Montana Fly Fishing
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the Yellowstone River
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The Yellowstone River in Montana is an exceptionally nice river for any angler on a Montana fly fishing trip. Besides being home to large brown, cutthroat and rainbow trout, the Yellowstone River itself has such a wide variety of habitat that it offers excellent dry fly fishing as well as sub-surface fishing with nymphs and streamers.
Due to the Yellowstone Rivers length in Montana and the fact that quality trout fishing can be had from Billings upstream to Yellowstone National Park, most anglers struggle not with the fly fishing but with attempting to figure out where to begin. As the river is quite long, it is best to focus in on a particular stretch of the river instead of driving back and forth hundreds of miles attempting to fish a couple stretches of the Yellowstone River. Additionally, the scenery in the Yellowstone River country is beautiful and quite varied, so don't be bashful about letting it influence where you fish. After all, the landscape is part of the experience of any Montana fly fishing trip.
This section of the Yellowstone River flows through the upper section of the Paradise Valley, from Gardiner, which is at the border of Yellowstone National Park, downstream to the end of Yankee Jim Canyon, marked by the Carbella Access Site. Cutthroat and rainbow trout fishing dominate on this stretch.
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Before spring run-off occurs in mid-May, which turns the Yellowstone River into a muddy mess, excellent fishing can be had using small nymphs such as the Hare's Ear and Pheasant Tail, weighted down to get the nymphs towards the bottom in the quick current. Additionally, large streamers and stoneflies, such as Montana Stones, also work well when fished in the deeper water right along the bank.
A strong Salmon Fly and Golden Stone hatch occurs every year on this section beginning in late May and lasting until early July. However, the hatch frequently coincides with spring run-off, turning the water muddy and murky, greatly reducing the effectiveness of dry fly fishing the Yellowstone River.
To take advantage of these late-spring and early-summer hatches, nymph fishing is the technique of choice. The nymph should be large (sizes 4-8), and should be floated in the slower sections of the Yellowstone River or right along the bank. As the water is murky, darker colors work best.
The Yellowstone River generally begins to clear up in late June or early July during normal water years, coinciding with sporadic caddis fly hatches. Popular dry flies such as the Elk Hair Caddis, although selecting larger flies will catch the larger fish and reduce the number of whitefish brought to the net. Compared to the other rivers in Montana, the caddis fly hatches that occur on this stretch of the Yellowstone River during the summer are not extensive.
Beginning in late July, and continuing for the rest of the summer, hopper fishing becomes excellent along this stretch of river. Simply use large hoppers, sized 4-8, floating them right along the banks. Additionally, anglers can use streamers like the Marabou Muddler, fishing them in the deep holes and around the larger rocks.
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