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.
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The fishing report is below the fish.
General Yellowstone Park and Montana Fishing Report – Updated July 3, 2019
It’s now full speed ahead in the Livingston area. The top fisheries for the moment are the lower Madison River, the Boulder (just dropping into play after a last pulse of runoff), and the Paradise Valley spring creeks. Further afield, the Musselshell and adjacent private water is fishing well, as is the upper Madison, where the Salmonfly hatch is underway. The Yellowstone is just dropping into play and will take off like a rocket in the next few days.
Up in Yellowstone Park, check out the Gardner or Yellowstone in the lower Black Canyon, or the brook trout creeks near Mammoth if you’re not up for a strenuous fishing trip.
I will mostly be guiding on the Boulder and Yellowstone for the next week.
Detailed Water-by-Water Yellowstone Park and Montana Fishing Report
Yellowstone Park Fisheries
Upper Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated May 23
Closed until July 15.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Fishing well for aggressive hikers and waders. Stonefly and large attractor nymphs and tandem Woolly Bugger rigs will work best, but some dry fly fishing (large and small caddis, Green Drakes, PMD, Golden Stonefly, Salmonfly) is possible and will improve with every passing day. Heavy Salmonfly hatch is unlikely to start until at least the 10th.
Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated July 3
High and murky but doable and getting better basically every day. For now, stick to stonefly nymphs tight to the banks. The Salmonfly should be underway near Gardiner by the time we next update this report, and other dry fly fishing opportunities will join the “big bugs” at about the same time.
Gardner River Fishing Report – Updated July 3
The lower river below the “High Bridge” east of Mammoth is high, fast, and rough, but fishing well whenever there’s a foot of clarity and the river’s more green than brown. Fish stonefly and large attractor nymphs tight to the banks or bouncing bottom in the few deep, slow holes. The mini meadows such as “Chinaman’s Gardens” receive probably half this river’s total pressure and so aren’t as good as they look.
The upper river near Sheepeater Picnic Area is really still too high for another week or ten days. For similar opportunities, check out the various tributary creeks near Mammoth.
Lamar River Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Dropping now but really still too high for another week. If you fish it, target the canyon section where bankside boulders create better structure than you’ll find in the meadows for a while.
Slough Creek Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Dropping but really still too high for another week. Look at the rough water near the campground if you do try to fish it now.
Soda Butte Creek Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Dropping but really still too high for another week. Please do not target the concentrations of fish you might find in shallow side channels. Because of the late spring melt, these are almost certainly late spawners and by fishing to them you potentially kill the next generation. Stick to the mainstem til the 15th, when spawning should be complete.
Firehole River Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Now hitting 70 degree water temperatures almost every afternoon. Focus on the stretch above Midway Geyser Basin before noon or so to avoid over-stressing the fish. The best fishing will be during White Miller caddis hatches when it is cloudy and cool. By the time we update this report again, the Firehole will be too warm to ethically fish downstream of Old Faithful for about two months. Geyser and hot spring water makes trout streams kind of too… hot… to fish well. Who knew?
Gibbon River Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Some Green Drake, PMD, and evening Brown Drake hatches are possible in the meadows (so are mosquitoes). The canyon will still fish okay for another week on medium-sized dry/dropper combinations, especially in the mornings. Fish the less-obvious and harder to reach sections for the best success.
Madison River in YNP Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Generally similar to, less consistent than, and offering somewhat larger trout than the Firehole. Greater emphasis here on nymphs and streamers if there’s no hatch. PMD will be the most important hatch overall. Another ten days of morning fishing and then there will be better options.
Gallatin River in YNP Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Clear enough and should be fishing well on nymphs, with the possibility of a few risers to small stoneflies and caddis. A long way from here, but a very pretty drive.
Other Waters in YNP Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Small lakes that hold fish (not all do) are now good bets. Blacktail opens either today or tomorrow (check regs, I forget). Fish small soft hackles or peacock-bodied midge pupae under indicators with a leech if there’s no hatch, strip the midges a foot or two underwater if there are a few fish rising, or hang the soft hackle under a Parachute Adams or similar if a lot of fish are coming up.
