Fishing Report Updated September 19, 2022

This Montana fishing report is valid from September 18 through September.

The Yellowstone River is muddy right now from recent storms. A day or two of clear weather (or wet weather with below freezing temps above 7000 feet) will see the river start to clear near Gardiner. When clear, the river has been fishing hit-or-miss depending largely on insect activity and to a lesser extent on whether it’s cloudy or sunny. On cloudy days, heavy mayfly hatches have been occurring in hit or miss fashion and fishing a large (#12-14) mayfly-style attractor or Drake Mackeral pattern with a #16-18 BWO or purple mayfly-style attractor has worked fantastic. If insects aren’t out in numbers, you might still fish this rig, but expect fewer large fish. Streamers are also a good choice in the clouds. On sunny days, a hopper with a beetle or copper or purple mayfly-style attractor has still been working, though the hopper bite is fading. Slender attractor nymphs and small stoneflies will produce MOSTLY whitefish, particularly in slow, homogenous areas. The best fishing is generally in the afternoons now, though hot/bright days may still be better during periods of flatter light.

The Stillwater River is too low now for full-sized rafts below the mouth of the Rosebud and all floating above. If you wade or can float in an ultralight raft, expect Drake Mackeral and BWO hatches most days and some hopper action in the PM on sunny days. Slender attractor nymphs like Delektable Spankers are also good bets. Stripping or high-sticking streamers is also a good bet on the Stillwater. Don’t start early, as water temps are cold.

The lower Madison River is now out of hoot owl restrictions and will fish fair and perhaps better on gray days. On warm, sunny days, hopper-dropper rigs with a small Bob Hopper and a perdigon or Frenchie around the weed beds will be a good option. On gray days, look for BWO hatches and switch to a #16 purple Hazy Cripple with a #18-20 BWO emerger or unweighted nymph behind it. Streamers will also be a good bet on gray days, while nymphing with a worm and crayfish in the deeper areas will work on bright days. The lower Madison will only continue to improve as time goes by.

Private lakes are now turning on for the autumn season. Story Lake will still be quite weedy, so dry-dropper rigs are actually the best bet. Head-hunt cruisers in the holes between the weeds, then fight the fish hard. On Burns Lake, fish leeches for prespawn brook trout or hopper-dropper rigs for cruising rainbows. The fishing on all lakes will continue to improve through early October.

Yellowstone Park fishing is limited from our operations area this year due to historic flooding. Walk-in travel is allowed into the northern part of the park via Gardiner. The only real option if you do this is the Yellowstone upstream from the Gardner River confluence, since accessible portions of the lower Gardner are still too warm to fish ethically (hot spring influence plus hot weather equals a river that’s too warm for trout health). We don’t get excited about this water until early October at least, when the weeds die back, though it is great in late October. Limited guided fishing is also possible via the north gate. The Yellowstone near Tower Falls is now the best area accessible for guided parties via the north entrance. Streamers are the bread and butter, but BWO and Drake Mackeral hatches are also possible, especially in the PM. Note that public travel is not possible via the north entrance. The park service is trying to get the emergency “stagecoach” road rebuilt enough to allow public two-way access on October 15. The Firehole and Madison are now good bets on gray days, but the drive from Livingston is a long one.

Note: Montana Outdoor‘s website is the only commercial external site authorized to use this content. Please let us know if you see it anywhere else (Parks’ Fly Shop’s report is similar, since Walter writes that one too).

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