Montana Fly Fishing
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The Yellowstone River is the longest river in Montana. Throughout its entire length from its beginning in Yellowstone National Park to its confluence with the Missouri River in North Dakota, the river is free of any major dams, although a couple of diversion dams do exist. As such, none of its flows are regulated in any way.
This section of bigskyfishing.com covers the Yellowstone River from the Yellowstone Park border down to the town of Billings. For those seeking information about the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park, please visit our Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park section. Additionally, for anglers looking to test their mettle on the various warm water species found on the Yellowston River in the eastern part of the state (downstream from Billings), please visit our Lower Yellowstone River section. Finally, unlike the Bighorn River, quality trout fishing exists on the Yellowstone River for more than 300 miles, providing lots of water for anglers to choose from.
The fly fishing on the Yellowstone River is excellent. Not by accident the Yellowstone River is internationally known as one of the premiere trout waters in the United States. Cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, large whitefish and brown trout are all found in abundant numbers in the upper half of the river, while the lower half (below Billings) turns primarily into a warm water fishery of large walleye, catfish and sturgeon.
While fly fishing pressure and floating is heavy on the Yellowstone, it is not completely over-run with anglers and floaters like the Bighorn River can be. This is because the long length of the Yellowstone River, combined with numerous access sites, helps spread anglers and floaters around.
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The Yellowstone River is a river that is generally best fished from a boat. While excellent fly fishing can be found for wade anglers - and it is a popular river for wade fishing - anglers fishing from boats have a distinct advantage on the Yellowstone River. The river is generally wide, and in its upper section, flows very quickly. The river is also too deep to wade across, limiting a wade angler's ability to reach numerous excellent fishing spots. If you need a portable boat for fishing the Yellowstone River, visit our fishing boats section for helpful product information about boats for fly fishing.
The Yellowstone River flows through some gorgeous scenery. In the rivers upper stretch, it flows through the beautiful Paradise Valley, with the Absaroka Mountains flanking the river on all sides.
The river leaves the mountains downstream from Gardiner and then flows through the beautiful Paradise Valley.
In Livingston, the river turns in an easterly direction. Between Livingston and Big Timber, the Crazy Mountains and the Absaroka Mountains are all visible in the distance. The combination of distant mountains, cottonwood trees and the high plains all make for a unique and scenic float trip. As the Yellowstone River approaches Billings, the mountains begin to fade into the distance as the river continues to run through the prairie, often flanked on one side by small cliffs and hills.
As mentioned, fly fishing and floating pressure can be heavy on the river, as the Yellowstone River is a popular destination spot for visiting anglers on a Montana fly fishing trip. The floating and fly fishing pressure is heaviest between Gardiner and Livingston. Downstream from Livingston, the pressure on the river lessens - significantly. For anglers and floaters looking for solitude, look at fishing or floating the river below Livingston or Big Timber, Montana.
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Yellowstone River as Described by Lewis & Clark