Gibbon River at Madison Junction in Yellowstone National Park, WY

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Gibbon River in Yellowstone National Park

In the Northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park lies the Gibbon River, a tributary to the Madison River

Many world-class fisheries exist in Yellowstone and the Gibbon River is one that is often overlooked.

Trout stocking programs in the early 1900's lead to thriving population of rainbows, browns and brook trout the river currently enjoys.

Fly fishing the Gibbon River in Yellowstone National Park with the Flying Pig Adventure Company

The National Park Service has recently embarked on efforts to restore native westslope cutthroat trout to the upper Gibbon River.  To assist in the effort, there is no possession limits of non-native trout species including brown, rainbow, and brook trout in the upper river (above Gibbon Falls.)

Gibbon River Map and Fishing Access Sites

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Gibbon River: 44.697702, -110.744134
Gibbon River Falls: 44.654090, -110.770640
Gibbon River (Upper Nick Plunge Pool): 44.659760, -110.747210
Gibbon River (Upper Chocolate Run): 44.665669, -110.745224
Gibbon River (Artist Paint Pot Parking): 44.696300, -110.741370
Gibbon River Meadows: 44.697210, -110.751110
Gibbon River Picnic Area: 44.706140, -110.745510
Gibbon River (Elk Meadow): 44.718040, -110.727810
Gibbon River (Campground Pool): 44.738320, -110.697870
Gibbon River (Roadside Bend): 44.737913, -110.698205
Gibbon River (Museum Meadows): 44.737345, -110.697041
Gibbon River (One-Cast Meanders): 44.725420, -110.688030
Gibbon River (Virginia Cascade): 44.713070, -110.647840
Gibbon River (Lower Virginia Cascade Meadow): 44.713260, -110.634000
Gibbon River (Upper Virginia Cascade Meadow): 44.714260, -110.620050
Gibbon River (Little Falls): 44.722010, -110.616450
GIBBON RIVER AT MADISON JCT, YNP: 44.640800, -110.861064
Gibbon River (Falls Picnic Area): 44.648540, -110.773672
Gibbon River: 44.649220, -110.781134
Gibbon River: 44.649400, -110.784508
Gibbon River: 44.649240, -110.792593
Gibbon River: 44.649230, -110.797748
Gibbon River: 44.650590, -110.799974
Gibbon River: 44.651520, -110.807076
Gibbon River: 44.653500, -110.816475
Gibbon River: 44.652320, -110.821646
Gibbon River (Tuff Cliff): 44.650540, -110.829173
Gibbon River: 44.650060, -110.831490
Gibbon Falls Nature Trail: 44.653950, -110.771780
Gibbon River (Iron Springs): 44.659420, -110.767715
Gibbon River (Caldera Rim): 44.659610, -110.749694
Gibbon River: 44.660620, -110.744180
Gibbon River: 44.667180, -110.744920
Gibbon River: 44.678010, -110.746690
Gibbon River: 44.683700, -110.744684
Gibbon River: 44.687370, -110.744786
Gibbon River: 44.690550, -110.746245
Gibbon River: 44.694210, -110.745983
Gibbon River: 44.699910, -110.744557
Gibbon River: 44.703090, -110.745402
Gibbon River (Gibbon Meadows): 44.706110, -110.745381
Gibbon River (Chocolate Pots): 44.709640, -110.742108
Gibbon River (Rapids): 44.711060, -110.739829
Gibbon River: 44.715400, -110.728950
Gibbon River: 44.717560, -110.722979
Gibbon River (Norris): 44.737380, -110.694145
Gibbon River (Virgnia Cascade): 44.713220, -110.647472
Gibbon River: 44.712510, -110.644312
Gibbon River: 44.712740, -110.639045
Gibbon River (Virginia Cascades Picnic Ground): 44.714360, -110.634610
Gibbon River: 44.713080, -110.628246

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Best Places to Fish the Gibbon River

The best fishing waters on the Gibbon River are easily accessed from the main roads in Yellowstone. There are however several places you can only reach by hiking Grand Loop Road out of Gibbon Canyon. 

