Both walk-in and drive-in guided trips in Yellowstone Park will become available tomorrow, July 2, in the aftermath of the historic June 12–13 flooding. Access is still somewhat limited, but allows for a range of trips and fisheries. This post will be updated with the latest information as conditions change. We expect more and more options and more and more “normalcy” as the season progresses.
Drive-in Access Trips
Somewhat to our surprise, Yellowstone Park will be opening limited commercial access to the park from Gardiner starting tomorrow, July 2, via the old “Stagecoach Road” between Gardiner and Mammoth. While this road will not allow private tourist traffic, it will allow our guides to access the park. We will have two options to run guided trips inside the park for the summer:
- Meet in Gardiner and have clients ride with our guides into the park to fish.
- Meet clients who enter the park from West Yellowstone or another entrance (including those staying inside the park) at Mammoth, Norris, or another prearranged spot.
Our guides will be able to enter the park via the Stagecoach Road during very limited time windows, so only full-day YNP trips will be available. We are also looking into having our guides camp for a few days at a time inside the park, which would allow a wider range of trip offerings. The Park Service is going to allow guides to camp at closed campgrounds (Mammoth and Norris) to make this possible.
Public access to the “North Loop” reopens tomorrow as well. This allows fishing the Yellowstone in its canyons, most of the Gardner River, and a range of small streams, both with a guide and on your own. Access to Slough Creek and portions of the lower Lamar River should also be possible starting soon, but damage to the Northeast Entrance Road means that public access to the Lamar and Slough will not be possible. Only guides who understand the road limitations will be given access. No access to the Lamar Valley or Soda Butte Creek will be possible until at least autumn, for anyone.
Walk-in Access Trips
Walk-in public access from Gardiner is now possible. This allows guided or unguided fishing on the Lower Gardner River, just in time for its Salmonfly Hatch. Access to the lower Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River will also be possible once the Gardner River drops enough to permit fording it. The Rescue Creek Bridge which used to allow access to this water regardless of water level washed out in the floods. Fording the Gardner will probably be possible by around July 15 or July 20.
Cold weather over the past few days has dropped the Yellowstone and Boulder Rivers into marginally fishable shape. They would have gone lower, but the cooldown was accompanied by a VAST amount of snow and rain yesterday and today, so things are still pretty marginal.
As of right now, the Yellowstone is flowing at 7350cfs at Gardiner and 9870cfs in Livingston. “Safe” float levels are 10,000 in Gardiner and 12,000 at Livingston, with the float stretches that are safe limited to flatter sections without aggressive eddies, such as the Cinnabar to Yankee Jim, Carbella to Point of Rocks, or Emigrant to Mallard’s Rest sections. The Boulder is down to 1560cfs, with 2000 safe. I’m not sure if the large tree which forms a dangerous and almost impassable barrier on the Boulder at Spring Creek Campground south of Big Timber is still there or not.
At the above flows, streamers pounded on the bank on sink-tips, using 1X or heavier tippet, is your best bet. You may also move some fish on stonefly and large attractor nymphs drifted through bankside pockets, but you’ll lose a lot of flies doing this.
Neither river is low enough for more than very difficult wade-fishing. On the Yellowstone, concentrate on the steep, rocky banks through and just past the town of Gardiner, fishing the slow holes next to the banks.
Here’s the flow data for the Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs, near Gardiner:
Here’s the streamflow predictions for the river at Livingston. Predictions are not provided for the Corwin Springs graph. Subtract about 2000cfs from the Livingston graph to get an approximation of expected flows at Corwin.
That big spike Tuesday afternoon will definitely be “all she wrote” for the runoff break fishing. Temperatures in Livingston are forecast to rise into the high 80s by next weekend, and that will send the remaining snow GUSHING down. Expect rivers to begin dropping again about 3 weeks after they shoot up.
Out-of-state residents visiting Montana have been under mandatory quarantine orders since June 1. These orders are due to lift June 1, which means tourism and therefore our guiding season can reopen starting then. We also expect the Montana entrances to YNP to reopen on the 1st, since the holdup has been the quarantine order.
We are VERY eager to book trips this summer, and there will be many fewer anglers on the water this year compared to most…
Did you know that Walter sends out a fly fishing newsletter quarterly through his own business, Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing?
Check out this quarter’s here.
If you’re interested in signing up to receive future mailings, visit his website.
- All shop staff are fully vaccinated and will not wear masks unless customers request we do so (this isn’t a problem if you prefer we’re masked).
- Vaccinated customers need not wear masks in the shop.
- As per CDC guidelines, we emphatically encourage non-vaccinated individuals to mask up (but let’s be honest, almost no non-vaxxers will do so).
- Seriously, get your vaccine unless you’re a young kid or for some reason unable to do so. The worse side effects any of us had were flu-like symptoms for 8hrs. Virtually all new virus cases in the USA are in unvaccinated people as of this writing.
- We still encourage folks to socially distance. Don’t crowd into the shop, don’t shake hands, don’t lean over the counter to breath on the shop clerk while looking at a map, etc.
- If you are in the area but would rather not come into the shop, give us a call at 406-848-7314 and place your order over the phone. We’ll package it up and meet you at the curb.
Summer Guide Business: Trip Planning and Temporary Changes to Policies
- Assuming no unexpected surge in virus counts during the summer, we will operate under standard guided trip deposit and cancellation and all other policies in 2021.
- We may be more lenient to modifications of our late cancellation policies in the event of travel problems associated with the crazy cost of rental cars right now. We will handle these issues on a case-by-case basis.
- If there’s an unexpected India-style surge in virus numbers or something of that sort, all bets are off.
Masking on Guided Trips, etc.
- In Montana, we will not require vaccinated individuals to wear masks at any time on guided trips.
- Non-vaccinated individuals will be asked to wear masks while in our trucks/cars, or will be required to drive themselves.
- Masks will not be required for anyone while out of our motor vehicles.
YNP Covid-19 Operations Plan
Yellowstone Park still has more stringent masking requirements than any surrounding states. Current park requirements are listed on this page.
Also note that as commercial operators, we must follow additional requirements not listed on the linked page. In particular, all passengers in our vehicles are still required to wear masks while in Yellowstone National Park. Assuming people continue getting vaccinated and case numbers continue to fall, we expect this requirement to be relaxed through the summer season.