Runoff Progress and Season Fishing Forecast

We saw heavy winter and early spring (April) snowfall, followed by a very warm May and an up and down June, so far. The past few days have been very cold and it has been snowing about the 8000-foot level. It is forecast to warm to above normal temperatures in a few days.

We are now generally past the peak of the spring runoff on all waters, though most waters still remain high and off-color.

The winter/spring snowpack accompanied by a runoff season that has seen wild temperature and precipitation swings but will work out to about average in terms of severity and duration means that we expect overall high and cold water throughout the summer season and a slightly late clearing of the spring runoff. This will lead to excellent July through early September water conditions (conditions thereafter depend on day-to-day weather) but somewhat limits opportunities for the moment.

A full rundown of when we expect various fisheries to come out of runoff, how they’ll fish when they do, and expected key fishing dates follows.

Predicted Clearing Dates and General Fishing Notes for Key Waters

The Yellowstone River Outside YNP: The Yellowstone River will drop into good shape around the 4th of July, probably just as the Salmonfly hatches get underway. The best attractor dry and caddis fishing will take place in the latter half of July. Terrestrial (hopper and ant) fishing should be excellent through August. This summer and early fall will offer the best water conditions since 2014 and probably the most consistent fishing overall.

The Yellowstone Inside YNP, the Grand and Black Canyons: Should drop into shape around July 4 and fish well through early October. Salmonflies will be on portions of this water through July, with the peak of the hatch around July 15-25. The rougher, more bouldery sections will be extremely physical to fish until well into August, but for those who are up for it the rewards will be strong.

The Yellowstone Inside YNP, Lake to Falls: This is going to be the best year on this water since the late 1990s. There’s a called shot for you. Cutthroat numbers here have been trending upwards for several seasons due to the aggressive lake trout suppression efforts in Yellowstone Lake as well as good spawns in recent years. I expect strong numbers of moderate-sized (12 to 18-inch) cutthroats from these good recent spawns as well as some true trophies (cutthroats to 24+ inches). Moreover, weather/water conditions will delay the fish returning to Yellowstone Lake after the spawn and will push them towards the banks where they are easier to spot and stalk. This will still be spot and stalk fishing for small numbers of fish, but it will be much more consistent than it has been for quite some time. This water opens July 15.

The Lamar Drainage: Slough Creek should become fishable around July 4, the Lamar and Soda Butte around July 10. We expect excellent water conditions on these streams this year, with some relief from the low water, crowded conditions, and overstressed fish of the past two August/September periods. I predict the most consistent (though not necessarily “best”) fishing on Slough Creek will occur in the last ten days of July, and on the Lamar and Soda Butte during the first half of August.

The Firehole, Gibbon, and Madison: These waters are now all in shape for the season, though all are still quite high. Good fishing will continue on the Firehole through June, possibly as late as July 4, while the Gibbon and Madison will fish well until mid-July and possibly in the mornings through the summer. For now, fish the more-structured, rougher water; the meadows are still too high generally.

Gardner River and Tributaries: The mainstem Gardner downstream of Boiling River is now clear enough to fish, though it may blow out again for a week or so around June 20, once it warms up again. Whenever there is 18 inches of visibility, regardless of level, it’s worth short-line nymphing in the bankside pockets. This is very rugged and physical fishing. More general fishibility will begin below Osprey Falls around July 1. Above Osprey Falls, the mainstem Gardner may well be too high until around July 15. Salmonflies will be on the lower river in the first ten days of July and between Osprey Falls and Boiling River between July 10-15 and the first half of August. Small streams will come into play in the first week of July. Lakes are now fishing well, though they’re very high.

Small Streams: With the exception of those in the Firehole drainage (ready June 25 and good by July 4) and those in the Gardner Basin (see notes in the Gardner entry above), most small streams will not be fishable before mid-July and will be best in August and early September. This will be a good late summer for the small streams, which is when we most love to fish them.

Lakes in Yellowstone Park: Yellowstone Lake is very high but fishing well. Lewis and Shoshone Lakes may be hard to access afoot due to snowdrifts, but are fishing well on streamers and will continue to do so until early July. Smaller lakes are all boggy, wet messes, but they’re fishing well already. The grayling lakes in the central part of the park are on fire right now, though half the hikes are in mud or water, so you’ll want to hike in waders.

The Lower Madison below Ennis Lake: In shape and fishing well. Should continue to fish through early July.

The Missouri: Fishing well on all sections save Three Forks to Canyon Ferry. Sowbugs are still hot, but PMD and caddis nymphs are probably the top draw now, with some PMD and caddis hatches.

Private Lakes: On fire right now and will be very good until early July.

Paradise Valley Spring Creeks: Early PMD hatches are starting and will intensify through the month and into early July. Daily rod fees increase to $120 per day on the 15th.

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