18 June, 2021 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

The Yellowstone River continues to drop into shape and is currently at a level and clarity to fish really well. The river still has a lot of green to it, but clarity is more than enough to fish well. At the time of this writing (10am Friday morning), the Yellowstone is flowing at 7,470cfs. We’re expect the gauge to only continue to trend downwards. Get the current flow data here on the USGS website here

The Salmonfly hatch is looming large, and right behind that Golden Stones and other stoneflies. These big bugs bring people from around the world in hopes of having a truly epic day of dry fly fishing. You don’t get many chances to throw dry flies that large to aggressive trout! While we are waiting for the hatch to start (which should be any day now), fishing a double dropper rib of stonefly nymph patterns such as Rubberlegs or a Mega Prince along the banks is a great choice. 

The nymphs live for years in the river before hatching, and when their time comes they migrate to the shallower waters along the banks before their emergence. We’ve heard reports that the migration to the banks hasn’t started yet in the lower river, but they are moving toward shallow water above Yankee Jim.

Dead-drifted streamers or a small, flashy beadhead behind a stonefly nymph would work as well. There isn’t much going on for other dry fly activity at the moment, but PMDs and some summer caddis are coming up fast. Don’t forget yellow sallies too… Lots to look forward to! 

Our other area rivers are coming down from runoff peaks, with some really good fishing coming up soon. With a short runoff and slim snowpack, our post-runoff season is starting earlier than normal this year. With that and the incredibly warm temps we have experienced lately, our water temps are rising fast. Check before you go, and try to limit your fishing times to early morning and later in the afternoon. Word on the street is that salmonflies are starting to hatch around Ennis, and the Upper Madison is going to be in its prime. If you’re chasing the big bugs, now is the time! 

As water temps rise it puts an additional strain on the fish. Once temps hit 65, try to only fish when it’s cooler outside, use heavier tippet to get the fish in more quickly, and keep the fish in the water. If you do want a photo, keep the fish under the water until you’re set and ready then very quickly raise them out and snap the shot. Then right back in the water they go. Proper fish handling is key during these warmer months.

The western rivers of Yellowstone National Park are already warm enough we aren’t recommending people fish them. The rivers of the Northeast corner such as Soda Butte, the Lamar, and Slough Creek are dropping down and should be coming into shape really well in the coming weeks. Expect PMDs, drakes, and caddis soon. 

Stillwaters are still a good option, especially as more of our regional mountain lakes open up. These lakes fish very well this time of year, and offer a great excuse to get out in the mountains for a weekend and sleep outside. Many of these lakes have streams coming or going from them that make packing a lightweight creek rod well worth it… 

Fishing these mountain lakes can be a bit of a technical challenge, and it pays to have several tactics available to you. Slow stripping leech patterns with a small midge dropper can be deadly, or watch and wait for surface action. A small mayfly pattern like the classic Parachute Adams or Purple Haze can be a wonderful all-purpose attractor for those situations. Many mountain lakes fish well with a flying ant pattern in the afternoons and evenings. 

While river flows and water temps are something to be aware of, we still have some great fishing in the coming weeks and months. Just be aware of the conditions, keep fish wet, and adjust your expectations accordingly. As always, give us a call at 406.222.1673 or stop in for the latest info, flies, and gear!