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

Happy Saturday everyone! This late May is feeling a lot more like summer than last. We’ve got a slew of 80-degree days in the forecast and the high country is melting out. We find ourselves squarely in the midst of runoff at this point, with the “will we get a window?” attitude of the last few weeks long gone. 

Taking a look at the Snotel map might cause some alarm, but don’t get too worried yet. There is still snow in the mountains, it’s just coming out a little faster than usual. This does mean that our runoff might end a bit earlier than normal, but it’s really too early to say that for certain. 

One more note before we move on to the good stuff - the smoke in the air over the past week is from Alberta. As of right now we don’t have any major fires here in Montana and the smoke is forecasted to largely blow out over the next few days.

On to the fishing! 

Yellowstone River 

Up, up and away! Watch the USGS gauge here. About all you can do at this point besides take a stroll in Sacajawea Park and enjoy the view. 

Madison River 

The Upper Madison River has continued to fish well these days, but you can expect some reduced clarity as things keep heating up. Below Quake to the West Fork should be about the cleanest water in the system, and will provide good dry fly action through the walk wade section on a few Baetis left and caddis. If you’re after fish looking up, afternoons and evenings are going to be your best bet. Soak up the long days! 

The rest of the river down to Ennis Lake has been fishing well, and as waters rise focusing on things like big stoneflies, worm patterns, and streamers will produce fish. 

The Mother’s Day Caddis hatch on the Lower Madison River is still going strong, with solid dry fly action taking place most days. If you aren’t seeing fish rising fish a caddis pupa under a bobber or swing an emerger/pupa double rig and see what happens. Swung emergers can be deadly in the early stages of a hatch. 

The Lower Madison is also the closest clean water out of Bozeman and as such it gets busy. Especially on weekends. Bring your patience, be kind to all, and enjoy the river. 

Gallatin River

About the only clear water on the river is above Taylor’s Fork to the park boundary and even that is running pretty high right now. Most of the river is muddy, and the lower you go the muddier it gets. Our suggestion? Wait it out. 

Paradise Valley Spring Creeks 

The spring creeks are a bastion of clear water and picky fish in the midst of the mud these days. Calendars are filling quickly, so if you want to fish them from now until late summer book it now. You’ll still find Baetis around as well as caddis in the afternoons, but PMDs are on the faint horizon… 

Yellowstone National Park 

We are one week away from Yellowstone National Park’s fishing season opener! Fishing in the park is open the last Saturday in May (May 27 this year) til October 31. Remember you do need a separate park fishing permit, which you can buy online here.

Lots more to come as we get closer to the opener! Stay tuned. 

Livingston and the Shop 

Livingston is buzzing these days. We’re expecting a busy summer with the North Entrance to Yellowstone back open and lots of people already in town. There are tons of events going on now through the summer, and lots of great places to eat, drink, and be merry in our lovely town. 

If you’re interested in a trip to Livingston or Montana in general this year, we would urge you to book lodging and transportation as early as you can. Things book quickly these days! Have questions about guided fly fishing trips or anything outdoor related, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. 

While our rivers are rising and we find ourselves in runoff, many of us are shifting toward hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. Be sure to check out our weekly(ish) Trail Reports for the latest on what’s happening around Livingston

Our shop is full of everything you need to get out and enjoy Montana, with the service and knowledge to make the most of it. Fly rods, flies, terminal tackle, apparel, bikes, hiking gear - you name it. We hope to see you in the store sometime soon. Stop by and tell us a fishing story! 

Tight lines this week.