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 July 31, 2020

It’s hot! This hot weather is the main factor impacting local fisheries right now, for good and ill. The good: terrestrial (grasshopper) activity is high and the fish are on them. The bad: uncomfortable weather for anglers and trout alike. Most low-elevation streams are borderline too warm from late afternoon through evening (our warmest water temps occur in late afternoon). There are few LEGAL late afternoon closures in the region, but you should still plan to avoid most large, low-elevation streams as well as those with geyser inputs after about 4:00PM except on the rare cooler, cloudy days. If water temperatures are touching 70 degrees, most common on the lower Yellowstone east of Livingston as well as geyser-influenced rivers, quit by 2:00.

Still want to fish in late afternoon? Stick to small mountain creeks, either those at high elevations (in YNP) or those outside the park that flow fast through shady canyons or valleys.

Top Fisheries in MT: Yellowstone River, Stillwater River, small mountain creeks.

Top Fisheries in YNP: Yellowstone River, Gardner River (above Boiling River), small creeks.

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 July 31

Fishing very well in rougher, deeper, faster, cooler sections. Tougher in flatter, valley sections, especially those east of Livingston where water temperatures have been reaching 70+ degrees almost daily. We have been concentrating our guide service in the 30-odd miles of river immediately north of Gardiner where the water is coolest. Small to medium-sized grasshoppers are the bread and butter now, but the fish are also eating ants, small mayfly-style attractors, and on cloudy afternoons (when the best fishing is happening) on tan caddis. This will be the name of the game for dry flies until the first cold, wet spell, likely in a few weeks. With beginners or on the flat sections further downstream, fishing a “drift & drag” sculpin under an indicator with a nymph dropper is the way to go.

Paradise Valley Spring Creek Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Now entering the late summer doldrums. Waning PMD hatches or the occasional Sulphur (Cream Baetis) hatch will get the fish most excited. Otherwise, nymph the structured water or cover lots of water using ants and tiny hoppers.

Private Lake Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Much too warm. Check back after Labor Day.

Boulder River Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Too low to float now, but the wade-fishing has been good. The Boulder is low and glass-clear now, so the fish will be somewhat spooky, particularly in the low-elevation water downstream of Natural Bridge Falls. Fish small hopper-dropper combos. The East and West Boulder are also good bets now.

Gallatin River (in Montana) Fishing Report – Updated June 31

Still good and cold above Gallatin Gateway. Fish hoppers and spruce moths in the canyon if you can dodge the whitewater rafters. The lower river is too warm.

Lower Madison River Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Unless your goal is checking out drunk college girls tubing down the river, the Lower Madison is arguably the worst place you could fish right now. Way too warm and way too low, with mandatory 2:00 “Hoot Owl” closures. We won’t fish here again until April.

Stillwater River Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Great choice right now for wading upstream of Absarokee. Great choice for floating from Absarokee down to the Yellowstone. The only X-factor is water temps. The Stillwater is shallow and fast, so the temps yo-yo hugely over the course of the day. On the lower river they’re currently running from 58 to almost 70 degrees. When they’re pushing 70, it’s time to cut the flies off and just enjoy the float. When they’re a bit cooler, fish hopper-dropper combos.

Other Waters in Montana Fishing Report – Updated June 31

This is an excellent time to check out steeper tributaries of the Yellowstone, Boulder, Gallatin, and Madison up in the National Forest. Most of these tributaries are both private AND dewatered in their lower reaches, but many hold a lot of water and a lot of trout up in the forest. Many can be accessed via gravel road, but the best require some combination of hiking and/or scrambling through steep and rugged terrain. The gentle roadside water gets fished pretty hard by locals.

This is also prime time for “Golden Bonefish” aka carp up on the Missouri River near Toston, MT. This is sight-fishing for 4-12lb fish in shallow water, so it’s not for rookies. Small Clouser minnows and crayfish are best. Fish 3X fluoro tippets and expect the first run to be 75-150 feet in length, so check your backing knots before you go.

Yellowstone Park Fisheries

Upper Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Fishing better than it has in 25 years, by all accounts. We haven’t been up there ourselves due to a busy guiding schedule. It sounds like advanced anglers can now expect to catch 10 or so fish in a day, which is many more than could be hoped-for ten or twelve years ago when cutthroat numbers were lowest. This is still not a beginner-novice-intermediate fishery. Swing streamers or match PMD, caddis, Green Drake, or Yellow Sally hatches.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Tough access since Tower Falls is unavailable. Otherwise, this is a good choice now. Fish big hopper-dropper combos or strip double-streamer combinations. Evening caddis are still a possibility for another couple weeks, when they’ll be replaced by the suite of fall mayflies.

Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Fishing well all day near the Lamar confluence, getting a bit warm on the hottest, brightest afternoons close to Gardiner. Up top, use the same tactics as suggested for the Grand Canyon. Down low, fish smaller hoppers and attractor dries and keep an eye on the thermometer. If temps are pushing 70, it’s time to quit.

Gardner River Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Fishing well in the headwaters for small brook trout. Use dry-dropper combos. From Osprey Falls down to the bottom of Sheepeater Canyon near Mammoth, fish hopper-dropper combos. This is another good all-day choice. From the “High Bridge” area down to Boiling River, the river sees somewhat heavy pressure and Euro-nymphing techniques will be most effective, though you might find fish willing to eat hoppers. Downstream of Boiling River, use similar tactics but stick to morning fishing since the water is now hitting 70 daily.

Lamar River Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Muddy some days due to thunderstorms. When clear, fishing fair to good mid-late morning on scattered PMD, Green Drake, and Flav (Little Green Drake) hatches. Absent a hatch or before or after they occur, fish ants, small or oddball hoppers, or small, slender, flashy nymphs like our Euroflash or Gussied Lightning Bug. The canyon section will produce with larger hopper-dropper combos. Near the road, the meadow will be crowded.

Slough Creek Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Crowded near the road and in the First Meadow. May produce the same hatches as the Lamar, but small ants are typically the late summer bread & butter flies here. Sight-fishing is the best tactic. The rough water sections will produce with small hopper-dropper combos but mostly lack the large fish of the meadows.

Soda Butte Creek Fishing Report – Updated July 31

The most crowded water in the region. Sometimes it is impossible to even have 50 yards to yourself here, and park regulations suggest staying out of sight of other anglers when possible. If you can get over the overcrowding and the tired scarred fish that result, fishing well using the same tactics as the Lamar. The wooded sections are less crowded, but also not as productive.

Firehole, Upper Madison, and Gibbon River Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Firehole headwaters to the Old Faithful closure area will fish okay for small trout. The Gibbon from Wolf Lake down to Virginia Cascades is now home to modest numbers of westslope cutthroat and grayling. It will fish fine for these fish provided you don’t expect the massive numbers of small trout this water used to host. Fish small attractor dry/dropper or hopper/dropper combos on both stretches. Otherwise, this water is fed by geyser runoff and it’s far too warm right now.

Gallatin River in YNP Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Fishing well but a long way to go. Some midday mayfly hatches or evening caddis hatches are possible, but the big draw here is the daytime hopper and spruce moth fishing.

Other Waters in YNP Fishing Report – Updated June 31

Now is a great time to strap on a light pack to check out small streams. Rough tributaries of the Yellowstone and Lamar are top choices, especially those that require a 2-4 mile hike to access. These will often hold larger fish than you might expect, but they are physical to fish. Gardner tributaries are home only to tiny brook trout and so are good bets for families, kids, and beginners.