereafter, fish the sun-warmed shallows using large leech imitations. Very large (#6-10) San Juan Worms can also be good at this time, and remain effective through the spring and early summer, particularly when the lakes are a bit off-color. Sometimes sight-fishing is the best option in early spring, but more commonly you will want to suspend these under an indicator and twich them slowly. If lakes have stream inflow or large springwater inputs, you can also try egg patterns near these areas.

By early May, the insects and fish both become more aggressive, though shallow water remains the ticket. Fish small chironomid imitations like the Merrell Lake Bomber, BLM Nymph, Kaufmann Chironomid, or flashy soft hackles, either in combination or trailing a small leech, a San Juan Worm, or a scud. You can either fish these under an indicator along weed edges or up to about six feet deep, or cast to cruising fish. Hatches are possible but usually fragmentary before late May.

By late May, look for fish rising to chironomids or Callibaetis mayflies, particularly when the weather is calm. On bright days, you may need to fish deeper water if there's no hatch, but in the mornings, sight-fishing shallow water remains good. These tactics continue to work through June, and the hatches just described are joined by occasional damselfly hatches which can get very exciting. If it's hot and windy, there's some chance of grasshopper and ant fishing as early as late June on the lakes.

By the end of June, weed growth is heavy on most lakes and water temperatures rise, which combine to make for challenging fishing. Fish the spring holes or bare spots within the weeds. A Callibaetis dry with a tiny nymph dropper is a good bet at this time. Avoid the Story Lakes and Merrell Lake during periods of hot weather from June 25 or so onward, particularly in the afternoons. Burns, which has more spring water, remains good into July even in hot years.

From mid-July until about Labor Day, I suggest avoiding these lakes.

After Labor Day, the pattern described above reverses, though hatches are less common in the fall. The best fall fishing is unquestionably from early October through October, when the fish become ravenous towards various leeches large and small, as well as attractor streamer patterns. This is my favorite time to fish the lakes, even if many anglers choose to fish rivers instead. Of particular note are the chances for large (14-18") brook trout in full spawning colors. Even little brook trout are pretty when they're getting ready to spawn. Big ones are fish you'll remember forever.

Hatch Chart
Private ranch lake hatches

If you wish to print a full-size version of this hatch chart, those covering other insects and food items important when fly fishing the Yellowstone area, and all other charts on this site, please visit this link.

Top 10 Flies

  1. Pig Pen Leech, #6-10
  2. Minch's Bully Bugger, Chocolate, #10-12
  3. Bloody Black Simi-Seal Leech, #8-12
  4. Red San Juan Worm, #6-12
  5. Black Merrell Lake Bomber, #12-16
  6. Kaufmann Chironomid, #14-16
  7. BLM Nymph (Assorted Colors), #16-20
  8. Stillwater Softy (Assorted Colors), #16-18
  9. Prince Nymph (No Bead), #16
  10. Callibaetis Parachute, #12-16

Small High-Elevation Lakes

Introduction

While many of the small (under about 500-acre), high-elevation (over about 6500 feet) lakes in Yellowstone Park and some outside it are fishless, those that do hold trout are often very good, particularly in the first half of summer. In contrast to their private ranch counterparts at low elevations, with a few exceptions these lakes do not typically produce large trout. The growing seasons are just too short on lakes that might not lose their ice until early June. Instead, most produce large numbers of small, pretty trout. The rare Arctic grayling are also common in a handful of lakes. Yellowstone is the southermost area where these fish are native and were not extirpated (as they were in Michigan).

The real key is determining if the lake you are visiting holds any fish. In general, most of those outside the park have some kind of fish regardless of spawning habitat unless they have winterkilled and not been stocked since then. Inside the park, lakes that lack tributary streams or out of which streams do not flow are generally fishless, as are the shallowest lakes (runoff puddles, many of them), eutrophic lakes, and virtually all lakes with any geothermal influence whatsoever. If you're curious about a particular lake, inquire in the fly shop as to whether or not it's worth the trip.

Description and Access

All but a couple high-elevation lakes worth fishing require at least a short hike, half a mile or so. The best require hikes of two or more miles, which really helps shed the crowds. Often these are easy hikes on popular trails, and hike-in lakes within Yellowstone Park generally do not require much climbing, just walks on relatively flat trails. Some roadside lakes do hold fish, but these typically receive such intense pressure that they aren't worth fishing even if the scenery is nice.

