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.

The Short and Sweet Version

Updated May 4

YELLOWSTONE PARK WATERS: CLOSED UNTIL MAY 26!!! The Yellowstone Park season always opens the Saturday before Memorial Day.
YELLOWSTONE RIVER: In the early stages of the spring runoff and unlikely to clear again before sometime in the first ten days of July. The Mother’s Day Caddis hatch this season will be a complete washout unless an unexpected cooldown with highs in the 50s at low elevations occurs for 3-4 days before May 15.

Still a good choice through mid-month provided the skies aren’t bright. Bright blue skies will lead to hard fishing particularly after lunch. BWO hatches are possible around midday, particularly under gray skies. Midge hatches are possible either early morning or late afternoon. Some scattered caddis are possible at any time. Absent a hatch, cover a lot of water with streamers or target the deep green slots downstream of spawning areas using San Juan Worms and egg patterns, mayfly nymphs, and midge pupae. Avoid the shallow, clean gravel areas where you see trout; these are spawning fish and should be left alone. Fish the deep water downstream of them instead. Rod fees on the creeks are $80/day until early June.

PRIVATE LAKES: Fishing very well right now. This is the transition period from when the fish prefer big ugly stuff like leeches, San Juan Worms, Woolly Buggers, and Stillwater Nymphs to smaller flies like Chironomid pupae, small soft hackles, small, bright mayfly nymphs, and even little attractor dries, so it’s a good idea to go well-equipped. On April 27, we had a guide trip to Story Lake that produced 30+ trout averaging 18 inches on all of the above flies.

LOWER MADISON RIVER: The best river float option within 2hrs. Will be high but fishable all spring particularly above the Cherry Creek confluence. Crayfish, San Juan Worms, and flashy mayflies are best here. Don’t expect vast numbers of fish. We are in the process of updating our Madison River guiding permit and will be offering floats here by late May.

MISSOURI RIVER: By far the best option for boat fishing. Too high through at least mid-June for dependable wade fishing. The fishing here will be all nymphing through at least early June, on very long leaders. Opt for large San Juan Worms, Sowbugs, Scuds, eggs (for a little longer), Czech Nymphs, and pink mayfly nymphs fished on LOOOOONNNNGGGG leaders with a lot of weight. The fish will be football-shaped and healthy due to the vast amounts of food being washed loose by the high water.


From now through May 25, our best nearby options (by far) are walk/float trips on Story and Burns Lakes. Availability is very limited on these private lakes since all allow only 2-6 anglers per day and other area fly shops and outfitters will be hunting for places to fish too. Rates start at $475 per day plus access fees of $80-100 per angler payable to the landowner. No fishing license is required.

Able to travel a bit? We’re offering a special discounted rate through July 4 for jet boat trips to the Missouri River, only $525/day or $875 for a full-day and a half-day of guided fishing on the “Land of Giants” stretch of this river. This is a discount of up to $225 off our normal rates. Why are we offering this deal? Because it’s gonna be a while before we can float the Yellowstone and we want to keep our rowing muscles strong…

NOTE: I didn’t bother updating any of the in-depth report below, since we only have a few fisheries available at the moment. Check our most recent season forecast in the blog menu for predictions about when we expect various fisheries to fall into shape and how they’ll fish through the 2018 season.

The Long and In-Depth Version

Please click one of the following links to be taken directly to the watershed in question, or simply read on to check out the whole report. The links below some entries will take you to streamflow gauges for the water in question. Generally speaking, recent sudden spikes in flow mean there’s a strong potential recent storms have muddied the water.

In YNP: Yellowstone inside YNP, Lamar, Gardner, Madison inside YNP, Snake, Gallatin inside YNP

In Montana: Yellowstone, Madison, Private Lakes, Spring Creeks, Other Montana Waters

Yellowstone National Park Fisheries

Yellowstone River Drainage Inside YNP

Yellowstone River Above the Lake and Lake to Falls

Yellowstone Lake Outlet

Updated August 29

Fish numbers are falling quickly as the big cutts migrate back to the lake. Your only hope is to head-hunt and sight-fish for specific trout. They’ll look as big as torpedoes. Nymphing with slender mayflies is now probably the best choice, but you may see a Baetis, Green or Gray Drake, or other mayfly hatch.

