Yellowstone River

Fishing on the Yellowstone River is kicking into high gear from the Paradise Valley all the way downstream to Miles City. This photo of the river is taken above Mallard's Rest fishing access. The Absaroka Mountains are in the background.

The Yellowstone River is fishing well from the cold trout waters in Livingston to the warmer water downriver in Miles City, where anglers are reeling in sauger, walleye, smallmouth bass and catfish.

On the upper Yellowstone River, Montana Troutfitters in Bozeman reports a “Hopper-dropper rig is hard to beat.” And on the lower river, anglers are using traditional baits for catfish and crankbaits and plastics will work for sauger, walleye and smallmouth bass.

Here’s this week’s fishing report:

Top picks

Bighorn River — Flows continue to drop and are just above 4,000 cfs. The fish haven’t minded the changing water and fishing keeps getting better and better. For dry fly enthusiasts, it’s getting good. The caddis fishing (black and tan) is strong through the afternoon and evening and should continue for a while. There are some Tricos in the a.m., but only a few fish found on them. There are leftover PMD and Sallies down lower. Hopper fishing continues to be very good in spots. Nymph fishing is still pretty good, not amazing. Expect the afternoon pupa bite to pick up, especially on the upper three miles. Sowbugs and Worms are still the best options for the most part. — Bighorn Angler, Fort Smith. 

Boulder River — The river is fishing well. The water flow is close to just right for wade anglers but low for floaters. There are still remnants of the golden stone hatch as well as PMDs and drakes (gray, brown or green) depending on which section of the river one is on, and an abundance of caddis. The hoppers are also starting to mature and finding their way to the river. The best action has been fishing with dry-dropper combinations early and late during the hot days. — Sweetcast Angler, Big Timber.

Yellowstone River, Huntley — The river is in excellent shape and fishing very well. Use all the usual baits for catfish as they seem to be biting on everything. For smallmouth, crankbaits and minnows are working the best. — Huntley Bait and Tackle.

Yellowstone River, Livingston — The Yellowstone is in great shape and fishing well. Hopper season is here. A hopper-dropper rig is hard to beat. Flows are 4,430 cfs at Livingston. Working bigger foam dries off the bank has had some good fish coming up. There have also been sightings of nocturnal stones in the valley. The window for fishing has been from about 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. so get out early and you will be happy. Afternoons have been fishing a little tougher, but nymphing stoneflies and a smaller dropper will still get you into fish. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Yellowstone River, Miles City — The river is dropping and clearing and fishing is improving. Anglers have been reeling in sauger, walleye and smallmouth. From boats use crankbaits or plastics. Try Berkley Gulp! and Z-Man. From the bank for sauger, walleye and smallmouth, try sinking a minnow. Anglers are still catching catfish. If targeting cats, present traditional baits. — Red Rock Sporting Goods, Miles City.


Ackley Lake — Fishing is slow. There are quite a few pleasure boaters on the lake. The evening would be the best time to fish. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Beaverhead River — The Beaverhead continues to fish really well. PMD and yellow sallies dominate the daytime activity, with a lot of caddis in the early mornings and late evenings. Some fish are being caught on Hoppers in the stretches near town. — Frontier Anglers, Dillon.

Big Hole River — August is here and we have snuck underneath the 500 cfs mark. Tricos are hatching best, with a decent amount of PMDs and a few other mayflies still hatching. We have seen some really nice brown trout as of late. Anglers looking for surface activity will want to get an early start, and/or stick around until the last hour or so of light. A small Caddis/Sally with a Trico in tow will be a good start. With the sallies, larger mayflies, and your odd caddis kicking around, a Micro Chubby, Trude, or Wulff can fool fat trout and makes for a good lead fly with small Trico Cluster or Ant behind it. We are experiencing consistent action using a small Sculpin with a caddis-style nymph as your second fly. We will keep everyone posted on the spruce moths, and we are expecting to see many more once this next little heat wave moves through. Hard boats are still viable below Melrose, upstream is best suited for an inflatable. — Sunrise Fly Shop, Melrose.

