31 July, 2023 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

It’s been hot lately! As with most of the country, things are heating up around SW Montana. So are our rivers, so keep a close eye on water temps while you’re out there fishing. Trout are easily stressed by higher water temperatures, and as responsible anglers it’s our job to make sure we keep the welfare of the resource in mind. As more restrictions are put in place, be sure to check Montana FWP’s website for closures and restrictions.

On a brighter note, hopper season is in full swing! Lots of these big juicy morsels are out and about, and trout are starting to key into them. Many anglers look forward to this time of year, and for good reason. Trout will hungrily eat hoppers, and it’s a great opportunity to stay focused on dries at a time when other hatches are tapering off. 

On to the details: 

Yellowstone River 

It’s a great time of year to be on the Yellowstone River. Things are pretty busy on the weekends, but get out early or a bit later and you should be able to avoid most of the crowds. The valley stretch remains the most popular, both for scenic value and fishing. Below town has gotten more and more popular in recent years, especially this time of year. There’s generally less traffic, as well as less overall fish, but better odds at a big one. 

As far as hatches go, you can still find yellow sallies and caddis. Look for the best caddis fishing in the afternoons, but don’t be afraid to fish a pupa all day long. Putting one underneath a chubby or hopper pattern is a very solid bet. If the fish aren’t looking up (especially on these bright days around midday), a double nymph rig with a caddis pupa, stonefly pattern or rubberlegs with an attractor nymph behind it is a great idea. 

Terrestrials, here and on all the rivers in SW Montana, are playing a bigger role than before. While hoppers are of course the first thing that comes to mind, don’t overlook ants, beetles, and other smaller bugs. Small attractor patterns can work really well this time of year, try one behind a larger fly like a hopper or chubby. 

Madison River 

Fishing has been good on the Upper Madison River over the last week. You can still find some scattered caddis, and the hopper bite is picking up considerably. Terrestrial season on the Upper is something that brings anglers from around the world. Pick a windier day, find a brushy bank and have a good time. You can still find caddis around in the afternoons and evenings too. 

At this point in the summer, we aren’t recommending the Lower Madison from a fishing standpoint. There is a Hoot Owl closure in effect from Warm Springs downstream and a full closure in effect from the dam to Warm Springs (so all of Bear Trap Canyon). Come back this fall when things cool down. 

Gallatin River 

The Spruce Moths are here on the Gallatin River. This hatch can be found in a lot of places around our region, but the Gallatin Canyon is the epicenter. These insects peak in the late morning, and can provide some great dry fly action. 

Dedicated spruce moth patterns are the most productive, but in a pinch a tan or brown elk hair caddis with the wing smushed down works well. Come check out our fly bins for some really good patterns. 

Aside from that, the canyon is fishing well with caddis, terrestrials and attractors. Below Big Sky be ready to share the river with rafters, recreational floaters and kayakers. Unlike other rivers with more space, it’s hard for them not to float right over your spot. So just a heads up. Upstream of Big Sky to the park boundary doesn’t see as much use, but does get skinny this time of year. 

We can’t really recommend the Gallatin below Gallatin Gateway this time of year due to flow and water temps. The only official restriction is below Nixon Bridge to the Missouri confluence, we think there’s better options. 

Yellowstone National Park 

The western side of Yellowstone National Park is getting pretty warm these days, but the Gibbon and Madison can still be fished in the cool of the mornings and evenings. The NE Corner and the Gardiner area is where it’s at. There are still reports of some Golden Stones here and there, Yellow Sallies, caddis… Lots to choose from. Also the summer terrestrials are making a showing. Hoppers, ants, and beetles are all great choices in the park. 

Remember to pinch your barbs, buy your YNP license, carry bear spray, and be respectful of the place you’re in. Yellowstone might be busy, but it’s still about as wild as it comes in the Lower 48. Enjoy it! 

Livingston and the Shop 

Hard to believe it’s already almost August! We’ve still got lots going on - art walks, farmer’s markets, festivals, live music… the list goes on and on! There is always something interesting to do here, and lots to see and people to support. 

Our shop is still full of great summer clothing and gear to keep you active and comfortable whether you’re in Montana for a few days or a lifetime. Check out our bike rentals (including e-bikes!) if you want a fun way to check out Livingston. Be sure to stop in the store and tell us a fish story while you’re here. 

Tight lines this week!