July Yellowstone Fishing Trips

Posted on January 24th, 2024 in Fishing Tips

angler fishing a beautiful green whitewater canyon river

The Black Canyon of the Yellowstone, seen here, is a prime destination in July.

Introduction to July Yellowstone Fishing Trips

Early summer (basically the month of July) is prime time for hike-in walk-wade fishing in Yellowstone Park on all larger streams as well as many small creeks suitable for beginners and experts alike. July Yellowstone fishing trips are great for those eager to chase cutthroat trout on the Yellowstone River and rugged portions of the Lamar River and Slough Creek. It’s also a good bet for those hoping to hit the fabled Salmonfly hatches without the crowds that accompany this major hatch on rivers large enough for float trips.

On the other hand, this is also prime time for crowds, so to find good fishing or at least uncrowded fishing, hiking is basically required, and the hikes can be hot since this is also the hottest time of year.

Wade-fishing on Montana waters is much more limited, basically due to high water, but some half-day wade options are available on the Yellowstone River near Gardiner. This is very rough and rugged fishing, but it is also usually very good fishing, since the area where we fish on these trips sees almost no boat traffic. This makes Montana wade trips a good way of shedding crowds—both the wade-fishers in the Park and the boats elsewhere on the Yellowstone.

angler standing on logjam fishing small creek

So are many small streams, though most aren’t quite this rugged.

Early Summer Yellowstone and MT Fishing Trips: Quick Facts

  • Best Waters: The sky is the limit in early summer. Large and small rivers like the Yellowstone, Gardner, and Lamar are good now, as are all of their tributaries. YCFF tends to focus on hike-in sections of the Yellowstone, Lamar and tributaries, and Gardner and tributaries.
  • Three Top Reasons to Come in Early Summer: 1.) Early summer offers the widest range of fishable waters in YNP, as well as the most consistent fishing overall. 2.) Except for occasional thunderstorms, the weather is at its most consistent during this period. 3.) This is the best time of year to match hatches in Yellowstone Park, from small mayflies on up to the fabled Salmonfly.
  • Three Top Reasons to Avoid Early Summer: 1.) This is the most crowded time of year for both general tourism and anglers in the park. 2.) This is the hottest time of year, so hiking can sometimes be a sweaty affair. 3.) Rivers can still be high, so wading is tougher now than in late summer and fall.
  • Perfect Clients: Early summer is ideal for adventurous, fit anglers eager to hike who are willing to put up with crowded roads and sometimes crowded rivers (even in the backcountry) in exchange for the most consistent fishing of the year, if not always the best fishing of the year.
  • What Early Summer Does Best: Provides a huge range of fishing opportunities, from small fish in small streams to large cutthroat trout in big rivers.

July Trips: The Details

When the rivers across the northern portion of Yellowstone Park drop out of their spring runoff between the last week of June and the middle of July, options for walk-wade trips spike dramatically. The month or so following the end of the runoff offers the widest range of options for walk trips, especially for beginners, anglers who like to hike, and those who want to chase cutthroat trout.

Yellowstone cutthroat trout

Native Yellowstone cutthroat trout are a primary target species in July, both inside and outside the park.

The best options for full-day trips for experienced anglers throughout this period are the Yellowstone in its Grand and Black Canyons and rugged portions of Slough Creek and the Lamar River. We’ll often put together a trip focusing on one of these waters for most of the day that concludes on the Gardner River or one of the fun, out-of-the-way small streams that becomes fishable at this time.

Because angler crowds are heavy near the roads in early summer, it is vitally important to hike to shed crowds. When possible, we also like to fish water with rugged banks and fast water, because such a stream character really deters the masses. The ultimate example of this type of water is found on the canyon sections of the Yellowstone, which explains why this is by far our favorite walk-in river for experienced anglers during the summer.

angler fishing canyon river

On July Yellowstone fishing trips, most Yellowstone River fishing inside the park revolves around the Salmonfly and Golden Stonefly hatch. While this hatch typically lasts only a week or ten days outside the park, it can last as much as a month inside it. These finger-length bugs can attract even the largest trout to the surface.

Even if they don’t want to rise, the fish will take big nymphs hung as droppers under large dry flies. When the fish want an “after dinner mint” instead of the main course, smaller attractor dries and attractor nymphs also work well, especially during caddisfly or Yellow Sally stonefly hatches.

Our Yellowstone fishing guides usually carry a spare rod rigged with streamers on the Yellowstone, and the streamers can be a blast to fish in the deep green pools found on this stretch of the Yellowstone. The trout here love to chase, and will often follow flies during the retrieve all the way to the rod tip before striking, making for the most visual streamer fishing we’ve ever found.

angler fishing soda butte creek. Background contains mountains and forests

The view is definitely part of the appeal on Soda Butte Creek.

Mayfly hatches are also excellent on certain waters during this period, particularly the Western Green Drake hatches which can get the fish really excited. These hatches are most common on the Lamar River and its main tributaries Slough Creek and Soda Butte Creek, as well as a few smaller streams.

For anglers interested in this match-the-hatch fishing, we typically guide on the rugged portions of the Lamar and Slough, as well as on a couple waters we won’t name online. This water is suitable for anglers of a variety of skill levels, provided they’re up for some rock-hopping.

We also guide on the meadow portions of the Lamar, Soda Butte, and Slough Creek, though it is often very difficult to shed crowds on these waters. The views can’t be beat, though.

Beginner options are great at this time. Enthusiastic beginners can do well on many small, rough streams holding cutthroat, rainbow, and brown trout. Those who want to be sure of catching a bunch of fish (though no big ones) should think about starting with a half-day on a small brook trout stream. Often a half-day on such a creek is enough, but many beginners like to combine a half-day on a brookie creek with an afternoon on more-challenging water on the Gardner or Yellowstone after lunch, trying to add a couple bigger, harder fish to the mix.

Full-day and half-day trips are available at this time. We start almost all Yellowstone Park trips in early summer between 6:00 and 7:00 depending on our meeting place and travel time. It’s vital to be through the gate before about 7:45 to avoid risking a half-hour line waiting to get in. Montana half-days are more likely to start at midmorning.

beginner fisherman holding a brook trout

July is prime beginner season.

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