Bighorn Lake, Ok-A-Beh — A lot of pleasure boaters are out. Anglers were catching a few crappie near Barry’s Landing using a white streamer. One could try white Mister Twister tails. Tube baits and Senkos should work for bass. — Scheels, Billings.

Canyon Ferry Reservoir — Shore fishing for all species is slow as the water warms up and the fish move deeper. Rainbows and walleye are being caught closer to shore in the early mornings and late evenings, but are moving to deeper water during the heat of the day. Slow trolling bottom bouncers with pink spinners tipped with a worm or leech seems to be producing the best action for walleye and trout with an occasional perch being caught. Try from the river mouth to White Earth in 25 to 40 feet of water. The north end has been slow for walleye and rainbows. — FWP, Helena.

Cooney Reservoir — With the hot temperatures there were less anglers out. Some little walleye were caught pulling bottom bouncers from the boat or presenting plastic swim baits from the bank. — Scheels, Billings.

Deadman’s Basin — There are a lot of pleasure boaters. Fishing pressure is light. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Big Dry Arm — Anglers did well on all species at the Fishing For the Cure benefit tournament. Target 30 feet of water, and the bait of choice has been worms. Some are using crankbaits. This Saturday, Aug. 10, is the Circle Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited kids fishing tournament for children 14 and younger, headquartered out of the marina. — Rock Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Crooked Creek — It is fishing well for walleye, crappie and pike. Bottom bouncers and worms are producing. Smallmouth bass fishing improves once one reaches the narrows. The marina will be closed until further notice. — Crooked Creek Marina.

Fort Peck Reservoir, dam area — The chinook salmon are starting to bite and a few walleye are biting. Use Brad’s Bait Cups, flies or squids for salmon 70 to 90 feet down over 130 to 170 feet of water. The best spot for walleye is in 15 to 22 feet of water pulling crawlers. A few lake trout are biting in 100-120 feet of water. — Lakeridge Lodging & Bait Shop.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek — Fishing has been fairly slow for all species. The colors that are working best are black and chrome. Worms have been the best bait. Most anglers are targeting 15 to 20 feet below the boat. — Hell Creek Marina.

Fresno Reservoir — It’s been so hot and windy that not many people are fishing. The smaller reservoirs in the area are starting to get mossy. — Stromberg Sinclair, Havre.

Gallatin River — The flow is at 804 cfs and the clarity is great. Try a big foam attractor dry such as a Chubby on top with a Stonefly dropper below. If the fish aren't taking the big foam switch to a smaller Chubby. Nymphing has also been productive running a Rubber Legs up top with a smaller Mayfly or Caddis dropper. If you're not picking up fish nymphing, play with your split shot until you find the sweet spot. Evenings have seen some great dry fly action with Chubbies, Caddis and PMDs. We are also seeing the very start of spruce moths in the canyon. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hauser Reservoir — Shore fishing for rainbows is slow. A few are being picked up below Canyon Ferry Dam. Walleye and a few perch are being caught in the Causeway arm and Lake Helena using jigs tipped with a leech. Walleye are also being caught from shore at the Causeway Bridge. — FWP, Helena.

Hebgen Lake — Fish have gone deeper as the air temps have hit the 80s many days. The surface temp of the lake is about 68 degrees now and the reservoir is about 96.5% full. The lake level is gradually coming down. Some fat trout have been caught about 40-50 yards off shore, with lures in about 25-35 feet of water. When trolling with leaded line, go out about four colors. Gold spoons with yellow or orange have been very productive, especially Kamloopers.  We are also starting to see fish rising and jumping to get the morning and evening flies. — Kirkwood Resort & Marina.

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Holter Reservoir — A few rainbows are being caught from Departure Point and Log Gulch. Shore fishing for rainbows is slow. Walleye are being caught in the canyon using bottom bouncers or jigs and leeches or silver crankbaits. Perch fishing is getting good with some being caught around the docks and weed beds in the lower reservoir in 15 to 25 feet of water on jigs and worms. — FWP, Helena.

