17 May, 2024 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Happy Friday everyone! We hope you’re able to get outside and enjoy some beautiful weather before the rainy week coming up. The odds are decent you won’t be fishing (not on the Yellowstone anyway), but there are still plenty of options to get out and enjoy Montana right now. Even if you’re just working in the yard, it’s nice to be out in the sun. 

We’ll keep this one pretty short and sweet. First, a snowpack update. The storm last week really helped boost our figures with a heavy dump of wet, moisture-rich snow. We’ll take every little bit we can get! While we’re still below average for most drainages in our area, it’s looking better than it was a month ago. The rainy weather coming in next week should continue to deposit more snow up in the high country. Fingers crossed for a cool and wet spring! 

Second, runoff is here. The Yellowstone River is up over 11,000cfs as of this writing and will continue to climb. All of our freestones in the area are going to have similar situations: high, dirty water, basically zero visibility, and dangerous wading conditions. Tis the season, and the freestones can wait. 

Yellowstone River 

It’ll be a while before we’re on the Yellowstone River again. For the time being, take a walk in the park and contemplate the raw power of that much water coming down through valley. The Lamar River up in Yellowstone Park is running quite high and quite dirty, so it’ll be a while. If we had to guess? 4-6 weeks. 

Gallatin River 

See above. Running high and dirty, especially below Taylor’s Fork. It’ll be a while! 

Madison River and other Tailwaters 

The Madison River is a great option this time of year. Being a tailwater, that is it flows out of a dam, the Madison stays much more clear than other rivers during runoff. It still gets high, and tributaries pump some mud into it as well, but on the whole it stays fishable. The one downside? With all our other area rivers muddy, everyone congregates here. Be ready to see people, be kind and considerate with space and you’ll be fine. Plenty of river for everyone. 

Look for BWOs, March Browns, and some scattered caddis. We’re a ways out from Salmonflies but that is always on people’s mind as the weather gets better. Is it too early to fish a stonefly nymph? Nope. Streamers are a great bet in the more murky water. 

The Lower Madison is even closer, and arguably busier. It fishes really, really well this time of year and with it generally always too warm to responsibly fish later in the summer now is the time to get out on it. BWOs, March Browns, a few caddis around still provide plenty of action for the dry fly anglers. Streamers are a great bet, as are crayfish patterns with an attractor nymph behind it. 

Other tailwaters include the Bighorn and the Missouri Rivers and both of those are excellent choices. We don’t talk about this too often, given that we have such a wealth of opportunity here locally, but they are remarkable fisheries in their own right and well worth the drive time to get there this time of year. 

Spring Creeks 

In the Livingston area, the spring creeks are about our only option for clear water. They’re still on spring rates until June 15th and offer some incredible technical dry fly fishing. If you want a challenge, and a great opportunity to do some sight fishing, this is your spot. Stop by the shop and chat if you have any questions. 

Yellowstone National Park

The fishing season for Yellowstone National Park opens next Saturday! Licenses are available online here (LINK) - remember that you need a separate license to fish in the park. While the big rivers are quite muddy right now, there are plenty of smaller waters that will be available to fish. 

Livingston and The Shop 

It’s starting to feel like summer around here and it’ll be peak season before we know it! The shop is hopping every day, and we always enjoy talking to all of you from around the country and world as you stop in to visit. We’ve got everything you need to stay warm, dry, safe, and comfortable during your adventures in Montana, and the knowledge and insight to make sure you enjoy it to the fullest! 

We hope to see you soon. Tight lines this week!