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

Hot weather, low water, and high water temperatures. Ugh. We’ve had all of the above for about the month, and we’re in for another week or so of it before long-range outlooks call for temperatures to fall to normal and then possibly below normal, with some chance of weather. The good news is that the nights are getting longer, so even on those 90+ degree days, water temps through most of our operations area are now under the 70-degree danger mark even in late afternoon. You’ll have to get 35+ miles east of Livingston on the Yellowstone to see temps flirt with 70 now.

Fishing has been best around midday on most waters: after the hoppers start hopping, but before the water gets too warm. Cloudy days are seeing good fishing all day, since they pump up hatches in the morning and also keep temps down after 2:00 or so. Hatches are limited until it cools off. On most waters, look for scattered emergences of Tricos, Epeorus, midges, and “this and that,” best matched by mayfly-style attractor dries like our Hazy Cripple or red Missing Links. Hoppers have been all over the map. Some days they want dark colors, some days pale/bright. Some days the #14 Bob is the ticket, while other days they want the big #10. All in all, probably the two most consistent colors of late have been cream and brown/pink, with peach a strong third. Ants are also a good choice, especially out in the (crowded) Lamar System. Nymphing deep holes is also a good choice. Use slender fast-sinking bugs to get down quick.

Beginner walk-wade waters are falling off fast now, as are most small creeks. Stick to big, turbulent water for the most consistent fishing.

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 August 21

Fishing well, particularly on afternoons with some clouds. Some days they’re eating hoppers all day, while others you should expect sparse rises to small attractors and perhaps ants until 11:30 or so. The best fishing has been in the 20 miles downstream of Gardiner and before about 3:00 east of Livingston. The middle of Paradise Valley is usually tough when it’s bright and sunny, since the water is now low. If we get a cool, drizzly day, look for BWO hatches to start.

Paradise Valley Spring Creek Fishing Report – Updated August 21

Late August and September are probably the single hardest period on the creeks. Some terrestrial action is possible. Otherwise, scattered and sparse midge and tiny mayfly hatches are your only hope for surface activity. If the fish aren’t looking up, sight-nymph with tiny midge and mayfly nymphs or fish the choppiest, deepest riffles if you want to blind fish.

Private Lake Fishing Report – Updated July 31

Much too warm. Check back after Labor Day.

Boulder River Fishing Report – Updated August 21

Very low and getting warm after 2:00 because of it downstream of Natural Bridge. Best bet is to hike the tributary West Boulder or fish the mainstem way up high in the Forest.

Gallatin River (in Montana) Fishing Report – Updated August 21

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. After a good cold snap expect the lower to turn back on.

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 August 21

Great choice right now for wading upstream of Absarokee. Great choice for floating from the Rosebud confluence down to the Yellowstone. Water temps are now staying below 70 except perhaps at the very bottom of the river. Even down low, they’re below 70 until probably 4:00, so you can get in a full day of fishing before the water gets too warm for ethical fishing. Fish hopper-dropper combos. Floating is now limited to Jeffrey’s Landing Access down to the Yellowstone unless substantial rains occur.

Other Waters in Montana Fishing Report – Updated August 21

This is the best period to chase carp on the upper Missouri River between Three Forks and Townsend, MT. This is all sight-fishing for fish averaging 6-10lbs. Sure they’re ugly, but they are challenging to catch, fight hard, eat well when it’s hot out, and there won’t be many other people doing it. Fish Clouser-type flies unless you see pods of rising fish in eddies.

Yellowstone Park Fisheries

Upper Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated August 21

Fishing is slowing down now since most fish have moved back to Yellowstone Lake. Your best bet through September will be to swing streamers and cover lots of water. If you find a rising trout, change flies repeatedly until it eats or spooks.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated August 21

Tough access since Tower Falls is unavailable. Otherwise, this is a good choice now. Fish big hopper-dropper combos or strip double-streamer combinations. Scattered mayfly hatches may occur around midday, but they’ll be sparse until it cools off. After that, there can be excellent BWO and solid Tan Drake hatches here. If all else fails, nymph the deep, turbulent slots.

Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated August 21

Generally similar to the Grand Canyon stretch near the Lamar Confluence. The further downstream you get, the more likely it is that small mayfly-type attractors will work in addition to the hoppers, while the streamer bite slacks off.

Gardner River Fishing Report – Updated August 21

Slowing down fast in the headwaters as the brook trout scatter for the fall spawn. We are starting to shy away from taking people above Sheepeater Picnic Area, and even down there the fishing is getting tougher. The High Bridge area near Mammoth is the best bet, though it gets hit hard by lots of guides daily. Fish hopper-dropper combos or Euro-nymph the turbulent pockets. Most fish are small. Some aren’t… Below Boiling River is too warm right now but will turn on a few days after the weather cools off.

Lamar River Fishing Report – Updated August 21

Crowded and low. Nymphing with bright, slender mayflies will turn out the most fish, though hoppers, ants, and occasional mixed hatches of Little Green Drakes and BWO are possible. Still some PMD, possibly. Tan Drakes should start soon. The areas as far from the road as you can get will be better.

Slough Creek Fishing Report – Updated August 21

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. The fish in the flat water will be downright hard.

Soda Butte Creek Fishing Report – Updated August 21

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. There can still be occasional full-size (#10-12) Green Drakes on this water at this time, and hatches overall are more consistent here than elsewhere in the drainage. The crowds are also more consistent, alas.

Firehole, Upper Madison, and Gibbon River Fishing Report – Updated August 21

Firehole headwaters to the Old Faithful closure area will fish okay for small trout. The Gibbon is closed between Little Gibbon Falls and Virginia Cascades while the Park Service continues the westslope cutthroat and grayling restoration project here, though Grebe Lake has apparently been good of late. 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 August 21

It’s a long way to go, first by car and then by trail, but this is prime time in the Bechler River Meadows since the meadows should be dry and the mosquitoes tolerable. Sight-fish with ants and the like and bring your “New Zealand-style” tactics, as the big trout here are some of the hardest in the region.