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 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, 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 Mar 17

We had one of the coldest and snowiest Februaries on record, which has put us in good shape for summer water but left late February and March fishing conditions resembling those of late December or January. The doldrums, in other words. Now that spring has asserted itself for a week or so, the ice is finally melting from area freestone fisheries in earnest, the deep snow along the banks of the Paradise Valley spring creeks, rainbow trout are thinking about romance, and all and all it’s time to go fishing.

Conditions are still running “behind schedule,” particularly on the freestone rivers. The abundant bankside ice, remaining ice-jams, occasional drift ice in the flow, and bitter cold water all mean bank fishing is the way to go now. I have float trips booked in the first week of April, and I probably won’t launch the (new!) drift boat until then, though I am going fishing this week. You should too, if you can.

The big rivers and Paradise Valley spring creeks remain the only good options for another few weeks. In mid-late April, I’ll be checking out some smaller waters an hour or so from Livingston, but for right now they’re all too cold.

Stick to the afternoons everywhere except the spring creeks. Even there, there’s no point in starting early.

In the next ten days or so, it’s possible we’ll see enough low-elevation (really valley-level) snowmelt in the Yellowstone Basin to muddy the Yellowstone some days. We’ll see. Other main fisheries will remain clear.

Yellowstone Park Fisheries


Montana Fisheries

Yellowstone River Fishing Report

Concentrate on large walking-speed runs that are at least waist-deep, and preferably chest or neck-deep. Nymphs will be your top bets. Think a Girdle Bug or large 20-Incher or even a black Woolly Bugger fished like a nymph with an egg, large attractor nymph (#12 BH Prince or Bead Hare & Copper), flashy mayfly nymph, or a tiny black Winter Stone nymph behind it. Fish long drifts in the large midriver seams. Leave your Euro-nymphing setup behind. This time of year is all about the 6-7 weight, long, single-hander or even something like an 11′ 5-weight switch rod, with a 9′ 2X leader and a big indicator.

Streamer fishing will improve as the water warms. Right now, use slow trout spey swing techniques in the same water mentioned above.

Some dry fly fishing is possible, but there’s no point in trying unless there’s a hatch. Hatches could include midges, BWO, or tiny winter stones, in that order of likelihood. Despite their name, March Brown mayflies are unlikely until mid-April.

Note that there’s still abundant pack ice in most of the island complexes, both in lower Paradise Valley (Pine Creek) and east of Livingston. Stick to areas where the river is all together and you’ll be fine, though beware the steep drops from the bank shelf ice to the river.

Paradise Valley Spring Creek Fishing Report

A great choice now, and still on $40/angler/day winter rates until mid-April. Some days will be fully-booked, believe it or not. I covered the fishing on the creeks this time of year in pretty exhaustive detail on the blog.

Gallatin River Fishing Report

Lots of people were out in the Gallatin Canyon when I was coming back from skiing at Big Sky on the 14th. As long as you find a run for yourself, it should fish similarly to the Yellowstone. The best water will be between Big Sky and Storm Castle Creek. Downstream of that there’s less public access, and out in the Gallatin Valley near Bozeman there may still be some ice.

Madison River Fishing Report

BWO nymphs and midge pupae in the sunny, deeper runs are the best bets here, as they have been all winter. The Lower Madison, downstream of Warm Springs Access, will be best. Try some crayfish in this stretch, too. If you have skis or snowshoes the area “between the lakes” is a good bet. There, there’s some chance eggs or egg-like flies (pink scuds) will work, too. The stretch between Quake Lake and Ennis has somewhat less snow.

Missouri River Fishing Report

The water from Holter Dam down will ramp up quick with the warmer weather. This is the only good option to float now. Ice jams are present in the lower canyon, but Wolf Creek to Mid Canon accesses are clear and ice-free. This is “pink season” on the Missouri. Fish something like a Rainbow Czech, AMEX, Pill Popper, Bubble Yum, or big Tailwater Sow Bug with a Pink Lightning Bug, Pink Midge, or small Soft Hackle Sowbug on the dropper. You want to fish the slow walking speed water here, too. Beware of redds.

No recent “Land of Giants” reports, but it should fish similarly, albeit with much higher crowds if the weather is tolerable.