I hope you were able to follow us on our three week adventure on the Madison River. If not, I’ll provide links to the posts below. During our time in the Madison Valley, we were able to get an introduction to Hebgen Lake gulpers from our friend Dick Rohrbaugh who lives on the river during the summer months.

Hebgen Lake - Dick and Karen | www.riverkeeperflies.com

Before I get too far, I’ll provide a spoiler alert…no fish were harmed that day!

We met Dick and Miriam several years ago from our friend Sherry Steele. We shared a cabin with Sherry and her husband Eric, and they took us to the Rohrbaugh’s one evening for dinner. As they say, the rest is history. We’ve enjoyed our friendship with Dick and Miriam ever since.

This year, Dick was bound and determined to get us on the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake to experience the gulpers ourselves.

Hebgen Lake - Dick | www.riverkeeperflies.com

Here is a view of the mountains from the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake.

Hebgen Lake View | www.riverkeeperflies.com

What are gulpers, you ask?

Simple. These are the Brown and Rainbow trout who eat Tricos and Callibaetis mayflies on the surface. The fish establish feeding lanes and rise every few feet as they eat these insects. Their action can make an audible “gulp” sound. Hence the name “gulpers”.

Dick explained the gulpers really begin when Callibaetis start hatching. Like all the other insect activity in the Madison Valley this year, they were a week or two late.

Here is what we were looking for.

Hebgen Lake Gulper | www.riverkeeperflies.com

This fish is moving from right to left. Notice the concentric rings on the right side of the image? The smaller ring on the left is the last rise. Look closely and you’ll see a bubble. It was created from the fish’s mouth. Dick was teaching us how to read the ring pattern to determine which direction the fish was headed. They can easily change direction, so watching the rise forms is especially important!

The image below is Karen watching for a rise form.

Hebgen Lake Casting | www.riverkeeperflies.com

…and casting to a fish.

Hebgen Lake Casting | www.riverkeeperflies.com

Here is a Caddis and Trico I found while slowly motoring along looking for rising fish.

I apologize for the resolution of these insect images. It’s a combination of a heavily cropped photo and the need for a higher resolution camera.

Below is an example of the original image (left) with the Callibaetis mayfly in the center. The final cropped version is on the right side.

Callibaetis mayfly spinners can be found with upright wings, like the image above, and what is called “spent”, where the wings are flat on the water.

Callibaetis Spinner on Hebgen Lake with Flat Wings | www.riverkeeperflies.com

Lastly, here are a couple more images from our lake tour.

First is where the boat was launched.

Hebgen Lake Launch | www.riverkeeperflies.com

And an image motoring from one location to another.

Hebgen Lake Wake | www.riverkeeperflies.com

Karen was designated to drive the boat off and on the trailer.

Dick's Boat on Hebgen Lake | www.riverkeeperflies.com

Notice how calm the lake is. The wind can blow hard here, and it puts the fish down. We were lucky to find very little wind, but the fish didn’t cooperate. We found a few and cast to them, hoping for them to turn our way and eat a dry fly.

We’ll try again next year.

I hope you enjoyed my posts of us fishing the Madison. If you missed them, here are the links:

Enjoy…go fish!

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  1. Have you fished Quake Lake? I made a few cast there after fishing the Madison one evening and immediately caught a nice brown on a dry fly, it was almost dark so I could not fish anymore and had to leave early the next day, wish I had fished it more.

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