Yellowstone & Montana Fishing Report

Yellowstone & Montana Fishing Report

Welcome to Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing’s Livingston Montana Fishing Report and Blog. Check out the general fishing report below for an overview of what’s going on in my area. Visit the Blog for fishing tips, detailed posts on weather and water predictions for the upcoming season (generally posted in the winter and spring), trip reports, fly tying videos, and fishing and conservation news.

If you’ve found this page through a Google search or otherwise aren’t familiar with my business, please visit Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing’s Main Site to learn about the guided fishing trips I offer or to peruse our in-depth and free Montana and Yellowstone Fly Fishing Info Site for lots of free advice on fishing Montana and Yellowstone Park.

The fishing report is below the fish.

bright hen brown trout
Yes, this big summer hen was REALLY that nickel-bright.

General Yellowstone Park and Montana Fishing Report – Updated October 19, 2020

Recent cold and wet weather (lots of snow!) is putting us quickly into late fall mode. Most fishing now is chasing fall-run brown trout and the rainbows and cutthroats that eat their eggs. To be honest, there aren’t a lot of options now and won’t be until next summer, but the options that are still fishing well are fishing REALLY well. I personally caught 50 fish (counted) in 3hr 45min on the 15th, including about ten solid 15-18″ browns. If a body of water isn’t specifically discussed below, it’s probably too cold to fish well for the remainder of the season (here’s looking at you, Lamar, Soda Butte, and Slough).

Be sure to dress for the weather and be prepared for a dunking. Falling in a couple miles from the car without spare clothing would be a real bummer.

The brown trout spawn is now underway. Please do not target actively-spawning fish over shallow gravel. It is unethical and hurts the next generation. By the same token, be very careful where you walk. Dish-shaped areas of pale gravel from the size of an end table up to the size of a big dining room table (sometimes blending into one another) in riffles and tailouts are spawning redds. DO NOT WALK THROUGH THESE AREAS!!! Catch and release fishing is great but useless if you walk over and kill thousands of eggs. It’s okay to fish the deep pools and runs with larger cobble and boulder bottoms, since the brown trout (and others) in these areas have either not spawned yet or have finished.

Top Fisheries in MT: Yellowstone River, private ranch lakes, private spring creeks, Missouri River

Top Fisheries in YNP: Gardner River, Madison River, Firehole River, Lewis River


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 October 19

Water temperatures have plummeted into the low 40s and snowmelt may muddy the river from time to time. Expect the general fish populations to be in winter mode: holed up in big eddy seams in the middle of the river where they don’t have to work too hard. These fish will eat midges and BWO as well as stonefly nymphs, streamers, and maybe egg patterns. Fishing will be MUCH better from about 1:00 until about 4:00 than before or after.

Big browns will be more aggressive. Throw streamers or nymph the deep slots downstream of gravel spawning areas.

Paradise Valley Spring Creek Fishing Report – Updated October 19

Now on winter rates of $40/day. Brown trout are preparing for the spawn, so nymphing the deep slots below either spawning gravel or the choke points created by culverts can produce both good browns and the rainbows gobbling their eggs. Streamers are another good option for these big browns.

BWO and midge hatches may bring up resident trout. Calm, cloudy days with temperatures in the 40s or 50s will be best. The fish rising to these insects will be rewarding, but tough.

Private Lake Fishing Report – Updated October 19

It’s getting very late for these lakes and access may be hard due to snow on the ranch roads. If you can get on, fish the edges of the dying weeds with leeches. On warm days the fish may move shallow, while when it’s cold they’ll likely be deep. The lakes can be very good in these last couple weeks, though also cold, wet, and miserable.

Lower Madison River Fishing Report – Updated October 19

Can fish well on streamers and eggs this time of year. If you go, target the big runs and swing for the fences. Rising fish are likely to be small and eating BWO.

Stillwater River Fishing Report – Updated October 19

Recent cold/wet/snowy weather has brought flows back up to floatable levels, though we’re not sure about clarity. If there’s 3-feet of visibility, now would be a great time to float the lower reaches of the Stillwater and getting out to fish good runs and pools where brown trout up from the Yellowstone are prepping to spawn. Fish streamers, stonefly nymphs, and eggs. On warmer days, resident rainbow and brown trout may rise to BWO.

