Parks' Fly Shop fishing reports: yellowstone fishing reports and montana fishing reports

Fishing Report

This is our basic, just the facts Yellowstone country fishing report. This fishing report is organized first by jurisdiction (Yellowstone fishing reports followed by Montana fishing reports), then by river drainage, with the private lakes, spring creeks, and distant Montana waters in their own categories at the end. Small creeks in a given river drainage will be discussed under their parent drainage. If you have any specific questions, or want an up to the second report, give us a call. The links following some location names will take you to stream gauges (and in one case a webcam). Sudden spikes in streamflow usually mean muddy water.

Fishing report not updated often enough for your taste? Check out Walter's trip reports on his blog.

The Short and Sweet Version: Update August 22

The cool and damp pattern than has predominated since early July remains in place. Saturday started off in the 30s, for example. While temps are forecast to be in the 70s-80s for highs this week, lows will be in the 40s, so water temps should be in good shape.

The fishing has benefited immensely from this cool weather, except when it has rained in the wrong places and some or all of the "big name" fisheries have gotten muddy. Check inside for daily updates as to what we think is clear and what’s likely to be muddy.

Hatches remain strong (when the water's clear) on virtually all area fisheries, with mayfly hatches this year rating excellent almost across the board, probably due to the clouds and moist air encouraging these insects to hatch in daylight rather than late evening or early morning. Terrestrials are the other main draw. Tiny hoppers of various kinds and ants have been best. Bright afternoons and bitter cold mornings will offer the slowest fishing, midmorning to mid-afternoon the best fishing most places, most days. Some days things will shut off promptly by 5:00, but others the fishing will remain strong into the evenings. Late evenings are now not a good bet. Too cold.

The Long and In-Depth Version

In YNP: Yellowstone inside YNP, Lamar, Gardner, Madison inside YNP, Snake, Gallatin inside YNP

In Montana: Yellowstone, Madison, Private Lakes, Spring Creeks, Other Montana Waters

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone River Drainage Inside YNP

Please note: if you are reading this report in a business other that Parks' Fly Shop as a printout without a prominent placard placed above the report identifying it as belonging to Parks' Fly Shop, the business displaying the report is doing so without our permission and is violating our copyright. This paragraph is here because some area businesses (not any of the fly shops) have been printing our report and using it to sell fishing tackle, all without our permission or identifying explicitly where they got the report.

Yellowstone River Above the Lake and Lake to Falls

Yellowstone Lake Outlet

Updated August 22

Awfully late to hit this water as most of the fish have moved back to the lake. If your goal is ONE BIG FISH, this is a good place. Sight-fish with nymphs, terrestrials, or matching whatever is hatching, or cover tons of waters with streamers.

Yellowstone River, Grand Canyon (Falls to Mouth of Lamar)

Updated August 22

Terrestrials (crickets, assorted hoppers, and ants), Midnight Stonefly imitations (gold Chubby Chernobyls), and attractor dries are all working well, as are small attractor nymphs fished under the dries. On cloudy mornings, we've already had some good Gray Fall Baetis hatching, best imitated by a #16-18 Purple Haze Cripples. These hatches will intensify and get more regular until late September, by which time they will have shifted to midafternoon. Streamers are always good choices here. Fish a large Woolly Bugger or sculpin with a tiny streamer trailing it. Easy access points may be crowded and almost certainly won’t fish as well as the areas where you have to suffer on the hike in/out.

This water is more resistant to getting muddy than most other famous areas, and when it does get muddy it seldom stays that color for more the 12-18 hours, so this section is a great bet if you're here a day or two after storms, provided you are up for a hike.

Yellowstone River, Black Canyon (Mouth of Lamar to Gardiner)

Updated August 22

Will fish similar to the Grand Canyon in the upper end, while in the lower end closer to Gardiner hoppers, spent caddis imitation, and ants have been the best flies on a day-in, day-out basis, with small Purple Haze Cripples best when it is cloudy and cool. This is great hike-in water and offers fish averaging 12-16 inches, with reasonable numbers to eighteen inches, and it doesn't get as crowded as most other areas offering fish that average this large. That said, the hikes range from strenuous to brutal, with the worst being terrible when the sun is bright.

