Yellowstone River

Pat began his float-fishing guiding career on the Yellowstone River in the mid-1990s. Because of this, the Yellowstone is his favorite Montana fly fishing river. The river flows from Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park and eventually meets the Missouri River. From Gardiner to Billings is home to the most variety of fly fishing sections. Flanked by the Absaroka, Crazy, and Beartooth Mountains, the fishing on the Yellowstone is nearly out matched by the scenic beauty of the surrounding countryside. 

Because the river drains such a large area and much of the drainage area is high mountain country, the Yellowstone experiences a prolonged runoff well into June and sometimes July. For some this adds to the excitement of fishing this river because the only way to know when it is fishable requires on-hand local knowledge. The river is devoid of any dams so the fish-ability of the river is entirely dependent on snowpack and whether and when it becomes fishable is related to when the muddy water from runoff clears enough to successfully fish.

The Mother’s Day caddis hatch here can be that of epic proportions brining to the surface some of the rivers biggest fish. But if the caddis are not full force the willow-lined banks and cottonwoods along the river’s edge provide ample habitat for salmon flies and the salmon fly hatch on this stretch can also provide amazingly good fishing. 

After runoff, hatches of salmon flies, golden stoneflies, and caddis dominate along with emergences of terrestrials. In the cooler fall months anglers looking for a trophy trout will certainly be stripping streamers anywhere along these thirty miles. Add to the possibility of twenty-inch trout the freshly snowed-upon peaks and changing cottonwoods and this is arguably one of the most desirable chunks of water in Big Sky Country. 

Bozeman and Billings are the two closest airports. Bozeman is closer to the more well-known sections of the Yellowstone and is a popular jumping-off point for anglers headed to the Yellowstone. However, it is the town of Livingston that is the epicenter of the Yellowstone’s fly fishing activity. If a town were to be created by a fly fisher, Livingston would be that town—not too big, not too small, not over-priced, yet there is no Wal-Mart in town, and has the perfect mix of great food, lodging, and good beer. Plus, the river literally runs right through town as there are two Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks state managed access sites in town. Very few cities in Montana can lay claim to that.

“After 20 years, two best friends from high school reunited with our families and fished the Yellowstone with Pat and it was truly an experience of a lifetime! Pat, and his entire crew, couldn’t have been more hospitable. Their experience on the water is unparalleled. Pat’s patience and ability to work effectively with a group ranging in age from 11 to 67 was remarkable.”

Justin S.

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