General Fishing Report

On this page you’ll find our general fishing report covering Parks’ Fly Shop’s entire area of operations. If you’re looking for a general overview of current fly fishing conditions in Yellowstone and fly fishing reports for Montana, you’re in the right place. This report is not updated as frequently and features far less detail than our Trip Reports page, where our guides and staff post detailed accounts of their recent guided fishing trips in Montana and Yellowstone Park, as well as their own fly fishing trips in the area.

If you’ve found this page through a Google search or otherwise aren’t familiar with our fly shop, please visit Parks’ Fly Shop’s Main Site to learn about the guided fishing trips we offer, to learn more about the shop, or to peruse our in-depth Montana and Yellowstone fly fishing trip planner for lots of free advice on fishing our region.


REMINDER: YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK BANNED FELT-SOLED WADING GEAR! ONLY RUBBER-SOLED WADING SHOES ARE ALLOWED THIS SEASON!

Fall fishing conditions dominate now, and terrestrials are beginning to falter on all waters except the Yellowstone River. They will disappear on all other waters with the first cold/wet weather. The crowds of anglers have not disappeared from roadside waters. Soda Butte Creek and roadside sections of the Lamar River and Slough Creek are currently so overrun with anglers that we cannot recommend them to any anglers physically capable of fishing waters that require longer or harder walks.

During warmer/drier weather, stick to the northern part of Yellowstone Park. When it’s cooler and grayer, or first thing in the morning, the Madison drainage in the western part of the park is a good bet.

Yellowstone Park Waters

Yellowstone River (Lake to Chittenden Bridge): Really too late for this water. If you want to go, swing streamers and hope for a couple strikes from the very large cutthroat that came down from Yellowstone Lake back in May and somehow still haven’t returned; 95% have gone back to the lake.

Yellowstone River (Grand and Black Canyons): Fishing well provided you get away from easy accesses. Mormon crickets and other big terrestrials are still working when it’s warm. Slender but heavy nymphs make good droppers. In the afternoons, look for mixed BWO and Tan Drake (Drake Mackeral) hatches, with the BWO heaviest if it’s drizzing or even snowing. Streamers are always good bets in this water.

Lamar River: Obscenely crowded next to the roads. Better in the rough or non-roadside sections. FIshing is technical (aka challenging). While there are mixed hatches of BWO, Tan Drakes, and a few Green Drakes (generally in the afternoons), plus some midges (generally midmorning), nymphing is going to be the most productive technique. Choose slender, thread or tinsel-bodied mayflies and midge pupae. Fish 5X-6X tippets. Terrestrials might draw a fish or two, with ants the most likely suspect.

Soda Butte Creek: On days with pleasant weather, obscene and horrific crowds averaging one angler or party every 25 yards make this stream a terrible choice unless someone in your group is physically incapable of fishing anywhere else. If you choose to fish here, you will have anglers start casting over your line. You will have people walk across the high bank you’re casting towards. The fish you catch will be badly scarred after being caught 20+ times this year alone. We ran a guide trip on Soda Butte the week of September 10 and not one but two groups started fishing the same pool as the party. No fish were caught. You have been warned. Use the same flies as on the Lamar.

Slough Creek: First and Second Meadows are uncrowded compared to the roadside stretches of the Lamar and Soda Butte, due to the hike involved. The Lower Meadow will be crowded roadside but not too bad if you hike down the VIP Pools near the Lamar. Same bugs as the Lamar.

Gardner River: Poor above Osprey Falls (the small fish brook trout water). Downstream is much better. Fish hoppers or Mormon crickets on warm afternoons, with heavy attractor or small stonefly nymph droppers. If the weather is cool or gray, fish a double-nymph rig or hope for a BWO hatch. There are also a few Tan Drakes. The BWO will intensify through September and into October. The best stretches to fish are the hardest to walk, either due to distance from the road or the steepness of the river and slipperiness of the rocks. Easy-access locations will see a lot of pressure and fish poor.

Madison (in YNP), Firehole, and Gibbon Rivers: All are now in play, with the Madison the best bet overall. Fish hoppers on warm afternoons or nymph for run-up trout from Hebgen Lake in gray weather or in the mornings. On the Firehole, look for White Miller hatches in the mornings and early afternoons, swing soft hackles, or fish small hopper-dropper combos. You can also nymph downstream of Firehole Falls. The Gibbon Canyon is hit or miss with nymphs or attractor dry-dropper combos. All waters in the Madison Drainage will improve as the weather gets cooler and grayer.

Small Streams: Except for large, low-elevation streams on sunny afternoons, most are now too low and cold for good fishing.

Lakes: This is the doldrums for all park lakes, and we suggest avoiding all of them except perhaps for Cascade, which will be okay on midges, Callibaetis mayflies, and basic mayfly-type attractor nymphs before noon. REMEMBER: MOST PARK LAKES ARE ACTUALLY FISHLESS! This includes Phantom, Floating Island, Rainy, the Twin Lakes, and Swan Lake.

Montana Waters

Yellowstone River (Gardiner to Carbella): Fishing well on hoppers and small mayfly-type attractor dries, particularly noon to 4pm. The whitefish are gearing up for the spawn and hyper-aggressive, so nymphing is not a good choice except in Yankee Jim Canyon or other deep, bouldery stretches. BWO and Tan Drake hatches have started, especially on gray days, and they will intensify through about September 15 and remain strong through the month. There are also still some Tricos. The hoppers will fish best on bright, warm days. Cool and gray weather means you need mayfly hatches for good numbers, though streamers will start turning a big fish or two in these conditions.

Yellowstone River (Carbella to Livingston): Overall not as consistent as the stretch closer to Gardiner, but likely to produce bigger fish. Big hoppers have been our top tickets lately, but the same mayfly hatches mentioned above are also possible tickets. No need to fish early unless you want to fish streamers for 1-3 big eats; the numbers are coming from late morning through mid-late afternoon.

Yellowstone River (Livingston to Big Timber and Beyond): This is big fish country and except right in Livingston is a poor choice except for skilled anglers who would rather try for a handful (literally) of fish of which 1-2 are big than have more-consistent fishing for small-medium fish. Big hoppers are the name of the game on this stretch. Big fly = big fish.

Private Ranch Lakes: Becoming better and better options as the weeds start to die back and the lakes cool. Hoppers can work on these lakes, but Callibaetis hatches will really get the fish riled up, and slender nymphs and soft hackles are always good choices. These lakes are still weedy and warm, so they’re best before 2:00PM and for experienced anglers who can cast accurately and know how to play fish hard.

Private Spring Creeks: Really tough until BWO hatches intensify in early October. For now, sight-nymph or hope for midge hatches.

 

GUIDED TRIP OPTIONS and AVAILABILITY

We are primarily doing three things now with experienced anglers. We are running float trips on the Yellowstone River, focusing on dry fly fishing, chasing fall-run brown trout on foot first thing in the morning with nymphs, and are hiking into rugged sections of the Yellowstone River Canyons, particularly the lower Grand Canyon and the bottom of the Black Canyon upstream from Gardiner. As the weather cools and gets gray, the brown trout begin to consume all of our attention and we’ll also start looking at private lakes.
For beginner clients, we are now mostly running float trips, focused on learning basic skills by nymphing. Most of the fish caught on an average beginner float are whitefish at this time, but there are usually a lot of them and they are far more beginner-friendly than the trout, which are now at about their spookiest.

Guide Availability varies from day to day through September. We are still quite busy, but we will generally have one guide available as of this writing on most days. We do have far more availability for walk-wade guides than for floats, however.