Hebgen Lake arguably offers the best dry fly lake fishing in Montana. Its quality fly fishing, combined with its scenic and convenient location near West Yellowstone, make Hebgen Lake a popular destination for both local and visiting anglers.
Hebgen Lake is more than 16 miles long and on its southern end measures up to four miles in width at its widest point. The lake covers a total area of 6500 acres.
Being such a large lake, along with its location on a high plateau near Yellowstone National Park, creates windy conditions at times. The potential for wind, combined with the lakes large size, makes motorized boats the best fishing boat to use on the lake. If you lack a motorized boat, an inflatable flatwater kayak, pontoon boat or inflatable canoe can work well provided the winds are relatively tame. Due to the lakes large size and surprise winds, float tubes are not advised except in sheltered bays.
Fishing pressure on is relatively heavy. Moreover, unlike other Montana lakes, most use of Hebgen Lake is for fishing. Recreational boating isn’t as popular on Hebgen as it is on other large Montana lakes, such as Canyon Ferry Reservoir, Flathead Lake or Whitefish Lake.
Hebgen Lake near West Yellowstone, Montana. The lake has superb trout fishing in a very scenic setting.
Of course, there’s a reason for the fishing pressure. Large rainbow trout and brown trout are found in high numbers. Moreover, the trout tend to run large, with the average brown trout averaging 16-18 inches and rainbow trout in the 14-16 inch range. Other fish species in the lake include mountain whitefish, brook trout and westslope cutthroat trout.
During late spring and early summer, the lake has excellent hatches of Tricos, which can present excellent fly fishing provided the winds are light. When fishing during the Trico hatch, the trout are found in shallow bays and along the shoreline. This presents a wonderful opportunity for an angler to catch decent sized trout right from shore. The Trico hatch requires light gear and light tippets with long leaders.
Later in the summer, caddisfly hatches happen regularly. Standard dry fly patterns such as the Parachute Adams work well, fished in the various bays and around the lake’s inlets. The Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake, in particular, provides an excellent place for dry fly fishing during the summer.
Access to Hebgen Lake is excellent. Highway 287 parallels the lake for much of its length on the north side, allowing for easy road access. Additionally, several other roads provide access to the south side of the lake, where numerous campgrounds are also found.
Overall, Hebgen Lake provides excellent fishing for rainbow and brown trout in a beautiful yet convenient setting. For the angler who will be fly fishing Hebgen Lake for the first time, it is not a bad idea to either follow the crowds or hire a guide in order to locate the best fishing spots. Since the lake is so large, for first time visitors it is easy to miss the prime fishing areas and end up casting to nothing but pools of rising chub instead of rising trout.