Yellowstone Drainage Small Streams

Updated August 22

About two or three weeks of good small-stream fishing remains. Small-medium attractor dries and small hoppers are all you should need. Waters near the road in YNP will have been hit hard, so walking a mile will help a lot.

Yellowstone Drainage Lakes and Ponds

Updated July 5

Yellowstone drainage lakes hadn't been fishing well after noon in the recent hot spell, but now that it's over, hit them up anytime the wind isn't blowing. Strip soft hackles or look for risers eating midges and Callibaetis.

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Lamar River Drainage

Lamar River

Lower Lamar

Updated August 22

Mud is always the question on the Lamar. When it’s clear, particularly just after it clears, it will be gangbusters. Green and Little Green Drakes (Flavs) as well as the first fall Tan Drakes (Hecuba) will get the fish really excited, but terrestrials are more consistent. PMD are fading out, but Baetis are starting, so Purple Haze Cripples and Gray Baetis Parachutes are good bets, especially if it’s cloudy. It’s now terrestrial time, so small hoppers and crickets are good bets. Trail these with an ant or beetle or a small mayfly nymph like a Flashback Pheasant Tail. Absent a hatch, the fish are going to be holding tight to structure and/or in areas that are difficult to fish. Overall, bicolor ants, tiny hoppers, and Purple Haze Cripples have been our top producers lately.

Soda Butte Creek

Silver Gate (Park Boundary)

Updated August 22

Fishing well but obscenely crowded when it’s clear, particularly in the Junction Meadow and Round Prairie where large fish (12-16” on average, reaching 20” pretty often) predominate. The water above Ice Box Canyon is now closed for the brook trout eradication project. Flies and tactics will be similar in the lower creek to those mentioned for the Lamar.

Slough Creek

Updated August 22

The next couple weeks are hard on Slough. Low water and heavy pressure makes for spooky fish. Expect very challenging sight fishing with terrestrials, midges, tiny mayflies, and slender-bodied mayfly nymphs to be the only tactics that work well consistently. Fishing will be particularly difficult when it's sunny. Cloudy days will bring heavier mayfly hatches and better fishing.

Trout Lake

Updated August 9

Not a good time for Trout Lake. It's too weedy and the fish have been pounded all summer. Probably your best bet is to fish a couple hours before sunset, hoping to find a few fish rising to Traveling Sedges, or to hit it just after sunrise, looking for bank-cruisers picking off scuds, midge larvae, or ants and beetles.

Small Streams

Updated August 22

All small streams in the Lamar drainage are awfully low now, so to be honest I'd head over to one of the Yellowstone tribs, particularly one outside the park.


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Gardner River Drainage

Gardner River Above Osprey Falls

Updated August 22

Fishing well with attractor dry/dropper combos. This is small fish water that’s great for beginners.

Gardner River, Osprey Falls to Boiling River

Updated August 22

Fishing well as long as you’re fishing “fresh” water. Small Chubby Chernobyls, pink hoppers, crickets, and medium-sized attractor dries like Coachman Trudes trailed with a beadhead Prince or similar attractor nymph will put you into good numbers of fish. The easiest locations to access won’t fish all that well, but if you put some effort into getting into areas that are tough to reach, expect to be rewarded with lots of 8-14” rainbows and a few other types of trout.

Nymphing the deeper and/or turbulent slots is a good way of potentially finding fish when things are crowded. Girdle Bugs, Silver Lightning Bugs, and Hare and Coppers have been the tickets. You can do well on nymphs before the fish start rising to hoppers and attractors.

Speaking of crowds, you'll do best to get away from the few near-road accesses. Even the High Bridge (the bridge with the river WAAAAAYYYY down there) has been getting pounded lately, particularly on days when other waters are dirty. Getting a half mile or more from the easiest accesses will do you wonders.

