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Montana

When most fisherman think of getting away from it all and taking a fly fishing trip, it is usually decided that Montana is the best choice in the lower 48 because of its abundance of cold mountain rivers and streams.  The Big Sky State has no shortfall of incredible fishing and Eyes on the Fly's summer operation puts you right in the middle of some of the best trout fishing in the country whether that be inside of Yellowstone National Park or just on its outskirts like Paradise Valley.   Spanning most of the state, Eyes on the Fly can specifically curtail your trip to your parties objective whether that be wade fishing in Yellowstone National Park or drift boat fishing the vast river systems that spread across the state.  With 160 tributary streams, 10 major rivers and 45 lakes with fish in them, lets just cover Yellowstone National Park here...

 

Yellowstone N.P. ~ North East Section 

 

SODA BUTTE CREEK (TROUT STREAM)

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The Soda Butte has some fine fishing assuming big run offs from winter snow accumulation hasn't washed the river out.  What was a good honey hole one year could be non existent the next which is why the Soda Butte is either a go to river or one we might pass by when taking our Yellowstone N.P. adventure.  Known for its Cutthroat Trout population, Soda Butte Creek is located along the Northeast Entrance Road of the park and is easy to access with a short walk.   There are numerous opportunities to see wildlife along the way even while fishing with the potential to see Big Horn Sheep, Grizzly Bear, Black Bear, Bison, Wolves, Coyotes and numerous birds that migrate here both in the summer and winter months.  Cutthroat, Rainbows, Cuttbows and Brooke Trout are found in these waters. 

 

SLOUGH CREEK (TROUT STREAM)

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Slough Creek is a very popular fishing stream in Yellowstone and offers a tranquil setting no matter what stretch of water you are fishing between its start and brief meeting with The Lamar River before emptying into the Yellowstone River.  There are three upper meadows of Slough Creek that are accessible with a good 1-3 mile hike.   The upper meadows are secluded, away from traffic other than fisherman and the further you walk the better the fishing and less crowded it gets.  The lower section of Slough Creek gets more action and more flies presented through this stretch only because its close to the road but the beautiful slow moving lower portion of this stream still holds nice fish and the possibility of only seeing another angler or two in the morning or late afternoon.  We are at the mercy of the elements when we fish slough as some times the upper meadows might be closed due to bear play or the weather keeping us from going here.  Weather is always something we want to be prepared for anytime in Yellowstone as any day could bring rain or snow.  Rainbows, Cutthroats and Cuttbows are the fish you will find in Slough.    

 

LAMAR RIVER (TROUT RIVER)

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The Lamar River is our favorite river to fish because of its endless possibilities.  It provides runs, riffles, boulders, shoots, pools and canyon fishing at its finest.  Located in the beautiful Lamar Valley of Yellowstone N.P, the Lamar River starts 24 miles up the valley far away from any vehicles or roads.  Overnight horseback trips are common to this stretch of the river with hiking in as the only other access.  If you make the hike it is well worth the trip if seclusion and fishing in untouched water excites you.  Once the river meanders down to its confluence with Soda Butte Creek, the river takes a path close to the road and this is where most attempt to fish the river.

 

Further down the river is Lamar Canyon, one of the prettiest stretches of water you will ever see, strewn with enormous boulders millions of years old and bluish green water that flows from one nice shoot and pool to another. Good fly casters will find this water to be extraordinary if you don't mind jumping over boulders and a little hike in. Lamar canyon, during run off, is Montana's only Class VI river and not normally available to fish until mid to late July.  You will find Native Yellowstone Cutthroats, Rainbows and Cuttbows through this stretch.  

 

The lower section of the Lamar River is another wonderful place we walk and wade before it eventually empties into the Yellowstone River.  The confluence of these two rivers is a great place to get away from it all and have one of the better opportunities to catch a wall hanger.  If you like seams, foam and deep water you will love this stretch of water. Nymphing is a common practice on this river if we want to catch numbers unless a hatch is taking place which in Yellowstone, happens frequently. 

 

Yellowstone N.P. ~ North Central Section 

 

GARDINER RIVER (TROUT RIVER)

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The Gardiner River is a great place to catch a grand slam encompassing a brook, brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout.  At a lower elevation than most of Yellowstone National Park, the Gardiner requires a hike to get to the good places and it helps to have local knowledge of secret spots and hiking routes that most don;t know about.  Also known as rattlesnake butte, we have seen a full size rattle snake in full coil floating down the river two feet from us with a pica (big mouse) in his mouth.  We were glad the snake was entertained but needless to say, we understood how it got its name.  

