30 March, 2023 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Good lord did we get some snow over the last week! Wow. That was pretty insane. Definitely one of the bigger snow events of the entire year, and there is still more in the forecast! This is excellent news for snowpack, but not so good for everyone ready for this long winter to be over. The tulips in the backyard I saw trying to come up last week are wishing they were still deep in the ground ha. 

How big of a boost did we get for snowpack? A pretty darn good one. All our regional drainages in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho are looking stellar for this time of year. Remember last year we got the bulk of our snowpack late season in late March and April? We shall see if that’s the case this year! 

Here’s what’s happening around our area rivers:

Yellowstone River 

The Yellowstone River has seen a bit of color over the past week, especially as this heavy snow has started to melt. When (if?) temps rise, expect more color as runoff hits the river. Surprisingly the wind hasn’t been too bad at all lately, and the fishing has been pretty decent. 

While you can find some fish eating midges here and then on the warmer and cloudy days, staying under the surface remains the best choice. If you just want to get some action and have a bent rod all day, tie on two shiny flies with a bit of weight and be ready to wrangle some whitefish. If you’re after trout, a larger point fly like a big Prince or Perdigon with a midge larva behind it is a great choice. 

Is it time for BWOs? Nope, not yet. But it is time to start thinking about streamer fishing, should that tickle your fancy. Fish are slowly getting more aggressive, and your retrieve can match that energy. Is now the time for super quick, active strips? Probably not. But, can you add some flair and bumps and wiggles to your fly instead of just a dead drift or swing? Oh yes. 

Be mindful of ice on the river, especially mid valley. The situation has been changing on an almost daily basis with the warmer weather, so check before you put the boat in. And as always - exercise caution and remember no trout is worth putting yourself in danger for. 

Madison River 

The report on the Madison River remains pretty close to the same. From Ennis Lake to above 8 Mile is still pretty darn icy. The river above there is starting to fish a bit better, with some decent midge dry fly action on the warmer days. Is it worth the drive from Livingston? Well… If the roads are clear it’s a really nice drive. 

The Lower Madison is a lot closer and has been fishing very well. Ice isn’t much of an issue until you get down past Grey Cliff, and the classic Warm Springs to Blacks Ford stretch is free and clear and makes for a great quick float to get the boat out this time of year. Midges are still around in pretty good numbers and the streamer bite is picking up. Walking up Bear Trap Canyon with a sharp eye and a dry fly rod sounds like a really good time right now… Watch the hidey holes in the rock gardens for noses and be ready to make some good casts. 

Gallatin River 

The Gallatin River in the valley is still pretty locked up, making wade fishing access difficult. While there are a few spots here and there that are easier and safer to fish, there is better access up the canyon. Things are very snowy and icy up there still, especially after this latest storm, but winter fishing in the Gallatin Canyon is something special. The river downstream from Big Sky remains reasonably warm enough to stay clear, and the fishing is pretty decent this time of year. 

Midges remain the key food source, and all your classic winter nymphs should be in your box. Water temps are still quite cold, and fish are sluggish. Find the deep and slow stuff and fish it well with Perdigons, Princes, Lightning Bugs, Zebra Midges and Copper Johns. Keep adding weight until you either find the fish or find the bottom. 

Spring Creeks 

With the weather we’ve had over here lately, the spring creeks have been shining. A few days of little wind in March? Sign us up. Midges have been popping off, and the fishing has been quite good. As always it’s extremely technical, but it’s a fun challenge. Winter rates still apply for a few more weeks, so get out and enjoy it while you can! 

Livingston and the Shop 

Spring is a time of renewal, and our store has been undergoing a seasonal renewal as well. Our winter apparel and gear is phasing out and being replaced by lots of great spring options. From clothing to hiking, biking, and technical fishing gear, we are in full on spring mode! 

We’ve got a few fly tying classes happening in April, and will begin offering some exciting casting classes and lessons. Stay tuned for that! There is lots of exciting stuff happening all over Livingston and our local area as we move past winter. Tight lines this week!