13 January, 2023 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Happy New Year, welcome to 2023 folks. It’s going to be a great year here in Montana! 

Not a whole lot has changed since our last report. We’re still in the midst of winter fishing, even with this warm up we’re experiencing right now. The warm weather is nice in that ice isn’t as much of an issue as it might otherwise be, but it definitely feels more like March than January out there. Ice is still a problem in some places, so make sure you get an updated daily report before launching a boat or walking down to your spot. Be careful around shelf ice, it’s nothing to play around with! 

We’ve had a few calls and questions about this, remember that the Montana fishing license season ends at the end of February. This means that your 2022 fishing license is still valid! We’ll be posting about the need for new licenses when it comes time for it. 

Wherever you go you’ll likely run into wind. Pretty much anywhere in Montana these warmer temps bring with them wind. In places like Livingston, a 40 degree day brings with it 40-60 mph winds. If you’re going to the saltwater anytime soon and need some practice casting in the wind, come to Sacajawea Park with your 10-weight. 

Midges are the primary hatch at the moment, but they are few and far between. Look for them around midday, and expect the hatch to intensify as we move toward February. If you’re after some dry fly action, find a calm spot. Which might be a challenge with these temps!

For subsurface tactics, find the deep and slow water. Water temps are low and the fish aren’t too active. They want to hang out in spots where they can use as little energy as possible, so get the weight out. Keep adding weight and fishing deeper until you either find the fish or keep snagging bottom. A larger indicator fly like a rubber legs, mega prince or crawfish with a midge larva behind it is a good starting point. 

If you’re fishing streamers this time of year, swinging them or dead drifting them under an indicator are the way to go. Same thought applies here as with nymphs - trout aren’t wanting to expend a lot of energy chasing quickly stripped streamers. Swinging good runs can be very effective in the winter. A trout spey rod is ideal for this, but you can still swing flies well with a single hand rod if needed. 

Here locally, the spring creeks are the best option. We’ve heard of some people fishing the Yellowstone River but it’s not been that great - especially in the wind. The constant flow and temps of the spring creeks are ideal for winter fishing and the experience is well worth the rod fee. The Gallatin Canyon isn’t a bad option, nor is Bear Trap on the Lower Madison. If you feel like a drive head to Craig on the Missouri River or Reynold’s Pass on the Upper Madison. 

If you don’t feel like battling the wind all day long and breaking ice out of your guides, sitting down at the vise and filling some fly boxes for next year might be a better option. Want to learn to tie flies? We’re offering a 5 week fly tying class starting February 15th! The class will focus on the basic and give you all the skills you need to get into the world of tying your own flies. We have a few spots left so call 406.222.1673 and reserve yours before the class fills up. 

Our fly tying selection at the shop has everything you need for your favorite flies, and we’re always happy to talk patterns, techniques, and materials with you. Tight lines this week!