 

Resting between two mountain ranges, the climate on this river changes and becomes more dry and arid before entering the Yellowstone River and Gardiner, MT.  The River has great access if you are willing to walk away from the roads and a full day can be had fishing this river.  With faster water and boulders, runs, seams and eddies, The Gardiner River holds a special place in our heart as it is our home water.  If you wish to warm up on a cool day or just say you sat in a hot spring inside Yellowstone, we recommend taking the mile hike up the Boiling River from the main parking spots between Mammoth Hot Springs and Gardiner MT.  The Boiling River is a hot spring that shoots right out of the ground at 191 degrees before joining the Gardiner.  At this confluence of warm and cold water, people from all over the world meet in its middle and soak in the hot water.  

 

YELLOWSTONE RIVER (TROUT RIVER)

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The longest river in the continental United States without a dam is the Yellowstone River.  At 670 miles, the Yellowstone is the signature river of Yellowstone National Park and a river that has brought millions of people to the park just to photograph and fish it.  It is estimated in a high snow run off year, that the Yellowstone River could fill up Lake Superior 24 times over with the amount of water that eventually makes its way out of the park.  It eventually enters the mighty Missouri River at Three Forks, MT which ultimately works its way across the Midwest before draining into the Gulf of Mexico.  

 

The Yellowstone River is not as easy to fish as it was once with the illegal introduction of Lake Trout.  Somewhere in the mid to late 1980's, these Lake Trout were somehow, to much controversy, introduced into Yellowstone Lake and the repercussions of this has decimated our Cutthroat population. What was once home to only Native Cutthroat Trout, is now home to the predatory Lake Trout whom eat most of the sac fry and smaller cutthroat fish.  The ones that do make it to spawn from the lake into the river are usually big but typically protected as fishing doesn't open till Mid July on this stretch after the spawn.  If it is a late snow pack or late run off, it is a good bet to fish the river above the famous upper and lower falls for some of the biggest fish you will find in the park, a true spawning Yellowstone Lake Cutthroat.  

 

If you want to get completely off the grid and fish fast moving canyon water with the opportunity to catch fish that have hardly ever seen an imitation fly, we recommend the 7 mile canyon loop down through the canyon below the highly photographed lower falls.  Its a journey in so plan for a full day and then some but camping is also available once you reach the bottom of the abyss.  A camping trip into Yellowstone Canyon is a great way to really enjoy this trail and will leave you with lasting memories!    

 

Another good section of the Yellowstone River to fish inside of the park is near the Northeast Exit road before Lamar Valley.  It requires some walking if you want to fish away from others that have tried their luck next to the bridge parking spots. You will find large Cutthroats and Rainbows hugged up next to the big boulders and hanging around the large swirling back eddies in this stretch.     

 

Yellowstone N.P. ~ Northwest Section 

 

GALLATIN RIVER (TROUT RIVER)

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The Gallatin River runs North along the West Boundary of Yellowstone National Park before meeting up with the Madison and Jefferson at Three Forks, Montana in turn forming the Missouri River.  It is best known for the movie, "A River Runs Through It" as the Gallatin was the river most of the fly fishing scenes where shot at. It is an extremely scenic drive along the river and there are numerous parking options to access fishing.  The river is 120 miles long and has Brook, Brown, Cutthroat and Rainbow trout making it another river where a grand slam is possible.  Being a drive from the interior of the park, the Gallatin is a good option to spend the day if your staying in West Yellowstone or Bozeman, MT.  During run off, usually in June, the Gallatin has a one mile stretch known as the, "Mad Mile" where Class IV water awaits those that wish to challenge the white water.  Their are numerous rafting companies in the area and a few good options for lodging near the river Eyes on the Fly can help you with.  

 

Yellowstone N.P. ~ West Central Section

 

GIBBON RIVER (TROUT RIVER)

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The Gibbon River starts at Grebe Lake and runs near one of the hottest places on earth, the Norris Geyser Basin. Norris Geyser Basin is a surreal looking place the first time one sees it as the setting gives off a surface of the moon look.  Steamboat Geyser, the worlds largest geyser at 300 feet, rests in this area of the park where it last erupted in 1985.  Just how hot is Norris Geyser Basin?  In 1929, Carnegie Drill Company was conducting research to see what the temperature was at certain depths within this area.  The drill only made it to 265 ft before nearly blowing up from the pressure of the Norris Basin subsurface. The temperature of the hole at a mere 100 yards below the surface which is not more than a pitching wedge away was a stout 401 degrees!   

 

The Gibbon River, even with all the heat surrounding it still offers great fishing.  We are careful fishing the Gibbon near Norris Geyser Basin as it can be dangerous with thermal features hiding themselves along the banks but just outside of Norris is where we can start fishing the river harder.  Two popular paces to get out and wade fish above Gibbon Falls  is Elk Park and Gibbon Meadows. Both locations take on a meandering meadow stream feel with slower pace water and outstanding dry fly opportunities.  With the current being slower in these two areas, the fly presentations need to be softly thrown on light tippet and the wading approach needs to be stealthy.    

