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 6, 2019

We are now emphatically in late autumn mode: hoppers, ants, and other terrestrials are unlikely to work anymore, brown trout are moving in the waters where they spawn (the spawn will start October 15-20), and many or even most area fisheries are now too cold to fish well or at all, and will remain so until they warm again next summer. Those waters that are fishing will be best in the afternoons.

Wherever you fish, be prepared with spare layers, raingear, a warm hat, and gloves. Even if it seems warm out, water temps are now often in the low 40s, so a dunking could be fatal if you don’t have spare clothing.

Be animal-aware: both grizzly and black bears are roaming widely looking for food now in preparation for hibernation, so they may be in unusual places. Grizzlies have been spotted in the town of Gardiner already this fall! Also be cautious near elk. It is peak rut now and the bulls are aggressive.

Top Fisheries in MT: Yellowstone River from Gardiner to Carbella and from Mallard’s Rest down to Columbus (the middle of Paradise Valley is usually poor this time of year), private ranch lakes.

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

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

Yellowstone Park Fisheries

Upper Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Done for the season. We suggest fishing elsewhere til next July 15.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated October 6

May fish a bit on warmer afternoons. Probably worthless before noon. Fish streamers or nymph the deep slots unless you see fish rising, most likely in the slow slicks. The hatch will be BWO with maybe a smattering of Tan Drakes, if there is a hatch.

Note that as of this writing, there is no access to the river via the Tower Falls trail. You can bushwhack from the SE side of the parking lot, but this ain’t easy…

Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Similar to Grand Canyon. Best near Gardiner. After a couple warm days, will fish even on colder days. With water temps in the mid-40s, will be better after lunch.

Gardner River Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Now almost exclusively a nymph fishery UNLESS there’s a BWO hatch. With water temps plummeting, is now better below Boiling River than above, especially for numbers of fish. Cover a lot of water using Euro-nymphing techniques, with a stonefly or similar big ugly nymph with a BWO nymph, small flashy attractor nymph, or egg pattern on the dropper. If there’s a hatch, it will be from midday to midafternoon. Fish Purple Hazy Cripples or Parachute Adams in #18.

The upper Gardner from Osprey Falls up is now slow and will stay that way til next July.

This is probably our favorite fall fishery, but we cover LOTS of water and tend to avoid the flatter roadside sections. If you’re not up for that, best look at the Firehole.

Lamar River, Slough Creek, Soda Butte Creek Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Water temperatures will not break 45 degrees again this season and will often be in the 30s. There will be ice in the backwaters most mornings. This all adds up to poor fishing, with the only hope nymphing the deepest, slowest water in the middle of the afternoon while praying for a slight BWO or midge hatch. There are many, many better places to fish this late in the season. We won’t fish or guide any of this again until July 2020.

Firehole River Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Probably the best option in the region if you want to be almost assured of hatches and solid fishing for numbers of trout by mid-late morning. On most of this stream, swing soft hackles in the riffles or nymph the steep geyser rock shelves with slender, fast-sinking mayflies provided there’s no hatch. Hatches are what you want to see. Tiny BWO are now the most likely hatch, and probably the only hatch on cooler and grayer days. On bright sunny days, there may be no hatch at all or you may see the last dregs of the blond White Miller caddis. On warmer days, this is one place where the hatches might still be better before or just after noon than in midafternoon.

In the short stretch below the falls, nymph with large stonefly and attractor nymphs and eggs. There are many run-up trout arriving from Hebgen Lake in this stretch now.

Gibbon River Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Closed in the headwaters for the westslope cutthroat and grayling reintroduction project. No good there due to cold anyway.

Below the falls, fish attractor dry/dropper combos for a shot at numbers or nymph with a stonefly and attractor nymph for a shot at run-up browns and rainbows. This water is typically less crowded than the Madison for these fish, but less consistent as well.

