Six days, 144 hours, 8,640 minutes, no matter how you look at it the 2023 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 Economart in West Yellowstone that will last longer than we have to fish in the Park this year. October 31 is the final day of fishing for the 2023 season in YNP.
For weeks we’ve been talking about the best fall fishing options in YNP being on the Madison and Firehole Rivers. Nothing has changed in these final days, and if you’re dedicated enough to be here during the last weekend, you probably don’t need much help finding the best fishing.
If you have been waiting for the right fall conditions, now is the time. As we have said all season, scuzzy weather is best for late-season fishing, and this past week has been ideal. Pack your puffy layers, warm hats, gloves, and gore-tex. It’s going to be a cold one, and we couldn’t be more excited about it!
After the dark, gloomy conditions this week, we've seen 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 week. 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 4:00 pm 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 week with a lower juice-to-squeeze 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. Most 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. Big 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 2023 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 swung leech or soft-hackle will likely do the trick as well.
It's been a great season in YNP. Thanks for following along. Get out there and enjoy the final week. See you next year!