Montana and Yellowstone Park Fishing Report

Montana and Yellowstone Park Fishing Report

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Welcome to Parks’ Fly Shop’s Montana and Yellowstone Park Fishing Report and Blog. Check out the general fishing report below for an overview of what’s going on in our area. Visit our Blog to check out our fly tying videos, podcasts, fishing tips, detailed posts on weather and water predictions for the upcoming season (generally posted in the winter and spring), trip reports from our guides, and fishing, conservation, and fly shop news.

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 and free Montana and Yellowstone Fly Fishing Info Site for lots of free advice on fishing our region.

The fishing report is below the fish.

black canyon cutthroat


General Yellowstone Park and Montana Fishing Report – Updated June 28, 2020

Lots of rain in the forecast for the first part of this week accompanied by cool temperatures has thrown things for a bit of a loop. Lots of waters across the northern part of Yellowstone Park and points north are forecast to rise sharply over the next few days before dropping around Thursday. Rule of thumb: if it’s high and muddy, it ain’t fishable.

The cool weather has given one last breath of life to waters in the western part of Yellowstone Park (Firehole, Madison, Gibbon) and the lower Madison River near Bozeman, which fished well on guide trips last week. It’s hitting the pause button on the Yellowstone, Boulder, Stillwater, and waters across the northern part of the park. Expect all of these to take over as the hot fisheries by the end of the week. Provided they’re low enough and clear enough, they’ll be good at the beginning of the week, too.

Top Fisheries in MT: Lower Madison River, private lakes, Yellowstone River and Boulder Rivers when clear.

Top Fisheries in YNP: Will vary day-by-day on cool, wet days, head to the Firehole for the morning and elsewhere for the afternoon. Elsewhere might include the Gibbon, Madison, Gardner, or Yellowstone in the lower Grand Canyon, depending on weather.


Detailed Water-by-Water Yellowstone Park and Montana Fishing Report

Montana Fisheries (listed in approximate distance from Livingston, less to more)

Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated June 28

Hovering around 10,000cfs and dropping very slowly. Salmonflies have started but will only trickle out until the weather and water warm, probably right in time for the 4th of July hordes. May spike to unfishable levels due to rain. If it’s greenish with a foot of visibility, it’s worth a shot with stonefly nymphs and big, dark streamers. Dirtier than that, don’t bother.

Paradise Valley Spring Creek Fishing Report – Updated June 21

PMD hatches are now underway and as such getting a reservation on the creeks will be difficult to impossible. Late June and early July are prime time on these creeks, and many dates for next year are already booked solid.

Private Lake Fishing Report – Updated June 21

Story Ranch Lakes are getting warm and weedy. They will be best on calm mornings. Burns Lake stays good for a few more weeks. Damselfly hatches on Burns are the top draw right now.

Boulder River Fishing Report – Updated June 28

Dropped into shape early last week before spiking back over 2000cfs again, the level at which floating goes from “fast and crazy” to “really a bit too high and somewhat dangerous.” Should drop back below 2000 around mid-week and then be a very good float option for 2-3 weeks before dropping low enough it turns into a walk-wade only river for the rest of the season. For now, think Salmonflies and Golden Stoneflies, mostly subsurface rather than on top. Some caddis hatches are also possible.

Gallatin River (in Montana) Fishing Report – Updated June 21

Dropping into good shape. The best fishing will be in the canyon downstream of Big Sky. Fish stonefly and attractor nymphs.

Lower Madison River Fishing Report – Updated June 28

Fished well on guided trips last Tuesday. Some fish were eating crayfish and soft hackle trailers deep, but the numbers AND the best fish landed all came on attractor dry-dropper combos matching the mixed caddis and Yellow Sally stonefly hatches that were occurring. Cool and wet this week should discourage the “inner tube and bikini hatch” that takes away from fishing here. The water will be too warm after lunch no later than the end of the week. We were expecting it to get too warm already, but cool and wet weather has helped hold the lower Maddy below the cut-off 70 degree water temps. The water IS in the high-60s, so the fish will be in the faster, well-oxygenated water.

Stillwater River Fishing Report – Updated June 28

Similar to the Boulder, but will be a good float option until late August.

Other Montana Waters

The lower Jefferson ought to produce a few toads–but not many fish overall–this week before warming up too much after July 4.

Yellowstone Park Fisheries

Upper Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated November 3

Closed until July 15, 2020

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated June 28

Still high, fast, and cold, but producing tight to the rocks and in the big eddies on stonefly nymphs and streamers whenever it is clear. Rain this week may muddy it for a day or two depending on how hard and where it rains.

Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated June 28

Will be higher and dirtier than the Grand Canyon, but provided it has 18″ of visibility, will produce on big nymphs and streamers. This is physically brutal fishing due to the high water, but anglers fit enough and experienced enough to manage can do quite well. Expect Salmonflies here between July 4 and July 10, progressing upstream and peaking near Hellroaring Creek around or just after July 15.

Gardner River Fishing Report – Updated June 28

Below the High Bridge east of Mammoth, this is now our favorite wade fishing spot for experienced/fit anglers. It’s physically brutal fishing since the water is still high and the fish are tight to the banks, which makes it dangerous or at least a terrible bet for kids and anyone who isn’t in good shape. Fish stonefly and large attractor nymphs anywhere it’s slow, often with no more than your leader outside your rod guides. Many or most fish will be in the first water deeper than 12″ away from the shore, even if this is right next to the bank. Few spots in the middle of the river are slow enough right now. Salmonflies have started right around Boiling River due to the warm water influx, but will intensify this week. Expect short shots of muddy water due to thunderstorms this week.

Lamar River, Slough Creek, Soda Butte Creek Fishing Report – Updated June 28

Still too high and cold. Slough and rough sections of the Lamar will begin getting good with the next warmup, once the water clears from the rain. Meadow stretches will fish much better after July 10.

Note that cutthroats spawn in side channels here until at least mid-July. DO NOT target large groups of fish you see in shallow, slow channels before this time. It is totally unethical and bad for the fish populations. Fish water that’s deeper than 3-4 feet and lacks apparent gravel on the bottom instead.

Firehole River Fishing Report – Updated June 28

Cracked 70 degrees every day in the past week, but it MIGHT get cool enough to stay below that threshold this week, particularly above Midway Geyser Basin. Swing soft hackles and look for White Miller Caddis before lunchtime, then go elsewhere. In addition to warm water, the rangers have been EXTREMELY aggressive in enforcing the “no walking in geyser basins” rule and are forbidding anglers from walking anywhere but in the river anywhere geyser deposits or small hot springs are present, which is often impossible due to deep or fast water. In effect, this has severely reduced access to large portions of the river, including many famous stretches we have been guiding since the 1950s where there are long-established angler trails that detour wide around the hot springs. As a result, other sections of river have been overcrowded, with 2-3 anglers in spots big enough for one. We’re done fishing here this year. Maybe forever?

Gibbon River Fishing Report – Updated June 28

The canyon section started to get shaky over the past week, probably due to increasing pressure (maybe refugee anglers pushed away from the Firehole?). If you can find a section of rough water that isn’t being fished and hasn’t been fished for a day or so, you can do well on attractor dry-dropper combos. The new Fuzz Bastard Prince in #16 (in our custom flies case) has been our most productive bug. The Gibbon Canyon will likely be best in the mornings. Meadow sections upstream may produce Drake hatches around midday.

Madison River in YNP Fishing Report – Updated June 21

A better bet than the Firehole for experienced anglers. Look for caddis and PMD hatches, or swing soft hackles. Stick to the water from Madison Junction down to the upstream (east) end of Riverside Drive.

Gallatin River in YNP Fishing Report – Updated June 14

High and cold but clear. Will produce a few fish on nymphs in the afternoons this week, but the better early times water on the Gallatin is actually down in Montana.

Other Waters in YNP Fishing Report – Updated June 21

Cascade Lake is an excellent choice for hikers looking for grayling. Yellowstone Lake has been fishing decent on leeches and streamers, though the lake trout bite is on the wane. Many small streams in the upper Gardner River drainage are now falling into good shape. These all produce hand-sized brook trout at best, but they’re good bets for beginners and kids because of it. Be bear-aware in these areas, and there have also been moose near the Moose Exhibit (fancy that).