High Water Year Hopper Love – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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High Water Year Hopper Love

Remember May and June, when our rivers were a dirty, torrential mess, when it seemed to rain everyday and clear water seemed impossible to find?

Well, the old-timers were right. We are seeing the benefits of a long, snowy winter and wet, stormy spring, mostly in the form of excellent hopper fishing.

“Be patient,” the grey beards said. “Salmonfly fishing might stink, but late-summer hopper fishing should be excellent.”

They were mostly correct. We only fished salmonflies a couple days on the Yellowstone outside of the park, but the hatch on the Upper Madison seemed to go on and on. Hopper fishing on the Upper Madison has been stellar for more than a couple weeks now. “The best in years,” a man with a salt-n-pepper beard recently proclaimed.

The Yellowstone River’s trout have turned onto the foam, too. Some day’s they seem to prefer Chubby Chernobyls and others they want more of a true hopper imitation.

As we head into what are normally the slow fishing days of August, we are looking forward to more great days of catching. The Upper Madison, continues to run clear and cool, thanks in large part to Hebgen dam finally being fixed and reverting to a bottom-release dam. Hatches over there have been thicker than years past and fish remain active and looking up for big dry flies, instead of sitting deep and sipping tiny nymphs.

Flows on the Yellowstone River are currently at 4,400 cfs in Livingston with water temperatures in the mid-60s. We’ve had a great week or so of hopper fishing over there already and are looking forward to seeing more large trout slurping some of our favorite patterns, like a Morrish Hopper, Dave’s Hopper and MFC Tan Foam Hopper.

While some of the streams down here in the valley have been a bit too warm to fish well throughout the day, we still haven’t seen any Hoot Owl restrictions. Last year, the Lower Madison, Jefferson, Lower Gallatin and East Gallatin were placed on Hoot Owl – closed from fishing from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. to protect the fish – on July 19th, which was too weeks earlier than 2016.

Another added benefit of this being a high water year, is the lack of fires in our area thus far, saving us eye irritation as we stare at dry flies, hoping for an eat.

However, meteorologists are predicting air temperatures to jump into the 90’s for the next three days before dropping back down to the 80’s at the beginning of next week.

Hopefully this quick heat spell won’t warm the rivers too much and turn off the fishing or lead to Hoot Owl closures.

But what do I know, I don’t have any grey in my beard.