Flies for Yellowstone and Eastern Streams

trout flies 2Guest Blogger: Clay Cunningham, Cody, WY, retired National Park Superintendent

These are the patterns of flies that are most likely to appear on both the trout streams of the eastern United States and the Rocky Mountain rivers and streams. Quite a few fishermen from the east make the trip west to fish the Yellowstone country, which is why I have included the patterns that are the most productive for both regions. You would be well prepared in both regions with the patterns listed. Depending on the particular geographic location of the stream (southern, central or northern locations), the makeup of the stream bottom; large and small rocks, silts, decaying foliage, water temperature, mineral content (limestone enhances insect populations), and the time of year are all factors influencing the presence and timing of a particular species of insects that could be present or hatching.
If you are a fly tier and have a computer you can usually find the patterns for these flies with an internet search. One of the best books for every pattern is Dave Hughes’ Trout Flies, The Tier’s Reference. All the flies I list here are well known to fly shop owners. They should be able to supply them if you buy your flies.
I have listed the patterns by the month of their appearance and in the order they are most likely to hatch if that species is present within the river or stream you are fishing. The day(s) and exact timing of their appearance will vary depending on the time of the year and temperature of the water.
In many eastern streams: Mid-March: Little Blue Winged Olive. Early to late April : Quill Gordon, Blue Quill, female Hendrickson and male Red Quill. Early May to late June or even July: Sulphurs, March Brown, Gray Fox, Light Cahill, Blue-winged Olive, Green Drake, Brown Drake and Slate Drake. July to October: Trico, White Fly, and Slate Drake. Grasshoppers, ants, and beetles at any time they are active. Nymphs for mayflies, stoneflies and caddis patterns can be productive at any time…
Many fly shops and maybe some sporting goods stores maintain a wall chart identifying the flies that are hatching or have proven to be effective within their local waters. Be sure to ask the sales person about local hatches and recommended flies.
Quite a few fly fishermen from the eastern United States have made the journey out west to enjoy the famous trout waters of the Rocky Mountains and especially Yellowstone National Park, which is a mecca for the world’s fly fishing folks. I have met people here from many different eastern states that came for the opportunity to fish the world famous waters of Yellowstone. You might file these recommendations away in case you have the opportunity to do so.
During June, July or August, you can find any one or several of these patterns useful. The exact date of the months they hatch depends on which rivers you are fishing. Fishing in the Rockies is at much higher altitudes than in the eastern United States. Yellowstone is a high plateau with mountains as high as 11,358 feet. The average elevation of the park is over 7,000 feet so warmer weather arrives later than in the east. Higher altitudes mean cool or even cold nights. Large rivers warm up slowly. While fishing the Lamar River in Yellowstone one August 28th, I was caught in a snowstorm that dumped several feet of snow on the ground before it let up.
For the summer months, you would be well prepared with the following patterns. Stoneflies: Salmon fly, Golden Stone, and Yellow Sally. Mayflies: Pale Morning Dun, Western Green Drake, Brown Drake, Small Western Green Drake, Gray Drake, Callibaetis, Trico and Blue Wing Olive. Have Caddis fly patterns in various colors with elk hair wings. Caddis flies are varied and plentiful in the Rockies. Grasshoppers are productive from mid-July to mid-September. Beginning in early August, the brown trout leave Hebgen Lake in Montana, and migrate up the Madison River to spawn; eventually reaching the falls on the tributary rivers of the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers. During August, fish the lower reaches of the Madison and the upper Madison as the month progresses, Gibbon and Firehole Rivers to the falls from September to early November when typically the season closes in Yellowstone. Browns will average fourteen to twenty inches or more, and some will be over thirty inches. Use large nymphs and streamers or Blue-wing Olive dry flies on size 12 to 16 hooks.. If you have a mouse, try it, and hang on! It is a magnificent time of the year with bugling elk, cool weather, maybe some snow, and brown trout or rainbows rising to dry flies. But, be prepared and don’t forget this is prime grizzly bear country.

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