Fly Fishing the Yellowstone River in Livingston
About The Yellowstone
The Yellowstone River has its origins in Yellowstone National Park as it leaves Yellowstone Lake to make its way north to Livingston, Montana and then east to its confluence with the Missouri River. The Yellowstone River is the longest, un-damned river in the lower 48 at 692 river miles! The ‘trout section” of the Yellowstone River is generally considered to be all of the river, upstream from Columbus, Montana. Our Bozeman fly fishing guide service and fly shop breaks this stretch of the river into thirds, including the river below Livingston, the river between Livingston, and YNP, and the river in YNP.
The Livingston Section
One of our favorite stretches of the Yellowstone River – whether we are fishing on our own or with our guide service guests – is the stretch of water that runs right through Livingston. The wading angler can access the river from the 9th Street Island, Mayor’s Landing, HWY 89, Carters Bridge in addition to several unnamed access points. The typical float through Livingston starts at Carters Bridge and ends at the HWY 89 bridge (south side of river). Although the river is easy to navigate, there are a few obstructions in the water, some good-sized waves, and some odd current flows so some experience on the oars is always recommended.
Fly Fishing The “Town Section”
The Carters Bridge access point is one of the busier sites along the Yellowstone River, especially during the summer months. However, there is some awesome water between here and the I-90 overpass for the floating angler and good wade fishing water just upstream for the wade angler. The river character changes throughout the season with changing water conditions, so we can always expect things to be just a little different from week to week from late June on through early September.
There are good numbers of Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Mountain Whitefish, and enough Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout throughout this stretch of the river. Some of the largest Brown Trout of the season are caught on streamers in the fall and spring on the stretch of river that runs right through Livingston, Montana. Spring and winter dry fly fishing during midge and BWO hatches can be spectacular on those cloudy, windless days (rare!). Nymph fishing with generic patterns such as Pat’s Rubberlegs, Lightning Bugs, and Prince Nymph variations always finds some fish in the holding water below shelves and along current seams. In no time, we will start to find fish that are willing to come to the surface to tale a variety of attractor dry patterns such as Chubby Chernobyl in myriad colors.
Anglers can expect a wide variety of fly fishing opportunities on the Yellowstone River, between Carters Bridge and HWY 89 on any given day. The river has classic riffle-pool-run-tailout sections throughout and is a great place to practice one’s ability to identify “holding water” as fish move around throughout the year. A pool that was full of feeding fish in March may seem empty come August!
The wind can be “Exceptional” through Livingston, especially in the fall and winter, so it is always a good idea to take a look at the forecast before making the drive from Bozeman to fly fish the Yellowstone River. The “Town Section” of the Yellowstone River – as we have been discussing here – offers some respite from the wind as it is lined with tall Cottonwood Trees and it winds its way through the valley floor.
The Fins & Feathers of Bozeman fly shop and fly-fishing guide staff are happy to point an angler in the right direction with the right flies, so stop in and see us the next time you are heading over to fly fish the Yellowstone River, through Livingston.