14 May, 2023 -Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

How is it already mid-May? This year is absolutely flying by. But the quicker days are just bringing the prime time of fishing closer! 

First, a quick update on snowpack. The higher temps we had earlier this month pushed a good bit of snow out of the mountains, and our snowpack around here has dropped to the high 80s-low 90s percentile of average for most of our local area. Don’t worry too much though - there is still a ton of snow up in the high country. 

With the higher temps in the forecast, we can expect runoff to kick off in a big way this coming week. What does that mean for anglers? Read on! 

Yellowstone River 

Over the past week the Yellowstone River did get a window of fishable conditions. Flows dropped quite a bit and visibility cleared up to between 6-12”. As of this morning flows are coming back up, and are sitting at around 7,400 cfs. This is changing on an hourly basis, and you can get the most updated info on the USGS website here

With flows on the rise, and the high temps in the forecast, we don’t expect things to stay fishable for too much longer. Now would be a great time to get out and throw big streamers at the banks, or dead drift a streamer or big stonefly pattern with a caddis pupa behind it. We have seen quite a few caddis out and about on the river, but getting a fish to rise in these conditions is challenging. 

We try to post clarity updates and short videos on our Instagram stories on a regular basis, be sure to follow us there for the latest. 

Madison River 

Not much has changed on the Upper Madison since our last report. The river below the West Fork is going to be getting a bit dirtier as snow continues to melt in the higher temps, but it should remain fishable for a while yet. There are march browns, Baetis, caddis and even a few midges left for the dry fly folk, and now is a great time to be throwing big streamers. 

MOTHERS DAY CADDIS ARE HERE! The Lower Madison has seen a good hatch of the Mother’s Day Caddis this week, and it should continue for a while yet. This is the first big dry fly hatch of the year, and it can be awesome. If you aren’t seeing fish rising, swing an emerger or fish a pupa behind a crawfish under an indicator. Putting an emerger behind an adult and fishing it in the surface film is a great idea. 

This hatch draws people from all over the region, and for good reason. It can offer some really good days. Just be patient, remember everyone else is out there for the same reasons you are, and give everyone plenty of room. There’s enough river for everyone. 

If you don’t have a dedicated Mother’s Day Caddis pattern, don’t worry. They’re smaller and darker than their mid-summer cousins, so a size 16-18 Black or dark Brown Elk Hair Caddis can work just fine. Purple caddis are also a good bet… 

Gallatin River 

The Gallatin River also had a big drop in flows over the last week. They’re starting to tick back up, but things should be fishable for a few days yet. The river through the valley is going to be dirtier than in the canyon, and be careful when you’re moving around at accesses. The higher water can make wading through some of that more challenging than you remember from last summer. 

You’ll still find some BWOs here and there, and midges up in the canyon. March Browns should be out down lower and you might even see some caddis in the afternoons. The river above Big Sky is finally melting out enough to fish, and that can be a fun outing for fish that haven’t seen flies all winter long. Expect the river below Taylor’s Fork to be dirty. 

Paradise Valley Spring Creeks 

Talking to some people in the shops lately, sounds like things are still fishing quite well if a few weeks behind. Be really careful when you’re out on the spring creeks as spawning fish are still around. Days are beginning to book quickly for the spring, and summer is filling up fast. 

As always the fish are super picky, and now there’s a wider array of options to serve them. BWOs, March Browns, midges, even some caddis. Have a fully stocked fly box, bring the 5 and 6x tippet and 10-12’ leaders, and go into your day on the creeks fully expecting to be humbled. It’s a great challenge, and that’s part of the fun. 

Livingston and the Shop 

Mother’s Day is today, and we hope you have a great day celebrating the wonderful moms in your life! If you’re a last minute shopper, we’ve got lots of great options here at the store. Not quite sure what you’re after? A gift certificate is always a great idea. 

We’ve got everything you need to stay warm, dry, and comfortable out in Montana no matter what you’re doing. We’re getting into biking, hiking and backpacking season and there is no shortage of places you can go and things you can do! We’ve got it all for you. 

Tight lines this week!