We saw heavy winter and early spring (April) snowfall, followed by a very warm May and an up and down June.
We are now past the peak of the spring runoff on all waters, with many waters across the north end of Yellowstone Park now either becoming fishable or only a few days out.
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).
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. Right now we have trips scheduled for the 3rd through 5th and we expect them to run as booked.
The Yellowstone Inside YNP, the Grand and Black Canyons: The Grand Canyon is now marginally fishable, with the main problem being level (crazy high) rather than color (sort of gray-green). For now, streamers and stonefly nymphs are the tickets, but the fishing will really take off in a week. The Black Canyon is higher yet and so not really ready, due entirely to level. Again, July 4 will be game-on.
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: All now fishing very well, with the Gibbon and Madison at their best for the year and the Firehole on the downslope. The first sustained hot weather will spell the end for fishing on the Firehole until Labor Day, while the Gibbon and Madison will hang on until mid-July.
Gardner River and Tributaries: Very high, but with the exception of the Gardner mainstem above Obsidian Creek (near Indian Creek Campground), the entire Gardner System is now far enough along in the runoff to be fishable. Another week will bring excellent fishing up and down.
Small Streams: Generally speaking, the meadow streams are now fishable while those with a rocky, steep character are still too high. This applies to all river drainages. August and early September are going to be wonderful on the rough and tumble creeks.
Lakes in Yellowstone Park: Yellowstone Lake is very high but fishing well. Lewis and Shoshone Lakes 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 upper Madison is now seeing Salmonflies.
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 are now at their yearly highs of $120 and availability will be limited. PMD are the yearly stars here and everybody knows it.