5 November, 2022 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Happy November everyone! The holidays are coming up fast and we’ve got the winter weather to prove that we are moving on past summer. Yesterday’s big dump of snow is going to be followed up by a pretty good storm early next week. Temps are supposed to plummet and we’ve got several days with multiple inches of snow forecast. Bring it on! We’ll take every inch of snow pack we can get. Here’s what’s going on with our local rivers this week:

Yellowstone River 

We’re entering our late fall pattern on the Yellowstone River. Temps are dropping which means water temps are too. Colder water = colder fish, which means they’ll be shifting to preserving as much energy as they can. On the colder days concentrate on the slower, deeper water. Keep adding weight until you find the fish. 

Streamer anglers are still having success. Fish might not be chasing as aggressively as they were a few weeks ago, but a dead drifted streamer under an indicator is deadly. Slow presentations like swinging flies are a great choice right now as well. With more cloud cover lately move toward more neutral or dark colored flies, and save the flashy stuff for sunny days. 

You can still find some BWOs around on the calmer and cloudy days, but their window is closing fast. Midges are out and about, and can reward the patient dry fly angler. Hanging an emerger off the back of an adult is the ticket these days, cover two feeding zones at once. Unfortunately for the dry fly folks we are at the start of our windy season so try to find the protected spots to look for rising fish. 

The Yellowstone River isn’t all that well known as a winter fishery. We get a lot of shelf ice that severely limits wade access, and even cuts out boat ramps. There’s definitely still fish to be caught on the Yellowstone in the winter time, but our fall fishing window is looking pretty slim. 

Madison River 

Late fall/winter on the Madison River can be really good. There is still ice to worry about,but that’s a few weeks out at the very earliest. The Lower Madison is a very popular cold weather fishery, and for good reason. It’s a quick and easy float from Warm Springs to Black’s Ford, with lots of opportunities for dry flies, steamers, and good nymphing buckets. The colder weather will cut down on traffic a bit too, which always helps. 

A stroll up Bear Trap Canyon is what you’ll want to do if you’re looking for action on top. There are numerous rock gardens that provide shelter from the wind and great hidey holes for big fish. On cloudy days look for BWOs and midges on the sunny ones. Crayfish are a great nymph option right now, as are dead drifted wooly buggers with a midge nymph behind them. 

The Upper Madison is still doing quite well too. Be mindful of spawning trout, just leave them alone. Fishing the big nasty steamers up there can yield some impressive fish this time of year. Look for the last of the fall BWOs on the cloudy days, and hope the wind isn’t too bad to blow them all away. 

Gallatin River 

It sure looks and feels wintry up in the Gallatin Canyon these days. The Gallatin in the canyon is a really fun winter fishery, and we might be in those kinds of conditions for the season with this upcoming storm next week. Fish the deep, slow water with midge nymphs and flashy things. You’ll find some midges flying around so keep an eye out for that. 

The Gallatin above Big Sky gets pretty icy and locked up this time of year, but that’s still a bit out at this point. If you want to fish up there again this year, now is your time. From the Canyon mouth to Big Sky is the most popular winter fishery. 

The Gallatin in the Valley is a good option this time of year. Access is limited, but plan to walk (legally please) as far as you can from an access and you’ll find some good water. BWOs are out, midges are out, fish are still eating small streamers and double nymph rigs work well. Think a Zirdle Bug with a zebra midge behind it. 

Other Waters

A lot of the state is going to get cold this coming week. It’s that time of year, and we’re due for it. After the lovely warm fall we had, this is a hard shock but it’s great to see the snow in the mountains. With that in mind a lot of our waters around the state are going to shift into late fall/early winter patterns. This is about the slowest time of the year as far as fishing goes, with only a few standout places. It’s also almost that weird window between Thanksgiving and Christmas where everyone is super busy and time just vanishes. 

The Missouri River is a great fall fishery. It’s one of the best options in our region for the hard core dry fly guys this time of year. BWOs are still kicking around a bit, and midges are out. When you aren’t seeing heads, break out the trout spey and go swing flies or fish the deep stuff with zebra midges, scuds, baetis nymphs, and all that good winter tailwater stuff. 

Our local spring creeks like Depuy’s are worth the time as well. Being spring creeks they are a pay-to-play option, but they’re sometimes the only open water option around. Look for BWOs and midges, and bring a good lunch to enjoy in the warming huts while a fire rages in the pot bellied stove. This time of year you can get on with a discounted winter rate. Be aware that the wind can play a huge role in how well it fishes. When it’s windy in town, it’s windy on the spring creeks. (As I write this, the wind is howling through the doors and windows are rattling with the gusts lol)

Livingston and the Shop

We have seen a big drop off in people in town over the past few weeks. It’s just that time of year. With the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park now open, we are all looking forward to winter tourists coming to enjoy our lovely town. 

The shop is abuzz with our upcoming Backcountry Film Festival on Friday, November 18th. If you enjoy winter, skiing, or just hanging out with great people come on down to this FREE event at the Depot Center.  An amazing silent auction/raffle benefits Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen here in Livingston. We’ve already garnered over $20,000 in prizes for the raffle/silent auction.

While most of the shop is changing to ski and winter gear and apparel, we’ve got the flies, terminal tackle, waders/boots, and clothing you need to stay dry, warm, and comfortable. Come on down and check it out, and if you’re already moving on to planning next year’s fishing excursions we’d love to talk to you! 

Tight lines!