Fishing the Yellowstone River in the Paradise Valley – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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Fishing the Yellowstone River in the Paradise Valley

The Paradise Valley stretch of the Yellowstone offers blue ribbon trout fishing with amazing views of the Absaroka and Gallatin mountain ranges. The Yellowstone River from the Carbella access all the way down to Carters Bridge is a popular and very productive trout part of the river. There is a good mix of brown and rainbow trout, native mountain whitefish, and good number of native Yellowastone Cutthroat trout.

Access points for float and wade fishing are found throughout Paradise Valley and each float offers something different. Being a freestone river makes for a good variety of water types. There are riffles, cut-banks, eddies and deep pools where the fish like to hold. You can find good water to wade fish close to the public access sites, but float fishing allows you to cover much more water on the Yellowstone River.

From Carbella access downstream to Emigrant is where the river begins to slow down with lots of long pools. There are some nice side channels and thick vegetation along the banks through this stretch. Dry fly fishing is good in this section with excellent hatches. You’ll also find more Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout in the upper reaches of Paradise Valley.

A popular stretch is Grey Owl to Mallard’s rest is known as “The Bird Float”. There are big browns and rainbows found here in mix of pools and undercut banks. It can get busy with recreational traffic through here in the summertime, but it’s no surprise with the beautiful views and chances at good numbers of Montana wild trout.

The river character changes quite a bit from Mallard’s Rest downstream to Carter’s Bridge. The river drops in elevation quicker in this part of Paradise Valley yet there are many good pools and banks to fish. There is some great streamer water through here, and fly-fishing hatches in the pools can be excellent.

The upper Paradise Valley is some of the first water to become fishable on the Yellowstone at the end of runoff season. The Yellowstone drains a very large area with many tributaries, and flows fluctuate more than other river that we offer guided fly-fishing trips on in the Bozeman area.. This is especially true on years with a big snowpack like we are seeing in 2018. The river becomes un-fishable when flows get much over 10000 C.F.S; typically sometime in early Mat.

Fishing techniques vary with river flows and water temperatures. During the colder months we will look for slower holding water. Fishing faster water that is more oxygenated is good when the water is lower and warmer. High water conditions will stack the fish into areas protected from the raging waters. Fishing in fast water and deep holes is good when the water is low and warm.

There are a large variety of insects that hatch in the Paradise Valley stretches of the Yellowstone River. Late winter and spring kicks off with solid midge hatches, and then blue winged olive mayflies will hatch throughout spring. The mother’s day caddis hatch gets very thick and usually starts just as run-off is getting going sometime in May. There is a small window from when the hatch starts until the river becomes too muddy to fish. Runoff starts to subside anywhere from mid-June on drier years to as late as the end of July on big water years. When the runoff subsides there can be prolific hatches including goldenstone, salmonfly, yellow sallies, pale morning duns, grey and green drakes, several species of caddis. This makes for a smorgasbord that trout will gorge themselves on. Later on during August and September is when terrestrials become a very important part of the fish diet. Grasshoppers, ants and beetles become the dry flies of choice during this time. Hatch activity picks up again as temperatures cool off into autumn. Fall baetis and mahogany mayflies can make for excellent “match the hatch” dry fly fishing. The coldest months of winter are often tough on the Yellowstone River with icy conditions and lots of windy days.

The Paradise Valley is a fantastic place to fish from a drift boat. The variety of water in this free flowing river, along with amazing scenery makes it one of the favorite places among guides and anglers alike. It’s also a good place for novice anglers with its many long drifts. Call or email our Bozeman fly shop for more information about this stretch of the Yellowstone River and watch our fishing reports as conditions are always changing on this river. A guided fly fishing trip on the Yellowstone River with our Bozeman fly fishing guide service is a great way to learn the river and spend a day of Montana fly fihing.