Yellowstone National Park 4 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Nez Perce Creek

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

April 2, 2019

Nez Perce Creek Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park offers many challenges to even the most skilled anglers, but unique among them is Nez Perce Creek in the Northwestern region of the park.

Here, the massive volcano buried beneath Yellowstone is particularly active, creating some unique challenges.

The Nez Perce Creek is a mercurial fishing stream in that the water can be muddy or tea-colored due to volcanic activity, and it varies in temperature from frigid to bathwater warm without any predictable pattern.

Fortunately the brown trout (as well as brook and rainbow trout) of the Nez Perce are pretty eager to please and provide for excellent fishing.

About Nez Perce Creek

A glimpse of Nez Perce Creek in Yellowstone National Park

Nez Perce Creek flows between the Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful. It’s one of those locations in the park worth hiking to for the views and the volcanic features alone. You’ll need to navigate carefully around various hot springs and other thermal features as you make your way to the 4 miles of meadows where the fish tend to congregate.

As one of the major tributaries of the Firehole River, the Nez Perce is often a trout refuge for the brown, brook and rainbow trout of the Firehole when water temperatures start to rise to near lethal levels.

Trout scramble upstream to the colder waters of the Nez Perce, though there are stretches beyond the meadowland that can be every bit as hot as the Firehole depending on local geothermal activity.

The good news about all this hot water is the mud along the banks thaws first, and some fantastic fly hatches occur as early as mid-June before spring runoff has even begun in other areas of the park.

An avid angler can often land less wary trout who are ravenously hungry after their slow, cold water winter months. It should not be your only destination in Yellowstone, but if you can fit it into your trip itinerary, it is well worth the visit.

Nez Perce Creek Fishing Map

map of fishing access spots on Nez Perce Creek in Yellowstone National Park

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish Nez Perce Creek

The best fishing on Nez Perce Creek is via the Mary Mountain Trailhead (see map above), and from the parking area, it’s roughly a 2-mile hike to the bridge over the geothermally active Culex Basin.

From the bridge, you have about 4 miles of meadowland upstream along the Nez Perce before you hit Spruce Creek. The bigger trout here are the browns, though you occasionally find some larger rainbows and brook trout prowling the waters, too.

Much of the rest of the area outside this meadowland close to the public due to geothermal activity. The good news is this means far less fishing pressure, and you are unlikely to have to compete for space along the banks even during peak season.

Many anglers start out visiting the Firehole River, then head to Nez Perce if the water is too hot or there is too much geothermal activity along the banks and the Park Service has closed it for fishing.

Be aware that Nez Perce Creek meadows are subject to closure as well, mainly if there has been an increase in local bison grazing activity and bear sightings. Bear spray is a must if you venture here.

Best Time to Fish Nez Perce Creek

Timing your visit can be tricky due to the many controlling factors involved in successfully fishing on Nez Perce Creek. Trail closures occur when geothermal, bear or bison activity in the area increases.

The creek fishes well all summer but check with the park service for area closures before setting out to fish Nez Perce Creek.

Nez Perce Creek Hatches and Flies

As for fly patterns, Parachute Adams in an appropriate size work best for early June fishing as the BWOs and midges are hatching. 

PMD and Caddis hatches follow as the weather gets warmer in July. White Millers are also good on this stretch of water and perform best in size #10. #14 olive and #18 black caddis also tend to gain the attention of early season fish.

July and August is time for terrestrials and hopper, ant and beetle patterns will all take fish. Humpy dry fly patterns in just about any color are also an effective attractor pattern just about any time of year.

For the fall, reverse the order of your flies as summer fades and fall sets in over Yellowstone.

The best flies for Nez Perce Creek match the hatch.  Not sure what is hatching?  Put on a general nymph or dry fly attractor pattern and you should be good to go.

Gearing Up To Fish Nez Perce Creek

A 9-foot 4 or 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Nez Perce Creek. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

You won’t need to wade to fish Nez Perce but hip waders and wading boots will keep you dry while fishing in the meadow section.  Bear in mind you will likely be hiking a ways in search of rising fish, so make sure to where something comfortable.

Trip Planning Tips

Fly into Bozeman for the best price on a flight, but look for stays in and around West Yellowstone, Montana which is just outside the West Entrance to the Yellowstone National Park.

There are many local traditional accommodations here, and if you do a little digging locally and online, you can sometimes find local private vacation rentals for a bargain price.

Camping in the park itself is also an option, and if RV or tent camping isn’t your speed, you can also book a reservation at the lodge near Old Faithful, which puts you close to just about every major location in the park.

Be sure to book early though if you plan to make a summer visit to the park, as they fill up early and hit capacity before tourist season even begins some years.

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

Feature Image by CopperSmithStudios1