Most small meadow-type creeks are now low enough and clear enough to fish well. Most hold brook trout. A few hold other species. On all, a small-medium attractor dry with a nymph dropper will produce all the fish you need, so long as you get away from the beaten path. Many of these creeks get hit hard by guides (including ours) with beginner clients, so if you’re not catching anything, odds are you’re fishing water that’s been pounded. Hike a bit! Note that the headwaters of the Gibbon near Virginia Cascades are now fishless.
Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Now dropping slowly out of spring runoff. The best bet until the Salmonflies really start popping between Emigrant and Livingston is to fish stonefly nymphs and streamers on the first current break near the bank and hope for bigger fish. You will lose a lot of flies, so fish 0X to 2X tippet. No reason to go lighter unless you run into pods of small fish eating caddis (then use 3X). We are now floating the Yellowstone on guided trips. The fishing will become more and more consistent over the next couple weeks. Check in the shop to find out if/where the Salmonfly hatch is happening. It should pop this week.
Paradise Valley Spring Creek Fishing Report – Updated July 3
PMD hatches are now near peak. So are crowds, so getting a “rod” is going to be tough. I had a guide day on Depuy on July 1 and found the fish strongly preferred patterns with rusty shucks AND abdomens, and only a little typical “PMD color.” Both emergers and spinners matching the previous description worked, but typical Sparkle Duns and cripples with only a brown shuck did not. Absent a hatch or if the fish are too picky for you, nymph the faster and deeper water with Split Case and similar PMD nymphs and small scuds.
Yellowstone Valley Private Lakes Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Burns Lake near Big Timber has been fishing okay but not great on Callibaetis. The only private lake that really fished well in the past ten days or so is Flagstaff Lake near White Sulphur Springs, but that’s 1.5+ hours from here and hard to get on.
Boulder River Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Fished great on big nymphs last week before it briefly got too high again. Now it’s on the drop and should remain below our 3000cfs cut-off for safe floating through July and probably into early August. Really too high to wade fish except by using the boat to access the few big, obvious riffle corners, since though the Boulder’s clear it is still up in not just the bushes but the trees until it’s under 2000cfs. The best tactic is to fish big stonefly and attractor nymphs (Mega Princes, Bombs) trailing a smaller caddis or attractor nymph in the most obvious good spots you find: the deep, green, somewhat slower runs. In the few big areas of slow water (riffle corners), we’re getting out to fish on foot.
Our guide availability for the Boulder is very limited. I might be able to shift things around to accommodate sooner, but otherwise the only open dates I have are July 20 and 28.
See our blog for reports on my trips to the Boulder last week.
Upper Madison River Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Salmonfly hatch is underway. As of this writing, the hatch is somewhere near McAtee Bridge. Despite the hatch, I probably won’t guide the Madison again this summer unless a long run of rain makes both the entire Yellowstone and entire Boulder muddy. This river is a very long way (as much as 2.5hr) from here.
Lower Madison River Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Much closer than the Upper Madison (about 1hr), so a reasonable option if you are intimidated by the Boulder or Yellowstone and want something that’s running comparatively lower, even though this is a more challenging fishery than either the Boulder or ‘Stone overall.
Producing a few larger fish on dead-drifted streamers, crayfish, and San Juan Worms. Otherwise the main fishing now is with various caddis imitations. Deep nymphing with pupae and soft hackles like the Tan Nick’s (Hare’s Ear with Krystal Flash in the collar) has been producing a few in the mornings, but the best fishing has come either dry-dropper or “short leashing” a beadhead pupa and a soft hackle about three feet under a small indicator in the afternoons and evenings. Dry fly fishing depends on low light: either cloud cover or late evening. There have also been a few Brown Drakes late in the evenings. For what it’s worth, on my (Walter’s) trip here on the 2nd, we doubled our numbers caught to that point within an hour after the clouds rolled in while we were eating lunch.
Keep an eye on streamflow data for this one, as it is about to get too warm. It’ll be done with the first 3-4 day spell of 80+ temperatures and sunshine.
Musselshell River Fishing Report – Updated July 3
Clarity is good, though it’s still running a bit high. I had the opportunity to guide the NF Musselshell on the 30th of June, but due to the high levels we opted to fish an adjacent lake (Flagstaff) instead, which was off-the-charts good. I hope to spend more time up in this neck of the woods next year, also exploring the four (count em) public reservoirs that can produce big fish, all located within an hour of one another. It’s a very long way from this country to anything, but that means it’s uncrowded compared to the water closer to home…