Montana Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing the Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River

Fly Fishing the Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River : Carbella Access Site to Livingston

This is the most heavily fished section of the Yellowstone River, flowing through the beautiful Paradise Valley. Besides offering solid trout fishing, any angler will be awarded with scenic vistas of the towering peaks of the Absaroka Mountains to the east and the Gallatin Range on the west.

Yellowstone River at Pine Creek
Photo Use Guidelines
In this section of the Yellowstone River a solid mix of large brown trout, cutthroat and rainbow trout are found, providing an angler with a wide variety of fly fishing opportunities.

As in the upper section, the Yellowstone River is typically swollen and muddy due to spring run-off from mid May to early July, limiting top water fishing. However, for those times when the river runs clear due to either cold weather or a limited snow pack, excellent dry fly fishing can be had using standard Caddis flies, such as the Elk Hair Caddis. When going after rainbow trout, locate the edges of slow and fast current, floating the fly right along the seam. Brown trout can also be taken by floating the fly right along the rivers edge and around obstructions in the river, such as rocks and downed trees.

Most likely, however, early summer conditions will leave the Yellowstone River murky and muddy. When this happens, fly fishing this stretch isn't much different than fishing further upstream discussed previously. Use large nymphs or large attractors, floating them down deep in slower current. Dark colors are once again recommended.

Yellowstone River in the Paradise Valley at Carter Bridge
Photo Use Guidelines

Later in summer, this stretch of river, as is the rest of the Yellowstone River, turns into prime hopper fishing waters. As the river flows through the Paradise Valley, the riverbanks are lined with grass and hayfields - prime hopper country. Use a larger hopper in sizes 2-10, noisily plopping them in the water and floating them right along the banks. If you're tired of fishing hoppers, attractor flies such as Royal Wulffs also work well.

A number of feeder creeks feed into the Yellowstone River along this section. For the angler who has a boat or is willing to walk along the riverbanks to reach these feeder creeks, fly fishing at the mouths of these creeks can provide for some excellent action. Many of these little creeks have their own little mayfly and caddis hatches, providing the angler with excellent fly fishing if they happen to be there when the hatch happens. Additionally, some of these creeks will run clear when the Yellowstone River is running murky, allowing an angler to fly fish top water when they would otherwise be forced sub-surface due to spring run-off. When fly fishing at the mouths of these creeks, float a dry fly along the seams of fast and slow current, as the large trout will frequently be found holding there.

Finally, as the Yellowstone River nears Livingston, a number of braids and channels begin to occur in the river. Don't ignore these channels, as they often hold large fish. Additionally, since most anglers do tend to ignore the side channels and braids, fishing pressure tends to be less. Look for braids and channels that are fairly deep with a decent current, as they are less likely to have frozen over during the winter or run dry during a previous summer of low water. While you will find trout in braids that do freeze over, you won't find many large trout for the simple reason that food will be scarce in braids that freeze over during the winter.

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