Yellowstone River, Grand Canyon (Falls to Mouth of Lamar)

Updated August 29

Generally our most consistent fishing option for hikers. Fish a big Chubby, cricket, hopper, or similar large attractor/hopper/stonefly with a large attractor (#8-12) nymph on a long dropper. Streamers (big Woolly Bugger and a small one) will often work great. You may see BWO or PMD hatches; a Purple Hazy Cripple is close enough. Try to stay away from other anglers and cover a lot of water. This hasn’t changed since the last report and won’t change until the first cool weather, in which case the BWO hatches will intensify and the terrestrials will collapse.

Yellowstone River, Black Canyon (Mouth of Lamar to Gardiner)

Updated August 29

Similar to Grand Canyon. Less consistent overall, but will produce larger fish on average. The further downstream in the canyon you travel, the more likely you will want to switch to small hoppers, ants, and Purple Hazy Cripples as your go-to flies. Again, little change from last report.

Yellowstone Drainage Small Streams

Updated August 13

All are now fishing well save those near the road in Yellowstone Park (Blacktail, Tower) which have seen heavy pressure for six weeks and are therefore getting tough. Best to hike 1+ mile before you start fishing. Attractor dry/dropper combos or small hoppers or large ants are good choices.

Yellowstone Lake

Updated August 13

The doldrums. Fish elsewhere for consistent fishing, at least until late September.

Other Yellowstone Drainage Lakes and Ponds

Updated August 13

Most are very poor now. We generally leave the small ponds alone save in early summer and suggest you do too.

Lamar River Drainage

Lamar River

Lower Lamar

Updated August 29

Heavy pressure and inconsistent fishing. You might interest fish in Mormon crickets or oddball hoppers in the meadows, but smaller terrestrials (ants, beetles) will be more consistent. Small, slender nymphs, either contemporary thread or tinsel-bodied mayflies or Zebra Midges, will be more consistent yet. Hatches have been fragmentary. Tan Drakes are what you really want to see, but the best hatches are waiting for cooler weather. There are also some Flavs, a few lingering PMD, Cream Baetis (Sulphurs, though not the same as those in the East), fall gray Baetis, and a few big Green Drakes. All will hatch better on cool, cloudy days.

Soda Butte Creek

Silver Gate (Park Boundary)

Updated August 29

Crowded. Same hatches as above. I am much more eager to nymph here than the Lamar, since the structure is much more obvious and the heavy pressure means the fish are now spookier. Soda Butte has not been easy of late. I guess the 25-odd years of intense pressure has made the fish spooky. We have not and likely will not guide on Soda Butte this season, despite being the closest full-service shop to it. Crowds and scarred fish are no fun.

Slough Creek

Updated August 29

Fishing will be hard, but rewarding. Ants, beetles, and small crickets/hoppers are much more likely here than any hatch, for the remainder of the season. You may see the same hatches mentioned above. If you get some gray weather, the fishing will be outstanding. Without it, it will be tough, especially in the Lower and First Meadows.

Trout Lake

Updated August 13

A very poor option due to weeds and spooky fish.

Small Streams

Updated August 13

Now not great choices as most are getting low and the larger fish will have returned to the Lamar. If you’re okay for hiking for dinks, go for it.

Gardner River Drainage

Gardner River Above Osprey Falls (Including Tributary Creeks)

Updated August 13

Near the road will be tough as the brookie creeks here have been hammered for 6 weeks. Best to hike a mile or more. Once fishing, use attractor dry/dropper combos.

Gardner River, Osprey Falls to Boiling River

Updated August 29

Fishing well provided you get away from the few easy accesses. Fish a small Chubby and an attractor beadhead. Don’t hesitate to nymph the deeper holes with stonefly and large attractor nymphs.

Gardner River, Boiling River to Yellowstone River

Just Below Boiling River

Updated August 29

Recent warm weather has made the weeds grow fast and the fishing has gotten hard. Hopper/dropper is a good choice here, but stick to the roughest water that doesn’t get fished.


Updated July 13

In their summer doldrums.

Madison River Drainage Inside YNP

Madison River in Yellowstone Park

Near West Yellowstone

Updated July 13

Too warm.

Firehole River

At Old Faithful, Lower River

Updated July 13

Way too warm below Old Faithful. Leave it alone until Labor Day.

Gibbon River

At Madison Junction

Updated July 13

Too warm below Norris. Above, a fisheries project poisoning out non-native fish from the headwaters to Virginia Cascades (to be replaced by westslope cutthroat and grayling) is underway, likely with some spillover below the Cascades, so really I’d say to sit out the upper Gibbon for the remainder of the season.

Grebe & Wolf Lakes

Updated August 29, 2017

Closed for the non-native eradication efforts and unlikely to be worth fishing for several years.

