Yellowstone River Livingston Montana

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Yellowstone River in Montana

The longest river in Montana is the Yellowstone, which presents unique challenges to the angler considering a fishing vacation to this famous destination. Most of us are somewhat familiar with Yellowstone National Park, but our focus here will be on the trout rich Yellowstone in Montana.

The Yellowstone River contains a strong population of various trout species; including cutthroat, brown, and rainbow trout. Due to the length of this river, many anglers become frustrated in trying to determine what section should be their focal point in planning their trip. Hopefully this article can help point you in a proper direction, one that has accessibility in mind.

Fly Fishing Yellowstone River and the spring creeks of Paradise Valley in Montana with Greater Yellowstone Outfitters

Best Places to Fish the Yellowstone River

The landscape of this part of the country is spectacular and changes with each particular section. We will focus on the fishing aspect, bearing in mind just how beautiful this part of the country is. A good suggestion for each angler planning a trip here is to take your time in deciding on which section you want to visit. Are you equally as interested in the scenic value as well as the fishing? This is an example of a good question to ask yourself and will help lead you in the proper direction.

Our focus will be on the section that runs from the Carbella Access Site to Livingston. This section receives the heaviest fishing pressure but is very productive. We will focus on fishing this section of the Yellowstone River during the late summer months.

Late spring and early summer finds the Yellowstone murky and muddy, as the water clears up later in the summer making it more appealing to the senses.

This change in the water also sets the stage for a particular type of fly fishing that most enjoy. Speaking of the senses, on this section you will be greeted with the Absaroka Mountains to your east and the Gallatin Range to your west.

Yellowstone River Map and Fishing Access Sites

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MT - Yellowstone River: 45.665676, -110.539284
Clarks Fork Yellowstone River FAS (Bridger) : 45.296230, -108.900489
Clarks Fork Yellowstone FAS : 45.264285, -108.914947
Clarks Fork Yellowstone River FAS (Weymiller) : 45.026850, -109.060941
Clarks Fork Yellowstone River FAS (Bridger Bend) : 45.106406, -109.022573
Yellowstone River FAS (Elk Island) : 47.473982, -104.314706
Yellowstone River FAS (Seven Sisters) : 47.573796, -104.222769
Yellowstone River FAS (Sidney Bridge) : 47.673423, -104.156709
Yellowstone River FAS (Stipek) : 47.209616, -104.655145
Yellowstone River FAS (Diamond Willow) : 47.755933, -104.054428
Yellowstone River FAS (Intake Dam) : 47.284320, -104.519332
Yellowstone River FAS (Black Bridge) : 47.099935, -104.726653
Yellowstone River FAS (Slip & Slide) : 45.165635, -110.840267
Yellowstone River FAS (Springdale Bridge) : 45.743532, -110.231351
Yellowstone River FAS (Grey Owl) : 45.397868, -110.704140
Yellowstone River FAS (Bratten) : 45.716690, -109.630167
Yellowstone River FAS (Loch Leven) : 45.457214, -110.624224
Yellowstone River FAS (Otter Creek) : 45.855081, -109.915738
Yellowstone River FAS (Rosebud West) : 46.263186, -106.694682
Yellowstone River FAS (Mayor's Landing) : 45.666081, -110.539617
Yellowstone River FAS (Rosebud East) : 46.273900, -106.677697
Yellowstone River FAS (Emigrant) : 45.367035, -110.725500
Yellowstone River FAS (Emigrant West) : 45.376571, -110.724374
Yellowstone River FAS (Homestead Isle) : 45.606234, -108.878234
Yellowstone River FAS (Paradise) : 45.420450, -110.636643
Yellowstone River FAS (Bonfield) : 46.631389, -105.567841
Yellowstone River FAS (Carter's Bridge) : 45.597001, -110.565030
Yellowstone River FAS (Bundy Bridge) : 45.995499, -108.011808
Yellowstone River FAS (Captain Clark) : 46.073854, -107.718382
Yellowstone River FAS (Roche Jaune) : 46.420805, -105.856623
Yellowstone River FAS (Far West) : 46.280287, -106.484237
Yellowstone River FAS (Holmgren Ranch) : 45.663293, -109.348324
Yellowstone River FAS (Grey Bear) : 45.786405, -110.066352
Yellowstone River FAS (Crystal Cross) : 45.202242, -110.899826
Yellowstone River FAS (Free River) : 45.607260, -110.573405
Yellowstone River FAS (Fallon Bridge) : 46.856746, -105.113606
Yellowstone River FAS (Myers Bridge) : 46.254436, -107.342045
Yellowstone River FAS (Powder River Depot) : 46.742711, -105.431710
Yellowstone River FAS (South Hills) : 45.743044, -108.509757
Yellowstone River FAS (East Bridge) : 45.796558, -108.468241
Yellowstone River FAS (Gritty Stone) : 45.995285, -108.169380
Yellowstone River FAS (Voyagers Rest) : 45.996827, -108.130594
Yellowstone River FAS (Kinsey Bridge) : 46.533585, -105.712894
Yellowstone River FAS (Amelia Island) : 46.313334, -107.239198
Yellowstone River FAS (Chicory) : 45.397626, -110.702129
Yellowstone River FAS (Pelican) : 45.752765, -109.767637
Yellowstone River FAS (Queen of the Waters) : 45.043773, -110.731631
Yellowstone River FAS (Sheep Mountain) : 45.730564, -110.407049
Yellowstone River FAS (Brogan's Landing) : 45.102011, -110.782278
Yellowstone River FAS (Mallard's Rest) : 45.484825, -110.621626
Yellowstone River FAS (Pine Creek) : 45.511822, -110.583414
Yellowstone River FAS (Highway 89 Bridge) : 45.717233, -110.466403
Yellowstone River FAS (Duck Creek Bridge) : 45.686958, -108.642251
Yellowstone River FAS (Point of Rocks) : 45.254759, -110.869400
Yellowstone River FAS (Indian Fort) : 45.715366, -109.548569
Yellowstone River FAS (Buffalo Mirage) : 45.612767, -108.842053
YELLOWSTONE RIVER AT BIG TIMBER, MT: 45.847162, -109.940742
YELLOWSTONE RIVER AT BILLINGS MT: 45.800119, -108.468031
YELLOWSTONE RIVER AT FORSYTH MT: 46.266636, -106.691303
YELLOWSTONE RIVER AT MILES CITY MT: 46.420772, -105.860033
YELLOWSTONE RIVER AT GLENDIVE MT: 47.100764, -104.720317
YELLOWSTONE RIVER NEAR SIDNEY MT: 47.677414, -104.155411
Montana Yellowstone: 41.203300, -77.194500
West yellowstone: 44.960706, -93.388158
Paradise Gateway: 35.082675, -86.544242
Paradise Gateway: 45.368300, -110.734900
Paradise B: 45.316400, -110.798000
Paradise B: 45.316400, -110.798000

