12 November, 2023 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

It sure seemed like winter was upon us a few weeks ago, but things have mellowed out nicely. Now, we’ve got clear skies and days in the high 40s and 50s for the foreseeable future. An odd fall weather year to be sure, but we’ll take it! Any day on the river with sunshine and halfway warm temps is hard to turn down. 

While lots of people have hung up their waders for the season, there’s no reason to - yet. Here’s what’s happening in our local area waters. 

Yellowstone River 

Fall fishing has been pretty darn good lately. The bright skies haven’t helped dry fly anglers, but you can still find a few BWOs here and there on the more cloudy days. The other factor that is very present and almost always constant is the wind. We are pretty officially in the windy season now and will be for the next long stretch of months. Don’t even ask, it’s basically always blowing. Plan accordingly and be ready for it. 

Since the dry fly fishing has been hit or miss with the conditions, going subsurface is your best bet. Nymphing with classic winter stuff - something larger like a rubber legs, Mega Prince, or small streamer with a BWO nymph, perdigon, or Rainbow Warrior. Water temps are definitely on the cold side, but they haven’t quite plummeted down to winter lows. You can still find fish in their fall hiding places, instead of mid-winter haunts

The best success we’ve heard lately is from people throwing streamers. Big ones, small ones, articulated ones, fished on the swing, quick strips, slow strips… It’s all working pretty well right now. With the bright conditions we’ve had lately, we would start with something small-ish and brightly colored. Yellow, white, gray, sparkle minnows and the like. If you’re into swinging flies (and if you’re not you should be), opt for something with a stinger hook and lots of natural movement. 

The Yellowstone River slows down drastically in the winter, but fortunately we aren’t quite there yet!


Madison River 

Both the Upper Madison River and Lower Madison River are pretty stellar now. Fall is when the Madison River truly shines, and although we are easing into later in the season there are plenty of fish to be caught. You can find BWOs on the cloudy days still, and midges are starting to show up in decent numbers on the upper river. 

Beware the wind, and we’re getting to that point in the year when it’s a good idea to check both your ramps for ice and clearance if you’re floating. You don’t find many other anglers out there, but you will find wind! 

The Lower Madison River is a great spot for a quick outing, especially if you’re based out of Bozeman. You can find some excellent dry fly fishing in the rock gardens up Bear Trap Canyon, look for BWOs still and some midges are starting to show up as well. The majority of days are pretty windy, which can impact dry fly fishing. The steamer bite has been decent and dragging a crayfish pattern with a midge nymph behind it through the buckets in the Warm Springs to Black’s Ford can be a great choice. 

Unlike the Yellowstone, as a tailwater the Madison is a great winter fishery and we can expect several more months of good fishing here. 

Gallatin River 

Late fall and winter on the Gallatin is an interesting time. Things can slow down pretty drastically, but the Gallatin remains a solid option. Below the canyon can get super sketchy with ice jams and obstructions with colder weather, but we certainly haven’t had much of that lately. 

The canyon is a solid late season fishery from Big Sky on down. The river stays reasonably clear, and the deeper pockets and runs can yield some really good fishing. You might find some BWOs here and there, but midges will start showing up in good numbers here soon. Nymphing with a jig-style fly and a midge nymph behind it should yield fish. Be careful on the road. 

Yellowstone National Park 

The 2023 fishing season in Yellowstone Park is now closed! Thanks everyone who fished this year and enjoyed it. It’s never too early to start planning next year’s trips! 

Paradise Valley Spring Creeks

The spring creeks of Paradise Valley - Depuy’s, Nelson’s and Armstrong’s - are the cream of the crop for winter fishing in our area. They flow consistently year round and offer some of the most technical and fun fishing of the season. We’re seeing some BWOs and good numbers of midges as well. There is a full season of great fishing and reduced rates ahead of us! 

Livingston and The Shop 

The big news around our shop these days is the Pray For Snow Celebration, coming up next week on Thursday, Nov 16th and Friday, Nov 17th. We’re showing the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival on Thursday, with our classic party, raffle and silent auction on Friday at the Depot Center. This event is not one to miss!