24 September, 2022 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Welcome to late September. We’ve had our first snow in the high country, the mornings are nice and chilly, and the elk are bugling in the mountains. This is a pretty awesome time of year around here, and it’s just going to get better as we move into fall. Here’s what's happening around our area on the fishing end of things. 

Yellowstone River 

Fall is a great time on the Yellowstone River. We’re right on the cusp of breaking out the streamer rods, and keeping an eye out for fall hatches. After the rain we’ve had in the past week the river has muddied up a bit. The mud hasn’t hit us here in town yet, but upriver as of this writing it is getting pretty dirty. You can get a good feel for it on the Montana Whitewater webcam in Gardiner here

The few cloudier days we’ve had have been the ticket for streamers. Fish definitely chase and key in on bigger patterns when they aren’t worried about the glaring sun. The nice days are great for being on the water, but… That’s not to say that fish won’t eat the streamer on a sunny day, but fish both conditions and tell us what you think. 

While a solid 6wt rod is great for smaller streamers, lots of anglers size up to a 7wt or higher this time of year. Sink tips and sinking lines are common, but not 100% necessary. If you are fishing a sinking line be mindful of shallower water. Quick strips are often necessary when pounding the banks in order to avoid hanging up on the bottom. 

Fish are always eating other fish. All year round, all day long. There are times of the year when imitating that is a lot better, like now and through the fall, but you can get them to eat a streamer almost any day of the year. Try different patterns, different colors, different sizes, different profiles, and different retrieves. Switch your retrieve up - fast strips, short strips, slow strips - until you start getting follows. If they’re following but not eating, switch your fly up. It’s a testing game. Keep at it until they eat. 

We haven’t heard much about hatches as of yet, but attractor dries and hoppers are still a good bet. Fishing subsurface will be more productive, so a hopper dropper isn’t a bad idea at all, as it has been all summer. We’ll keep you posted as fall hatches start! 

Mayor’s Landing to Sheep Mountain remains closed, as does Mallard’s Rest. The rest of the river is game on! We have had some people asking about the Shield’s River this week - our advice is to leave it alone. There’s other, better water around. 

Madison River 

Things are turning around on the Lower Madison. With cooler temps, the number of recreational floaters is dwindling, and the fishing is picking back up. You’ll encounter most of the boat traffic from Warm Springs to Black’s Ford, but floating down to Grey Cliff or even Three Forks allows you some solitude. 

Nymphing has been productive, crawfish are a great pattern choice this time of year. A double nymph rig with a crawfish and dead drifted wooly bugger can be deadly. Fish the buckets, work the water, and enjoy. Walking up Bear Trap can be great this time of year. Streamer fishing will be picking up as the fall goes on, especially on cloudy days. 

The Upper Madison River remains a great choice. We’re still waiting on fall hatches, but that isn’t too far away at this point. If you want to catch a truly large brown trout in the fall on a streamer, the Upper is a great place for it. Read the section on streamers above, it all applies here as well. Dedicated to it, and it will pay off. 

Gallatin River 

The Gallatin has been fishing well with this cooler weather. The Valley stretch is coming back online with cooler water temps, but you’ll find more access higher up. If you do fish low, walk further than the other guys and you’ll do well. 

The Canyon is a really neat spot in the fall. Especially on cloudy, drizzly days (of which we don’t have many in the 10 day forecast), when the canyon gets socked in and visibility goes down. The road noise dissipates and the experience becomes better. It’s cool. Well worth the time. The fall foliage is starting to show as well! 

Still waiting on fall hatches, attractors and hoppers are still in play. Subsurface rules right now, and if you fish streamers on the Gallatin keep them on the smaller side. The lower in the river you go the bigger streamer you can use and get away with it. 

Other Waters 

The rest of the state is breathing a sigh of relief with these cool temps and rainy weather we’ve had. Fall is a great time to explore new water and fish a lot of it. The Boulder, The Missouri, The Big Hole… Go explore. You never know what you might find. 

The high country is still a great option, but the window of opportunity is closing. Get out there while you still can! Our local spring creeks can be a ton of fun in the fall, and should be switching over to fall rates here shortly…

Livingston and The Shop 

We are shifting to full on fall mode here at the store. We’ll be putting out a lot of new fall arrivals over the next few weeks, and we’ve got something for everyone to keep you warm, dry and comfortable. 

Things change on a pretty quick basis this time of year, so stop by or give us a call at 406.222.1673 for the latest info. As hatches start and fall fishing really gets going, we’ve got everything you need to be successful out there. Tight lines this week!