31 August, 2022 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Where did August go? The summer months seem to accelerate as the season goes on and August just vanished. Poof. Honestly it’s one that we aren’t all that sad to see go - the upcoming months of late summer and fall are pretty darn spectacular here in Livingston and Montana as a whole. Here’s what’s going on in our rivers around our corner of the state. 

Yellowstone River 

The mud plug that came down from Yellowstone Park has finally dissipated. The river stayed muddy through town and the lower stretches through much of yesterday, but the clearer water from on high is reaching us down this way. The Montana Whitewater Webcam in Gardiner is a great indicator for the river, and it’s showing fishable conditions this morning. We’ve got about a foot of visibility, which is more than fishable!

The mud has kept most anglers off the water for almost a week, so the fish are going to be relatively unpressured. With kids starting school and tourist season beginning to wind down we are seeing fewer angler days than even a few weeks ago. Weekends will be more crowded, but weekdays are pretty quiet. Mayor’s Landing to Sheep Mountain remains closed to all floating and river use.

The forecast for this coming week or so is HOT. We’ve even got a high of 100 coming up for Saturday. However, cool nights will help control and moderate water temps. Even so it’s a great idea to be on the water early, play your fish quickly, leave them in the water as much as possible and release them as quickly as possible. 

With the hot weather, hoppers have remained top of the food chain for a while. We’ve had some windier days which is blowing them around and into the river. Fish the edges of ag fields on breezy days for the best success. The same advice we’ve had for the last couple reports holds true - fish a hopper with a flashy dropper, terrestrials, and double nymph rigs. If you are fishing past morning, try fishing the deeper water as the trout move to find cooler water temps. 

Fall is coming, and fall is GOOD on the Yellowstone. Stay tuned. 

Madison River 

The Lower Madison remains under a Hoot Owl Closure (no fishing 2pm to midnight) and is a tubers playground. Especially so with all the college kids coming back into Bozeman… 

The Upper Madison has been fishing well and remains in its late summer condition. There is still a Hoot Owl Closure from 8 Mile Ford to Ennis Lake, but no restrictions on the rest of the river. Fish early to beat the heat, bring hoppers, terrestrials and attractors, and soak in the scenery of the Madison Valley. 

There isn’t a lot hatching right now, but soon… Fall is one of the prime seasons on the Madison River for big fish. It’s coming up fast! 

Gallatin River 

The Gallatin River is under a Hoot Owl Closure from the confluence to Cameron Bridge Road. Honestly, as we’ve been saying all summer long, we’d recommend avoiding the stretch that’s in the valley and focusing on the canyon. The water is cooler, the fish are happier, and there’s a lot more access. 

Without much hatching, terrestrials and attractors are a good bet. Fish the good water, fish early in the day, release the fish as quickly as you can. There is an algae bloom from Big Sky downstream, just be aware of that. If you want to avoid that, most of the crowds fish above Big Sky.

One of the main advantages of the Gallatin is the fact that there is so much access in the canyon. There are tons of pullouts and parking spots that allow you to jump down to the river and have at it. Keep in mind it is small water and it’s a popular rafting and kayaking destination, so you’ll need to share the space. 

Other Waters 

Late summer is the season of the high country. There are hundreds of lakes, streams, hidden gems, and secret spots in the mountains of Southwest Montana. You can combine hiking, camping, backpacking, or mountain biking with fishing to create a pretty awesome trip. Lots of these spots are within day hike distance, but even more are within a quick overnight. 

For lakes, we’d suggest a good assortment of beadhead nymphs, small mayfly patterns, leeches and flying ants. The flying ants work surprisingly well on high country lakes, especially in the afternoons. If they aren’t eating on top, trying slowly (VERY slowly) stripping a leech or beadhead nymph. Trout in these lakes can be frustratingly technical at times, so bring a long leader and your A game. 

Streams and creeks are a different matter. Often a basic hopper or attractor pattern is all you need. The water is quick enough these fish don’t have much time to scrutinize flies and a well placed presentation will either work or not. If you make a couple good casts to a juicy spot without results, keep moving. Don’t spend all day working the same runs - keep moving. 

The high country is often overlooked, but if you want a real Montana experience this is it. Go get out in the mountains and explore. It’s worth it. 

Livingston and the Shop 

Late summer is here in Livingston. Kids are back in school, town is less busy, and things are winding down for the season. There is still a lot going on though! Great food, beer, music, events, Farmer’s Market… Fall is a great time to come and visit Livingston. 

The shop is starting to get our first fall apparel and gear in. Don’t be surprised by the cold weather, shop early to stay warm, dry, and comfortable all fall long. With fall hatches coming up fast we’ve got the flies you need. We’ve even got a couple 7wts in for steamer season…

Good luck out there this week!