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

Happy October everyone! We’re having a very pleasant fall with above average temps and super mild weather. We’ve had a few rainy days, but the majority are bright and sunny and the leaves! Oh man, the leaves this year have been incredible. It seems like too often we get a heavy snow storm in October that knocks all the foliage down before we can enjoy the colors in their full glory. Not this year! 

One thing of note: the fishing season in Yellowstone National Park closes October 31 this year. They’ve changed the timing up, which might confuse some. With the road closed in Gardiner, we haven’t been reporting on Yellowstone’s fishery much this year. Suffice to say pressure in the NE corner has been down considerably and next year should be really, really good.

The fishing has been pretty solid. Even with the bright weather, we’re seeing really good results across our local waters. Here’s what’s going on. 

Yellowstone River 

October is streamer season on the Yellowstone River. While you can catch fish with other methods, the pursuit of large brown trout on heavy rods with big flies dominates is the stuff of dreams. The bulk of casual tourists and anglers have moved on, leaving the river to the more serious fishermen. 

Please be aware that fall is the spawning season for brown trout. Watch your step, don’t mess with redds, don’t fish over redds, and leave spawning trout to do their thing. If you catch an obviously spawning fish, get it back in the water as quick as you possibly can with the minimum of fuss. Protecting spawning fish is paramount to the future health of a fishery and helps to ensure the Yellowstone River will remain an excellent fishery for future generations. 

As mentioned above, streamers are working great right now. Strip them, swing them, dead drift them. Carry a variety of sizes, profiles, and colors and keep switching until you find what they’re chasing today. General rule of thumb: dark day, dark fly. Bright day, bright fly. One often overlooked method of fishing streamers is dead drifted under an indicator with a small nymph underneath. 

Nymph selection should include the old standards such as lightning bugs, copper johns, hare’s ears, and rubber legs. Don’t forget to grab some Perdigons and other jig style flies. They have been working very well this year. We haven’t heard any great reports of Baetis being out with this super sunny weather, but their nymphs are out in force. A full life cycle of the insect is good to have in the box this time of year. 

For dry flies we don’t have a ton going on. The hoppers and terrestrials are all but gone now with these cold nights we’ve had. A few frosts and they’re pretty much over. You’ll see a few BWOs around with even more on the cloudy days. They don’t hatch great in this sunny weather, but keep an eye out. 

Madison River 

Fall on the Madison River is a super special time. It’s one of the best times to be there - good fishing, great scenery, and less people. Both the Upper and Lower Madison have been fishing well this month. Streamers have been picking up big fish, there has been some scattered BWOs around, and overall it’s just good times. 

The Lower Madison is long since rid of the “bikini hatch” recreational floaters and is back to being the realm of fishermen. You’ll see a good number of boats from Warm Springs to Blacks Ford, less from Black’s to Greycliff and even less from Greycliff to Three Forks. Fish numbers decrease the lower you go, but the average size does increase. 

For the walk-wade anglers Bear Trap Canyon is a very attractive option. Take a nice stroll down the river until you find some attractive water and have at it. Bear Trap has numerous rock gardens that offer great holding water and are great for those hunting heads. The entire Lower Madison is also known for its buckets and sneaky pockets in the middle of the river - places where the average depth is only a foot or two deeper but hold trout. Learn to identify that and you’ll do well. 

The entire Upper Madison is fishing well right now. Please be aware of spawning trout, especially below Ennis and Between The Lakes. Careless fishermen can cause a lot of damage to redds this time of year, don’t be that guy. There is a lot of great water to wade, float, catch fish, and have fun. 

Gallatin River 

The Gallatin is a beautiful spot in the fall. While the Canyon has been our focus and the focus of many, many anglers during the summer (and still fishes very well), the lower river comes more into play this time of year. During the hot summer month the valley stretch of the Gallatin gets too low and too hot, but now it can house some decent fish and close-to-town action. 

If you feel up for the drive, the Gallatin River in Yellowstone Park is a fun fishery this time of year. Anywhere along the canyon can produce as well, even though this is the busiest stretch of river. Fall foliage in the canyon can be really pretty and worth the trip. 

Unlike elsewhere in the state, the Gallatin isn’t where you want to be throwing the biggest, nastiest streamers in the box. Smaller streamers produce better here. If you look at it and wonder if it’s too small, it is probably about the right size. Look for midges and BWOs on the cloudy days, and be ready with nymphs and indicators if not.  

Other Waters 

October is one of those months when basically any water anywhere is fishing well. Go exploring! If you want some really good dry fly fishing, head for the Missouri River. It can be punishingly technical, but dedicate to the dry and you’ll have a good time. Worst case, go get dinner and a beer at Isaac’s in Craig or the Driftwood in Cascade. 

The Shields River is one we should mention. Although it is very close to us, we don’t recommend anyone fishing it. Flows are still low, the browns are spawning in it, and it’s just been an overall very rough summer on the river. Just avoid it. Don’t mess with it. There are other better choices. 

The local spring creeks are on their fall rates and can be an incredibly fun option for a day on the water. The fish are big and super spooky so bring your A-game. Try to time it right with a cloudy day for the best chance at dry fly action. 

Livingston and the Shop 

Here at the shop we are transitioning away from summer and its pursuits and more toward fall and winter. The bike shop is going to be moving toward the ski shop here soon, and our apparel racks are filling up with sweaters, long sleeves, and warm jackets. Need something to help you stay warm and comfortable this fall? We’ve got it. We’re also stocked on waders and boots, so don’t fish another season in your old ill-fitting, leaky set. 

Livingston is absolutely beautiful right now with the leaves and fall colors. Town has really begun to slow down as we move away from tourist season but there is still lots to do, see, and love! Don’t overlook Livingston for your fall and winter plans. 

Also, for those of you who ski or love winter, mark your calendars for Friday, November 18th. One of our most beloved and enjoyed events is coming back after a couple year break! Stay tuned to our social for more details. 

Tight lines this week!