Montana and Yellowstone Park Fishing Report

Montana and Yellowstone Park Fishing Report

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 September 9, 2019

Recent cool and wet weather has resulted in all area fisheries turning the corner into fall. Most places, fall hatches (mayflies except on the Firehole) are the main draws, with some terrestrials (hoppers, ants, beetles, and bees), slender mayfly nymphs, midge pupae, and in some areas streamers rounding out the flies you ought to have. Areas which see fall-run brown trout are now worth a shot, particularly early in the mornings and late in the afternoon after the light’s off the water. Expect to nymph for these fish.

The rain has made and will continue to make some area streams muddy. We can give our best guess which are dirty based on online streamflow graphs (check the link on our blog/website), but sometimes we’re fooled too. It’s best to have a backup plan in case your preferred water is unexpectedly muddy or blows out on you.

Waters outside YNP are generally uncrowded now. Roadside waters inside the park, particularly Soda Butte Creek, are typically more crowded than at any other point in the season from now until about September 20 or whenever the first snow hits plateau level, whichever comes second.

Top Fisheries in MT: Yellowstone River from Gardiner to Carbella and from Mallard’s Rest down to Columbus. The middle of Paradise Valley is hit or miss this time of year.

Top Fisheries in YNP: Yellowstone River, Grand and Black Canyons, Gardner River, Madison River near the west entrance.

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

Yellowstone Park Fisheries

Upper Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Now very few fish present. Most have moved back to the lake. Expect to fish streamers and cover lots of water for not many strikes, though you might find a fish or two rising to BWO or Green or Tan Drakes. If so, change flies until you catch him.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Fall is streamer time here. Fish a big bugger trailing a little one. Keep an eye out for BWO or Tan Drake hatches in the afternoons. On sunny days, there may still be fish willing to eat hoppers, small black crickets, and Mormon crickets (not the same as a regular cricket). If absolutely nothing is going on, nymph the deep, narrow, moderate current slots.

Note that as of this writing, there is no access to the river via the Tower Falls trail. You can bushwhack from the SE side of the parking lot, but this ain’t easy…

Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Generally the same as the Grand Canyon but more likely to be muddy with slop from the Lamar. Close to Gardiner will see better terrestrial fishing, close to the Lamar better streamer fishing.

Gardner River Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Fishing well from the lower end of Sheepeater Canyon (upstream from the “high bridge” near Mammoth) down to the Yellowstone. Euro-style nymphing is the best tactic now for numbers, though BWO and Tan Drakes are possible above Boiling River. Some hopper/dropper action is still possible, but it’s fading. By all means bobber-nymph the deep holes, too. If nymphing (no matter the technique), use a Girdle Bug or similar large rubberleg nymph with either a modest-sized attractor nymph like a Hare & Copper or a slender, flashy mayfly on the dropper.

The upper Gardner from Osprey Falls up is now slow and will stay that way til next July.

Lamar River Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Very crowded near the road, but a 500-yard walk will shed most people, as will fishing in the canyon stretch. The main draw is BWO, Flav, or Tan or Green Drake (gray-olive in color) hatches in the afternoons. If no mayfly hatch, you might find fish rising lazily to Tricos or midges. If no hatch at all, nymph with slender, heavy mayflies with midge droppers. Warm days may find a few fish willing to eat hoppers, ants, beetles, and bees, but these bites are fading.

Slough Creek Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Very crowded in the Lower Meadow near the road, less so everywhere else. Same flies as the Lamar, with a greater reliance of small, technical stuff in the flat water. The rough stuff should still produce on hopper/dropper rigs.

Soda Butte Creek Fishing Report – Updated September 9

The Junction Meadow and Round Prairie are generally the most crowded waters within 500 miles this time of year. It is often impossible to find even a single pool for yourself except when the weather is ugly. If the weather is cold/gray, expect mayfly hatches mentioned above for the Lamar. If no hatch, nymph using the same slender mayfly/midge combo noted above.

Firehole River Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Turning back on in a big way due to the cold weather. Swing soft hackles in the riffles, nymph the deep slots with slender mayflies, and keep an eye out for BWO (tiny) or White Miller caddis hatches. The worse the weather, the better the fishing here, and it never gets muddy. You can also fish bigger nymphs in the canyon below the falls for early fall-run browns.

Gibbon River Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Closed in the headwaters for the westslope cutthroat and grayling reintroduction project. Below the falls, fish attractor dry/dropper combos for a shot at numbers or nymph with a stonefly and attractor nymph for a shot at an early brown.

Madison River in YNP Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Now is a good time, especially with the recent rain. Fish the famous runs near the West Entrance with a big nymph with a small one trailing it, or swap the small nymph for a San Juan Worm or egg pattern. Follow the etiquette: start at the top of a run and work your way downstream through it, taking a step after every cast. This is the only way these famous runs noted for their big fall-run browns are fishable by the masses.

Gallatin River in YNP Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Probably fishing comparably to the Lamar, but a long way from here. Check with West Yellowstone and Big Sky shops.

Other Waters in YNP Fishing Report – Updated September 9

The Lewis River below the falls may be getting interesting now, along with the Snake just up from the South Entrance.

Small streams generally get too cold to fish well now.

Montana Fisheries

Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated September 9


A bit tougher than it was a few weeks ago. The fish are still eating hoppers in the afternoons if it’s nice, but this bite is fading. The better bet now is mixed hatches of BWO, Mahoganies, Western Cahills (#16 PMD is close enough), and Tan Drakes, with the BWO and Drakes most important. These hatches are usually best from late morning through mid-afternoon. You can usually fish a large rusty tan dry (Brindle Chute) with a #16-18 purple or copper cripple, rather than matching the insects precisely.

In the mornings, fish streamers and look for an occasional fish in a backwater rising to Tricos or midges. From lower Paradise Valley down, it makes sense to bobber-nymph with slender, flashy mayflies. Near Gardiner, this tactic is likely to produce only whitefish.

The best fishing will be in the first 17 miles down from Gardiner OR from Pine Creek down to Big Timber. The former will produce more fish. The latter, the shot at huge ones.

Paradise Valley Spring Creek Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Should get better through the fall. For now, look for tiny cream Baetis and midge hatches, or nymph the deep slots with tiny mayflies and midge pupae.

Yellowstone Valley Private Lakes Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Improving every day. For now, Burns is the best bet. Some Callibaetis hatches are possible, but various modest-sized stillwater nymphs are a better bet. The leech bite should improve every day, too, while the limited hopper/ant bite on the lakes will fade through the month.

Boulder River Fishing Report – Updated September 9

No recent reports.

Stillwater River Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Getting too low to float even down low, but if you wade it, look for the same type of fishing as mentioned for the Yellowstone.

Upper Madison River Fishing Report – Updated July 22

Supposedly good, but too far away with good fishing out our door.

Lower Madison River Fishing Report – Updated September 9

Improving fast with the cooldown. Fish the slots and buckets below weed beds with mayfly nymphs, while keeping an eye out for BWO hatches.