2021 Yellowstone National Park Fishing Recap

by | Jan 4, 2022 | 0 comments

Without question, 2021 was the busiest season ever in Yellowstone. Millions of tourists flocked to the world’s first national park this year, and for good reason. After the last two years of stress and uncertainty, we love that so many people can find some peace, beauty, and inspiration in this magical place.

We started the fishing season, as we always do, hunting for hatches on the Firehole River. Opening day arrived warm and dry with water conditions well ahead of schedule for Memorial Day Weekend. We enjoyed some good PMD hatches and the corresponding spinner falls in early June, but by the middle of the month, water temps had warmed to the point that it was time to let the fishery rest until the fall.

As we let the Firehole rest, our attention turned to the cold waters of the Gallatin and Gardner Rivers, both of which cleared of spring run-off early and gave us fun early season hatches of stoneflies, caddis, and pmd’s.

By mid-July and the annual opener of the legendary caldera stretch of the Yellowstone River, flows had already dropped to what we would call “late season levels”. For the first time in a very long time, the river was crossable in many locations on opening day. With lower than usual water levels, many fish had returned to Yellowstone Lake early leaving anglers to hunt for targets. Despite the low water conditions, opportunities were available with some of the better hatches of the season occurring into September.

In late July historically low flows and localized warm water temperatures forced YNP officials to issue Hoot Owl restrictions on all rivers and streams in the Park. Fishing on rivers and streams was prohibited from 2 p.m. to sunrise the following day. Anglers could fish from sunrise to 2 p.m. Fortunately, the high elevation fisheries in the Park saw relief from the hot, dry conditions in early August. Nighttime low temps began to drop into the 30’s and a series of storms blessed the high country with soaking rains. Conditions improved to the point that official could lift the Hoot Owl restrictions in Yellowstone during the third week of August.

The Cutthroat Corner of the Park fished well at times throughout July, August, and September. Slough Cr, the Lamar River, and Soda Butte Cr all had their moments of glory with strong hatches and happily rising Cutthroat Trout, as well as their moments of “meh” with low flows and spooky fish.

As autumn arrived, so did a definite change in the weather pattern. The beginning of September brought several storms that turned the dial to fall fishing. We enjoyed a great swing season throughout the park, especially on the nearby waters of the Madison in the Park.

October ushered in our first bonafide winter storms, and prompted great fall hatches and pushes of migratory fish. We finished the season right back where it began chasing hatches on the Firehole, and swinging for migratory fish on the Madison.

As with all of the fisheries throughout Big Sky Country, 2021 offered up plenty of challenges, from low water, to warm temps, and smokey skies. But, despite the challenges, we felt so fortunate to have such a diversity of cold, clean waters to fish in the Yellowstone high country.