Missouri River Fishing Report – Updated October 19

This is a great time to road-trip to the ‘Mo. From Toston Dam to Canyon Ferry Reservoir, fish big streamers and nymphs in the runs looking for 1-2 giant (10lbs maybe?) brown trout. Right below Canyon Ferry Dam, hope for the same. In the “Land of Giants” section between Hauser and Holter Lakes, there may be big browns running, but the rainbows will be eating streamers and BWO nymphs. Below Holter, you can fish streamers for larger browns or try to find fish rising to BWO.

Yellowstone Park Fisheries

Grand and Black Canyons of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated October 19

Getting very cold, but may be worth fishing on warm afternoons. Streamers will likely be the best bets particularly in the Grand Canyon, but there may be BWO hatches on warm afternoons.

Gardner River Fishing Report – Updated October 19

This is where we’re doing most of our own fishing these days. Unfortunately, so are tons of other outfitters and fly shops. This has been the most crowded fall we’ve ever seen on the Gardner, and it’s a shame because the river is not fishing as well as it could be due to the crowds. The heaviest crowds have been in the areas with lots of good runs and pools where pre-spawn browns congregate. Unfortunately some unethical guides are actually targeting spawning fish in the gravel between these areas. Don’t copy them. The less-crowded water will be the fast, turbulent pocket water from Boiling River down to the confluence with the Yellowstone. The water is warm enough in these areas the resident fish are frisky and active, and you may run into browns moving up towards their spawning areas. The best tactic for these areas is Euro-nymphing. I am running an 11’6″ 4-weight Euro-nymphing rod with a 15-foot leader in my personal fishing. Stonefly nymphs, small jig-style streamers, egg patterns, and BWO nymphs are working for both resident and run-up fish. Below Boiling River the fish will be everywhere, while upstream only the larger pools will fish well. You may also find fish rising to BWO in the pools, probably only below Boiling River due to the recent cold.

Note that the Boiling River Trail is closed. Anglers are allowed to walk up the opposite bank of the river and to wade. The rangers just don’t want to explain to people who want to soak in the hot springs while fishermen are walking on the trail when they can’t.

Madison River in YNP – Updated October 19

The most-crowded water in the region now, due to the fall brown and rainbow runs. Join the party and fish the deep pools, particularly near the west gate (and beyond for a couple miles down to Hebgen Lake). There’s an established etiquette here. Wade in at the top of the run. Cast and fish your drift. Take a step downstream. Repeat. When you either get to the end of the pool or catch a fish, step out of the conga line and go back to the top. 25 years ago you could expect a tongue-lashing if you didn’t follow these informal rules that let everybody get a shot. Nowadays you’ll see guides breaking the protocols, alas. This late in the season, run-up brown trout are thick all the way from Madison Junction to the park boundary and on down to Hebgen Lake (the last couple miles are technically in Montana). So if you don’t want to fish crowded water, you don’t have to. Resident trout may also be eating BWO.

Firehole River – Updated October 19

Less crowded than the Madison this late. The best fishing will be during hatches of tiny BWO mayflies. Some of these will be #22. Absent a hatch, swing soft hackles in the walking-speed runs and riffles. White Miller caddis are probably done for the season, though it’s possible a few will still hatch near hot springs on sunny days. Below Firehole Falls, fish eggs and big nymphs for run-up browns.

Gibbon River – Updated October 19

Fish only below Norris Geyser Basin. In the meadows, streamers may move big browns. There may also be BWO hatches. In the runs downstream from Gibbon Falls, fish streamers, eggs, and stonefly nymphs for run-up browns.

Other Waters in YNP Fishing Report – Updated October 19

The Lewis River brown trout run is now underway. Below Lewis Falls, fish streamers. In the shallow, clear holes both right below Lewis Lake and in the channel between Lewis & Shoshone Lakes, fish small egg patterns and attractor nymphs. Because of the low, clear water and heavy pressure in these areas, the browns seldom like the big stuff they do elsewhere.