By: Matt Wilhelm, IFFF MCI, Owner: Yellowstone Fly Fishing School
When the topic of fly fishing destinations comes up Livingston, Montana is usually at, or near the top of the list. Reason being is that the Livingston area offers a diverse range of fly fishing opportunities within an hour’s drive. The Livingston area offers spring creeks, small mountain streams, larger freestone streams, lakes, and of course the fabled waters of Yellowstone National Park.
The Yellowstone is Livingston’s “Home River”. The Yellowstone flows north toward Livingston where it turns east on its journey to the Missouri River. Conclave visitors who have limited time for fishing often find the Yellowstone a great opportunity. Often overlooked by visitors is the section of the river that flows through town. This section offers close proximity to the show hall, good access, and some very good fishing. By Taking 30 minute drive either upstream or downstream from Livingston visiting anglers will discover several developed access points (many with boat launches) that offer walk wading, and floating.
This is a great time of year for early risers. Morning nymph fishing and streamer fishing can be productive because of cooler water temperatures. Terrestrial and attractor flies with droppers often work well in the afternoon. Evening can hold good fishing with caddis and mayfly patterns. Be sure to check with the one of the area fly shops regarding hot flies, and fishing conditions.
DePuy’s, Nelson’s, and Armstrong’s spring creeks have a well-earned reputation for wonderful fishing, and beautiful scenery. Located within 20 minutes of Livingston the spring creeks offer challenging fishing for rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout for a fee. These spring creeks are often booked solid through the summer months so be sure to make a reservation through one of the area fly shops. Pale morning duns, midges, small streamers, midges, terrestrials, and nymphs work well during this time of the year. Other spring creeks include Milesnick MZ Ranch just north of Bozeman. They offer fishing on Benhart and Thompson’s spring creeks for a fee.
The creeks and rivers in the north and northeast area of YNP fish very well in early August. Travel time ranges from one hour to about two hours. Rivers and creeks to consider are the Gardiner, Lamar, Soda Butte, and the Yellowstone.
The Gardiner around the Mammoth is a good choice for small stream angling. Browns, rainbows, and an occasional brookie will often rise to terrestrials and attractors. The Lamar and its tributaries Soda Butte Creek and Slough Creek offer good action for Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. Terrestrials, attractors, nymphs, and mayfly patterns work well. Good access to both streams is gained through several pullouts and parking areas.
Less than an hours drive from Livingston will put you on the banks of the Boulder. The Boulder flows into the Yellowstone at Big Timber. The Boulder holds rainbows and browns in its lower reaches. Further upstream rainbows and Yellowstone Cutthroats can be caught. Caddis imitations, PMD’s, stonefly nymphs, attractors, and terrestrials work well in August.
The Gallatin is a beautiful river with a ton of access. Good fishing with attractors, caddis, stonefly nymphs, terrestrials, and spruce moth imitations work well. Access is best between Spanish Creek and the YNP boundary.
Anglers will have to spend more time behind the wheel to wet a line in these excellent rivers. If possible try to set aside a few days for quality fishing time before or after the Conclave. The Missouri has excellent Trico and caddis hatches in early August. The Bighorn will not disappoint with large strong rainbows and browns caught on nymphs, midges, terrestrials, streamers, and caddis if water temperatures cooperate. The Madison fishes best above Ennis at this time of the year. Good access and good fishing with caddis larva, stonefly nymphs, terrestrials, caddis adults, and attractors keep people coming back.
These two lakes are located near West Yellowstone. “Gulper” fishing is in full swing in early August. Tricos are followed by Callibaetis for excellent dry fly fishing for large cruising browns and rainbows. A float tube, boat, or pontoon is suggested. Fishing is usually best early in the morning (action heats up soon after sunrise) until about lunchtime. Casting to cruising browns and rainbows in Quake Lake with hoppers also provides good action. When the wind comes up on Hebgen, take the short drive to Quake Lake for some afternoon float tubing.