Yellowstone or W.Montana?Need advice!!

I am starting to plan a 10 day trip for next spring with my girlfriend and her dad. We would like to get into as many fish as possible, scenary second but still important. We also have to figure drive time into it from sultan. Should we bring pontoon boats or rent them there? I've heard great things about both places, though I've heard Montana is REALLY crowded in the spring to summer time. Never been fishing outside of washington so any advice would be greatly appreciated!! Any must fish rivers? Must bring flys? Anything?
I would reccomend going to Island Park, ID which is at close to where montana, wyoming, and idaho come together. They have cabin rentals available in Macks Inn. The henrys fork flows right through there. Harriman Ranch is about a 15 minute drive from there. If you bring some pontoons there are plenty of floats along the henrys fork; however, the water might be pretty high to float some of them if youre going in the spring.

Herys Lake is about 10 minutes away. there is talk of lots of 30" plus rainbow/cutt hybrids in the hatchery so this looks to be an awesome year there.

The Madison river is about 30 minute drive away so you could float or wade that river, as well as yellowstone park, which is about 30 min away as well.

The must things to do list while in Island park are:
-Float warm river to ashton- this float will take pretty prob around 6 hours depending how often you stop, but you should get into lots of big fish
-Float Box Canyon- the water might be too high to float this but this is only about 10 minutes from macks. this is only a cpl hour float but you deff will catch some fish.
-Fish Harriman ranch- this is a world famous fishery where the fish are known to be extremely selective. prob will be verrry crowded in the late spring, or early summer though.
-Fish Yellowstone park- i would prob spend a cpl days fishing yellowstone park, the must fish rivers would be the yellowstone of course, and the firehole. maybe some of the spring creeks there as well.

There are tons of fishing opportunities within an hour drive from island park, so if youre spending 10 days you wouldnt be stuck fishing the same water everyday.

ahh im tired and gots to go to sleep. i could go on and on about this area tho lol.
Define "spring." Yellowstone doesn't open until Memorial Day weekend, and most Montana rivers are in snowmelt from the beginning of May until the beginning of June (some start earlier and others stay high later).
If You go, I Have been 14 yrs running now, and we dont go any earlier than July 15 and no later than late August. Our favorite time is the middle of Aug, because everything is in shape. There are too many opportunities to list, but staying in or near West Yellowstone is a great start. It is 730 miles from my door step in 'West Seattle, takes 13 hrs if you fly low when you can. I have done it in 12, but the road conditions were ideal and we drove at night.

If you have novice, intermediate fisherpeople with you, I would suggest the Yellowstone and the Firehole, and the Lammar inside the park. Only sight fish the Y stone, meaning wait and only cast to rising fish, you will maximize your efforts and do as well or better than the rest of the crowd. dont get there later than 9:30 and fish till noon, when you will have to throw HUGE terestrials to get a fish to the surface.

The Madison fishes better outside the park, find a map and find three dollar bridge and you are in the general 11 or 12 miles of great fishing. Nymph under an indicator until the evening and then PAY ATTENTION...... dry flies in mid august, you need just one, a rusty spinner, Copper johns, brassies under indicator or doubled up fished on current seems and everyone will have tight lines. There are ALOT of whitefish in the Madison, but I will take 18 inch whitefish all day, and have many times.

if you take your pontoons, take at least one day and stay at Henry Lake, or plan to fish Lake Hebgen, find the Blue Ribbon Fly shop in West Ystone, and head to Hebgen from there. There is a ton of fishing to be done


Old Man

Just an Old Man
Well I'm going to be there in about 15 days to spend the rest of my life there. Email me in the spring next year and I should have a good report for you. I am going to live in the Ruby Valley. So I have many rivers to fish.

Well at least I hope I will as My catching sucks right now.