Gardner River, Boiling River to Yellowstone River

Just Below Boiling River

Updated August 9

Similar to Osprey-Boiling River stretch, but much warmer, so fishing after 2:00PM is discouraged. I don't suggest nymphing this water except dry-dropper, due to abundant algae.

Small Streams

Updated July 24

Fishing well on attractor dry/dropper combos. Like the upper Gardner, some areas are really a bit low and featureless now, particularly stretches close to the road that have been thrashed by the masses for five or six weeks now.

Lakes

Updated July 5

Really too warm and will be through Labor Day.

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Madison River Drainage Inside YNP

Please note: this drainage is infested with New Zealand Mud Snails, an invasive species that poses a large threat to other river drainages in the region. Please clean your gear between fishing this drainage (especially the Firehole) and fishing elsewhere. This website includes information on how to effectively clean your gear.

Madison River in Yellowstone Park

Near West Yellowstone

Updated August 22

Starting to come into play. Look for hopper fishing along the grassy banks or nymph the big pools close to the west gate. This isn’t our favorite river right now, but it’s cooling off from summer’s doldrums and now is an option if you’re heading that way.

Firehole River

At Old Faithful, Lower River

Updated June 18

Portions of the Firehole have already reached 83 degrees this year, which is ten degrees above trout's temperature avoidance level. Basically, some days here have reached the human equivalent of 130-140 degrees. Survivable for the fish? Maybe, if it doesn't stay this hot for more than a day or two, but not if anglers further stress the fish. We suggest leaving the entire Firehole and its tributaries alone until at least mid-September this year, except perhaps for Nez Perce Creek above its geothermal basins and the upper Firehole above Kepler Cascade.

Let me clarify: the Firehole is WAY WAY too warm for good fishing right now, and any fish you do hook or catch will almost certainly die, even if you fish only early in the morning. Leave it alone.

Gibbon River

At Madison Junction

Updated August 9

The lower Gibbon (below Norris Geyser Basin) is too warm most afternoons and all day during warm weather, but the recent cool and wet weather has made morning fishing possible most days and afternoon fishing decent on cloudy, cooler days. Think hopper-dropper rigs and you might be surprised by a bigger fish than you expect, below Gibbon Falls.

Above Norris, fish attractor dry/dropper combos for the abundant small fish found in this cold water.

Grebe & Wolf Lakes

Updated August 22

August and early September are the doldrums on these lakes, but you might find fish rising to Callibaetis on calm mornings. Afternoons will generally be grim, particularly if it's windy.


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Snake River Drainage

Snake River

Updated July 5

Probably fishing well on attractor dry/dropper combos, stonefly dries, and perhaps streamers. This is a heck of a long way from here, though...

Lewis River

Updated July 5

A long way to go, but there should be some PMD, Green Drakes, and perhaps Gray Drakes in the meadows. Also enough mosquitoes and flies to carry you away...

Lewis and Shoshone Lakes

Updated July 5

With warm surface temperatures meaning the fish require trolling, you're better off somewhere else.


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Gallatin River Drainage Inside YNP

Gallatin River

Updated June 18

Check with our friends at Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky. This water is just too far away from here for us to know what's going on.

Small Streams

Updated June 18

See above.


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Montana

Yellowstone River Drainage

Yellowstone River, Gardiner to Carbella (Upper Yellowstone)

Yellowstone River Webcam, Corwin Springs Stream Gauge

Updated August 22

Fishing great most days, with mud from upstream rains and super-bright sun in the afternoons the main deal-breakers. For numbers of fish everywhere and the best luck near Gardiner, use small hoppers or attractor dries trailing either a flying ant, a tiny attractor dry, or perhaps a small beadhead nymph (think slender and dark). Larger fish might come to very larger (#6-10) gold-colored foam dries that look like either grasshoppers or Midnight Stones, but these won’t catch as many fish as smaller bugs. Trail these with as big a Girdle Bug as they will float. Cloudy weather has brought out small numbers of Baetis, but they'll be heavier late in the month and especially in September. When these hatch, fish Purple Haze Cripples.

