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.

The Short and Sweet Version: Update May 22

The Yellowstone Park season opens tomorrow, May 23. Usually this opener finds only the Firehole River the only flowing water that's fishable for certain, with some chance of fishing on the Madison, Gibbon, Gardner, and small portions of the Yellowstone in the Grand Canyon. Most waters besides the Firehole are marginal at best, including the lakes, which are clear enough to fish but high and very cold.

To put it plainly, this is NOT a normal opener. A warm, dry winter followed by an early warm-up in late April blew out a bunch of mid-elevation snow, but May has been cool and very wet so far, which has caused the early start to the spring melt to reverse itself. We are now actually building snowpack at high elevations. This cool and wet weather has caused all park rivers that are open to drop into fishable shape. This is unheard of for the park opener. The best and probably only dry fly fishing will still be in the Madison drainage and perhaps on smaller lakes, but if you're eager to fish streamers and big nymphs, even waters that are usually raging with snowmelt on the opener (read: the Lamar) are fishable.

This situation will not last. We expect most of the northern part of the park to get too muddy again once temperatures warm into the 70s again late next week. The Gardner and the Yellowstone between the falls and the Lamar should remain at least marginally fishable through the remainder of the snowmelt, but Slough Creek, the Lamar, and Soda Butte will get too muddy to fish through about June 20 by next weekend, so if you want to fish these rivers now, get on it quick (just not today, tomorrow!).

If you don't want to deal with the park madness, the Yellowstone River outside the park remains fishable with streamers and stonefly fly nymphs, and the private lakes are fishing well.

This weekend, our staff will be fishing the Yellowstone in the Grand Canyon, the lower Gardner, Joffee Lake, and possibly Slough Creek.

For a more-detailed report, read on.

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


Yellowstone River Above the Lake and Lake to Falls

Yellowstone Lake Outlet

Updated Nov 2

Closed for the year. Check back July 15, 2015.

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

Updated May 22

There's two-plus feet of visibility here and the fishing should be on fire. Think streamers and stonefly nymphs in the big eddies, but be prepared with Mother's Day Caddis, BWO, and March Brown dries just in case the heavens align and the fish start rising.

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

Updated May 22

Much dirtier than the Grand Canyon and likely to be muddy on a day-to-day basis if it rains and then blow out for real late next week, but definitely fishable with streamers and stonefly nymphs. This is the "shooting for a home run" stretch of the Yellowstone. You'll either find big and aggressive fish willing to play or not much of anything.

Yellowstone Drainage Small Streams

Updated May 22

While clear enough for now, the creeks are really too cold to fish well right now.

Yellowstone Drainage Lakes and Ponds

Updated May 22

Cascade and Ribbon should fish well on small leeches and chironomids, and there might be chironomid hatches. Yellowstone Lake should produce reasonable numbers of lakers (kill em and grill em) and cutthroats (handle like baby birds and release) along the bouldery shorelines. Think big Woolly Buggers. Blacktail is closed until early July.

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Lamar River Drainage

Lamar River

Lower Lamar

Updated May 22

Shockingly, the Lamar is actually fishable for now. Streamers in the big eddies are your only shots in the meadows, but the canyons may produce on stonefly nymphs. Expect the Lamar to blow for real next week. It might also be muddy on a day-to-day basis this week, depending on rainfall. The full-bore spring runoff will end in late June.

Soda Butte Creek

Silver Gate (Park Boundary)

Updated May 22

The clearest of the Lamar drainage streams, but also the coldest. This means nymphing the slowest water you can find (as long as it's still actually moving). Rain/snow will muddy this water in a heartbeat, and it will blow out next week for several weeks of full-scale runoff. This will end in late June.

Slough Creek

Updated May 22

Clear enough to fish with streamers, for now. It will fish similarly to the Lamar and will blow out similarly, but will clear a few days earlier.

Trout Lake

Updated May 22

Sight-fish for the big, spooky cutthroats here with scuds and tiny, flashy nymphs that look like midge larvae and pupae.

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Gardner River Drainage

Gardner River Above Osprey Falls

Updated May 22

Too high and cold an will be until late June.

Gardner River, Osprey Falls to Boiling River

Updated May 22

Low enough and clear enough, but very cold. We'll mostly fish further down until about June 20. If you do fish this stretch, stonefly nymphs will be the tickets.

Gardner River, Boiling River to Yellowstone River

Just Below Boiling River

Updated May 22

Murky but very fishable. Stonefly nymphs trailing #10-12 attractor nymphs fished on a short line tight to the bank or in the pockets below rocks will bring lots of fish. We expect to fish the Gardner more than any other river through June, and it'll be our "after work fun" any day it's not pure chocolate milk mud.

Small Streams

Updated May 22

Still too high and cold. Check back mid-late June.


Updated May 22

Should fish exceptionally well. On his check run to see what was clear, Ben saw fish rising on Joffee. Except for Fawn Lake, where leeches and small streamers are the tickets, small flashy beadheads will draw the brook and small cutthroat trout found in Gardner Drainage lakes.


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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 May 22

The Madison will be higher, cooler, and dirtier than the Firehole. This argues for streamers in the meadows and stonefly nymphs in the canyon. That said, there's a very good chance you'll find some fish rising to BWO or PMD and possibly olive caddis in the afternoons.

