The Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley is a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Montana fly fishing. Early on, anglers worked diligently to protect this free-flowing masterpiece. These pioneering fly fishers knew what magic lurked in the Yellowstone's waters, and have managed to keep it the country’s longest free flowing river. That's right, not a single dam on it.
Rising deep in the heart of a Wyoming wilderness area and gaining momentum in Yellowstone National Park, the Yellowstone River tumbles out of The Park near Gardiner, Montana. Surrounded by jagged peaks and banked with cottonwoods, the Yellowstone River is one of the most scenic places on earth and a near perfect place for a fly fishing trip of any sort.
Fishing Seasons and Techniques
The Yellowstone River is usually the last Montana river to work through its run-off, and it's this necessary waiting that makes fishing the Yellowstone River so great. Typically, for almost two months, it is too high and off-color to fish, but when it drops and clears just enough on the edges, the big bugs (salmon flies) and the big rainbow trout, brown trout and native Yellowstone cutthroat trout turn on to them. Fishing on the Yellowstone River is primarily dryfly fishing, but stripping streamers in the fall can land some trophies as well. This river is a true favorite of ours.
The Yellowstone can be broken in three distinctly different reaches; the upper Park section, the middle Valley section, and the lower plains section. The piece of the Yellowstone that is in Yellowstone National Park is accessible only by wade fishing, and it requires some hiking to reach it in most spots. You will find mostly native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout in this area who love to devour big, bushy dry flies.
Once the river reaches Gardiner and rips through Yankee Jim Canyon it has officially entered into the Paradise Valley, which is the most popular section. This 50 mile valley is flanked by the high peaked Gallatin and Absorka mountain ranges on either side, and the river itself is the classic run-riffle-pool stuff everyone loves. Rainbow trout, brown trout, and cutthroat trout are all found in this section with great abundance.
After the Yellowstone flows through Livingston, one of our favorites towns in all of Big Sky Country, it turns east and runs another 40 miles to Big Timer. This lower section is fished less, but is productive to those who know it and gives up some true trophy brown trout for the dedicated angler.
All said, the Yellowstone River is a true gem with an amazing history and should be on the bucket list of every serious angler. We think basing out of Livingston is the best way to go, as this little river/cowpoke/artist community has everything you need to get the full Montana angling adventure.