Fishing Report Updated July 28, 2021

This Montana fishing report is valid from July 27 through July. Our next Livingston Montana fishing report will come out around the beginning of August.

Extreme heat and drought is hurting area fisheries in Montana and YNP badly and is limiting fishing opportunities. Based on the weather forecast, things are going to get worse over the course of this report. Both Yellowstone Park and Montana have instituted 2:00PM angling closures on all or most major streams. In Yellowstone, all flowing waters close at 2:00. Lakes remain open from sunrise to sunset. In Montana, all major rivers except the upper Gallatin close at 2:00. Most small streams, especially those in the mountains, as well as the upper (wade-only) portion of the Stillwater River remain open all day. Overall, fishing quality is at a 1.5 out of 10.

Due to the heat and low water, we suggest fishing before 3:00PM on all waters and before 2:00PM on all waters flirting with 70 degree temperatures, not just those with statutory closures.

The fishing has generally been terrible except on high-elevation fisheries in YNP and on the roughest sections of the Yellowstone River outside the park. The only window of good fishing on major rivers outside YNP has been from about 9:00 to noon. The window has been slightly wider inside the park, especially if you hike. We have generally been meeting at 6:00 and quitting by 2:00 on guided trips, and this week are moving to primarily offering morning half-day trips.

The best fisheries include the following right now:

  • Yellowstone River in Montana from Gardiner to Carbella Access. Points downstream of Livingston are too warm already, and areas between Emigrant and Livingston are very slow after noon due to the low water and bright sun. We are not fishing east of Livingston now and were quitting by 2:00 elsewhere even before the mandatory closures.
  • Stillwater River. Be sure to quit before 2:00 downstream of Absarokee Access. The Stillwater is yo-yoing from 60 to 74 degrees during the day, with 4:00-7:00PM seeing the highest water temps. Before 2:00 is okay.
  • Mountain Creeks in Montana. Once you get above irrigation diversions that suck most streams dry, mountain creeks are now cold and prime. These are really the only fisheries we suggest hitting in the afternoons, and even they will be best noon to 2:00.
  • Lamar River System in YNP except the last mile or two of the Lamar River. You will need to hike to shed crowds.
  • Yellowstone River in the Grand Canyon and Upper Black Canyon in YNP. Hopper fishing is underway in these areas and the Grand Canyon and upper end of the Black Canyon are the only sections of the Yellowstone that aren’t flirting with 70 degrees in late afternoon. They’re still hitting 68, though.

The Yellowstone River in Montana is now running 64-74 degrees during the day, with the lowest temperature ranges (64-68) near Gardiner and the highest (67-74) east of Livingston. There are mandatory closures at 2:00 on the entire river. It’s too warm period from Springdale Access east of Livingston all the way to Billings. The best fishing has been from 9:00 or so until about noon. Hoppers and ants have come on strong in the past week, but small Chubbies, caddis-style attractors, and streamers are also turning some fish.

The Stillwater River is warming up fast late in the day, but this one has such a wide temperature swing (60-74 degrees) that it’s possible to have good fishing before 2PM without hurting the fish. Near Nye may be cool enough all day. Fish medium-sized Chubby Chernobyls with compact and heavy nymph droppers. Keep an eye out for caddis, PMD, Yellow Sally, and Golden Stone hatches. Flows are floatable from Absarokee on down now, though with the water getting warm we suggest walking further upstream.

Mountain Creeks in Montana see little guided pressure. Except for a few with paralleling roads (like Mill or Hyalite Creek), they see little tourist traffic either. They’re also running cold or at least colder than larger rivers, which makes them an excellent choice while the heat wave lasts. The fishing is physically hard, requiring you to climb steep slopes, clamber around logs and rocks, wade fast water with uneven footing, etc. Your rewards will be lots of mostly small to medium-size trout. Be sure to fish water that hasn’t been fished that day. Use attractor dry/dropper combos.

In Yellowstone Park, the Yellowstone River in the Grand and upper Black Canyons is fishing well. The stretch from Yellowstone Lake to the Falls opened July 15 and reports have been mixed, though this water is cold enough to fish all day if you wish. Hoppers are the main draw in the canyons, but streamers also work. Above the Falls, match hatches to individually-sighted fish or swing streamers to cover lots of water. The Lamar System is enjoying strong Green Drake and PMD hatches, but it will be very crowded. Hit the trail up the Lamar for smaller fish but 1/10 the people. Small streams in the park are hit or miss now, with the steep, fast, cold ones best. Avoid the Firehole below Old Faithful, the Gibbon below Norris, the entire park stretch of the Madison, and the Gardner downstream of Boiling River. All are too warm 24 hours a day.

Relevant Montana Fishing Report Links