Madison RiverLower — The flows are back down and the temperatures rose up to 70 degrees and even warmer below the canyon. The lower river is simply too hot for trout. Along with the hot temps, this river has the inner tube hatch in full force and there are better options to fish. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Madison River, Upper — Hoppers are here and the bite is just going to get better and better. The dry fly fishing on the upper river has been awesome. A Hopper-dropper or Chubby-dropper is a hard rig to beat. Nymphing has still been consistent with Worms, Stones, and smaller Mayfly nymphs being the best options. With terrestrial season underway, Ants are another pattern you shouldn't leave home without. Also keep an eye out for nocturnal stones, as we are starting to see them in most areas. Your typical light-colored Pat’s Rubber Legs and darker Chubbies are a great option for this hatch in the early mornings and evenings. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Martinsdale Reservoir — Anglers caught a few trout from shore using worms and PowerBait. — Cozy Corner Bar, Lavina.

Missouri River, below Holter — It is fishing well. The flows were at 5,050 cfs on Monday and the water temps are at 62 degrees. There are caddis and tricos out. There are still some PMDs. Nymphing is good. The river is starting to get a little weedy. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge — There are quite a few mosquitoes out. Those braving the bugs are catching catfish using shrimp or crawlers. The river is due to moss up anytime. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Rock Creek — It’s summertime fun on Rock Creek. Streamflows continue to be bigger than average but it’s definitely time to get out and fish this gem of a fishery. The month of August means dry fly fishing. Recommended dry flies to fish include tan or olive Caddis in sizes 14-16. Stonefly adult imitations include yellow Stimulators, yellow Parachute Madam X as well as Gold Chubby’s. These patterns in sizes 10-14 all fish superbly this time of year. Hopper patterns like a Parachute Hopper, Dave’s Hopper, Joe’s Hopper or the famous Pink Pookie are all an angler needs in the terrestrial category. Super Beetles, and Parachute Ants are both money on Rock Creek in the heat of the summer. Ant and beetle patterns can be fished in sizes 12-16. Attractor dries like a Purple Haze, Parachute Adams, as well as Wulff’s, Trudes or Humpies all in sizes 12-16 have caught a ton of trout. Nymph patterns to fish on Rock Creek remain consistent by fishing stonefly patterns like Rubber Legs, Girdle Bugs, Bitch Creeks, or Red Fox Squirrel Nymphs. North Fork Specials in either black or tan are also very effective. Most stonefly patterns are fished in sizes 8-12. Additional nymphs to fish right now include Caddis Pupa in tan in a 14, as well as your standard summertime attractor nymphs which include varied Copper Johns, Montana Prince’s in blue, Batman, Lightning Bugs and Psycho Princes in green or yellow. Of course, a Hare’s Ear or a Pheasant Tail will nymph fish as good as any bug that’s tied to a leader. A majority of your Nymph patterns are fished in sizes 12-16. — East Rosebud Fly Shop, Billings.

Spring Creek — It is fishing well on Hoppers and Caddis. Panther Martin spinners will work. — Sport Center, Lewistown.

Stillwater River — Flows have continued to drop and water temperatures are warming. The upper river above Absarokee is bony and should only be tackled by experienced oarsmen. Fishing has been good in the mornings. Nymphing is a good way to go, or use a long dropper with a beadhead nymph like a Pheasant Tail, Copper John, Batman, or Prince Nymph off of a searching dry fly pattern like a Jack Cabe, PMX, Stimulator, or Purple Haze. Typically by late morning fish are looking to eat the small dry fly on top. Smaller dries like a PMD, Caddis or Purple Haze are working well in the afternoon. For streamer anglers, never leave home without the Grinch. Try the Electric Goldfish or a basic black Woolly Bugger. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.

Tiber Reservoir — Fishing is slowing down as water levels recede. The fish are going deeper as water temperatures rise. The bait of choice is night crawlers. Most anglers are jigging. — Ru’s Tiber Marina.

