20 August, 2023 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Late summer is here, and it sure has felt like it this past week. Pretty safe to say this past week has been the hottest of the year so far for us here in Livingston. However we’ve got some cooler weather and even some moisture coming down the pipe. Fall is also on the horizon, though September can often feel more like summer than fall around here. 

While water temps on the Yellowstone River have stayed shockingly low for how hot it is, we’re still recommending you fish early in the morning or late at night. Keep your fights short and your fish wet, this isn’t the season for long, drawn-out fights on 5x. Water temps around the region are stressing fish as is, and throwing a fight into their day can be a lot for them to handle. Be mindful and respectful of the resource please. 

You can always keep an eye on FWP waterbody restrictions and closures on their website here. Currently the only body of water in our area with an official Hoot Owl closure is the Lower Madison, but keep in mind that many of our waters are stressed. 

Yellowstone River 

Late summer on the Yellowstone River means mainly one thing: hoppers. The hopper fishing has been pretty decent, especially in the afternoons and evenings. Hang a dropper underneath it and fish two zones at once. Find areas with brushy banks or with ag fields nearby and you’ll have the best success. Windy afternoons are best, as the wind blows the hoppers around. 

With how hot and bright it has been, fishing slows dramatically during the midday period. Get out early and look for nocturnal stones, fish attractors, or try a hopper. If you want to fish nymphs, a rubberlegs or dead drifted wooly bugger with an attractor nymph or perdigon behind it fished deep is the ticket. 

There isn’t a whole lot happening in late August as far as hatches go, but late afternoon into evening is when you’ll find the best success with hoppers. While hoppers get the bulk of the attention this time of year, certainly don’t overlook ants, beetles, and other terrestrials. A drowned ant pattern can be surprisingly effective behind something larger like a Thunder Thighs. 

Madison River 

The Upper Madison River is in kind of the same late summer pattern as the Yellowstone. Hoppers, terrestrials, and try to avoid the midday bright sun if you can. Early and late is the name of the game these days. Red and black ants are always a good choice, or go subsurface with a double nymph rig. Jig style flies behind a big prince, a rubberlegs, or a crayfish would be our choice. 

The Lower Madison currently has a Hoot Owl restriction, no fishing from 2pm to midnight. We continue to urge you elsewhere - it’s very crowded with recreational users and there’s just other, better places. 

Gallatin River 

Spruce Moths are still out on the Gallatin River in the canyon, and the hopper/terrestrial bite has been pretty decent as well. Below the canyon is getting too low and too warm to really fish, but from Williams Bridge up into the Park it’s all doing well. Smaller hoppers are working, as are ants and beetles. If you’re fishing nymphs when you can’t get fish to look up, stick to the deeper runs and pools. The water from Big Sky to the Park boundary is getting pretty darn skinny, but you’ll get a lot less traffic there. Fishing the Park stretch can be really fun this time of year. 

Yellowstone National Park 

Kind of the same story here as well. The NE Corner has been fishing well this summer, except for when the bigger storms muddy up the Lamar. Hoppers, ants, beetles, and attractor patterns are all working well. If you’re fishing slower water like Slough Creek or anywhere within about a mile of the road go smaller than you’d think with fly selection and bring the finer tippets. Fish are getting picky these days. 

We’re getting close to seeing some fall hatches in the park! 

Livingston and the Shop

This has been a great summer here in Livingston, and we’re looking forward to an awesome fall. Lots of events still going on, and it’s a great time of year to be in town. 

The shop is your source for info, gear, flies, and everything you need. We’re starting to get some of our fall apparel arrivals, and we might need some of it on these chilly mornings coming up! 

Tight lines this week.