Active Member
going to MT for the purpose of catching fishes earlier than mid july will be a total crap shoot. if you are looking at next year, 2007, you should be paying carefull attention to the snow pack, big = later season start.

w. yellowstone is a tourist trap! i think the YNP fishing is over hyped, scenery is breathtaking. south fork of the snake from teton park out is good fishing for finespot cutts. easy drifting in a pontoon with more places to stop and fish than you will have time to do. gallatin r. is great. up high, small cutts, down low big browns, inbetween a mix including rainbows. easy access and some challenging water to fish, no pressure no matter when you fish it unlike the madison which is a zoo. yellowstone r. south of livingston can also be pretty good with easy drifts, if you stay below the upper canyon, and plenty of places to stop if you so choose. of course there are also the spring creeks if you are up for a challenge. i do believe, however, all the fish have given names and it can be pretty crowded and hard to get the day you might choose. make sure you stop at the fly shop at 4 corners, just w. of bozeman, great guy, very nice shop and uptodate info on most everything.

there are so many places to fish that are not 'famous' i would take the time to chat with folks and locate these. if you go to the most obvious places, be prepared for crowded conditons, period. this includes the madison, railroad ranch, henry's l. and YNP in general. if you just have to do these, get your mind set for some close fishing.
The Firehole will not be fishable in July or August --it virtually always peaks in the 70-75 degree range during those months, and can top 80. Last season was the first in several years when it was actually left open during that period. The tributaries lacking thermal features can produce some verrrryyyy spooky refugee fish that flee the mainstem due to the heat.

The Yellowstone fishes better in its canyons than upstream, these days, due to the presence of Lake Trout in Yellowstone Lake and whirling disease in the rivers. Any trout you catch are likely to be 17-24 inches, however, as several smaller age classes have basically been destroyed. 15 years ago it was possible to catch 80 fish a day at Buffalo Ford (the most popular spot) on opening day (7/15 for that stretch). This year the top rod had 6 fish. Blind nymph the deep slots (talking 6 feet or better), sight nymph, or hope for a hatch (PMD, various caddis, Green Drakes, Golden Stones, and on and on...)

If you decide to fish YNP and come between Memorial Day and the end of June, staying in West is your best bet, as that is when the Firehole, Gibbon, and Madison in the Park are at their best (except for October in the lower portion of the former two rivers and the latter, when there are runner browns) and the north range is still mostly blown. After 7/4 it's no contest --either stay in Gardiner, Cooke City, or in the Park, as West is at least an hour from anything you'd want to fish in the Park in high summer except the Gallatin (which is miles from anything else) and even the Madison below Quake Lake is a half hour plus.

I guide on most of the water that has been mentioned so far. Read my "North Yellowstone Primer" article for info on the northern part of YNP throughout the season. PM me if you have specific questions.
Stay around missoula in spring, fishing isnt consistent around yellowstone. the henrys fork in harriman isnt open yet, nor is the upper madison above macatee. The fishing can be very good on the madison in spring, but it can also be impossible. The bitteroot is about as good as you will get in the montana state, stick with it. Good luck
After spending a week on the Henry's Fork last year I'd advise against it. If anything is overhyped, it's Henry's.:mad: Even so, the Fork and the Lake don't open till Memorial Day weekend and the Ranch doesn't open till the 15th of June. Yellowstone has some opening dates also but the only one I remember is the Yellowstone River on July the 15th.
Spring time's normally a tough time to fish most rivers in the Rockies unless you get there before the runoff starts.:beathead:
Good Luck!:thumb:
Thank you all for the great advice, I can move my trip to anytime of the year if it betters my odds!! So if the best fishing is June then thats when Ill go, if its in September then thats when I'll go, and so on. I just want the best fishing opportunity possible. I'm keeping a notepad of all the advice so keep it coming, I really appreciate it.
Anytime from mid-July to snowfall is good, most years. The prime time for me is September. After Labor Day, the tourists have gone back home to school, the weather is glorious, and trout are getting over their fear of grasshoppers.
If you want a combination of great scenery plus excellent fishing that includes an occasional grayling, I think the upper Ruby is a great place to start. It's a nice river for beginners, too.
My best advice for any trip to MT is to be flexible. Don't get your mind locked into fishing one specific place, talk to folks at every shop and be ready to travel. I usually fish all day, drive 2-3 hours at night and move around a lot. I usually wind up on the Bighorn after 5-7 days but other than that every trip is different. Get your hands on the old Sterling/Fothergil (?) guide. Some of the info. is dated, but the maps alone are a necessity.


Active Member
goose biot said:
Get your hands on the old Sterling/Fothergil (?) guide. Some of the info. is dated, but the maps alone are a necessity.

its been republished and is available in lots of fly shops in MT, great tip.