The top fisheries in Yellowstone Country change a lot with the onset of cold fall weather. It’s now snowing in the high country. I think that qualifies as “cold fall weather.”
Where people are fishing…
Many anglers continue to fish the same rivers and streams from now (late September) until late October that they did through the summer season. For the most part, streams like the Lamar, Soda Butte Creek, Slough Creek, large portions of the Gardner River, most small streams, and even good-sized chunks of the mighty Yellowstone are no longer the top fisheries in Yellowstone and the surrounding area.
Except in the events of a warmup lasting close to a week, I suggest avoiding the following streams:
- Lamar River, including its tributaries Slough and Soda Butte Creeks
- All streams or portions of streams above 7000 feet elevation except the Firehole River
- The Gardner River upstream from the Glen Creek Confluence (in lower Sheepeater Canyon)
- Small streams feeding the Yellowstone River in Montana, except possibly Mill Creek, which is larger than most
- The Yellowstone River in Montana between the rest stop near mile marker 24 and Mallard’s Rest fishing access, except the few long, deep sections in this reach.
- The Yellowstone River in YNP between the mouth of the Lamar River and near the Blacktail Deer Creek confluence.
Where people should be fishing…
The top fisheries in Yellowstone and adjacent areas of Montana this time of year possess one (or several) of the following features: fall-run brown trout, geothermal (hot spring or geyser) runoff), low elevation, and large overall size. Deeper, slower water is also preferable.
So which streams possess the features that make them top fisheries in Yellowstone and Montana near the park boundaries this time of year (and beyond)? Here’s a list, including how long they produce into the fall, what time of day and during which weather conditions they fish well, what kind of fishing to expect, and best tactics and flies. Top fisheries in Yellowstone are listed more or less in their distance from Gardiner, Montana, where Parks’ Fly Shop is located.
- Yellowstone River, Upper River Outside YNP and Lower Black Canyon inside YNP: Because of its size, low elevation, often deep and slow water, and a few geothermal inputs, the Yellowstone near Gardiner ranks as one our our top fisheries in Yellowstone and nearby, particularly for anglers looking to fish dry flies for cutthroats. The big brown trout fishing is also good in places. If you’re targeting big browns, fish deep water downstream of gravel spawning areas with streamers, stonefly nymphs, and egg flies from early October until early November. The dry fly fishing for mostly cutthroats is best from now until mid-October. Some ant and hopper action is still possible, but BWO mayfly hatches are the best bet through October into November, joined then by midges. The best dry fly fishing will be in the afternoons, with the window getting narrower and narrower as time passes. The morning fishing is strictly for larger fish even now.
- Gardner River, High Bridge to Gardiner: The Gardner River offers great action nymphing from Boiling River down to Gardiner using Euro-nymphing techniques. It’s definitely one of the top fisheries in Yellowstone for this tactic through the year, but it’s even better in the fall. Fish a medium-sized stonefly with a slender, flashy, mayfly nymph or smaller attractor nymph. Egg flies are also good choices. In the deeper sections all the way from the High Bridge down to Gardiner, you can also indicator nymph. Below Boiling River, look for BWO hatches. Below Boiling River, good fishing continues all the way until the end of the park season at sundown on the first Sunday in November, though above Boiling River is no longer one of the top fisheries in Yellowstone after mid-October. Throughout this section, avoid fishing or walking through shallow gravel areas after October 15 to avoid disturbing spawning brown trout. There are plenty of pre-spawn fish in the deep areas right through the end of the season that are fair game. The Gardner is best in the afternoons this time of year.
- Firehole River: The Firehole is the top fishery in Yellowstone throughout the fall for anglers looking for consistent hatches and the chance at all-day fishing. On warmer days through mid-October, look for the blond White Miller (Nectopsyche) caddis hatching. In uglier weather and later in the fall, look for tiny (#18-24) BWO mayflies. Sometimes the two hatches are mixed. If there’s no hatch, swing soft hackles in the riffles or nymph the deep geyser rock ledges with slender mayfly nymphs. Another option is to fish big nymphs and egg flies in the deep, turbulent areas below Firehole Falls, hoping for fall-run brown and rainbow trout migrating up from Hebgen Lake off the park’s west boundary. The Firehole can fish well all day.
I hope this rundown of top fisheries in Yellowstone helps readers plan their late-season fishing.