Pursuing native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout on the fly in YNP can be challenging or easy depending on what section of the river you are fishing and how much you are willing to hike. Fishing near Nez Perce Ford area will challenge your skills with larger Cutthroat, but lower numbers of fish. If you are willing to make a longer hike into remote areas where the pressure is minimal but the numbers are high, you will be rewarded with several cutthroat trout averaging 14″. Big volume of water and wade only fishing limits fishing to the side of the river you choose to hike into.
The Yellowstone River comes to life in the far backcountry of Wyoming outside of Yellowstone National Park on the North (North Fork of the Yellowstone) and South (South Fork of the Yellowstone) sides of Younts Peak. After a 30-mile section starting from the river’s birthplace to where it feeds into Yellowstone Lake’s South Arm, a portion best accessed with a horse outfitter, the Yellowstone River continues its journey out of the north end of Yellowstone Lake near Lake Village. The 11 mile stretch from Fishing Bridge to the Yellowstone Falls opens to fishing on July 15th every year. If fishing along this stretch, however, your guide will know what areas are open to fish. And if you are fishing on your own please check the current Yellowstone National Park fishing regulations for closures. Trout On The Fly recommends fishing this stretch from opening day, after spawning has finished, into August, when the concentration of fish is at its peak. After that, the number of fish in the area decreases due to a significant percentage moving from the river to the lake after the spawn. Once in the lake, many will succumb to the non-native lake trout consuming the indigenous Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The cutthroat trout in this section range from 14”-20”.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, below Yellowstone Falls flowing north to Tower Junction, is approximately 15 miles in length. This section of the Yellowstone can be challenging to access due to its steep canyon and limited trials. For the physically fit angler, Trout On The Fly offers a full day trip into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone via 7 Mile Hole. An approximately six-mile hike in by foot to the river, mixed with about four hours of streamside fly fishing and another six-mile hike out makes this trip a true adventure! Fishing in Seven Mile Hole is an experience that will last a lifetime for the fishing and the amazing scenery – bubbling paint pots, dormant geysers, and waterfalls line the hike and the river! The cutthroat trout, ranging from 14”-18” in size, are suicidal for your fly due to the lack of pressure they receive. During one legendary salmon fly hatch, I had two experienced clients land close to 100 fish in a four hour period! Mid-July into September are the best times to fish 7 Mile Hole on the Yellowstone River.
From Tower Junction to the Yellowstone Park boundary at Gardiner, MT, the Yellowstone River flows approximately 22 miles mostly through the Black Canyon. With a short hike (one to five miles), this section of the river can be accessed on the upper end near Tower Junction and the lower end near Gardiner with one of Trout On The Fly’s day trips. The major tributary is the Lamar River which flows into the Yellowstone River just below Tower Junction. As stated in the section on Lamar River, the Lamar can “blow out” anytime the upper backcountry receives heavy rainfall, making the Yellowstone River unfishable below its entrance into the Yellowstone River. Gardiner River or Soda Butte Creek make great alternatives if this is the case. Recommended times to fish this section would be from mid-July through August and into September. Above Knowles Falls the river offers cutthroats, rainbows and cutbows ranging from 14”-16” in size. Below Knowles Falls the river offers the same species but also brown trout. Guided fly fishing trips on the Yellowstone River are a two-day minimum with Trout On The Fly. You are responsible for your own lodging, but we are happy to make recommendations.
NOTE: Felt sole wading boots are prohibited on all rivers in Yellowstone National Park. Trout On The Fly offers non-felt rental gear if needed.