17 November, 2022 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Well, that escalated quickly. We haven’t had this snowy and cold of an early season in quite a while. After a very hot and dry summer followed by a warmer than normal fall, it has felt like the downright middle of winter for a while here in Livingston and around Montana. 

This is great news for all - we can get a headstart on winter snowpack (see map below!) and it gives hope that this might be a good winter for skiing, snowshoeing, and other wintry activities. It is important to remember that it’s still “technically” winter yet, and we still have a lot of the season ahead of us. Hopefully this colder and wetter pattern will continue through the season! 

We had some very chilly temps across the state over the past week. When it’s in the teens or lower, you might as well just stay in, tie flies, read a good book, or start planning that tropical trip… Slush has been an issue on all our rivers with these temps, and we’re starting to see some shelf ice forming. We have another couple of cold days ahead but the longer term forecast is looking pretty balmy, so stay tuned for further developments there. 

This time of year temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s do come with a caveat: wind. We are entering our windy season in the Livingston area, so pull that hat down tight and lean into it. Here’s what’s happening on our local rivers:

Yellowstone River Fishing Report

Things have been cold on the Yellowstone River. Slush was floating down the middle of the river for much of the past week. The shelf ice was starting to form through Paradise Valley, which further limits wade access. It hasn’t been too bad yet, and should melt out with warmer temps to come next week. 

We’re still seeing a few midges here and there, but dry fly action is pretty shut down for the season. Instead, a dead drifted streamer or rubber legs with a Zebra Midge or Rainbow Warrior behind it under an indicator is a good choice. Midge nymphs and attractors are what you be using. 

Focus on the slow, deep water and use enough weight to get it down. If you’re fishing streamers, either swing it or slowly slowly strip it. Think of it like good bbq - low and slow is the key. 

Madison River Fishing Report

Things are pretty much the same for the Madison River. There isn’t much hatching, but you can find some midges scattered here and there. Bear Trap Canyon on the Lower Madison is about the best option for dry fly fishing. Go on the sunny days and expect to deal with the wind. 

Crayfish and dead drifted streamers should be your point fly, otherwise fish something larger like a size 12 Perdigon, Prince, Lightning Bug, or Pheasant Tail. Midge nymphs should be your dropper. Midges are a classic winter fly, and you should have a good selection of them in your box. 

Watch for shelf ice on the Upper, especially around town. Valley Garden, the town access, Burnt Tree and 8 Mile always ice up pretty early with the cold. Fish for a few hours up there and get a burger at the Gravel Bar to warm up. 

Gallatin River Fishing Report

The Gallatin River is a popular winter fishery for Bozeman, given its close proximity to town. The Canyon becomes a winter wonderland, and the stretch below Big Sky stays reasonably ice free. Use the many pullouts to go get cold and try to nymph up trout with midge nymphs. It’s a beautiful experience up there in the winter. You might find a few midges hatching in the canyon on the sunny days, but most of it will be subsurface. 

Lower in the Gallatin Valley the river offers decent fishing. Same story as elsewhere - it’s cold, watch for ice, fish midge nymphs. The further you walk from the few access points the better the fishing will be. For a quick outing, it’s a great option. 

Paradise Valley Spring Creeks Fishing Report

The three spring creeks of Paradise Valley are an excellent choice right now. Rod fees are lower, the water is pretty ice free, and if you’re on DePuy’s you can get a fire ripping in the warming hut and soak it all in. 

Fishing, as it usually is, on the spring creeks is very technical this time of year. Stay low and get sneaky, cast as accurately as you can, and bring a wide selection of flies. Think itty bitty midges in a variety of colors, life stages, and profiles, scuds and tailwater stuff in very small sizes, and low profile indicators. If there was ever a time to use 5x or smaller tippet here in Montana, this is it. 

We haven’t heard great things about midges hatching in any numbers yet, but they are definitely there. Look for them midday on sunnier days and you can find some dry fly action even in the slow season. 

Livingston and the Shop 

Hard to believe we’re already basically at the holidays! Thanksgiving is next week and our lovely town is bustling with activity. First off, we are hosting our Backcountry Film Festival again after a two-year hiatus this Friday, November 18th at the Livingston Depot Center. We’ve got almost $33,000 in prizes for raffles and silent auctions and all proceeds benefit Loaves and Fishes. Come get stoked for the winter and support those less fortunate in our community. 

There’s a host of Christmasy things coming up in town, including the Christmas Stroll on December 2nd, and the Christmas Tree Lighting at the Depot Park on November 26. There are many other great events happening between now and New Years. If you ever needed a reason to come to Livingston, here’s your chance!

Our store will be hosting our annual Ladies Night on the December 8th, and Mens Night on December 15th. We’re your one stop shop for Christmas shopping and finding the gear you need to stay warm, dry, and comfortable no matter what you’re doing outside this winter. We’ve also got a wide selection of fly tying tools, vises, and materials for those days when you decide to stay indoors. 

Tight lines this week!