We’re now approaching late July and the question on everyone’s mind is this: Is the Yellowstone River finally fishing?
While it has been technically fishable for a few weeks now, clarity has been an issue. The river has taken a gray-ish, muddy hue that we normally don’t see and it stubbornly refused to clear up beyond about a foot of visibility for the past few weeks. Imagine our relief late this week when it finally started showing more green!
There is now up to two feet of visibility in the river, and fish are eating dries again. You can find caddis, some PMDs, Yellow Sallies, golden stones… a smorgasbord of delicacies for our fishy friends. We’ve even gotten some reliable reports from serious people about fish eating hoppers in the afternoon!
It’s still early for hoppers, but from about noon to 3:30 fish have been looking up and eating them. They’re still small, green, and feisty - so if you go this route downsize your typical patterns. Other terrestrials such as ants (drowned ants anyone?) and beetles are a good bet when nothing is coming up to aquatic insects. If you’re after fish on top, have a mixed box with generic mayfly patterns such as Parachute Adams and Purple Haze, as well as Elk Hair Caddis, X-Caddis, Snowshoe Sallies, and other delights we have in stock at the shop.
Big golden stone and hopper patterns make a hell of a platform for hanging a nymph under. Try Lightning Bugs, Caddis Pupa, generic stuff like Copper Johns, Rubberlegs and Hare’s Ears and you’ll be busy all day long. Dead drifted streamers under an indicator are a very solid option if you’re after big fish.
Most of the accesses are back open after our flood last month, with the notable exception of Mallards which remains closed for the foreseeable future. PLEASE NOTE - The Yellowstone River is closed from Mayor’s Landing to Sheep Mountain. This isn’t just a boat ramp closure, it’s a complete recreational shutdown. FWP is concerned about the hazard the old rail bridge at Highway 89 presents as it is very unstable after flood damage.
The Lower Madison River is under a Hoot Owl Closure from Warm Springs to the confluence - no fishing from 2pm to midnight each day. This stretch of water always gets warm this time and year and is absolutely overrun with recreational floaters. Steer clear of this stretch, but if you simply must fish the Lower take a big walk up Bear Trap. Watch out for snakes!
The Upper Madison is still fishing very well and is a very good choice - provided you aren’t after solitude. Fish early or fish late to beat most of the people. There’s a lot hatching right now including Yellow Sallies, caddis, PMDs and PEDS still, and terrestrials are starting to show up well. It’s a haul from Livingston, but a must fish at least once during the summer.
A bit closer to home is the Gallatin River and it’s a good option as well. The Gallatin is still flowing pretty fast and pretty cold, at least through the Canyon. We wouldn’t really recommend fishing below Axtell Bridge to the confluence, the canyon and up is where its at this time of year.
There are lots of options for the dry fly angler. The one thing we haven’t seen or heard much about is Spruce Moths, which typically are around this time of the month. The general consensus is that it was too wet this spring. Keep in mind that the Gallatin from the canyon mouth to Big Sky is typically pretty busy. This stretch is also very heavily utilized by recreational floaters and rafting companies, so be ready to share the water.
Above Big Sky to the Park border and further up can provide some incredible fishing for really not that much more driving. There are lots of pullouts, lots of public access, and lots of fish. Watch your step as wading gets slick this time of year. The fish aren’t big, but they’re eager to eat dries and there’s lots of them.
There is more water than you could fish in a lifetime within a couple hours of Livingston. It’s truly staggering and worth exploring. The Boulder River right now is still running pretty high and fast, and we’ve heard mixed reports. “Bugs everywhere but we couldn’t buy a fish” is a quote from a trusted and accomplished angler that sticks out to me this week. Sounds like people are having the best success either way high or down lower.
We are advising people to stay away from the Shields for the time being - it is already running well below normal flows and those fish have had a rough few years. Give them a break and fish someplace else.
The high country is quite enticing this time of year. Stretch the legs and go check out some alpine lakes. If the fishing sucks it’s still a great day and an awesome way to spend the weekend. No one ever watches the day fade in an alpine cirque and wishes they were back on the couch in the heat wiping cheeto dust on their shirt as Netflix asks “are you still watching?”. Summer is short, make the most of it.
Livingston and the Store
Summer in Livingston makes people fall in love with this place. There is a lot going on this time of year that makes spending some time in town well worth it. Community events, live music, festivals, shows, gatherings, shopping, dining and drinking - we’ve got it all.
Our store is conveniently located right next door to the Murray Bar and right in the heart of downtown Livingston. Doesn’t matter if you’re on a mission to see us or strolling through town, you can’t miss us. Stop in for great service, the right products, and information to get you outside and enjoying Montana.
Tight lines this week! Let us know how fishing treats you.