Madison River in YNP Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Now is a good time, especially with the recent rain. Fish the famous runs near the West Entrance with a big nymph with a small one trailing it, or swap the small nymph for a San Juan Worm or egg pattern. On cooler, grayer days or after rains, large soft hackles and streamers (no two-hook streamers in Yellowstone, remember!) will produce just as well and be more exciting than the nymphs. They may work any time due to the large number of runner browns and rainbows now in the system. Follow the etiquette: start at the top of a run and work your way downstream through it, taking a step after every cast. This is the only way these famous runs noted for their big fall-run browns are fishable by the masses. Some dry fly action is possible from Madison Junction down to 9-Mile Bridge. BWO are the best hatch here.

The Madison is typically the most crowded water in the park from now until the season closes in early November, though there’s good reason for this. There are a lot of big fish here in the fall…

Gallatin River in YNP Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Probably fishing okay on warm afternoons, but a long way from here. Check with West Yellowstone and Big Sky shops.

Other Waters in YNP Fishing Report – Updated October 6

The Lewis River below the falls will fish well with streamers now, though it’s probably a bit early for the Channel or the stretch from Lewis Lake down to the falls to host run-down and run-up browns. There are probably spawning lake trout right at the Shoshone Lake outlet, though.

Tributaries to Hebgen Lake beside the main Madison are now good choices for run-up browns, though access is much harder than on the main Madison. Many of these streams extend into Montana from the Park, where private land is a factor.

Lakes with brook trout are now good bets for colored-up male brookies.

Montana Fisheries

Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated October 6


Mornings are slow, though you may move a couple big fish on streamers. Unless “stripping and ripping” big streamers, dead-drift smaller streamers with BWO nymphs. After lunch, look for fish rising to BWO and midges. They will be slow and subtle as the water is cold. The edges of foam lines as well as small patches of foam are most likely to hold larger fish. The walking-speed waist-deep runs are also likely areas to find risers. The fast water will not hold fish anymore this season, though the first slow water below fast water is a great bet, especially for streamers.

Fall-run brown trout will spawn very soon. Target them in the deeper slots below shallow gravel. Do not disturb spawning fish located on shallow gravel. Let these fish make the next generation in peace. This means you Jack.

The best fishing will be in the first 17 miles down from Gardiner OR from Pine Creek down to Big Timber. The former will produce more fish. The latter, the shot at huge ones.

Paradise Valley Spring Creek Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Rapidly improving, and rates fall to the winter rate of $40/day at mid-month. Midge and BWO hatches (latter getting stronger as the month progresses), streamers for run-up pre-spawn browns, and eggs for the resident fish eating the spawn of the brown trout are and will be the best bets through November.

Yellowstone Valley Private Lakes Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Excellent choice now, with egg patterns and streamers the most likely suspects. This is prime time for big fish on the lakes. A recent trip got a 22″ brown on upper Story Lake.

The lakes are probably our most consistent big fish fishery this time of year for anglers who don’t want to wade rough water, or those hoping for a big rainbow instead of a brown. They are also really the only option likely to fish well for both numbers and size from early in the morning until late afternoon.

Stillwater River Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Recent wet weather has brought the Stillwater back up to a floatable level in its lower reaches. While the river is too cold now for the great terrestrial fishing it is most notable for, you might encounter BWO hatches. The real draw is the potential for substantial run-up brown trout. Float from Jeffrey’s Landing down for a shot at these fish, maybe even from Swinging Bridge out to Itch-Kep-Pe on the Yellowstone.

Lower Madison River Fishing Report – Updated October 6

A great bet now. Look for BWO hatches in the afternoons. Otherwise fish giant streamers hoping for “the one” big brown.

Lower Gallatin, Jefferson, and Upper Missouri River Fishing Report – Updated October 6

Looking for a wall-hanger? Fish giant streamers while floating these rivers, looking for 1-5 eats per day from trout that might be big enough to eat your chihuahua. This is not for anglers who want numbers…