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

The end of winter is here, and spring is right around the corner! Like, literally tomorrow. After a long winter, that’s the best thing I’ve written in a long time haha. We’ve still got a long way to go before it’s warm and green and beautiful, but we’re getting there. Spring fishing is coming up fast too. If you’re tired of just messing with midges, hang on just a bit longer. 

Our snowpack is doing really well, and we are expecting more early this week. It all depends on how quickly it comes out of the mountains, but we are feeling pretty good about things for the summer! Our weather pattern is still supposed to be wetter and cooler than normal through the spring, so… Stay tuned for more.


Spring fishing is getting better, and with spring officially starting tomorrow it’s going to be getting better and better. Here’s what’s happening. 

Yellowstone River 

The Yellowstone River actually got a bit of color to it over the past week with some melting going on in Yellowstone Park. Things are clearing up to more green lately, and the moisture due over the next few days will certainly help with that. We aren’t quite to runoff yet! 

Fishing has been picking up with the warmer days. Midges are out and about, especially on cloudy days. Warm + clouds + lighter winds = good days. An adult midge with an emerger behind it fished in the surface film can be deadly. Be sure to have the entire life cycle in your box, just in case. 

Here in a bit we’ll start seeing more of our typical spring hatches, but we’ve still got a ways to go yet. Would we be too surprised if there was a BWO or two flying around here and there? Nope. 

Streamer fishing has been slowing picking up, but slower retrieves are still going to be better. Think swinging it, long, slow strips or dead drifting it. Basic patterns have been outperforming the bigger stuff - wooly buggers, zurdle bugs, and zonkers are all a good choice. 

Madison River 

The Upper Madison is on the whole an icy mess. Are there fishable spots around town? A few, but given the ice and the fact that it’ll be shifting a good bit with the warmer weather, we would say either go way up high or stay on the lower. The area around Reynold’s Pass has been producing some pretty decent midge days when stars align and conditions are right. 

The Lower Madison is relatively ice free (until you near the Headwaters anyway), and has been fishing well. This is a really fun time of year on the Lower Madison. Midges are out in force even on sunny days, and concentrating on buckets and depth changes can yield good results. Crayfish, rubberlegs and large pheasant tails and prince nymphs with a midge pattern like a zebra midge or rainbow warrior are a great choice? Jig style nymphs? Yup.

If you want to get the boat out for a hot minute and make a quick float, the Lower is a great choice. 

Gallatin River 

There is a lot of ice in the Gallatin River right now. Down in the valley there aren't a lot of places that aren’t affected by shore ice. Up the canyon there is a lot of snow and ice around, but access is a bit easier with the sheer volume of turn offs, pullouts, and bridge access. Stick from like William’s Bridge to Big Sky and you’ll find some fish willing to play. 

Look for midges midday, and fish the deep and slow stuff. The Gallatin is still quite cold, especially up in the canyon, and fish are going to be sluggish. If you do drive up the canyon, be mindful of road conditions. These spring road conditions can be brutal. 

Spring Creeks 

The local spring creeks are still the belle of the ball for our local waters. Consistent temps, good hatches, and picky, challenging fish. They are still on their winter rates and they’re well worth the price of admission if you’re feeling the early season fishing itch. These fish demand the best of you, and are a fun way to sharpen your skills for the coming season. 

Livingston and The Shop 

With spring right around the corner, we are starting to switch things up. You’ll see lots of new merchandise, clothes, and gear around the store in the coming weeks. Fishing is about to become a much bigger concern, but if you aren't there yet it’s still a great time of year to be tying flies and filling boxes. 

Due to popular demand, we are offering another fly tying class! Our Intermediate Class will introduce more advanced patterns and techniques. Previous fly tying experience is required, but this is a great class to broaden your horizons and grow your tying acumen. It’s a 5 week class, costs $125 with all materials and tools included, and starts March 27th.