The Yellowstone River has remained one of the most renowned fly fishing destinations in the United States, and there’s a good reason why. At nearly 700 miles long, the river flows through three states: Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. Montana’s 200 mile stretch of river gives way to an outstanding fishery and exceptional water conditions. With a plethora of trophy fish to be caught, your chances of catching fish are high. As a bonus, you’re bound to run into some of Montana’s amazing wildlife that inhabit the surround areas.
Location and Geography
The Yellowstone River Flows through three states – North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.
Located in the Absaroka Range, the Yellowstone River flows into Yellowstone Lake before dropping 400 feet into the Grand Canyon at Yellowstone National Park. Running through the national park into Montana, the Yellowstone River passes through Paradise Valley, an epic 100-mile stretch known for trout fly fishing, before meeting the Missouri River. Throughout its course, the Yellowstone River passes by two scenic mountains – the Absaroka and Gallatin where one can observe a wide variety ofwildlife species.
11 Native Species
- Arctic grayling
- Cutthroat trout (Yellowstone and westslope)
- Mountain whitefish
- Longnose dace, speckled dace
- Redside shiner
- Utah chub
- Longnose sucker, mountain sucker, Utah sucker
- Mottled sculpin
5 Nonnative Species
- Brook trout
- Brown trout
- Lake trout
- Lake chub
- Rainbow trout
Food by Season
Type = Salmonflies | Sizes 2-6 | Months – Late June Early July
Type = Western Golden | Sizes 2-6 | Season = All of August through Beginning of September
Type = Golden Stone | Sizes 4-8 | Season = June through Beginning of July
Type = Blue Wing Olive | Sizes 16-20 | Season = March through April
Type = Western March Brown | Sizes 12-14 | Season = April through May
Type = Hecuba | Sizes 12-14 | Season = August through September
Type = Early Grannom | Sizes 12-16 | Season = April
Type = Little Brown Caddis |Sizes 14-18 | Season = July through August
Type = Plan Brown Caddis | Sizes 14-18 | Season = July
Type = Grass Hoppers | Sizes 6-14 | Season = July through September
Type = Beetles | Sizes 12-18 | Season July through September
Type = Ants| Sizes 6-12 | Season = July Through September
Type = Midges |Sizes 16-24 | Seasons = March-Early May/Sept-Oct
Type = Streamers |Sizes 2-8| Seasons = March-April/July-Oct
Tip – Stock up with a variety of sizes for each fly. The better prepared your fly box is, the better you’ll be able to correctly match the hatch.
Best Fishing Techniques
Different fishing seasons call for different fishing tactics. Here is a breakdown:
Spring: Looking to catch a 20+ inch trout? Break out the streamers! When the river begins to thaw, and the water turns from murky to green, it’s time to throw streamers. The best retrieve for a big hit, is a strip and pause. Slow short strips followed by a few second pause seem to work best.
Summer: Downsize your tackle. Aside from keeping a variety of tippet sizes, you’ll want to downsize your tackle as the summer season peaks. The fish tend to be most skittish, so a thinner tippet and longer leader (11ft) is preferred. Throwing smaller sized bugs will up your chance of getting fish to bite.
Fall: Fall is the best time to land a trophy brown trout. Egg pattern flies are a safe bet, due to the large amount of eggs found in the river from October through November. They provide a high amount of nutrients to the fish. Because trout are spawning this time of year, they can be particularly aggressive. Throwing a large streamer is a safe bet to entice a strike from a trophy brown.
The Yellowstone River is a truly unique river that is the largest in the lower 48. Its nearly 700 miles of river gives way to some of the greatest trout fishing in the United States. Pack up your fly gear and head out west, Yellowstone has some big fish to be caught!
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