Most lakes within the PFS operations area are located in a mix of woodland and meadow terrain, with the steeper banks generally wooded and the flatter banks covered in grass. Much of this grass can be deceiving: the grass is hiding boggy or at least mucky terrain saturated in water, that can often be challenging or at least very messy to traverse, particularly for the first two or three weeks of the season. Some lakes maintain their bogginess throughout the season and have banks comprised of essentially bottomless muck into which you might sink waist-deep if you aren't careful. BE SURE you are walking in a safe area if you are visiting an unfamiliar lake, and by all means ask at the fly shopfor information on any hazards.

Most small, low-elevation lakes within the park lose their ice just about when the Yellowstone fishing season begins, though many may still be impossible to reach due to melting snow, bog-like conditions on the trails, or impassable stream crossings until mid-June or even later, particularly following wet winters. Some lakes at very high elevations outside the park might not lose their ice until mid-late June. The best fishing but worst hiking is found early in the season, usually before early July, though high-elevation lakes generally continue to fish at least acceptably well through the summer and early fall except on the hottest, brightest days.

Angling

Angling Quality
Chart of angling quality for Yellowstone-area high elevation small lakes, by season
The Fish
  • Cutthroat (Yellowstone and westslope): Most small lakes in Yellowstone Park that hold trout hold cutthroats, with the exception of those in the Gardner drainage. They are also found in many lakes in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. Some lakes produce large numbers of small trout. Some produce many fewer big trout.
  • Brook: Brook trout dominate the lakes in the Garder drainage, and are present in many lakes outside the park boundaries as well. Most average under 10 inches, but a couple hyper-fertile lakes with poor spawning habitat instead produce small numbers of much larger (including trophy-size) brookies.
  • Arctic grayling: While found in only a few lakes, Cascade in Yellowstone Park being the easiest to access, grayling are generally the predominant fish where they are found.
  • Rainbow: Rainbow trout are now rare in Yellowstone-area high-elevation lakes, after being poisoned out of Grebe and Wolf Lakes in Yellowstone Park in preparation for the introduction of westslope cutthroat and grayling into these lakes.
  • Golden: Golden trout are not present in Yellowstone Park, but they are available in some hike-in lakes in the Gallatin River drainage as well as many lakes on the Beartooth Plateau and in the Wind River Range, just beyond the PFS operations area and the scope of this guide.
  • Brown: Brown trout are very uncommon in high-elevation small lakes in Yellowstone Park and beyond. To be honest, I can't think of any where they are present, particularly lakes that are relatively easy to access. Large lakes are another matter.
The Fishing

Small, high-elevation lakes are very good choices for novice anglers provided they can get some distance into their casts.

The best fishing in small, high-elevation lakes usually occurs in early summer, but some hatches continue through summer.

On most lakes, a nine-foot five-weight is a good rod choice. Rig it with a floating line. On lakes with a repuation for larger fish, you may be better off with a six-weight, and you should also plan to have a sink-tip or full-sink line. On your floating lines, use a nine-foot leader with a 3X or 4X tippet.

Throughout the summer, the best tactic on most lakes absent a hatch is to fish some combination of a small leech, a damselfly nymph, a generic attractor nymph (i.e. an unweighted Prince), a Callibaetis nymph, or a flashy soft hackle or midge pupa. Run these under a strike indicator and twitch them, adjusting depth and retrieve speed before you change flies. On calm days, particularly from midmorning to early afternoon, Callibaetis or midge hatches (both small midges and chironomids are possible) will get the fish really excited. Fish a fly matching whatever insect is hatching with an unweighted nymph on a dropper. Don't hesitate to strip your dry flies across the surface on any lake where the trout are small. This often prompts aggressive strikes on this type of lake.

On lakes that can produce larger fish, you may be better off sight-fishing as much as possible. Stalk the banks in heron-mode first thing in the morning, looking for trout cruising the shallows. Drop unweighted or lightly-weighted nymphs in one of the categories I mention in the previous paragraphy directly in front of the fish, aiming to have it reach the fish's depth just as the fish reaches it, so that all the trout needs to do to eat is open its mouth. They usually wont', but when they do, it's off to the races. I caught my largest-ever Yellowstone Park trout (a 6lb rainbow from a lake where there no longer are any rainbows) using this technique. If the light is bad or the trout are deep, put on a sinking line and sloooooowwwwllly strip a leech trailing a scud or nymph.

Hatch Chart
Hatch chart for Yellowstone-area high elevation small lakes

If you wish to print a full-size version of this hatch chart, those covering other insects and food items important when fly fishing the Yellowstone area, and all other charts on this site, please visit this link.

