The Yellowstone general fishing season is in full swing now that the late July 15 Yellowstone River opener is behind us. There's been some positives and negatives this season given water conditions and fee increases, but nothing really changes as fishing is fantastic as always on the fly.
For starters, Yellowstone River is big, but well within its banks this season, nothing like last year when you virtually had to wade through sage brush to wet a line, according to the friendly folks at Bud Lilly's Fly Shop in West Yellowstone. Flows are down, but if you try to try cross, carefully pick your spots cause it is still the Yellowstone River and it is deceiving how much volume is actually flowing.
Early season on the Yellowstone has been good for larger cutts on streamers, stonefly patterns and stimulators. Fishing has really changed on this river in the park. Anglers must use "searching" baits to find cutts here as there just aren't as many trout as the hey days no thanks to the lake trout problem on the lake. If you do however see a riser, target him with a caddis or throw some of the other flies I mentioned in his wheelhouse and be ready to set the hook.
Some other good news in the region is that Slough, Lamar and Soda Butte are all fishable thanks to lower runoff flows this year. Typically the northeast clears in August, but fishing is already hot on this trio of waters.
"Drakes and stims with some kind of beadhead dropper are best on the north east waters like Slough and the Lamar," said Dick Greene at Bud Lilly's. "I will be headed to Cooke City this week so I'll report back with some first-hand knowledge."
The Gibbon, Madison and Pelican Creek are all producing. Elk hair caddis, streamers and an assortment of wet hackle flies are best. Montana stoneflies are a oldie but a goodie here.
Now for the bad news. Due to the low flows, the Firehole is already seeing dangerously high water temperatures. If the park hasn't closed it yet like in years past, it will not be long. For now, anglers should avoid it on a volunteer basis.
Road construction is a headache as always. Work on the Lamar River bridge could delay your fishing adventure by a 1/2-hour. Lastly, in case you haven't heard, there has been an increase in permit fees this year - $18 for 3 Day, $25 for 7 Day and $40 for the Season. Still a deal if you asked me.
Lastly, be sure to carry bear spray and fish with a couple buddies in Yellowstone's bear country. Remember, much of the fishing in the park calls for barbless and artificial lures and flies. If you have to fish bait, well the only people that can use worms are children under 11 and only at Joffe Lake.