Montana and Yellowstone Park Fishing Report

Montana and Yellowstone Park Fishing Report

This Montana fishing report is valid from May 2 until the first extended bout of 70+ weather brings down the heavy spring melt. Given current outlooks, this might be a LOOONNNNGGGGG way off, which is a good thing.

Fishing has been good in the right places lately whenever cold/snow/wind have relented and made fishing possible. We actually had warmer and drier weather in March than we did in April. We won’t complain about the cold and snow, though. We need both to prevent low water this summer. In general, most fishing has been from late morning through about 5:00PM (the warmest part of the day). Nymphs and streamers have been much better than dry fly fishing. Exceptions to these two points will occur as soon as we get an extended run of 50s-60s that prompts the water temps to consistently exceed the 50-degree mark, which will prompt more aggressive fish and good hatches. Hatches have been in pretty short supply so far this spring due to the cold/wet weather.

The Yellowstone River has been inconsistent for the past couple weeks, basically because we’ve had winter fishing conditions despite the calendar. On colder/wetter days when water temps are in the 40s, fish stonefly nymphs trailing #14-18 nymphs suggestive of Mother’s Day Caddis larvae/pupae and BWO nymphs, or throw streamers fished on a slow retrieve. On warmer days, look for fish rising. The first extended run of 50-53 degree water will bring out the Mother’s Day Caddis. Some days see muddy water due to snowmelt and low-elevation rain, but until there’s an extended run of 70+ degree weather, you can usually find clear water in the right “tiger stripe.” The water will remain clear upstream of the Shields River east of Livingston much longer than downstream. Right now, we anticipate the heavy spring melt will not begin before mid-May, a week or more late. Hooray! We expect a heavy and fishable Mother’s Day Caddis hatch this year. Right now, the best hatch will probably occur from the 10th until the river blows out.

The Boulder and Stillwater Rivers can produce on nymphs in the larger pools in the afternoons, but are still very, very cold. They get better in early May and hold on longer than the Yellowstone before entering runoff. They may be fishable as late as June 1 before the heavy melt hits.

The Lower Madison River will produce on crayfish and BWO nymphs as well as San Juan Worms, but will be a much more enticing destination around mid-May when it fishes great but the Yellowstone blows out from snowmelt.

The Paradise Valley Spring Creeks may still produce some BWO hatches, but will slow down sharply once extended warm weather hits and reduces these hatches. Sometime in early May through mid-June is something of a dead spot on the creeks, when midges, streamers, and occasional sparse BWO hatches are all that occur to interest the fish. Mid-June is when PMD hatches begin and really get the fish interested.

Private Lakes are on hold due to the cold weather. If you fish them, fish large leeches and San Juan Worms either on a slow sinking line or twitched under indicators. Note that access ranch roads may be very messy due to rain and snowmelt and require high-clearance vehicles with knobby tires and 4WD. Our first lake trips will probably not take place until the Yellowstone blows out around mid-May, or possibly even later.

The Missouri River is fishing well on swung streamers, nymphs imitating sowbugs, scuds, eggs, and BWO, as well as combos of the above. If fishing “Land of Giants” stick to “eggy” flies or even egg patterns. If fishing below Holter Dam, more techniques will work and some dry fly fishing is possible.

Montana Public Lakes usually fish very well by now, but the cold, wet, windy weather has kept us from checking them out. Look for false-spawning stocked trout on windswept rocky areas on all lakes, especially where the stocking trucks dumped them (near boat ramps, usually). Lakes with natural inflow will probably have good numbers of trout as well, some stocked and some wild. Fish streamers, leeches, and chironomid pupae. Hatches will improve on some lakes in late May and early June. We are getting a new-to-us power boat sometime this spring and hope to have it modified in time to do some lake fishing in June, though we won’t be offering guided trips with it this season.

Yellowstone Park opens for the season May 28. We expect the Firehole, Gibbon, Madison, and possibly the Gardner and Grand Canyon stretch of the Yellowstone to be clear enough to fish.

Look for our next Montana fishing report when the spring runoff starts on the Yellowstone River.