28 April, 2023 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Happy Friday again everyone! It’s a beautiful day out there and we’ve got a pretty awesome string of weather coming up. Spring fishing is in full swing, as well as some dirty waters already. The big question around here right now is whether or not the Mother’s Day Caddis will be making an appearance before the river blows out. Read on to find out… 

First, a look at snowpack. Our area snowpack remains well above 100%. At this point it all depends on how quickly it comes out. We’ve got highs in the mid to high 70s coming next week, and that will undoubtedly push a lot of mud into our local freestones. Everyone in Park County is understandably jumpy after last year’s flood, but we aren’t worried about that just yet. The Yellowstone has a longgggggg way to go before that becomes an issue. 

Here’s what’s happening: 

Yellowstone River 

The Yellowstone River has a good bit of color in her today, and that is expected to continue. Flows have come up 500cfs over the last four days to right around 2,300 today. As noted above, a long way to go before flood stage. Visibility was <6” or so this morning, and that will continue to worsen as the nice weather moves in and more snow melts. 

Caddis are on everyone’s minds and sadly we aren’t overly optimistic about a great hatch this year. We had two days of water temps at or near 54 degrees this week, but the chilly weather yesterday and big pushes of snowmelt are driving it back down into the 40s. The Mother’s Day Caddis need stable temps of at least 55 to have a decent hatch. You should be seeing a few of them fluttering around here and there, but for a good fishable hatch? We shall see. 

If we do get a window of clear water, a big stonefly or dead drifted streamer with a caddis pupa behind it is what we’d be fishing. BWOs are still around, and a larger caddis pupa with a baetis nymph behind it isn’t a bad idea at all. You might see some fish eating dries, but as visibility decreases, so will dry fly opportunities. 

As the river comes up and gets dirtier bigger flies come into play. Start talking streamers and everything thinks fall, but don’t overlook spring. You can have some of the best streamer days of the year in conditions like this. 

Madison River

Being a tailwater, the Madison River is reasonably clear these days. On the Upper Madison, you will find some dirty water below the West Fork, but above that and further down mid-valley or so to the lake you can have some really good days. Please watch your step - the rainbows are spawning out of Ennis Lake this time of year, and their redds can be found in gravely areas. Don’t walk through them, don’t fish the redds, just leave them alone and let them do their thing. 

Mother’s Day Caddis is a big deal on the Lower Madison as well as the Yellowstone. While the Yellowstone is likely going to blow out, the Lower is all set to have a great hatch this year. It’s still a bit early but we’d definitely be thinking about putting a caddis pupa on. Fish the buckets, fish the rock gardens. Remember that Mother’s Day Caddis are quite a bit smaller and darker than summer caddis. If you don’t have a dedicated pattern, a small black elk hair caddis works great. 

Gallatin River 

The Gallatin River is on its way up as well. It’s still fishable, but the tributaries are going to be pumping some mud and dirty water into the system over the coming week. Fishing can be really good in the “spring green” conditions we have lately. There is plenty of access in the canyon to go explore a bit. Water temps are still quite chilly, so focus on the deeper and slower water with small stoneflies, caddis pupa, and general attractor nymphs like perdigons, copper johns, princes, and hare’s ears. 

Down in the valley fishing is going to be better. Do a little walking away from access points (legally of course) and find a quiet spot for the best results. If you want to fish streamers on the Gallatin, we’d be doing it down here. The lower river can be pretty fun in the spring! 

Spring Creeks 

The Spring Creeks remain your best option for dry fly fishing. Midges, BWOs, and caddis are all on the menu. Look for risers and until you find them do some creeping on the banks and tight line nymph to big fish. While you could bobber fish these, sight nymphing is a lot more fun. 

The fish are picky, the bugs are prolific, and the water is clear. Worth the rod fee to get in? Absolutely. 

Livingston and the Shop 

You can tell a busy tourist season is on its way - Livingston is definitely getting busier these days! There is a lot to love about our town, and it just gets even better as the weather improves and we can all get outside again. 

The shop is continuing to shift over to our spring and summer lineups of gear. We’re getting new apparel, technical gear, flies, rods, reels, wading boots and more constantly! Come check it out before you go enjoy the beautiful spring weather. 

We’ve also been busy booking guide trips for the coming summer. We could have an epic water year with great fishing all summer long! If you’re interested in coming to Montana to fish, we’d love to talk to you. 

Tight lines this week!