When to Fish Yellowstone Country

 

When to come?

Come when you can! Many of the waters we fish are open all year, and we often have excellent fishing in the off-season, even in mid-winter if the weather is relatively mild.  Obviously, summer is the most popular time to come, but many anglers are learning that some of the best fishing in Yellowstone country is in the spring (before runoff) and again in the fall. A trip in late February, March or April or in late September throughout October will get you away from the summer crowds and offers some excellent fishing. If you like to fish spring creeks, another advantage of fishing the off season are the reduced rod fees on these streams. Generally, these off season rates apply from mid-October through mid-April. No matter what time you choose to come, we'll help you find some exciting fly fishing!

Return to Guide Service page

The Livingston Area

The Early Season

The spring creeks are open all year and offer good fishing throughout the winter on milder days. Midge hatches provide some dry fly action and the nymph fishing is consistently good.  Hatches of Baetis mayflies starting in early March provide some of the best dry fly fishing of the season. These Baetis hatches run through the end of April on the creeks and the Yellowstone. Nymph fishing on the larger rivers like the Yellowstone can be excellent as soon as water temperatures begin to warm in early spring, which can be from late February on. The famous "Mother's Day" caddis hatch on the Yellowstone usually kicks off around the last week in April, often providing the hottest dry fly fishing of the entire year. Since this hatch comes off just before the major runoff on the Yellowstone, timing can be a little tricky to hit it just right, but you can always fall back on spring creek fishing or the Lower Madison if water conditions aren't favorable on the Yellowstone.



 

May through early July

Our small streams here in Montana open the third Saturday in May. The spring creeks offer great nymph fishing through May and the Pale Morning Duns--the first major summer hatch--starts in mid-June. Late June and early July see the heaviest PMD hatches of the season on the spring creeks and some spectacular dry fly fishing. The larger rivers, with the exception of the Bighorn and Missouri, are in runoff during this period and usually unfishable. If the Yellowstone clears early, we can have good fishing during the salmon fly hatch in late June and early July. Mid to late June is the time to try to hit the salmon flies on the Madison and Big Hole. Tailwater streams like the Missouri and Big Horn have clear water and good hatches at this time. Yellowstone Park opens for fishing the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend at the end of May. The Firehole River is normally fishable with good Baetis and PMD hatches at this time. For those of you that love flat water fishing and are willing to make the drive, the Henry's Fork of the Snake near Last Chance Idaho is also very good at this time. The "Railroad Ranch" opener is always June 15th.


 

Mid-July through mid-August

Our big freestone rivers like the Yellowstone normally clear in early July, and this is when float fishing is especially productive. With higher water levels, wading these big rivers is still a tough proposition. Float fishing along the willow lined banks during the "salmon fly" hatch is a blast, chucking big drys and nymphs. Mixed hatches of smaller stoneflies, caddis, and mayflies provides for good attractor fishing on the Yellowstone through the rest of July and early August. Smaller freestone rivers like the Gallatin, West Boulder, and Main Boulder rivers have also cleared by this time and provide some excellent dry fly fishing with hatches of caddis and Green Drake, Gray Drake, and PMD mayflies. Good hatches, including Pale Morning Duns and Sulfurs, continue on the spring creeks. In Yellowstone Park, streams like Slough Creek and the Lamar River are in prime shape and offer terrific fishing for big native cutthroats.


 

Mid-August through mid-September

The spring creeks have hatches of Sulfurs and smaller PMD's at this time but some of the best dry fly fishing comes in early September when heavy hatches of large midges occur. These midges really bring up the big fish. In late summer, fishing terrestrial patterns like ants and beetles and hoppers is very productive. The late season on the larger rivers like the Yellowstone can be terrific, especially if we get a decent hopper year. This hopper fishing lasts right through the end of September or until we get several hard freezes. Cloudy days can also provide great streamer fishing on the bigger rivers.  From mid-September on, the browns are aggressive, and on the feed in preparation for their spawning activities that will start in mid-October. This is also the best time of year to hike (or pack) into the backcountry and fish the high country lakes.


 

Mid-September through November

Fall hatches of smaller Baetis mayflies once again provide good dry fly fishing on the spring creeks. Cloudy days are especially good. Midge hatches continue and fishing both pupa and dry midge patterns is very effective. Streamer fishing for spawning brown trout provides the opportunity to catch some sizable fish on rivers like the Yellowstone and Missouri. This is also the time to combine some bird hunting with the fall fishing.