Montana and Yellowstone Park Fishing Report

Montana and Yellowstone Park Fishing Report

Updates on COVID-19 and PFS

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 May 31, 2020

The Montana quarantine on nonresidents ends tomorrow and Yellowstone Park’s Montana gates (including the Gardiner gate just outside our door) open tomorrow as well. Unfortunately, recent hot weather has drastically accelerated the spring snowmelt, so most nearby options are muddy. The best public options are the Firehole and soon Gibbon and Madison Rivers in Yellowstone Park, while in Montana you should plan to fish public or private lakes (including warmwater options near Bozeman) or the lower Madison River. Those willing to drive a bit can also check out the Missouri River below Hauser or Holter Dam.

Top Fisheries in MT: Private ranch ponds (trout), Lower Madison River (trout) public warmwater reservoirs in and near Bozeman (bass, bluegill, carp).

Top Fisheries in YNP: The Firehole River and a few roadside and near-roadside ponds and lakes are really it for right now. Over the next week the Madison and Gibbon Rivers will fall into good shape, while hike-in lakes like Cascade will get better as the trails dry out.

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

Yellowstone Park Fisheries

Upper Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated November 3

Closed until July 15, 2020

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

Muddy until June 15-20, then a great option.

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

Muddy until June 25 or so, then on fire.

Gardner River Fishing Report – Updated May 31

Muddy until the next cold spell at least, then hit-or-miss until at least June 15. June 20 and after should be good to go.

Joffee Lake, Fawn Lake (tough hike with a river crossing), and the Swan Lake Sloughs are all fishable right now. Note that the Swan Lake Sloughs are to the east of the road at the north end of Swan Lake Flat. Swan Lake itself is fishless.

Lamar River, Slough Creek, Soda Butte Creek Fishing Report – Updated May 31

Muddy and have dead trees and animals floating down. Let me put it this way: the Lamar is currently running higher than we like the the Yellowstone to run, and during the summer the Yellowstone is 4-5 times larger than its tributary. None of this will be clear enough until at least July 4 and maybe the 10th.

Trout Lake is fishable, but it’s the only option out that way for right now, so it’s a long way to go if the fishing’s slow and you want to move elsewhere.

Firehole River Fishing Report – Updated May 31

The best option in the park right now. Running high and tea-stained but should start dropping soon. Swing wet flies and small buggers or fish stonefly and attractor nymphs in the canyon. PMD and caddis hatches are possible above the canyon, while Salmonflies should hatch very soon in the canyon. Hot, bright late afternoons will already be tough, as the Firehole is already warming to 68+ degrees in the afternoons. 9AM to 2PM will probably offer the best fishing until it cools off or clouds roll over after lunch.

Gibbon River Fishing Report – Updated May 31

Running high and tea-brown below Gibbon Meadows. May be marginally fishable but will get much better in a week or so. Fish attractor nymphs or attractor dry/dropper combos in the canyon water. The meadow water really needs to wait until about June 10, after which some hatches are possible but streamers are generally better choices. By June 7 or so we will be combining the Firehole or a hike-in lake in the morning with the Gibbon in the afternoon for most of our walk-wade guided trips.

Madison River in YNP Fishing Report – Updated May 31

High and marginal for now, but should be good to go no later than June 5. Streamers will be the best bet before June 10 or so. After that, look for PMD and caddis hatches, or hope for Salmonflies in the canyon reach.

Gallatin River in YNP Fishing Report – Updated May 31

High and muddy and unlikely to clear before June 20-25.

Other Waters in YNP Fishing Report – Updated May 31

Yellowstone Lake is as good as it ever gets right now. Fish buggers and leeches. Lewis Lake should ice-out soon if it hasn’t already. Paddling a sea kayak up the lower half of the Lewis Channel shortly after it’s feasible to do so can produce quite a few lake trout and some nice browns.

