Yellowstone National Park will close to fishing this coming Sunday, November 4th marking the unofficial end to the 2018 season for us in Yellowstone Country. That also means that this will be the last of our weekly fishing report emails for 2018. Thank you so much to all of you out there who have read our reports.  Remember, you can get these reports, along with other content emailed to you before it goes live on the blog.  All you need to do is sign up for the email HERE.  We’ve had some really good feedback from many folks about what they like/don’t like and about ways we might improve content for next year. Please keep that coming!  Of course, we will be sending out a few newsletters over the winter with updates from South America an other travels as well as the goings on here in West Yellowstone.
It’s late fall now, and we’ve both seen and heard reports of active spawning activity among brown trout, brook trout, bull trout, and mountain whitefish occurring on waters across western Montana. Please leave these spawning fish alone! They are the future of fish and fishing. We hope that there will come a day where we no longer feel compelled to make these posts, but sadly there are anglers (and even some guides) out there who continue to target actively spawning fish. If you aren’t familiar with spawning activity among salmonids, please take some time to educate yourself. If you find big trout in shallow water that seem to not spook from your presence, that is a sure sign of spawning activity. But a lack of fish in the shallows doesn’t mean it’s all clear. If you see redds (fish nests) it is critical to avoid the area while wading or dropping anchor. Redds appear as patches of clean, shining gravel among otherwise algae covered areas of stream bed. Fish and fish eggs may or may not be present. It’s best to avoid these areas as damage to redds can kill eggs or cause spawning trout to abandon an area. If possible, we try to even avoid fishing the pools adjacent to active redds, as many brown trout will spend the day resting and hiding there and then reoccupy the redds in the low light or dark hours. Thanks, everyone!

Read on to see our take on this week’s fishing, and check out the links below to stay current on area forecasts and flows.  Stay tuned as we report each week on hatches, flows, weather, and more. For the most up to date info stop by the shop, give us a call, or drop us a line.

West Yellowstone Weather Forecast


Yellowstone National Park

The Final Four, 4 days, 96 hours, 5,760 minutes, no matter how you look at it the 2018 fishing season in Yellowstone Park has wound down to less time than an adult October Caddis has to mate, lay eggs and die. There are hot dogs turning under heat lamps at the Econo-mart in West Yellowstone that will last longer than we have to fish in the Park this year.

If you have been waiting for the right fall conditions, now is the time. As we have said all season, scuzzy weather is the best for late-season fishing, and this final weekend looks to be ideal.  Pack your puffy layers, warm hats, gloves, and gore-tex. It’s going to be a cold, wet one, and we couldn’t be more excited about it!

With these dark, gloomy conditions expect to see good migratory fish activity throughout the day, chiefly on the Madison system. It’s time to throw some bright colors like chartreuse and yellow into your streamer and soft hackle rotation as these fish will be at their peak of aggression for the season. Please remember, to pay extra close attention to avoid spawning habitat while you are wading and fishing.

The Firehole should be prime for the Final Four as well. It looks like daytime high temps will struggle to get out of the 30’s, especially up in the caldera. So, don’t expect to see much before early afternoon, and don’t be surprised if it takes until as late as 4:00pm for Baetis mayflies to emerge. The Firehole River has dozens of small micro-environments along it’s 14 plus miles of water between Old Faithful and Madison Junction. A myriad of thermal discharges influence water temps drastically from spot to spot, and correspondingly affects the timing of hatches. More so than ever, it pays off to be flexible when it’s cold. Don’t get stuck waiting out the hatch in an area that doesn’t have bugs. If conditions are right, and it looks like they will be, Baetis will be hatching somewhere and fish will be rising to them. If it’s not happening where you are, think about a change of venue.

If you’re looking for an option during the Final Four with a lower risk-reward ratio that just might produce huge dividends of the cutthroat variety, then consider a trip up to the Yellowstone River in the caldera between Chittenden Bridge and the fishing boundary downstream of Fishing Bridge. Big, beautiful Yellowstone Cutts occupy this stretch all summer after migrating out of Yellowstone Lake to spawn in the spring. Many years the majority of fish have made their way back to the lake by this point in the season. However, this has been a great water year. Huge runoff and healthy summer rains have kept flows higher than average for most of the season keeping many of the largest fish in the river longer. This is in no way a slam dunk option! But, if you are looking for a little adventure during these final days of the 2018 season, and you’re comfortable with some risk, consider hunting for one of those trophy Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. If you can find some, they will likely be rising to afternoon hatches of Baetis mayflies. Although, a well-presented foam hopper with rubber-legs just might do the trick, even in the snow…they are cutthroat after all!

Madison River

If the crowds in YNP have you down, you might find some solace on the Madison River outside of Yellowstone Park. For the majority of the season the walk-wade section downstream from Earthquake Lake is the last place you would want to go to avoid crowds. By November, though,  it’s a different story. You will still see a few die hard anglers at usual spots like Raynolds Pass and Three Dollar Bridge, but if you are up for a little walk and enjoy head hunting for subtle risers then this could be the spot for you.

Cold, gray conditions will make this an afternoon event as well. All the usual fall suspects will be present like Baetis mayflies and midges. Work slowly, examine each piece of slow, glassy water carefully, and be prepared with a good slackline reach cast. These won’t be easy fish to fool, but they may be some of the most memorable rises of the entire season.

Missouri River

As we slide ever closer towards the dark, frozen abyss that is winter in Yellowstone Country our team of resident Missouri River guides are enjoying far more comfortable conditions. It’s not exactly flip-flop weather in Cascade and Craig, but it’s 10-15 degrees warmer than West Yellowstone, and the boys are making the most out of late season on the MO.

There’s still some great dry fly fishing to be had in spots with Baetis, Pseudo’s, and caddis. Streamer fishing continues to produce good results. And, the nymph game…well, you know.

If you’re in the area, and you’re looking for some quality late-season fishing, don’t forget about the MO.

Henry’s Fork

Another great option for late season angling after the season ends in Yellowstone is the Henry’s Fork. Up in the caldera around Last Chance you can expect to see similar conditions to those on the Firehole and Madison. Afternoon highs look to be in the cold 30’s and 40’s. Baetis mayfly activity should continue here, but as with the other fisheries, most of the activity will be concentrated to a few hours during the warmest part of the afternoon.

The lower river around Ashton will see slightly warmer temps, and a slightly larger bite window during the day. Baetis mayflies will continue to drive the dry fly fishing here, and browns will respond aggressively to streamers. Tread lightly on these browns as we move on through the remainder of the late season on the lower Henry’s Fork. Spawning season is in full swing here, and we need every last one of those big browns to be healthy for next season.

The Lakes

If you are a fan of stillwater angling, the final countdown has definitely begun. We see ice beginning to form later in November on many lakes, and by then the weather is often nasty enough to keep even the most dedicated lake anglers home. But, late autumn is an often overlooked time of year to target stillwaters. Stillwaters can be moody at this time of year, with passing storm fronts changing conditions from day to day. But the trout know that a long winter is coming, and they are feeding HARD when conditions are suitable. Think bigger in terms of fly selection, as leeches and baitfish have replaced the small mayflies of summer as a main food source. As vegetation dies back, scuds are also left homeless and wandering, making for an easy snack for the fish. Water temps are dropping down below the range where trout are most aggressive, so don’t be afraid to SLOW DOWN your presentation even more than usual. Look to the shallows first and fish during the warmest part of the day. Trout should be most active when things warm a bit.