19 April, 2024 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Happy Spring to all! It’s been a hot minute since we last updated our fishing report, but things are finally starting to wake up from the long winter break. Unlike the last few months where the report never really changed, hatches and conditions are on the move. Spring fishing can be some of the best of the entire year, and now is the time to capitalize on it. 

First, a quick update on snowpack. As you know, this winter was… underwhelming to say the least. Our winter moisture was considerably lower than average, and that trend is continuing so far this spring. Most of our major drainages are in the 60-70% range for average snowpack and we are all hoping fervently for a wet spring. 

What does this mean for fishing? It means if you’re planning to travel to Montana to fish, you should probably aim for earlier in the summer than you think. Pending spring storms, our runoff is likely going to be a bit shorter this year but only time will tell. Stay tuned and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions leading up to prime summer season. 

Now: the fishing. 

Yellowstone River 

The Yellowstone River has been fishing very well for the last few weeks, and we can expect that trend to continue for at least a little while longer. The river has muddied up a good bit due to the very nice weather over the past week, but with a cool snap coming this week it will clear up. Water temps are still pretty darn cold, and as more snowmelt enters the system it will stay chilly. 

Dry fly anglers will be disappointed in the more murky water, but will be encouraged by the growing numbers of BWOs. There are still a few midges around, but Baetis are taking over as the primary hatch. March Browns are showing up as well, and both of these mayflies can foster some incredible days. Look for the best dry fly action on cloudy days around midday/early afternoon. 

The real draw of the Yellowstone River lately has been the streamer fishing. It’s been GOOD. Stripped, dead drifted, or swung, fish have been eating streamers with abandon. Keep the “dark day, dark fly” and “bright day, bright fly” rule in mind and you’ll be in a good spot. In the darker water of pre-runoff, darker and larger patterns are a good bet to start on. Have a variety of patterns, profiles, and colors to cycle through until you find what they’re eating. 

Nymphing has been consistent, and a good way to cover several bases is to fish a dead drifted streamer with a perdigon, BWO nymph, or caddis nymph behind it. Start a few feet beneath the indicator and keep moving them deeper every so often until you find the fish. As we move out of winter conditions, you don’t have to concentrate as much on the deep and slow water, but that’s a good place to start with a nymph rig. 

The Mother’s Day caddis hatch is on everyone’s minds as well. It’s still a few weeks away, and fingers crossed the river will be fishable during the hatch. Stay tuned! 

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Madison River 

The Madison River is a great place to be during the spring fishing season. The Lower Madison starts seeing a lot of boats, especially on weekends and after work. Warm Springs to Black’s Ford or any of the other takeouts like Damselfly, High Bank or Greycliff is a great outing to scratch the itch without being gone all day. 

Fishing has been good with midges, BWOs, and March Browns giving plenty of opportunities for those seeking dry fly action. No caddis yet, but the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch here is legendary. Stay tuned, it’s still a few weeks away. Streamers are a solid bet this time of year, as are crayfish with a baetis nymph behind it. Hit the buckets, hit the obvious holding water and keep moving if you aren’t getting any action. 

The Lower Madison can get pretty busy in the springtime, so be thoughtful of where others are when you’re there. Give everyone plenty of room, be kind to all, and enjoy the day being outside. If you’re after solitude, take a big stroll up Bear Trap Canyon and keep walking until you find some quiet water. 

The Upper Madison has been fishing Very well also. The same info applies up here - BWOs, a few midges, and march browns for the most part. Nymphing has been very consistent, and streamers are finding some larger fish. We can expect some dirty water from the West Fork soon, but the conditions are quite fishable at the moment. 

The big thing to note on the Upper Madison is the fact that spring is spawning season for rainbows coming up from either Ennis Lake or Quake Lake. When you are wading through gravely areas, be especially careful to not disturb redds. Let the fish do their thing and keep the population thriving for years to come. Don’t walk through them, don’t fish over them, just leave them be. 

Gallatin River 

The Gallatin River has been fishing quite well, and as things warm up and snowmelt starts to begin in earnest it’s taking on the famous “Gallatin Green” color. We can expect the river to get muddy sometime soon, so get out there and enjoy it while you can. 

You can find some scattered midges and BWOs in the canyon, with better Baetis hatches downstream in the valley. The river in the canyon below Big Sky is getting the most pressure, which is unsurprising. If you aren’t seeing fish rising, a stonefly nymph with a small perdigon or attractor nymph is a great choice. Pick the water apart, fish it well, and keep covering ground. 

Streamers are an effective choice here as well, but lean more toward smaller and duller patterns than you would other places. Vary your retrieves and depths until you find what works and fish the most obvious holding water first. 

Paradise Valley Spring Creeks 

The Spring Creeks have had a great winter season, and most of them are on their spring rates now. More expensive, but still well worth it for the incredible opportunities they offer. If you want to go fish dry flies at big, picky fish, this is the spot for you. Midges, BWOs, March Browns are the name of the game these days. Bring the fine tippet and your a-game, this is very technical fishing. 

Yellowstone National Park 

While we are still waiting on the Yellowstone Park fishing season to open late next month, the big news is that two pieces of water will be open year round. The Madison River from the the Montana/Wyoming border downstream, and the Gardner River from Osprey Falls downstream to the park border will be open year round as of Nov 1, 2024. This is a big change from previous years, and marks the first water in the park to be open year round. It’s shaping up to be a good start to the season down in Yellowstone, so stay tuned! 

Livingston and the Shop

We are in full on spring mode here at the shop! Our ski shop has packed up, and we’ve moved on to bikes in a big way. We’re getting new men’s and women’s apparel and outerwear, new flies, backpacking gear, and so much more every week. If you haven’t stopped in in a while, now is the time! 

Spring is also the time to be booking guided fly fishing trips, and our prime dates are filling fast. If you’re interested in a guide trip this summer but have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know. We’re here to help. 

We hope to see you in the shop soon, and have a great week! Tight lines. 

new flies april 20 fishing report dan baileys