Firehole River

At Old Faithful, Lower River

Updated May 22

As always, the Firehole is our pick if you want dry fly fishing on the opener. Because of the exceptionally low and warm water for this early in the season, the PMD and White Miller caddis are already the main hatches you can expect. BWO will only happen on cool, rainy days, and probably only above Midway Geyser Basin. Absent a hatch, swing soft hackles in the riffles or nymph the ledges with PMD nymphs.

Gibbon River

At Madison Junction

Updated May 22

The meadows will be too wet and sloppy to fish well for a week or two yet, but the canyon should fish well with attractor and small stonefly nymphs. You might even get a fish to rise to a big attractor dry. Even if they're not rising, we'll do a lot of our fishing here with attractor dry/dropper combos, just because that allows you to fish your nymph in skinny water near the bank, where the water's slow and the fish are happy.

Grebe & Wolf Lakes

Updated May 22

The trails and shorelines will be wet, sloppy, nasty messes, but the ice is out and the lakes are fishable. While small leeches and flashy chironomid-type nymphs will be the main tickets, you might find fish rising to chironomid hatches. This is particularly likely on calm days. Look for water flowing in and out of the lakes and fish those areas the hardest.

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Snake River Drainage

Snake River

Updated May 22

A long way from here and likely to be high, cold, and murky.

Lewis River

Updated May 22

The Lewis Lake outlet should fish well on streamers. In fact, the whole river ought to.

Lewis and Shoshone Lakes

Updated May 22

We're waiting until early June to put the boats out on Lewis.

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Gallatin River Drainage Inside YNP

Gallatin River

Updated May 22

Clear enough but very high and cold. Will fish similarly to the Lamar.

Small Streams

Updated May 22

Still too cold. Check back in late June.

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Yellowstone River Drainage

Yellowstone River, Gardiner to Emigrant (Gardiner Basin and Upper Paradise Valley)

Yellowstone River Webcam, Corwin Springs Stream Gauge

Updated May 14

We've gotten exactly what we needed to turn on some spectacular fishing on the Yellowstone: cool and wet weather for most of May thus far, and more in the forecast. While it's lower and clearer on some days than others (and fishes best on the lowest and clearest days), the Yellowstone has been consistently fishable since last Friday or Saturday. Based on current streamflow and weather forecasts, we expect it to remain fishable through at least Memorial Day weekend. These mid-runoff cold snaps when the river drops into shape typically provide EXCEPTIONAL fishing, and this cold snap is no different. If you've ever thought of dropping everything for a spring trip to the Yellowstone River, now is the time...

This upper section of the Yellowstone is probably the most consistent overall, since the spring olive "Mother's Day" caddis hatch is still in full swing here and the fish will eat streamers and big nymphs when they're not rising. Expect the best numbers of caddis on warm, overcast afternoons, but on some days the fish have still been eating them as late as 8:30PM. There are also limited numbers of BWO and March Browns.

Yellowstone River, Emigrant to Shields River (Middle of Paradise Valley to just east of Livingston)


Updated May 14

Generally similar to above. Thecaddis hatch has probably peaked on this stretch already, but I expect stragglers throughout this week, and this stretch is even more likely to produce a BIG brown on a streamer.

Yellowstone River, Shields River Confluence to Clark Fork Confluence

Springdale, Big Timber

Updated May 14

There are a few caddis down here, but the streamer fishing is the main ticket. Also be prepared to head upstream if you have to, since this stretch of river gets dirty easier than it does upstream.

Other Waters

Updated Apr 30

Creeks are still closed. Dailey Lake is fishing well along the north shore. Sight-fish with leeches and you might get 1-2 REALLY big fish.


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Madison River Drainage

Madison River, Hebgen Lake to Quake Lake

Updated Apr 30

Fishing well on San Juan Worms, eggs, midges, and the like. There may be some mud coming in from the tributary creeks, but this is easy enough to avoid. Expect crowds, as the Madison downstream and other fisheries in this neck of the woods are still closed.

Madison River, Quake Lake to Ennis Lake

Below Quake Lake, Near Cameron

Updated Apr 30

The upper end is closed to protect spawning rainbows. Check your regulations to be sure you're in the clear. Read them and look at the map. See how I didn't mention where the closure is, so you HAVE to read your regs?

Downstream of the closure, there is some mud, but stonefly and similar nymphs are working well.

Madison River, Lower

Below Ennis Lake

Updated Apr 30

The Mother's Day Caddis hatch is underway here. There are so many bugs on the surface you may be better off fishing a pupa pattern or a peacock-bodied attractor dry slightly larger than the naturals, to make your bug stand out. Nymphing with a stonefly and a caddis larva or pupa is also a good bet.

Hebgen and Quake Lakes

Updated Mar 28

Still frozen for the most part, though several arms of Hebgen are already developing long ice-free leads.


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Private Lakes

Story Lakes

Updated May 22

Fishing very well on small leeches and chironomid pupae. You may see a few fish rising to Callibaetis or chironomids, but we do better subsurface here.

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 May 22

On spring rates of $80 per day. Somewhat between hatch cycles, but there have still been a few BWO and midges around. If there's no hatch, we like fishing the creeks top to bottom with streamers this time of year.

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Other Montana Waters

Missouri River, "Land of Giants"

Updated May 22

Fishing very well. Because of the low water this year, the fish are much more eager to take "realistic" flies this year compared to last year, when they loved the pink nymphs. They're taking caddis pupae and BWO and PMD nymphs. If the weather is calm, particularly if it's cloudy, you can actually have great dry fly fishing this time of year. Walter has three trips on this water in the next ten days. There's always room for a fourth...

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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