26 September, 2023 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Well, it’s officially fall and it feels like it here in Southwest Montana. Fall is the season for the serious angler - a time of year when people are trying to squeeze in as many days as they can before winter sets in and pursue some of the biggest and most aggressive trout of the year. While summer dry fly hatches take a lot of the glory, some of the best dry fly fishing of the year happens in the fall. 

It’s a great time of year to be here, and here’s what you need to know: 

Yellowstone River 

The Yellowstone River has had more muddy days than clear over the past week. The rain and weather upstream in Yellowstone Park pushed a ton of mud into the river, and we can expect more of the same after the storms in the forecast. Does this mean fishing is totally out of the question? Nope. 

While you won’t have much luck if you’re trying to get fish to look up, the murky water can be very productive with larger streamers. Fall is classically a streamer season for most people, and for good reason. Trout, especially larger browns, get aggressive this time of year and if you want to catch a truly large trout this is the time of year and method of choice. Have a handful of different patterns with varying weights, sizes, colors and profiles. 

Experiment with different retrieves, depths, and methods until you find what works. Generally speaking casting to the bank and stripping with short, quick strips is a great place to start. Don’t overlook swinging streamers either. This method works great with more classic patterns, and while it isn’t as excited as stripping it can be deadly. 

Fishing a streamer or large stonefly pattern with a BWO or attractor dropper behind it can be a really good option in dirtier water as well. As we move deeper into fall, we should start seeing BWO hatches on the cloudier days, and there are still hoppers around as well. These chilly mornings have the terrestrials moving slow in the mornings, but the action picks up in the afternoons. 

Madison River 

The same advice applies to the Madison River - fall is an awesome time. There’s fewer people out on the water, fishing is getting good, the water is clear, and the fish are hungry. We’re still waiting on the premier fall hatches on the Madison River, but the streamer bite is getting good. 

The Lower Madison is finally coming back into shape. Water temps are back down into fishable levels and the cooler weather has driven most of the recreational tubers away. There are currently no restrictions on the Lower Madison, and we’d recommend a nice long walk up Bear Trap if you’re after solitude. It’s still a bit early for BWOs out here, but this is a nice spot that’s close to town to focus on that hatch. 

Gallatin River 

The Gallatin River in fall is beautiful. The lower river below Four Corners is back in a fishable conditions, although it runs very low this time of year. The Canyon is still our go to, and it’s really pretty as the fall leaves take over and things blush with color after a long summer. The Yellowstone Park stretch way up high can be a lot of fun this time of year, just keep an eye out for wildlife. 

There isn’t much for hatches at the moment, but BWOs are in the forecast. Hoppers and other terrestrials are still around, but they are most active in the warmer afternoons. There is a ton of access in the canyon, so there’s no need to crowd other anglers. If you want to stay with dry flies, try a smaller chubby with an ant or attractor dry behind it. Smaller patterns are best this time of year. 

Yellowstone National Park 

The Yellowstone National Park fishing season is open through October 31, and the best is yet to come. Fall fishing hasn’t really kicked in yet, but it’s coming. The Western side waters of the Firehole and Madison are improving almost daily, and while they draw anglers from around the world and can get very busy they’re worth the effort. As noted in our Yellowstone River report, the rain we’ve been getting lately has been pushing quite a bit of mud from the Lamar and the NE corner into the rivers. If you can hit it right with clear water it can be great. Don’t overlook the smaller creeks and streams either…

Livingston and the Shop 

Livingston looks amazing these days. We’re seeing lots of colored leaves and we’ve been enjoying a nice, easy progression into true fall weather. Still lots of beautiful days ahead to peruse downtown and enjoy what we have to offer. 

We had our End of Summer sale at the shop this past weekend, and we are slowly transitioning to fall/winter mode. We’re continuing to get new fall gear and apparel almost daily and have lots of the things you need to get out on the water and enjoy it this fall. Stop by and check us out and tell us a fish story or two! 

Tight lines this week.