Tongue River Reservoir — Anglers are starting to use leeches for bass. Quite a few bass have been caught. For walleye and pike, target 10 to 15 feet below the boat. Jigging and bottom bouncing are effective. Crappie fishing remains quiet. The surface water temperature is 80 degrees and water levels are receding. The water has also cleared. — Tongue River Marina.

Yellowstone River, Columbus — Nymphing is usually a good way to start the day. Try fishing a big rubber leg nymph like a Girdle Bug, Pat’s Rubber Leg or Bitch Creek. Make sure to use a long enough leader and weight to get it down in the heavy water. For streamer fishing try the Grinch, Kreelex, Bow River Bugger, Sparkle Minnows, Sculpins and basic black Buggers. For dry fly anglers, fish a Jack Cabe, Stimulator, PMX or Chubby. Fish are hitting hoppers by late morning. Try the Yellowstoner Chubby, Yeti Hopper, or Fat Frank in pink, olive or grape body colors (10-14). If they’re not hitting the big dry, drop a beadhead nymph off of it. Also, keep a Purple Haze, Parachute Adams and Caddis handy for any rising fish. With the recent hot weather the water temperature has been climbing. It’s time to consider fishing earlier in the day so as not to stress the fish in the warmer water. — Stillwater Anglers, Columbus.


Bighorn Lake, Horseshoe Bend — The sauger have come on strong this week at Horseshoe Bend from the fishing dock using minnows on a crappie rig. Smallmouth bass are being caught in the south narrows all the way around to the north narrows and into Crooked Creek Bay. The crappie have slowed down and catfish remain constant, mostly in the south narrows and Crooked Creek. — Horseshoe Bend Marina.

Bighorn River, Thermopolis — The flows are at 2,400 cfs and the river is clear and fishing well. Yellow Sallies, BWOs and olive Elk-Hair Caddis are working. — White Horse Country Store & Canyon Sporting Goods, Thermopolis.

Boysen Reservoir — Anglers are catching walleye presenting worms shallow. Some fat trout have been brought in, along with several small ones, and a few crappie. Worms are the best bet for trout. For crappie, try minnows. — Boysen Marina.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir — Fishing is warming up with the water temps. Walleye and perch fishing is picking up. Trout fishing is great. Trolling crawler harnesses, spoons and crankbaits have been the best producers for walleye and trout. — Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Cody.

Clarks Fork — The upper river is fishing better than the lower. Try Humpies, Parachute Adams and Royal Wulffs (16-20). On the lower river anglers are catching fish but a majority of them are whitefish. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Cody-area lakes — At East and West Newton lakes the water is too warm to fish. At Hogan and and Luce use small Ants, Beetles and Hoppers. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Lake DeSmet — There was a 30-inch, 12-plus pound walleye caught by Brad Klepperich on Sunday. There have been some nice brown and lake trout reeled in. Flatfish are working for trout. — The Lake Stop, Buffalo.  

Lower Shoshone — The water clarity is not very good, but anglers are catching good numbers of fish using nymphs on the edges. San Juan Worms, North Fork Specials and Prince Nymphs will work. Use dark colors in the off-color water. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

North Fork of the Shoshone — A Hopper-dropper or dry-dropper will work. The South Fork is also fishing well on the same patterns. — North Fork Anglers, Cody.

Upper and Lower Sunshine Reservoirs — The upper reservoir is fishing well. Action on the lower reservoir has slowed down. — Wea Market, Meeteetse.

Yellowstone National Park — Slough, Lamar and Soda Butte have fished well. Be sure to have bug spray and even head nets before you head this direction. Check the water levels, too, especially if you're planning to fish the Lamar. There's still a few drakes hanging around along with PMDs and caddis.  Make sure you have Hoppers, Beetles and Ants as the fish are really starting to look for these. The water levels continue to drop on the Yellowstone River above the falls and this is making the wading a bit easier. We have had some strong emergences of PMDs and caddis along with some drakes and stoneflies. If you're looking for something a little different this week try Yellowstone Lake at either Gull or Sand point. You don't need a boat to fish these two areas and if the wind stays down you can even sight fish to these big cutthroat feeding on Callibaetis. — Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone.

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