7 October, 2023 - Yellowstone River and Livingston Area Fly Fishing Report

Happy October everyone. This is a season of change, a time for the serious anglers to be out and about here in Montana. The leaves are colored up and so are the brown trout. As they move to spawn they get highly aggressive, and if you want to catch a big brown on a streamer fall is a great time to do it. 

On the note of spawning, please be really careful when you’re out wading and moving around our rivers. Redds are starting to show up in gravely areas and the last thing those fish need is people walking through them or bothering them. When you see redds just give them space and leave them alone. Don’t fish over them, don’t walk through them, just let them be. 

On to the fishing. 

Yellowstone River 

The Yellowstone River has had its fair share of muddy days recently with storms and rainfall coming out of Yellowstone National Park, but on the whole it has been fishing quite well. The crowds of summer have largely dissipated and we are all trying to soak up as much fishing as we can before winter weather sets in. This past week we’ve been seeing the first signs of winter creep into the high peaks so we know it’s not too far away. 

As mentioned above, streamer fishing has been picking up. The best days are overcast, but don’t be afraid to break out the big stuff on sunny days. The old adage of “bright day, bright fly/dark day, dark fly” is a good one to stick to. We’ve heard good reports from people stripping, swinging and dead drifting streamers. Try different retrieves, strip lengths, bumps and pauses, and sizes/colors/profiles until you find what they like. We’ve got a wide variety of streamers at the shop, stop in and we’ll help you find the right ones. 

We’re also starting to see good hatches of Blue Winged Olives now. This hatch is our go to fall dry fly hatch, and occurs midday. Cool and cloudy days are best, and this time of year it’s a crapshoot if the wind will cooperate. Fishing a BWO nymph behind something larger is a great choice until you start seeing fish eating emergers and adults. These bugs get small, so pack the 5x and your patience. 

Madison River 

The Upper Madison River is pretty stellar in the fall. Consistent flows keep the river clear and the fish happy. The big browns are out and about this time of year. Watch for redds and break out the streamer stick. The entire Upper is fishing well right now, and you can find eager fish throughout. For the dry fly anglers, look for midges and BWOs - best on the cloudy days. 

The Lower Madison River is a great close to town option. Water temps are staying low, fish are active, and the tubers are gone. Look for BWOs on the cloudy days, fish streamers in the buckets all month long, and enjoy it. There are always a few really surprisingly large fish that come from the Lower every year, and this is the time of year when you can find them. Swinging a BWO emerger just as the hatch is kicking off midday can be a lot of fun… 

Gallatin River 

The Gallatin in the canyon and above is fishing pretty well, but the real star of the river is the lower sections. Water temps and irrigation pressures have both alleviated some concerns and things are fishing well. There’s a couple fun floats down there and if you’re willing to walk a bit from fishing access sites you can find some good wade fishing. Fish are eating streamers and you can have some surprisingly good days on BWOs down here. 

Yellowstone National Park 

The season is drawing to a close in Yellowstone National Park, but as always the best is saved for last. We’ve got some excellent dry fly fishing across the board, with fall BWOs being some of the best hatches of the year here. The Firehole, Gibbon and Madison on the Western side are spectacular this time of year. The Madison always sees some really large fish come out of Hebgen Lake, but please be very mindful of redds and don’t harass those fish. 

The Northeast corner is fishing very well also. Look for midges and BWOs and the streamer bite across the entire park is great. This time of year, as always in the Park, be hyper vigilant about wildlife. Don’t get too close, give all animals plenty of space. And never be without your bear spray. 

Paradise Valley Spring Creeks 

The Paradise Valley spring creeks are back on the radar as crowds have thinned, rates have dropped, and the fishing is still really good. You can find solid hatches of BWOs for the month of October, but be forewarned - these fish are picky. If you feel up for a challenge bring the 6x and size 20s and have at it. Fall and winter fishing here on the creeks is a ton of fun. 

Livingston and the Shop 

We’re in full on fall mode here in Livingston. The leaves are beautiful and the air is crisp. Here at the shop we’ve got a ton of great apparel to keep you cozy and comfy whether you’re in a drift boat all day or just hanging around town. We’re slowly making the transition to winter mode and it won’t be long before we’ve got skis out again! Speaking of skis, don’t miss our annual backcountry film festival - now the Pray For Snow Celebration - on Nov 16th and 17th. 

There’s a lot of great fishing left to be had this month. Stop in or give us a call and we’ll make sure you can take advantage of it. Tight lines this week!