6 March, 2024 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Happy March everyone! Once February is behind us the promise of spring hatches and fishing improving is right around the corner. Daylight Savings Time kicks in in one week! That extra hour of light in the evenings is always much, much welcome. 

The new fishing license year started on March 1st, so be sure to renew before going fishing again! Remember that you need a conservation license, fishing license, and an Angler Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass to legally fish in Montana. All of these can be bought at the same time, and you can either get it in store or through the FWP website here

For now, however, fishing remains pretty much the same as it has been. We’re in our late winter pattern of shorter days, cold temps, and (hopefully) more snow. On the note of snow, the Snotel Map is finally looking a bit better, see below. It’s not great by any means but we’re very grateful for these heavy and moisture rich storms we’ve gotten in the past few weeks. March and April are still prime snowpack months, and fingers crossed we can continue to see those numbers improve. 

march 6 fly fishing report picture

It’s still too early to make any claims on how the water year is going to pan out for this summer, but if you’re on the fence of when to come fish Montana, we might recommend coming in July instead of August. July is generally always better than August regardless, but low snowpack years especially. Our prime guide dates are filling up, don’t delay in booking your trip! Get more info on our guided fly fishing options here. 

For those who are feeling the itch and wanting to get out now, our best local options remain the spring creeks. You can still find good midge action on top, especially on cloudy days. We’re still a bit early for spring Baetis but… it won’t be long! These late winter and spring hatches can provide some of the most fun dry fly days of the year. The spring creeks are still on their reduced rates, so you can get out and have a decent day of fishing without breaking the bank. 

While you can go catch a few fish in the Yellowstone River these days, we don’t tend to recommend it as a winter fishery. The spring creeks are better and right here close by, the wind is a pretty constant deterrent to any outdoor activity, and bank fishing access has a tendency to get dicey with ice and snow during the winter. 

The Lower Madison and Gallatin Rivers are a good choice for winter angling in our area, if you don’t want to get out on the spring creeks. The Lower Madison is a great spot to get the boat out for a few hours, or take a nice stroll up Bear Trap Canyon. Be aware that this area is typically as windy as we are here in Livingston, and be ready to deal with it. You’ll find good numbers of midges, and success subsurface with midge larvae, Perdigons, and crayfish. 

The Gallatin Canyon below Big Sky is a popular winter fishing spot. The numerous pullouts and access points give you opportunities to get down to the water without really having to slog through the bankside snow, of which there is quite a bit. Make sure you’re parked in a spot that’s completely off the road, as some of these pullouts can be partially occluded with snow. Look for midges, but the main name of the game is nymphing here. Zebra Midges, Rainbow Warriors, small Perdigons and the like behind a slightly larger pattern like a small Rubberlegs or Prince nymph can be good. Focus on the deep and slow stuff, and don’t be afraid to keep adding weight until you either find the fish or find the bottom. 

As we’ve mentioned before this winter, this season is a time of low commitment. Don’t feel like fishing all day? You won’t be missing much. The warmer and better days are coming up quick. Now is a great time of year to rest, relax, and tie flies. We’re pleased to host Jan Axtell again in March for a fly tying demonstration on Thursday, March 21st from 6-8pm. This event is free to the public, come and hang out and watch some great fly tying! 

Rick has done a fantastic job this winter of making sure our fly tying area is well stocked with everything you might need for your favorite patterns. We’ve got a comprehensive selection and the knowledge to help you find what you’re looking for. 

Here at the shop we’ve got our End of Winter Sale from March 6-10th, where the entire store is 10% off and you can save up to 50% on all remaining winter merchandise. This is a great opportunity to get the gear you’ve been eyeing for the rest of the winter, as well as get a jump on this summer’s plans. Our spring apparel and gear is arriving slowly and we’ll be putting those out soon. 

Tight lines this week! 

axtell fly tying demo march 2024