Even though it fishes well, the Gibbon is usually lower on most anglers' priority list when fishing in Yellowstone. If you are looking to avoid crowds in the busy summer season, the Gibbon is an excellent place to start.

The river is divided into multiple segments, and each has a different mix of trout and specific conditions. Conditions vary between sections and seasons. Some general principles hold true year over year though.

The upper section of the Gibbon River below Grebe Lake, Wolf Lake and through Virginia Cascades is very small. This section has a mixed fishery of very small brook and brown trout along with some Arctic Grayling. 

As the Gibbon River flows past the Norris Campground, it picks up size and is now a more fishable stream with large pockets, pools, and undercut banks that holds some sizable brown trout.

Below the Norris Geyser Basin, the Gibbon flows through Elk Park and the Gibbon Geyser Basin. Both of these areas are characterized by open meadows with winding pools and undercut banks. The meadows here are favored by fly fisherman.

Continuing on past Gibbon Geyser Basin the river passes Beryl Springs.  Here the river picks up speed and enters Gibbon Canyon on it's way to Gibbon Falls.

Finally, making its' approach to Madison Junction, the Gibbon opens up into another meadow section that some refer to as Gibbon Meadows. This is a great spot to target large brown trout with a streamer during their fall spawning run coming up from the Madison River.

Gibbon River Flow and Current Conditions

Gibbon River at Madison Jct, YNP

  • Water Temp: 37.22 ° F
  • Flow: 109 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 4.66 ft

Best Time to Fish the Gibbon River

Fishing season is short in Yellowstone (June to November), so your window of opportunity to try your luck on the Gibbon River is limited. The good news is the Gibbon is among the first rivers to clear up after spring runoff season, so you stand a good chance of landing a trophy catch if you can visit in late June.

Summer is peak season for both fly hatches and tourists, so plan on dealing with traffic, other anglers at popular fishing locations throughout the park, and people stopping to observe the natural wonders of Yellowstone.

Gibbon River Fishing Tips

A 9-foot rod with 4 or 5-weight floating fly line is recommended for the Gibbon River.  You should also pack waders without felt soles (state and park regulations prohibit these). 

Gibbon River Fly Box

Recommended patterns for the Gibbon River include:

- Sparkle Dun (gray or olive) #16-20
- Wester CDC Sulpher Dry Fly (cream or light yellow) #16
- RS2 (gray) #16-20
- Tunghead Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail (brown) #10-18
- Bead Head Giant Stone (tan or black) #4-10
- Adams Parachute Dry Fly (gray) #16-20
- Wade's N. Fork Special (tan or black) #8-14
- Wade's tungsten redhead nymph (black) #8-14
- Caddis soft hackles (gray or cream) #10-16
- Trina's sculpin (tan) #4

Gibbon River Fishing Reports

There are a number of area fly shops and can provide Gibbon River fly fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.

Gibbon River Fishing Regulations

The fishing season in Yellowstone National park is open from Memorial Day Weekend through the first Sunday in November.

Anyone over the age of 16 needs a fishing permit (available at all ranger stations). All native species of fish, including cutthroat trout, mountain whitefish and Artic Grayling, are catch and release only. 

Above Gibbon Falls there's no possession limit for nonnative fish, including brown, brook, rainbow, and lake trout. You may harvest as many nonnative fish from this area as you want.

Below Gibbon Falls possession of up to five brook trout is allowed. Catch and release all rainbow and brown trout.

Consult the Yellowstone National Park fishing regulations before your trip for the latest information.

Trip Planning Tips

The closest airport with access to the Gibbon River is West Yellowstone Airport with connections from Salt Lake City, Utah.  Larger airports are available in Bozeman, Montana and Idaho Falls, Idaho, each of which roughly is a 100-mile scenic drive.

West Yellowstone, Montana is ground zero for access to the Gibbon River via the west entrance of the Yellowstone National Park.  West Yellowstone, aptly dubbed "Trout Town West, USA", is a full-service community that offers accommodations, from large hotels to smaller motels.

The Chamber of Commerce can provide a full listing of accommodations and a vacation planner.

Feature image by Daniel Mayer


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

About the Author Ken Sperry

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish.