Montana and Yellowstone Park Fishing Report

Montana and Yellowstone Park Fishing Report

Valid August 15 through the end of August

This Montana fishing report is valid from August 15 through late August. Our next fishing report will come out around September 1 unless the weather/water conditions change drastically.

Extreme heat and drought is hurting area fisheries in Montana and YNP badly and is limiting fishing opportunities. Based on the weather forecast, some improvement is likely in temperature but not in flow over the next week. Both Yellowstone Park and Montana have instituted 2:00PM angling closures on all or most major streams. In Yellowstone, all flowing waters close at 2:00. Lakes remain open from sunrise to sunset. In our part of Montana, all major rivers except the upper Gallatin close at 2:00. Most small streams, especially those in the mountains, as well as the upper (wade-only) portion of the Stillwater River remain open all day.

Overall, fishing quality is at a 1-2 out of 10.

Due to the heat and low water, we suggest fishing before 3:00PM on all waters and before 2:00PM on all waters flirting with 70 degree temperatures, not just those with statutory closures.

The fishing has generally been terrible except on high-elevation fisheries in YNP and in the mornings on the Stillwater River. Unfortunately, the Stillwater is now basically too low to float. This cuts off the most popular way to fish this river.

The “best” fisheries include the following right now:

  • Yellowstone River in Montana from Brogan’s Landing to Carbella: This is the Yankee Jim Canyon float. The heavy turbulence and reduced traffic in the canyon compared to other sections is keeping the fish somewhat more active.
  • Stillwater River. Be sure to quit before 2:00 downstream of Absarokee Access. The Stillwater is yo-yoing from 60 to 70 degrees during the day, with 4:00-7:00PM seeing the highest water temps. Before 2:00 is okay everywhere. Floating will be difficult to impossible depending on the size of your raft and its passengers, so wading away from the popular access points will bring the best fishing. It’s a shame this river is over 2hr from Gardiner…
  • Mountain Creeks in Montana. Once you get above irrigation diversions that suck most streams dry, mountain creeks are cold, albeit low. These are really the only fisheries we suggest hitting in the afternoons, and even they will be best noon to 2:00.
  • Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek: While low, Soda Butte and the Lamar have enough structure to still fish, though the Lamar is still a bit off-color from torrential rains 10 days ago (2″ of rain in an hour). Crowds have not been as high as they often are over the past week, likely to the word being out that the fishing is at best hit or miss in the region right now.
  • Yellowstone River in the Grand Canyon and Upper Black Canyon in YNP. Hopper fishing is underway in these areas and the Grand Canyon and upper end of the Black Canyon are the only sections of the Yellowstone that aren’t flirting with 70 degrees in late afternoon. They’re still hitting 68, though.


Montana Fisheries

The Yellowstone River has been grim lately. This will improve with the substantial cooldown forecast for later in the week. Some hopper and small attractor dry fishing is occurring, but deep nymphing with slender “Euro-style” flies has generally been more productive. Perdigons and Frenchies have been best for us. Lots of whitefish and some good browns are eating these flies.

Mountain Creeks like Mill, Bear, and Big are good choices if you can handle the rough terrain and wading. Find deep water that hasn’t been fished and you will find the trout. Fish attractor dry-dropper combos and expect most fish to take the nymph.

The Stillwater River is a very long way from Gardiner but has been fishing well on hopper-dropper combos. The fishing will actually get better as the water continues to drop, since fewer and fewer rafts will get on it. You will have to hike away from the easy accesses, though. Mayfly hatches should intensify over the next week as the water cools with the forecast cold front for midweek. Also check out the forks of tributary Rosebud Creek. Bear in mind this water is all 150 miles from here (lots closer to Livingston).

Yellowstone Park Fisheries

Yellowstone Park fishing is a 1.5 out of 10. This is due not only to poor water conditions but also extreme crowds. Some areas that seldom saw more than 1-2 parties per day as recently as two years ago are now seeing 6-7 guides at a time. The overall angler crowds do seem to have declined some over the past week, which is good.

The Firehole River is hitting EIGHTY-FIVE degrees Fahrenheit and should not be fished below the Old Faithful closure zone again until fall. In fact, we may not fish here again this year AT ALL to give the weary fish that survive this summer’s record heat a break.

The Madison River is also too warm.

The Gibbon River is too warm from Norris Geyser Basin down. In the headwaters near Grebe Lake, fish attractor dry/dropper combos. This is remote woodland fishing. Find the deepest spots to find the fish.

The Gardner River is too warm downstream of Boiling River, even in the mornings. From Osprey Falls to Boiling River, fish attractor dry/dropper combos or high-stick nymph in the pocket water. The best fishing will be as far as you care to get from the road. Pressure has been extreme in the easier-access areas. Hopper-dropper will be the main tactic, though you might try indicator or Euro-nymphing too. The upper river above Osprey Falls has been hit or miss. The best fishing will be in the fastest sections, such as below Sheepeater Cascade in the remote upper Sheepeater Canyon. The meadow areas near Indian Creek Campground have been poor for a month.

The Yellowstone River is okay for in the lower Grand Canyon near Tower Junction and in the Black Canyon from the Lamar to Gardiner. The water within a mile of a road access has not been fishing well due to pressure. Hoppers trailing compact, heavy, midsize attractor nymphs will be the main show. BWO and Drake Mackeral hatches are possible at the end of this week if the forecast cold weather arrives. Streamers are always good choices if the trout aren’t eating dries. Sometimes we even fish small Woolly Buggers on droppers under large hoppers. The Lake to Falls section of the river opened July 15. While unsuited to beginners, this “spot and stalk” fishery can turn out reasonable numbers of 14-20″ trout and an occasional monster. Reports have been hit or miss, with some anglers reporting a lot more trout than in the past 15-20 years (the population was decimated by lake trout and is recovering), while others report lower numbers. Odds are the fish are hustling back to Yellowstone Lake where they spend the winters in a hurry, due to the extremely low flows and relatively warm water.

The Lamar River, Slough Creek, and Soda Butte Creek are now at record-low flows. Slough in particular is more lake-like than stream-like in many areas, with slow trickles between stagnant pools. The Lamar and Soda Butte are very low but in better shape. Crowds were very heavy until about a week ago but seem to have mellowed slightly on Soda Butte. The Lamar has been off-color for more than a week due to an intense rainstorm in early August that briefly quadrupled the flow. Terrestrials and nymphing have been the main attractions, but some limited mayfly and Midnight Stone hatches have also occurred. Expect heavier mayfly hatches late this week if the cool/wet weather materializes.

Most Lakes are now too warm for good fishing. Cascade and Grebe Lake in the central part of the park are the major exceptions. Look for damsel or Callibaetis hatches at midmorning before the wind comes up. Small leeches and flashy soft hackles and nymphs will work otherwise. The windier it gets, the worse the fishing. By midafternoon, wind mixing in warm air with the surface water will push the fish deep and shut off the fishing.

Widespread fish kills have been reported in brook trout creeks. We suggest avoiding them.

Our next Yellowstone Park fishing report will come out in late August unless the closures are lifted before then, which we think is unlikely due to the low flows, even though water temps will cool (improve) over the next week.