Yellowstone River, Carbella to Mayor's Landing (Paradise Valley and the "Town Section")

Livingston

Updated August 22

Not as consistent as the stretch above, but a better bet for large trout. This is a very friendly stretch to fish with a large streamer (Woolly Bugger or sculpin) under an indicator with an attractor nymph on the dropper in hopes of a few larger fish. Otherwise, flies and tactics are similar here as upstream. Afternoons on bright, hot days will be grim at best, as will nymphing the slower, shallower sections, where weeds are quite heavy.

Yellowstone River, Mayor's Landing to Laurel

Springdale, Big Timber

Updated August 22

Marginal on hot and bright days (at best), but when it's clear and water temps are below about 68 degrees, this is the spot to try the largest hoppers in your box for one or two really big fish. With the water cooling off, expect more good days than bad going forward.

Other Waters

Updated August 22

The small streams are good choices now, particularly on hot afternoons when bigger waters might be too warm to fish well or when rain muddies larger rivers. Small-medium attractor dries and small hoppers are all you should need. Give other anglers tons of room here. Realistically, one person fishing solo or two fishing together per mile is all small streams can handle.

 

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Madison River Drainage

Madison River, Hebgen Lake to Quake Lake

Updated June 18

To be honest, we'd have to drive past oodles of good water to get here. Check with Blue Ribbon Flies in West.

Madison River, Quake Lake to Ennis Lake

Below Quake Lake, Near Cameron

Updated June 18

Salmonflies and the accompanying smaller stoneflies and various caddis have started hatching in earnest on this reach, so crowds will be high, but sometimes joining the crowd makes for great fishing.

Madison River, Lower

Below Ennis Lake

Updated June 18

Too warm, bordering on way too warm.

Hebgen and Quake Lakes

Updated June 18

Probably good, but why drive so far when we have great fishing 5 minutes out the door?

 

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Private Lakes

Story Lakes

Updated August 9

Believe it or not, the Story Lakes have fished well lately due to the cool weather. On what? Ants and tiny hoppers. Really. Who'd have thunk it?

Merrell Lake

Updated May 22

No reports yet. Given how much this lake has suffered in the past few years, we aren't in any rush to fish it.

Burns Lake

Updated May 22

Fishing very well on chironomid pupae and you might see chironomid or Callibaetis hatches if the wind is calm.

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Spring Creeks

Armstrong's, Nelson's, Depuy

Updated August 9

Super busy, but hatches are generally scattered this time of year. Look for fish feeding on sparse hatches of PMD, Sulfurs, or midges. Ants and beetles are also good bets. Sight-nymph if you can't convince any to rise. Use slender-bodied mayflies and midges.

With rates at $120/day through September 14, we're not too keen to get on the creeks right now, to be honest. We have better dry fly fishing (though also crowds, it's true) on a lot of public water.

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Other Montana Waters

Missouri River, "Land of Giants"

Updated June 18

Walter's spring trips to the Missouri ended with a bang last weekend, with 20-40 fish averaging 18 inches hooked or landed each day, and the heaviest fish weighing in at well north of five pounds. Red Squirmie Wormies and red Ultrasuede Worms were the tickets in the mornings, followed by slender mayfly nymphs in the afternoons. PMDs and BWOs hatched in small numbers both days, but they got blown away by the howling winds. On a calm day, especially a calm gray day, expect to see some rising fish. Best of all, the number of boats has nosedived from its spring peak. While Walter is focusing on the Yellowstone now, he'd still be up for running up to "LoG" for a two-day booking...

Missouri River, Holter Dam to Cascade

Updated May 22

Check with our friends at Crosscurrents. There's no reason for us to drive so far right now.

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