[DIY] Guide to Fly Fishing Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park

The Firehole River is a famous and storied destination for serious fly fisherman and runs completely within the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. The Firehole River is born at Madison Lake in the western portion of Yellowstone and flows for 33 miles before joining with the Gibbon River to create the Madison River.

The Firehole has been called the "strangest trout stream on Earth." This spring-fed river flows past some of the favorite attractions of Yellowstone National Park and through the most active geyser basins in Yellowstone including Old Faithful. This creates a unique fishing experience as anglers are often fishing against a backdrop of steam rising from a gurgling hot spring.

The Salmon Fly hatch starts early on the Firehole River and works it way downriver toward the Madison River.

Brook trout, browns and rainbows average 10-14 inches in the Firehole. The river is born a cold mountain stream, like many others. Hot water from geothermal features first enters the river in the Upper Geyser Basin. In 30 miles, the Firehole River warms almost 30 degrees. This warm water temperature facilitates year-round insect activity and trout growth. The Firehole River mainly flows through flat prairie type terrain. At one point the Firehole disappears down a canyon which offers some great fishing at its lower end.

Best Places to Fish the Firehole River

Firehole River Map and Fishing Access Sites

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Firehole River (Yellowstone National Park): 44.607359, -110.846042
Firehole River (Upper): 44.437917, -110.804383
Firehole River (Black Sand Basin): 44.462390, -110.855870
Firehole River (Old Faithful): 44.460310, -110.828620
Firehole River (Midway Run): 44.524477, -110.832889
Firehole River (Pocket Basin): 44.572970, -110.832111
Firehole River (Confluence With Nez Perce Creek): 44.580760, -110.832490
Firehole River (Firehole Falls): 44.628820, -110.863810
Firehole River (Elk Island): 44.615610, -110.854710
Firehole River (Elk Island Glide): 44.614770, -110.854990
Firehole River (Dipper Cliff): 44.611610, -110.852160
Firehole River (Biscuit Basin): 44.484050, -110.855910
Firehole River (Ouzel Falls): 44.611490, -110.851790
Firehole River at Old Faithful, YNP: 44.459364, -110.821736
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distance: 7.5 miles
Firehole River (Upper)
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distance: 6 miles
Firehole River (Firehole Falls)
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distance: 6 miles
Firehole River at Old Faithful, YNP
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distance: 5.9 miles
Firehole River (Black Sand Basin)
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distance: 5.9 miles
Firehole River (Old Faithful)
14 markers
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Get the DIY Fly Fishing App to get turn-by-turn directions to access points shown on the map above and real-time stream flow conditions.

The Firehole River is accessible by the Grand Loop Road, Old Faithful Road and several trailheads. The best fishing often requires a hike, but it is worth it.

Best Time to Fish the Firehole River

The best time to fish the Firehole is in the spring (June), as it is one of the first rivers in the Park to clear, and then again in the fall (September/October).

Firehole River Hatches and Flies

June brings caddis and mayflies and small low-profile flies are a must. Pale Morning Duns (PMDs) and Baetis hatch in June with the PMDs staying until July. Effective dry-fly patterns include Hendricksons, Quill Gordons, Adams, Pale Morning Duns, Blue-Winged Olives, and midge patterns.

From July through mid to late August, the Firehole effectively shuts down. The water warms enough that the trout move into the cooler tributaries like the Little Firehole, Sentinel, Fairy and Nez Perce creeks.

Caddis and midges appear again in September, staying until the first frosts of late fall. Insects on the Firehole shrink dramatically as the season progresses, so should your flies.

Terrestrials hit their peak in late August and early September. Use a slim, sparse hopper or small ant or beetle for the best results.

Firehole River Fly Fishing Tips

The Firehole provides excellent dry fly fishing and is an easily accessible, slow moving meadow stream that demands careful presentations and imitative flies for the prolific caddis and mayfly hatches it produces.

Fishing on the Firehole requires spring creek type tactics. Stalking and hiding your profile are often necessary to catch these wary trout. Small flies and long, thin tippets are needed.

While it is easy to wade the Firehole River, it is often better to fish from shore. The larger trout hang out near the undercut banks and weed lines. Fishing from shore gives you less risk of spooking the fish. The Firehole River fishes best on overcast, stormy days.

A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Firehole River.  A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Firehole River USGS Flow Charts

USGS Water-data graph

Firehole River Fishing Reports

There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish Stillwater River fishing reports. A few to check out include:

Firehole River Fishing Regulations and Precautions

The Firehole River is fly fishing only and rainbow and brown trout are catch and release only. Five brook trout may be harvested daily. If you plan to fish in late July or August you may find the Firehole closed to fishing due to high water temperatures.

Check with the park office before planning your trip and upon arrival. As the Firehole flows through geothermal areas it is best to stay on designated paths when hiking to avoid any hot surprises. The Firehole is in prime bear country, observe the usual precautions.

Looking for more places to fish in Yellowstone National Park? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Yellowstone National Park.


Ken Sperry
 

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help folks find new places to fish and to share tips and tricks to help make fly fishing and fly tying a little easier. Have a question? You can get in touch with Ken here.