Yellowstone River Fishing Report July 20th, 2020

Things are really starting to heat up here on the Yellowstone River. Conditions are only continuing to improve and we are excited for terrestrial fishing to arrive. The fish seem to have recovered from their salmonfly hangovers and are feeding again. Anglers have been having a lot of success both on the surface and below. Now is the time when reading water is vital in order to identify the optimal holding water for those feeding fish. Being able to identify structure and different depths in the river will only increase the amount of fish you bring to the net. When nymphing, you need to get flies into those prime lies and in front of trout. Don’t be surprised if you’re consistently bringing whitefish to the net with the dropper. If that’s the case, keep testing different types of water in order to identify where the trout are holding. As the river gets clearer and continues to drop, fish will move to where they feel most comfortable. Remember to keep asking yourself, where prime cover, oxygen and food are!


During the day, chubbies and larger attractor dries are continuing to move fish. #10-12 chubbies in different colors are a reliable top water fly. You can also try things like Dornan’s Water Walker #10-14, Circus Peanuts #10-14 and Stinky Pinky #10-12. Very soon we will start seeing our nocternal goldenstones which will get trout excited. Fishing goldenstone nymph patterns in the lower valley and east of Livingston are a good bet. The morning bite for the adults should start picking up as well.

Subsurface fishing has improved as more of those fish have recovered from the salmonfly buffet. Larger rubberlegs and salmonfly nymphs won’t fish as effectively but you can rely on the many other nymphs in the water. We’re seeing a lot of caddis and yellowsallies everyday so imitating those bugs is a good place to start. #14-18 Iron Sallies, #14-16 CDC pheasant tails, and #14-16 Tung Darts are a great place to start. PMDs are waning but lighter bodies nymphs have been effective when they are on the water. Work with your depth depending on where you’re floating for the day. When fishing tight to the banks, keep those droppers in the 12-16″ range and go deeper when you’re working the shelves and buckets throughout the river.

We are seeing a lot of yellowsallies coming off in the afternoon but fish don’t seem to be totally keyed in on them on the surface. We’ve had more success fishing the nymphs than the dries so far this season. Conversely, we are seeing a really solid caddis hatch in the evenings and the fishing has gotten really great. Fewer chocolate caddis are out and we are seeing more of the case builders. Fishing a #14-18 elk hair caddis, Bloom’s caddis, or Matthew’s X-Caddis will bring fish to the boat when the caddis are out. Keep an eye on back eddies and soft spots for gulpers taking advantage of the hatch.

Terrestrial fishing is right around the corner. We had an EPIC hopper season last year and are excited for the noise of clicking grasshoppers along the banks of the river. There are some starting to show up on certain stretches of the river but we still have some time before they really are here. Windy days are going to make the difference since the hopper numbers aren’t huge yet. Keep an eye out for them on the banks and in the river before you think of throwing one. The big honkers aren’t out yet so if you are, go smaller versus bigger. We have an awesome selection of hoppers this year so stop on by to stock up those boat bags! On the topic of terrestrials consider fishing ants as the days continue to warm up. Dropping them behind a larger dry can be deadly when fish are keyed into them.

Busy rivers have become the norm here on the Yellowstone this season. We continue to get reports from guides and clients about poor etiquette at boat ramps and on the water. We encourage all of you to use your best behavior when recreating on the Yellowstone. We are all so lucky to share this resource but need to understand that it’s not just for us. Please be sure you are taking time in the parking lots to get rods rigged, boats set to drop and are being quick and efficient while dropping boats. If you encounter anyone not doing so, politely let them know that boat ramps are for dropping boats only and not rigging frames, rods, etc. Likewise, there has been lots of trash throughout the rivers, do the river a favor and pick up anything you see along the way and of course carry out what you bring with you for the day. The last thing we want is a trashed river.

Similarly, everyone please be careful out there. We had a guide have to help a group who found themselves pinned against a strainer this past week. There are some scary features on the river still. Lots of folks both seasoned and new to the river need to understand that things can unwind very fast. We all need to lookout for ourselves and each other while out on the river. If you have any questions at all, please give us a call; we are happy to talk about different stretches of the river.

Those of you who come to visit us in the shop, please be aware that we are now requiring masks in the shop at all times per Gov. Bullocks orders. Those who do not have a mask will be asked to wait outside. We have hand sanitizing stations located throughout the shop and encourage all to use them as you shop with us. In order to avoid congestion in the shop, we have set a shop capacity to 5 total customers at a time. If we are full, someone will come outside to see if they can get what you need for you.

We also are asking that anyone who can, please purchase their Montana fishing licenses online. Follow the link below to purchase your license through Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Be safe and see you soon!

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