Report Updated May 29
This fishing report is valid from late May through mid-June, when some waters across the north end of Yellowstone Park will begin leaving the spring snowmelt.
Yellowstone Park Waters
The Yellowstone Park season opened at dawn today. Most rivers in the park are still in runoff, while many lakes are still either iced-over (Lewis) or are difficult or impossible to access due to snowy or swampy trails.
As always on the opener, the Firehole, Madison, and Gibbon Rivers are the best choices due to the geyser runoff that warms and clears their water, as well as the fact this basin drains lower mountains than rivers elsewhere in the park, so there’s less remaining melting snow.
The Firehole from Biscuit Basin down to a bit below Nez Perce Creek will be the most consistent and crowded water in the park. Look for olive (Mother’s Day) caddis, blond White Miller Caddis, BWO on cloudy days, and PMD. Hatches will be most prominent in afternoon and evening for right now, but perhaps as early as June 10 they’ll either be better in the mornings or possibly split morning and evening, with mid-afternoon very poor. Salmonfly and golden stoneflies are possible in the Firehole Canyon below Firehole Falls. If you’re seeing a few splashy rises but not fishable numbers of surface-feeders, swing Glasshead Pheasant Tail, While Miller, Nick’s, or more traditional soft hackles and wet flies in sizes 12-16 in the riffles and at the heads of pools. This is the most effective tactic on the Firehole. If you’re not seeing any risers, consider replacing one of your brace of soft hackles with a heavy but small streamer or beadhead Prince nymph. If you’re really struggling, nymph the deep geyser rock ledges with a jig-style nymph and an unweighted soft hackle.
The Madison will be slower to turn on than the Firehole, but can turn out bigger fish. Streamers will be best here for a week or so, after which PMD and caddis hatches as well as Salmonflies in the rougher water will take over.
The Gibbon will be too cold above Norris Geyser Basin and perhaps too high and murky down to the top of the Gibbon Canyon below Gibbon Meadows. If you do fish Elk Park or Gibbon Meadows, throw Woolly Buggers. In the Gibbon Canyon, fish small streamers in the larger runs, indicator nymph with a small stonefly (20-Incher) with a Prince or similar on a dropper, or fish a large (#8-12) downwing attractor dry like a small Chubby Chernobyl or our Synth Double Wing with a #14-16 beadhead underneath. The dry-dropper fishing will improve in a week or so. Larger fish are possible below Gibbon Falls. Upstream of the falls, a 12-incher is a big one and most will be hand-size.
Yellowstone Lake is fishable with streamers. Trout Lake will fish with small beadheads and leeches. 3-5 fish from either lake is a very good day. Joffee and the Swan Lake Flat Sloughs will turn out hand-size brookies on small soft hackles, flashy beadheads, and leeches. Blacktail Pond is closed until July 1. Most other lakes like Cascade and Grebe will fish well when they’re easier to access in about 10 days. Fish leeches, small soft hackles, chironomid pupae, and flashy little beadheads.
Based on current weather forecasts, it’s unlike the Gardner or Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone will produce for a couple weeks. Slough, the Lamar, and Soda Butte are more like a month out.
Our next Yellowstone Park fishing report will come out around June 15, when we expect conditions to begin shifting towards summer fisheries further north.
Montana waters are in the midst of the spring runoff, and driving will be required to find clear and fishable water.
Our closest public water than can be good now is at Dailey Lake. Spin fishers honestly usually do better, but fly anglers can do okay on recently stocked trout and perch with leeches and chironomids. Sometimes you’ll get eaten by an occasional BIG trout stocked several years ago, too.
The Lower Madison River is our closest float river that is always fishable. Caddis pupae, BWO nymphs and dries, Yellow Sallies, Crayfish, and San Juan Worms can all work here. This is a crowded river this time of year since most days it’s the only float water within 90 minutes of Bozeman that’s clear.
Area Private Ranch Lakes are probably our top bets, but require additional rod fees of $80-100 to access. Small leeches and chironomids are top bets, but Callibaetis hatches are also occurring. We got some big fish on a recent check run to the Sitz Ranch Lakes: four fish over 20 inches and an average around 18. Too bad these lakes are 2.5hr from Gardiner… The Story Ranch Lakes are much closer, about 40 minutes including slow driving on 4WD ranch roads, and Burns Lake is about 90 minutes away.