Fishing Report Updated September 10, 2023

This Yellowstone River fishing report is valid from September 10 through September.

The Yellowstone River is currently running low. It’s around 1900cfs at Corwin Springs and only 1600 in Livingston. Why the big drop further downstream? LOTS of irrigation drawdowns. The low flows mean some stretches now require skipping long, slow pools or shallow areas. The middle of Paradise Valley in particular now has long stretches of “nothing.”

Water temps by contrast are now ranging from the high 50s to mid 60s, with a slow downward trend. This is a very good temperature window.

The best fishing has shifted a bit later in the day. The really prime fishing is now unlikely to begin before 11:00AM except on the hottest days. Noon to 4:00 has generally been best. We have been meeting clients no earlier than 8AM, and soon that’ll be more like 9:00. The fishing tapers off after 4:30 or so. Earlier on cool/cloudy days, later on bright/sunny days.

Overall the best fishing has been near Gardiner or through and east of Livingston. The problem in Paradise Valley is long stretches of shallow, homogeneous water. Though we have caught a few even Emigrant to Loch Leven on recent trips (governed by a desire for scenery as well as some mud plugs) by finding the few deep holes in this section.

In general, we’re firmly in dry fly mode now due to the low water, lots of terrestrial insects in the water, and the intense whitefish bite subsurface. Hoppers and ants have been the mainstays, but the fall mayflies (BWO, Drake Mackeral, Mahogany, Epeorus aka Western Cahill, in about that order) are increasing. Gray afternoons should bring strong hatches at any time. As such, we’re starting to fish mayfly-style attractors at least as often as ants/beetles behind the hopper. Purple and copper Hazy Cripples and the like are working, and large Brindle Chutes and Royal Wulff Cripples can also work this time of year, not least because a lot of anglers never think to try them. Subsurface, expect mostly “blanco.” #18–20 flashy beadheads seem to have been producing a few more trout than the usual #12–16 stuff. The rockier areas (especially near Gardiner) and points east of Livingston are also a bit troutier subsurface.

Our next Yellowstone River fishing report will drop when we get an extended cold spell that slashes the hopper fishing and cranks up the mayfly and streamer fishing.

Top Flies

  • Hoppers: #12–14 Bob Hoppers in pink and dark tan over pink, #12 pink Morrish, #12 pink Yeti. Pink has definitely been the color recently.
  • Mayflies: #16–18 purple and copper Hazy Cripples, #12-14 Brindle Chute and #14–16 Brindle Cripple, #12–14 March Brown Sparkle Dun (taken as a Drake Mackeral), #16–18 wine Pennant Dun, #12–14 Royal Wulff Cripple.
  • Nymphs: #18 silver Lightning Bug, #18 red Copper John and similar, #16–18 Frenchie. Note that nymphs are going to produce 2-1 whitefish to trout at the very least.
  • Streamers: Not really streamer-fishing much right now.

Learn more about fishing the Yellowstone River (in Montana).

Info about our float trips, a majority of which take place on the Yellowstone.

Info about our Montana walk & wade trips, which in winter and early spring take place on the Yellowstone.

Yellowstone River Fishing Report – Relevant Links