Snake River Drainage

Snake River

Updated August 29

Probably good? Check with shops in Jackson.

Lewis River

Updated August 29

Canyon probably good. Check with shops in Jackson.

Lewis and Shoshone Lakes

Updated August 29

Too warm for consistent fishing until about September 20.

Gallatin River Drainage Inside YNP

Gallatin River

Updated July 3

Fishing well by all accounts, but this is a heck of a long drive from Gardiner. Talk to the folks in West Yellowstone for details.

Small Streams

Updated July 3

Same as the mainstem.

Montana Fisheries

Yellowstone River Drainage

Yellowstone River, Gardiner to Carbella (Upper Yellowstone)

Yellowstone River Webcam, Corwin Springs Stream Gauge

Updated August 29

Very much in late summer mode. Small hoppers trailing either a flying or parachute ant, a caddis-type attractor, or a Purple or Copper Hazy Cripple will draw the numbers, but few trout over 15 inches, while a big Chubby with a stonefly-type nymph on the dropper will potentially draw a bigger brown but many fewer trout. Medium-sized beadheads will mostly mean whitefish. Expect the first heavy Gray Baetis hatches on the first cool, drizzly day. We’re already seeing a few, as well as some Epeorus, Heptagenia, and Tan Drakes. The big fall hatches have been on standby due to heat and bright weather.

Yellowstone River, Carbella to Mayor’s Landing (Paradise Valley and the “Town Section”)


Updated August 13

Similar to above, but the disjoint between big fish on big flies and smaller fish on smaller flies will be much greater. You will mostly see fish under 11 inches on small dries, but the big browns are there and eating dead-drifted streamers.

Yellowstone River, Mayor’s Landing to Laurel

Springdale, Big Timber

Updated August 13

Same as above, but even more so. This is the stretch to hit if you are okay with one or two BIG browns.

Small Streams

Updated August 13

In stellar shape. Ants, small hoppers, and attractor dries will bring fit anglers who can scramble over boulders plenty of small to medium-sized fish.

Madison River Drainage

Madison River, Hebgen Lake to Quake Lake

Updated July 3

Probably fishing well but a long way from here.

Madison River, Quake Lake to Ennis Lake

Below Quake Lake, Near Cameron

Updated July 3

Fishing well on Salmonflies and caddis, but beware of hitting another boat on your back cast.

Madison River, Lower

Below Ennis Lake

Updated July 3

Getting too warm except AM. Crayfish and small nymphs.

Hebgen and Quake Lakes

Updated May 13

No recent reports.

Private Lakes

Story Lakes

Updated August 29

Warm and weedy. While some fish are being caught, we don’t get excited about this water until late September.

Merrell Lake

Updated June 27

No availability except for Hubbard’s Lodge guests until mid-September.

Burns Lake

Updated August 29

A few cool days and Burns will be gangbusters. Don’t hesitate to fish hoppers here, as well as leeches and other usual ranch lake fare.

Spring Creeks

Armstrong’s, Nelson’s, Depuy

Updated June 27

Now on high season rates of $120/day. PMD hatches intensifying. So are the odds against getting a reservation. Most creeks are now booked solid through July.

Other Montana Waters

Missouri River, “Land of Giants”

Updated May 13

Fishing excellent. While some fish are still fixated on eggs, sow bugs and mayfly nymphs are turning on quickly and you can probably do some good with San Juan and Wire Worms as well. Walter’s trips here at the beginning of the week were great. One angler and 30 or so fish on Monday and two anglers with about 50 fish on Tuesday. On Tuesday we got into a silver-bright ‘bow almost two feet long, while on Monday we got the first big brown of the season. The average fish was over 18 inches. Plenty of prime dates are still available through June. This is our best bet right now.

Walter is running jet boat trips here weekly through the middle of June. If you’ve never fished this water and want the chance at lots of 18-inch (and bigger!) fish, give us a call.

Missouri River, Holter Dam to Cascade

Updated May 13

Running at 7500+ cubic feet per second, which is huge for this water. Closer to 9500 below the Dearborn, though it will drop this week. The big water means Wire Worms and Firebead Sow Bugs are the top tickets, but fish are also eating caddis pupae and slender but flashy mayfly nymphs. Dry fly and streamer fishing is limited due to the vast amount of feed in the water column that is simply adrift due to the high water. This water is very crowded as it is the only clear river that can be fished from a drift boat in the western half of Montana right now.