 

Gibbon River Canyon and the lower section of the river is a great place to get away from the crowds.  With the new road that was introduced in 2011, the old road provides an excellent path to fish the canyon where traffic otherwise kept you from being able to fish this area before.   Further down stream there are many places we can fish along the Gibbon before the river joins the Firehole River which in turn forms the famous Madison River.  Brown, Brook and Rainbow call this river home and they like to hang out along the steep undercut banks of these meadow sections near the confluence.  

 

MADISON RIVER (TROUT RIVER)

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The Madison River starts where the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers meet on the western side of the park in a place called Madison Junction.  A very popular area for photographs in both the summer and winter, the Madison River offers a variety of fishing hot spots too.  Even at the Madison Junction confluence, as long as Bison aren't around, we literally fish this area all day and go up or down any branch of this three way trout meca as long as it is early in the season.  A true test and and at times a technical river in the stretches between the Junction and the West gate, the water has good holes, foam lines, weeds and boulders where trout hold.  Mends and dead drifts are the key to a successful day and hang ups are common.  

 

Running straight west towards West Yellowstone, MT, the Madison River stays unfrozen even in the winter as the geyser basins upriver on the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers keep the water warmer. Although no fishing inside the park is allowed in the winter on any river, the Madison provides excellent habitat for Trumpeter Swans, Ducks, Mallards, Geese, Eagles, Ospreys, River Otters and Bison if you happen to visit the area in December or January.   

 

FIREHOLE RIVER (TROUT RIVER)

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The Firehole River obviously gets its name because 25% of the worlds geysers, roughly 140 geysers total, including Old Faithful, eventually empty into the Firehole. Some 7.9 Million gallons of hot water constantly pour into this waterway daily raising the rivers temperature by 40 degrees in some cases.  Hot enough to melt 7 tons of ice per minute, Grand Prismatic, the worlds largest hot spring, is responsible for this sudden shift in temperature and oddly enough, the trout still feed in this environment.  Able to withstand and adapt to water temperatures that reach up to 84 degrees in certain places, trout on the Firehole River don't get very big but are still able to be caught with a few reaching the 18" mark.   Early season is the time we fish this river as we try not to put as much pressure on them as the season warms up although plenty still try.  The Rainbows and Browns in this water have enough to worry about on top a fly that drifts overhead as late summer heat often makes them lethargic and inactive.   

 

Access along the Firehole River is everywhere and we know all the good spots that keep us away from the crowds and catching fish.  Two places we recommend fishing is Fountain Drive access and Firehole Canyon but both require walking or climbing over boulders to access.  The Firehole Canyon offers an opportunity to catch a nice brown or fat rainbow below the last big waterfall while the upper sections are mostly rainbows with a few browns scattered around.  

 

Yellowstone N.P. ~ South Central Section

 

SNAKE RIVER (TROUT RIVER)

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As far as inside of Yellowstone Park boundaries, the Snake River has only a mile or so of road access before she flows out the south gate towards Jackson Lake in Grand Tetons National Park.  It is a good mile to fish though as the Lewis River adds a steady flow of water just upriver of the south gate.  This confluence is accessible by parking on the East side in the picnic grounds just upriver of the South Gate Entrance.  This is a great river to learn fly casting on as most of the water is open and wide.  Big fish roam here and if the wind isn't too bad, its a wonderful place to fish especially if we are wanting to mix our trip up with both wade fishing and drift boat fishing.  Accommodations aren't far with options both inside one of the National Parks or further South in Jackson, Wyoming.  Cutthroats, Rainbows and Browns call the Snake River home.      

 

LEWIS RIVER (TROUT RIVER)

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The Lewis River starts at the South side of Lewis Lake and the first sight of the river from the road is a majestic one when you see Lewis Falls.  Lewis Falls is one of our favorite places to take a younger angler fishing in Yellowstone, assuming the water is at the right level.  Downriver of the falls and before the canyon, the water is technical and challenging water even for the best of anglers.  If you are looking to get away from it all and get a workout at the same time, we recommend a drop into the canyon for the day but this is no ordinary drop.  A full day trip can be spent in the canyon where only a few fishermen have roamed and a guide is definitely needed. The Lewis River has Brooke, Brown, Rainbows and Cutthroats making it yet another river where a grand slam can be caught.   

 

 

*All Yellowstone National Park Guide Trips are run through an outfitter license with The Flying Pig Rafting Adventures out of Gardiner, MT.