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

It’s really feeling like fall out there these days. Leaves are beginning to turn in the river bottoms and we’ve had a few mornings where it’s downright cold. Fall fishing is coming up fast and we are ready for it. 

Cooler nighttime temps are helping keep water temps down, but still do your best to limit stress on the fish you catch. Keep them in the water, get them released quickly, and make the fights as short as possible. These fish have had a long and busy summer and as responsible anglers, it’s our job to respect and help protect the resource. 

Here’s what happening in the local area: 

Yellowstone River 

The Yellowstone River has had some off color days recently with heavy storms in Yellowstone National Park, but nothing that has impacted it too badly. Hoppers are still the main course, with streamer action slowly picking up especially on cloudy days. Don’t overlook terrestrials such as ants and beetles, hoppers aren’t the only terrestrials in the game! Fishing an ant pattern in the surface film or just under it behind a chubby or hopper can be deadly. 

We are still waiting for our prime fall hatches, but you’ll find some caddis in the afternoon. If you can find a grassy bank or ag field next to the river on a windy day fish a hopper tight to the bank and land it with a resounding “splat”. These larger bugs get blown into the river on breezy days and the trout know it. 

Caddis pupa, rubberlegs, and attractor nymphs like Lightning Bugs, Perdigons, and Spankers are all good options to hang below a bigger dry fly. Definitely switch to something sub surface midday when the sun is really bright, and leading into the evening caddis hatch. 

Madison River 

The Lower Madison remains busy even during the week. While fishing is improving, we’re still recommending giving it a bit more time. See how it goes next week. 

The Upper Madison is a great option this time of year. Conditions are lining up for a fun fall, and while we’re still waiting for the best fall hatches there is plenty of action. Terrestrials are still in play, as are evening caddis. These trout have seen a lot of pressure this summer so consider dropping down a tippet size and being a little more sneaky. Don’t be surprised if they’re quite a bit more picky than you’d expect. 

If you’re walk wading, be willing to invest a bit of time walking away from accesses to get away from more pressured areas. Keep your head on a swivel and be aware of wildlife in your area. The walk/wade areas on the upper river especially require some more attention. 

Gallatin River 

Now until winter is a really beautiful time in the Gallatin Canyon. Leaves are changing, the summer crowds are lessening to an extent, and the fishing remains consistently good. From the Canyon Mouth to Big Sky will see the bulk of the pressure, but also the bulk of the water. Above Big Sky to the park boundary remains pretty low. There’s definitely still places to fish, but you might have to search a bit more for them. 

Terrestrials and small caddis are the main dry fly fare. Nymphing has been productive with caddis pupa and jig style nymphs. The lower river is coming into shape, especially with these cooler days. 

Yellowstone National Park 

Fall in Yellowstone National Park is one of those experiences every angler needs to have at least once in their lifetime. It’s beautiful, a little less crowded, and the fishing gets considerably better than during late summer. We’re right on the cusp of the good fall fishing, so now until the season closes is game on. 

Terrestrials, caddis, and a growing number of BWOs are all in play here in Yellowstone. Bring the fine tippets and your A-game. Fish in heavily pressured places are getting quite picky. We’re still a few weeks away from the real beginning of fall dry fly fishing, but it’s only going to get better. The entire park is fishing well, but we are of course partial to the waters of the Northeast Corner. 

Livingston and the Shop 

The summer tourist madness is slowing down, but there is still lots to do here in Livingston and Southwest Montana. Fall is the season of the more seasoned angler, and while the general tourist traffic is slowing, we’re seeing a lot of serious fishermen here in town and in the shop. We’ve got live music, events, festivals, great food and drink and a lot more to offer all who are fortunate enough to visit. Even with fall on the doorstep, there is tons of biking, hiking, fishing, rafting, and backpacking to do still. 

The shop is getting more and more of our fall apparel and merchandise every week, and we’re slowly changing things over with the season. Come by and check it out, get outfitted with everything you need, and tell us a fish story! 

Tight lines this week.