Spring runoff began in earnest this morning after a couple days of 75+ degree temperatures with nights in the 50s. The Yellowstone River came up approximately 60% in two days and is forecast to continue rising with some brief pauses for at least a week. The river is now chocolate brown and completely out of the question as a fishery and will be for the foreseeable future.
For the time being, our local fisheries are limited to private lakes and the Paradise Valley spring creeks. It is still possible we’ll get a break from the runoff sometime in late May, but I think it’s unlikely. I expect the Yellowstone to clear in the first week of July. Early in the week if runoff is hard, late if it mellows later in May.
Until Yellowstone Park opens to fishing May 27, our guide services are focused on the private lakes, Missouri River jet boat trips, and to a much lesser degree on the lower Madison River southwest of Bozeman.
For what it’s worth, we did get two excellent days of Mother’s Day Caddis hatch fishing ending last evening. The river was already “cafe au lait” with branches floating in it, but the fish were still willing to eat from the caddis bonanza in the foam lines. That’s the way of the spring caddis hatch… a day or two of great fishing followed by a filthy river.
I got out for a couple hours yesterday afternoon. It was finally time to face the fact that ski season is over and I need to make sure I remember how to fish. I’ve got two outdoor sports passions: when the snow is good, I ski and snowboard. When it’s bad or really when it’s nonexistent, I fish.
Of course, the day I decided to fish saw snow to start the day, temperatures in the 30s, a nasty wind, flurries in the air, and all in all was a more winter-like day than we’d had near Gardiner in a couple weeks.
Water conditions were less auspicious than the air. The river flow had come up about 25% in two days (from previous rains), while water temperatures had fallen from 48 degrees to 42 degrees, a very big change. The water also had a bit of a brown tinge. It was certainly clear enough, with about two feet of visibility, but anytime the river resembles weak tea rather than appears truly green, the fishing will suffer for it.
Enough caveats: fishing was slow, but I caught seven trout and a couple of whitefish and lost two other trout, including of course the largest of the day, in about two hours of fishing. Not bad, considering. Four of the trout were rainbows, two were cutt-bows, and one a pure cutt. Average size was smaller than expected given I was targeting pre-spawn rainbows a hundred yards downstream from the Yellowstone’s confluence with a major spawning stream, about 13 inches. In fact all of the trout ranged from 12 to 14 inches, though I lost one that was at least 18 inches. I got him close enough to see at least.
Flies were all over the map. I got three trout on a #6 brown Girdle Bug with a beadhead, as you’ll see in the pic above, two on a White River or tricolor San Juan Worm (see the next pic), and one each on a Bead, Hare, and Copper and a pink Mop Fly. (Yes, they work here too. I tied the pink ones for the Missouri but had to try them on the ‘Stone too.) As anticipated, the trout were on the moderate-speed seams well off the bank. Beyond that, they were scattered. The run I fished is quite long, about 100 yards, and I caught fish from just below the drop-off at the upstream end where the current was near jogging speed all the way down until I could no longer get a decent drift even with my switch rod, as the current seam was now 2/3 of the way across the river.
There were a few midges and little winter stoneflies (#18 black) around, but the fish were paying no attention. For dry fly fishing the remainder of this month, look for temperatures in the 50s, preferably with cloudy skies and calm weather. BWO are getting stronger, there are still midges, and March Browns are just beginning. The latter will continue into early May assuming the river stays in shape, and we HOPE the river will still be clear for the Mother’s Day Caddis sometime in the first ten days of May.
The Yellowstone River here in Gardiner, MT, officially opened back up to angling as of noon today (9/6/06). When I heard the news in the shop I knew where I was fishing after work. As soon as my shop dogs, Canyon and Grace, were in my apartment I made my way to the Yellowstone. I fished from 6:30pm until 7:45pm bringing 10 fish to hand. The numbers: two Rocky Mountain whitefish, one German brown trout, one Loch Leven brown trout, and six Oncorhynchus mykiss AKA rainbow trout. I started with two dry flies–a peachy pink colored “Bob” hopper and a tan Brindle Chute to mimic the Heckaba hatch that is now evident. I had one take, but nil after that. I preceded with a size 10 peacock PMX with a #12 “twenty Incher”… and that’s the rest of the story.
That combo worked with four fish on the dry and six on the nymph using 3X for my leader and dropper. Time to float the “Stone!” The two week rest could prove epic for those anglers fortunate enough to book a float and fish over trout who have had no pressure.
The recent closure impacting portions of the Yellowstone River has largely been lifted. Montana FWP today reopened the upper Yellowstone, from the YNP boundary at Gardiner down to Point of Rocks Fishing Access Site near the US-89 Bridge 20 miles north of Gardiner. The river downstream of the US-89 Bridge near Livingston reopened on the first. From Point of Rocks to Hwy 89 remains closed.
We expect spectacular fishing on the upper Yellowstone over the next few days. Look for a full fishing report update tomorrow on the General Reports Page.
(Note: Edited 9/10 to reflect the opening of the Carbella to Point of Rocks section, which just reopened.)
The Yellowstone River from Gardiner all the way to Laurel, 183 river miles, closed to all recreational usage on August 19, due to a fish kill impacting whitefish. As of September 1, portions of the closure have been completely lifted and other portions will be reassessed on September 6. We expect the upper Yellowstone River from Gardiner to Carbella to reopen to fishing on September 8 after this assessment. This stretch is now open to non-angling use.
Here is the Montana FWP news release announcing the reopening, including details on what’s open and what’s closed. In short, Gardiner to Carbella is open to non-angling recreational use (including tribs). Carbella to the Highway 89 bridge near Livingston is still closed to all use. All tributaries EXCEPT the Paradise Valley spring creeks remain closed; the creeks are now open. Hwy 89 down is now open to all use, with the exception of the Shields River system, which remains closed.