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Access on this section is not a challenge as the Carbella Access Site is at the beginning of this stretch. A widely used access point which is approximately 20 miles north of Gardiner and the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, you will find it accommodating and convenient. There is 20 camping spots available at this access point, and they do enforce a 14-day limit.

This is not your only access point, as there are plenty Montana Fishing Access sites along the way as shown on the map above.  Click any of the map icon for directions to each access point.

Yellowstone River Float Trips

Due to the Yellowstone River’s width and depth, wade fishing is not recommended. While wading is possible, the preferred method is to fly fish the Yellowstone River by boat.

It increases your ability to reach portions of the water that simply can not be accessed when wading. Fortunately, there are numerous boat launches available which are also shown on the map above.

Best Time to Fish the Yellowstone River

While opinions vary on when the best fishing occurs on this portion of the Yellowstone River, a prime time that is widely agreed upon is the late summer months.

As the water clears, the fishing techniques change. This is not to take away from the earlier summer months but the water during the months of May through early July have a propensity to be muddy and murky.

As the water clears this leads to ideal hopper fishing. In particular, a region known as Paradise Valley is lined with hayfields and grass which is prime hopper fishing conditions. Plop a hopper, sizes 2-10, noisily along the bank and get ready for a nasty strike.

Before you head out be sure to check the current river conditions.  USGS stream gauges of interest are shown on the map above.  Click any gauge to view a graph of stream flows for the past 7 days as shown in the example below.

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Yellowstone River Flow and Current Conditions

Yellowstone River near Livingston, MT

  • Water Temp: 60.26 ° F
  • Flow: 2790 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 2.40 ft

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Yellowstone River Fishing Reports

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

Yellowstone River Fishing Regulations

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has a user friendly website where the angler can visit and find out all the latest on regulations for this river. In addition, this is where you can go to purchase your non-resident fishing license. It is strongly suggested to check this site frequently before your trip to check for any updates and changes. 

How to Get to There

If you will be flying into this region, there are a couple airports worth noting. Gardiner has a small public airport, and the city of Bozeman (which is a little over an hours drive from Gardiner) has a larger airport. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport offers many fights in and out and is worth a strong consideration for your airline travel to this destination.

Lodging Near Yellowstone River

The city of Livingston is conveniently located on this stretch of water, and offers all the potential amenities that an angler could expect. From a convenience standpoint, you will be hard pressed to find a better spot to reserve your hotel room. A quick Google search of the area also reveals numerous camping opportunities. Given the proximity to Yellowstone National, local businesses are only happy to try and accommodate both the campers and the hotel stayers.

So Much Water to Explore

There is simply not enough space here to go into the details that this river justifies. With it being the largest river in Montana, and with all its sections and various personalities, it is one of this earth’s great spectacles. Those who have spent any time at all in this region speak volumes of its beauty and fishing.

In summary, as it is with any fishing trip, proper planning is the key to a fun and smooth fishing experience. Start your trip planning by reviewing each of the sections of this river, including of course the section represented here, and decide for yourself which one suits your desires. Then, you can explore your transportation options and housing needs in the local communities. The one advantage that this section of the Yellowstone River has over its counterparts is the close proximity of major towns such as Livingston and Bozeman. May your lines draw in the trout of your dreams as your senses take in all that is the state of Montana.

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

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.

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