Montana Fisheries (listed in approximate distance from Gardiner, less to more)

Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated May 31

Near maximum runoff and twice the volume we consider fishable, and chocolate brown to boot. No way it’s fishable again until late June. We expect the Yellowstone to begin dropping into fishable shape for good (tail end of runoff) between June 20 and July 10, with precise dates depending on the progress of runoff and the section of river in question. Sections near Gardiner and some portions of Paradise Valley drop into shape earlier, while sections through and east of Livingston and in Yankee Jim Canyon fall into shape later.

If we had to call it right now, our guess is June 25 to July 1 for the Gardiner to Mallard’s Rest stretch, the 45 miles or so closest to our shop.

Private Lake Fishing Report – Updated May 31

This is peak season on area private lakes. Callibaetis, midge, and damselfly hatches are possible, but we typically do better until early-mid June fishing subsurface. Small, flashy beadhead nymphs and soft hackles are best when the water is clear, the wind is calm, and air temps are warm, while if the water is murky, it’s windy, or it’s cold, expect San Juan Worms and leeches to work better. Private lakes are our best nearby options for large trout until the Paradise Valley sections of the Yellowstone drop into play. Wind is the huge X-factor on these lakes. If it’s windy, you’ll work hard for every fish. If it’s calm, you can fill the boat. The lakes we guide charge $80 to $100 per angler per day access fees. The closest lake to Gardiner is more, but is actually a worse fishery and we do not recommend it.

Paradise Valley Spring Creek Fishing Report – Updated May 31

Clear and fishable but often tough right now since the creeks are between hatch cycles. The fishing improves again around June 20 with the first good PMD hatches. Peak PMD hatches are the last few days of June and first 10 days of July.

Boulder River Fishing Report – Updated May 31

The Boulder is near all-time record high flows and totally out of the question. Float it even in a kayak and you risk death.

The Boulder will drop out of runoff around June 20 and remain floatable in full-size rafts until about July 20 and in ultralight rafts (with some dragging) around August 10. When it drops into floatable shape, it’s our favorite “change-up” float river to the Yellowstone: smaller river with larger average fish than the Yellowstone and fewer guides, though it’s fast and hard for many anglers to fish. Walk-wading is also an option, especially after it gets too low for boats.

Lower Madison River Fishing Report – Updated May 31

Murky at times below Cherry Creek, but never too dirty to fish. Absent a hatch, fish San Juan Worms, crayfish, and caddis pupae in the deeper slots. Hatches will be strongest on cloudy afternoons and include PMD, assorted small stoneflies, perhaps a few BWO and other mayflies, and especially late, small Mother’s Day caddis. The nymph rigs might get you 1-2 “tanks,” while the dries will produce lots of small fish.

The downside is that every drift boat guide in Bozeman and Livingston has to float here right now, so it’ll be crowded. We are running drift boat trips on the Lower Madison now, along with everyone else. If you don’t want to pay private lake fees, the Lower Madison is an ideal option.

Other Montana Waters

Dailey Lake – Good when the wind isn’t howling, especially if you have a boat. Fish chartreuse streamers and even crappie jigs under bobbers for perch and maybe walleye, or sigh-fish big trout in the shallows across the north end of the lake or maybe during chironomid hatches around the weeds.

Warmwater Ponds Near Bozeman – Warm weather brings surprisingly good bass and bluegill fishing to the Gallatin Valley Mall ponds, Trout Meadows ponds near Costco, and especially the Three Forks Ponds in Three Forks. Fish leeches and medium-sized streamers for bass, or just about any flashy little wet fly or San Juan Worm for the bluegill.

Upper Madison River – Pretty murky right now, but you can still pull a few fish on San Juan Worms and stonefly nymphs. A better float than wade option for a while.

Missouri River – 3.5 plus hours from here, but a very good bet if you’re willing to put up with crowds. Fish on foot or via jet boat below Hauser Dam or via drift boat below Holter.