DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Soda Butte Creek in Yellowstone National Park

There are many world-class fisheries in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park, but Soda Butte Creek is a standout for many reasons. 

Nestled in the northeastern corner of the park near Cooke County, Montana, Soda Butte Creek runs about 13 miles to the Lamar River

The dormant geyser cone overlooking the lower meadow of the creek's run gives it its name, and at an altitude of 8,000 feet, it runs cold year round.

Fly fishing Soda Butte Creek in Yellowstone National Park with Sweetwater Fly Shop

Every angler looking for a prize catch goes to Soda Butte Creek in search of native Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. You can find many big rainbows and cutthroat/rainbow hybrids near the mouth of the river, but the headwaters belong to the native cutthroat. 

It's not exactly a secret that Soda Butte Creek is a favorite spot for catching Yellowstone Cutthroat, so fishing pressure on the creek can be relatively heavy at times.

You may find you need to hike a little way to find some space, especially if you choose to fish along the waters in the upper meadow. This high-pressure environment can lead to picky feeding by the local trout during high traffic times of the year, but a willingness to wander further afield can help alleviate this.

If you venture into sections between the meadows, you will encounter some steep canyon country and rock pools with smaller fish that are easy to land. The further into the canyon you go, the bigger the fish and the faster the water, but it's a reasonably tricky descent and the timber runs right up to the banks in some places.

Fortunately, the Northeast Entrance public access road runs almost parallel to Soda Butte Creek, so there are portions of the river that are easy to access.

Soda Butte Creek Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on Soda Butte Creek in Yellowstone National Park

Get directions to fishing access points and real-time stream flow data with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish Soda Butte Creek

It's easy to start by the headwaters near the park boundary thanks to the proximity of the Northeast Entrance Road. From the park boundary to where the Soda Butte Creek meets Pebble Creek, the meadow is a great place to land some cutthroats and rainbows all season long, but be aware that fishing pressure is high in August and September.

Heading downstream from Pebble Creek to the Lamar River Junction, both the size of the fish and the fishing pressure increase significantly. You can still land big fish even with the high-pressure conditions, but you may need to hike a bit further into the meadow, and it may require more patience as the fish tend to be warier along this section of the creek. 

If you do fish the meadow section, keep well back from the banks to avoid spooking the fish. The water is crystal clear, and the fish can see well up on the banks. Use stealth approach tactics when you find the section of river that looks most promising to you and keep a low profile by avoiding casting a shadow over the water. 

A little common courtesy goes a long way during the high-pressure fishing months of July and August, so be considerate of other anglers by not spooking the schools of trout.

Soda Butte Creek Flow and Current Conditions

Soda Butte Cr at Park Bndry at Silver Gate

  • Gage height: 0.36 ft
Gage height Graph

Best Time to Fish Soda Butte Creek

Due to the high altitude, Soda Butte Creek doesn't clear up until the first couple weeks of July, and the local trout won't be that active until the day warms up a bit. Leave early and get set up in a likely looking spot for a while before you start casting.

The fishing season ends when the park closes the first Sunday in November, but most high country fishing like Soda Butte Creek shuts down around the end of September.

Be prepared to deal with crowds and be considerate of other anglers as you approach your chosen section of Soda Butte Creek.

Soda Butte Creek Fishing Tips

A standard 9-foot rod with 4 or 5- weight line and reel to match are perfect for Soda Butte Creek, as is a standard 9-foot leader. Waders are useful near the headwaters and in the tailwater, so make sure you come prepared. Stick to rubber-soled waders, as felt soles are banned in most waters in the park.

Need Gear? 

Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.

Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.

High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.

Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet.  3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.

Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable.  If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.

Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market.  Excellent foot and ankle support.  Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.

Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!

Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats.  Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish.  Simply the best nets on the market.

Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam.  If you need more storage - you have too many flies!

Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.

Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.

The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes.  Game changer.

Note: DIY Fly Fishing earns a commission (at no cost to you) on sales made using the links above. Thank you for your support!

Best Flies for Soda Butte Creek

As for fly patterns, here are some recommendation by section:

Boundary to Pebble Creek
- July: PMDs and Green Drakes
- August: Caddis, Yellow Sally, PMX or Stimulator #12, #14
- September: BWOs, Tan Drakes

Pebble Creek to Lamar Junction
- July-August: PMX, Stimulator, Chernobyl Ant, Terrestrials, PMDs, Green Drakes,
- September: BWOs, Tan Drakes

Need flies? 

Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere.  Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box. 

Dry Flies
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant

Nymphs/Wet Flies
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black

- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)

Soda Butte Creek Fishing Report

There are a number of area fly shops that provide a Soda Butte Creek fly fishing report. A few to check out are listed below.

Trip Planning Tips

Best bet to fish Soda Butte Creek is to fly into Bozeman and drive down to the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Once you're there, you can follow the main road to get to whatever section of Soda Butte Creek strikes your fancy.

The best stays in the area are likely to be in Bozeman, though there are plenty of places to camp, park an RV, or rent cabins/rooms in and around Yellowstone National Park.

Check out local listings for vacation rentals and ranch stays, too. You can save money by staying in someone's locally rented room or cabin rather than a motel or hotel.

Feature Image by William S Keller

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

About the author

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.

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