Top 10 Flies

  1. Black Sparkle Bugger, #12-14
  2. Minch's Bully Bugger, Chocolate, #10-12
  3. Bloody Black Simi-Seal Leech, #8-12
  4. Gray-olive Ostrich Scud, #12-16
  5. Parachute Adams, #14-16
  6. Kaufmann Chironomid, #14-16
  7. BLM Nymph (Assorted Colors), #16-20
  8. Stillwater Softy (Assorted Colors), #16-18
  9. Prince Nymph (No Bead), #16
  10. Griffith's Gnat, #14-18

Large Low-Elevation Lakes and Reservoirs

Introduction

Large, low-elevation lakes, those at under around 6000 feet in elevation and more than several hundred acres in size, have little to offer fly anglers. These are mostly deep, rough, man-made reservoirs home primarily to warmwater gamefish (perch, walleye, and a few pike; only a few city park ponds hold bass and panfish around here) and fished by gear anglers with V-hull boats and serious electronics. They do also hold trout, however, and in the spring and early summer some opportunities are present for bank-bound anglers, with many more options for those with a boat. While most trout in these waters are stocked, they can get quite large: 20-inchers are common.

Description and Access

Within the PFS operations area, only Dailey Lake, Ennis Lake, Toston Reservoir, Canyon Ferry Reservoir, Hauser Reservoir, and Holter Reservoir fit into this category of waters. Many more are found elsewhere in Montana, including some very good bass, pike, crappie, and panfish lakes, but these are too far away to consider fishing with Gardiner as a base.

Dailey is the only lake within easy range of Gardiner. It's about 30 miles north in a depression just east of the first ridge east of the Yellowstone. There's a campground, boat ramps, etc. This is actually quite a small reservoir, about 365 acres, but it otherwise fits with the others. The main fishery is for big stocked rainbows trying to spawn along the rocky north shore. Otherwise, this dish-shaped lake in an open valley holds perch and walleye.

Ennis Lake is an outlier. This is a shallow (nowhere more than 14 feet deep) trout lake at the end of the Madison's more-productive upper section. There are small resident trout populations, but this water gets so warm that the lake itself is not very good. When these fish run into the braids of the Madison upstream, they're much better targets.

The lakes in the Missouri Chain are the real stars. Toston Reservoir is just a wide spot in the river and uninteresting to anybody who doesn't want to chase carp, but Canyon Ferry, Hauser, and Holter are all major lakes. Canyon Ferry is one of the largest in the state of Montana, in fact. Hauser and Holter require at least 16-foot modified-vee jon boats for safety, though their sheltered areas can be fished in pontoon or belly boats. To get far from shore on Canyon Ferry, you really need a V-hull in the 18-foot class, as this huge, wide-open lake can easily get waves that would swamp a flat-bottomed boat. Some serious walleye anglers use boats in the 22-foot class with semi-enclosed cabins here. For shorebound anglers, marinas, boat launches, and road right-of-ways provide the best access, and it's abundant on all lakes. A Delorme gazetteer will show you all of these access points.

Angling

Angling Quality
Fishing quality by month chart for the Gardiner to Carbella section of the Yellowstone River
The Fish
  • Rainbow: Rainbow are the predominant fly rod quarry in all low-elevation reservoirs. Some are wild, most are stocked. All regularly exceed 20 inches.
  • Brown: Small populations of wild brown trout are found in most low-elevation lakes. They are hard to find in the lakes themselves, but make fishable spawning runs into inlet streams.
  • Yellow Perch: Perch are the predominant gamefish in most reservoirs, but are only routinely caught by fly anglers in early summer, before they go deep.
  • Carp: Reservoirs on the Missouri River all have strong populations of carp. They make good targets in the shallow flats in late summer.
  • Walleye: Walleye are the most popular gamefish in most reservoirs for anglers fishing conventional tackle. Once in a great while a small one will eat a streamer
  • Kokanee: Kokanee are present in small numbers in the Missouri River lakes. In the lakes themselves they live deep, but they can occasionally be caught by fly anglers on their spawning runs.
  • Northern Pike: Small populations of pike are found in the Missouri River lakes. These are recent invasives and populations are really not sufficient for a true fishery.
The Fishing

Tackle for large, low-elevation reservoirs must be stout. Nine-foot six-weights are the lightest you should use, and seven-weights or eight-weights are not out of the question particularly if it's windy. If you're chasing carp, sevens and eights are ideal. Leaders should be nine feet and tapered to 2X to 4X depending on water clarity and what you're fishing, with dry flies requiring lighter leaders. Streamer fishing with full-sink lines also makes sense.

Trout fishing begin at ice-out, usually in March. Fish the sun-warmed shallows and inlet areas where the trout are staging before running up to spawn. If lakes are stocked, spring fishing is also good near boat launches, bridges, and along rocky, wind-swept shorelines, since stocked trout attempt to spawn in these areas as well. Good fly choices at this time include San Juan Worms, chironomid pupae, and leeches. Streamers are also always good choices in the large lowland reservoirs, due to abundant baitfish populations. Bass-style patterns suggestive of perch are good choices.

By late May, chironomid and Callibaetis hatches begin. These are most common from midmorning to early afternoon on calm days. The fish begin moving off the banks at this time, out to weed edges and drop-offs, and where they will rise depends on wind direction. Sometimes the best pods of rising fish will be found in the dead middle of the lake. For this reason, a powerboat is very helpful if you are trying to hit these hatches. Windy days will see limited hatches and challenging, potentially dangerous fishing. Hatches can continue through June. After that, trout fishing declines and the fish go deep.

One popular albeit boring technique on the large reservoirs is to fish San Juan Worms and chironomids under indicators, particularly along rocky shorelines and near marinas, waiting for cruising fish to come along. This can produce some very large fish, but it's the fly fishing equivalent to worm fishing.

In late summer, carp fly fishers can find good fishing in areas where broad, shallow flats occur. The best flats are on the south, upstream side of of Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Some anglers now use jon boats equipped with saltwater-style poling platforms to target these fish. Saltwater-style flies are good choices. Small Clouser Minnows, Gotchas, and similar flies that settle into the mud with their hook points upward are good choices. Most of the carp in this water average four to ten pounds, but there are some true monsters. Virtually every one will get you into your backing, so be sure your backing knot and backing itself are in good shape.

Hatch Chart
Hatch chart for the Gardiner to Carbella section of the Yellowstone River

If you wish to print a full-size version of this hatch chart, those covering other insects and food items important when fly fishing the Yellowstone area, and all other charts on this site, please visit this link.

Top 10 Flies

  1. Merrell Lake Bomber, #12-16
  2. Red San Juan Worm, #6-12
  3. Stillwater Softy, #16-18
  4. Kaufmann Chironomid, #14-16
  5. Prince Nymph, #16
  6. Callibaetis Nymph, #14-16
  7. Callibaetis Cripple, #14-16
  8. Parachute Adams, #14-18
  9. Bloody Black Simi Seal Leech, #8-12
  10. Various Clouser Minnows, #2-10

Large High-Elevation Lakes and Reservoirs

Introduction

Natural alpine lakes as well as Parks' Fly Shop's one regional high-elevation reservoir (Hebgen Lake) are big, imposing bodies of water mostly fished by anglers in big V-hull boats, trolling deep. Early and late in the season, however, they offer excellent opportunities for shore-bound anglers as well as those with personal watercraft. In particular, they're good choices for experienced anglers who wish to fish baitfish imitations and nymphs for a few large trout, rather than a bunch of little ones. In addition, these lakes stay relatively cold through the summer, and as such continue to offer some fishing all year, unlike their low-elevation counterparts.

These waters are not good choices for novice anglers or kids, due to challenging fishing and high chop.

Lakes within our operations area that qualify for this category are: Yellowstone, Lewis, Shoshone, and Heart Lakes within Yellowstone Park, and Hebgen and Quake Lakes on the Madison River just outside it. Of these lakes, Hebgen, Quake, and Heart offer the best all-season fishing, in that order, while the others are better for the first few weeks they are fishable (with ice-out usually occurring sometime between the beginning of the YNP season and June 5) and perhaps late in the fall.

Description and Access

These are all large lakes of at least 2000 acres, with Yellowstone Lake at over 70,000, making it the largest alpine lake in North America. This means that all have highly varied shorelines: some stretches are steep and wooded, some grassy and marshy. All lakes in Yellowstone Park have at least limited geyser activity at points along their shorelines. All are deep. Hebgen, as the only reservoir, is somewhat different from the lakes in YNP as it has many shallow, narrow creek arms. The lakes in Yellowstone have a few arms and large bays, but these are all large enough to not offer much shelter from the wind. Quake Lake, formed by a landslide damming the Madison River during a 1959 earthquake, is long and narrow and features a great deal of dead standing timber.

Access to all lakes except Heart and Shoshone within Yellowstone Park is easy and abundant, with many drive-up access points. Shoshone is the largest backcountry lake in the United States, with hikes to reach it beginning at about three miles. Heart Lake is even more remote, at a minimum of eight miles off the road. The eastern and southern shores of Yellowstone Lake also require a hike.

The high-elevation lakes and reservoirs in the region are all big, imposing bodies of water that rank as the most potentially dangerous waters in the region for those who are unprepared. Yellowstone, Lewis, and Shoshone Lakes in particular have claimed many lives, with high chop and bitter cold water combining to create a very high risk of hypothermia. Don't use a small boat on these lakes. Float tubes and pontoons are okay, but you should stay within 25 yards of shore so you can get out fast in case something goes wrong.

Angling

Angling Quality
Angling quality by month for high lakes in the Yellowstone area
The Fish
  • Yellowstone cutthroat: Yellowstone cutthroat are the primary gamefish in Yellowstone and Heart Lakes, though their numbers are down from historic highs in both lakes. They average 14-18 inches and reach 26 inches in both bodies of water.
  • Rainbow: Rainbow trout are the dominant species in Hebgen and Quake Lakes. They are not present in the others. They average 14-20 inches.
  • Brown: Browns are present in Lewis, Shoshone, Hebgen, and Quake Lakes. They average 14-20 inches and can get gigantic in all lakes.
  • Lake: Lake trout are present in Yellowstone Lake, common in Heart Lake, and domainate in Lewis and Shoshone Lakes. They average 14-20 inches in all lakes, though fish over 10lbs are possible. They must be killed in Yellowstone Lake and there is no limit in Heart Lake.
  • Brook: Brook trout are present but uncommon in Lewis and Shoshone Lakes. They average 12-16 inches but can get to 22 inches.
  • Whitefish: Small numbers of whitefish are present in Hebgen Lake.
  • Chubs and Suckers: Large chubs and suckers are present in Heart and Hebgen Lakes. They can get over a foot long and rise like trout, the chubs in particular.
The Fishing

Ice-out occurs on Hebgen and Quake Lakes in early May. On the lakes in Yellowstone Park, which are far colder, ice-out does not occur until near or after the park opener. At any rate, Lewis and Shoshone are very hard to access except via boat before about June 10 (Lewis) and late June (Shoshone) due to snow, and Heart Lake is closed through June due to bear activity as well as inaccessible due to snow until about this time. The best numbers fishing occurs on all lakes before about the middle of July, but some fishing continues through the season. The best late summer and early fall fishing occurs on Hebgen and Quake Lakes, which are shallower and have abundant hatches to bring the trout to the surface. On Lewis and Shoshone Lakes in particular, late summer fishing will require trolling deep with a full-sink line or hardware.

With the exception of Hebgen and Quake Lakes, these lakes are all relatively infertile. This means that the fish that live in them seldom fixate on any one food item and instead feed opportunistically. They tend to like big meals, making streamers your top bets. Either troll these from a belly boat or make long casts and retrieve them. Good patterns include various Double Bunnies and assorted Woolly Buggers, all of them large. Chironomids and mayfly nymphs can also work in the infertile lakes. These patterns are probably better overall choices than streamers in Hebgen and Quake. All lakes see chironomid and Callibaetis hatches. Hebgen and Quake also see Tricos, while Lewis and Shoshone Lakes see limited Traveling Sedge hatches. By far the best dry fly fishing occurs on Hebgen and Quake, where good dry fly fishing is possible on calm mornings from June through September.

Tributaries to Lewis, Shoshone, Hebgen, and Quake all see strong brown trout runs in the fall. On Hebgen tributaries these begin as early as late August. On the others, the runs do not begin in earnest before mid-October. Before and during the early stages of the runs, a good tactic is to fish streamers near the mouths of spawning tributaries. The fish sometimes gather in good numbers in these areas before running. This is likely the best fall tactic on the big lakes. Where lake trout are present, it's also possible to fish the shallow reefs where these fish spawn. These are easiest to find using boat electronics, even where they're easy enough to fish on foot.

Hatch Chart
Hatch chart for Yellowstone-area high-elevation lakes

If you wish to print a full-size version of this hatch chart, those covering other insects and food items important when fly fishing the Yellowstone area, and all other charts on this site, please visit this link.

Top 10 Flies

  1. Gray and White Double Bunny, #2
  2. Black Woolly Bugger, #4-6
  3. Olive Woolly Bugger, #4-6
  4. White Kiwi Muddler, #2
  5. Merrell Lake Bomber, #12-16
  6. Callibaetis Nymph, #14-16
  7. Gulper Special, #12-16
  8. Pheasant Tail, #12-18
  9. Parachute Adams, #12-18
  10. BLM, #16-18

Parks' Fly Shop

PO Box 196 or 202 Second Street South

Gardiner, MT 59030

Phone: (406) 848-7314

Current Hours: 9AM-5PM Daily, 10AM-4PM Sundays, Occasional Closures

E-Mail the Shop (General Inquiries)

E-Mail Walter (Guided Trip Questions)

E-Mail Richard

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