Which River to Float?


Active Member
My wife and I are going to Yellowstone in late September. Since I'll be in the area I figured I'd line up a guided trip. The problem is I can't decide on which river. I'm torn amoung the Madison, Henry's Fork, and the South Fork of the snake. Which would you float? Any guide recommendations?




Active Member
I think the South Fork of the Snake is the most underrated river out there. Big water, perfect for floating, and even better, all of those fish look up. Dry fly fishing over the immeasurable number of gravel bars is addicting. Streamer fishing could be fabulous that time of year as well, for all 3 fisheries.

The Henry's Fork is really multiple different fisheries, depending upon where you're going. The "Ranch" as Harriman's Ranch is known, is fabulous for wading and stalking rising rainbows. Tough if near impossible searching water, you really need a hatch and fish to target, but man, when it is on it is out of this world. You can float Box Canyon, or I'm betting the water down below Ashton is great for streamer fishing to big browns then as well.

The Madison is classic big water, I love the water below Quake lake, as well as some pretty impressive water down near Ennis. I also like Beartrap canyon, below Ennis Lake. May see big fish there coming up out of the Missouri. In the Park, lots of available wading obviously. Big fish moving up out of Hebgen.

But for my personal tastes, if you want to hire a guide and float, I'd say the South Fork. Just an interesting and unique river. Madison likely has the best bet at a real trophy, and The Henrys Fork likely the best late season hatches, plus a ton of accessible water to stalk and wade.


Dan nailed it. I'd agree with the South Fork. If you want to wade and fish, then spend some time on the Henry's fork; it's an easy pop over the divide to fish the Madison below Quake L., which is pretty wadable at that time of year, too. For some reason, the main stretch of the Madison doesn't hold the attraction for me that it does for many.
I haven't fished but only one of the rivers you've mentioned, for what it's worth (not knowing your expecations, how you like to fish, what you're trying to target) I'd let those cattle drive rivers go to the tourists. Myself in that time of year I'd fish the lower Big Hole. Nothing more beatiful than golden cottonwood bottoms and large browns... again my opinion.

However it turns up, you will catch fish in any water in the 4 directions of jellystone.
I have fished all three and they are all great fisheries. My personal favorite is the Henry's Fork, probably because I have had a couple of amazing days on it, on the Warm River to Ashton section and the box canyon. But, I am sure that the others put out just as well on the right day. I have used Travis Smith as a guide on three trips, and he is excellent - knows the river like the back of his hand and works his butt off for you. He guides out of Trout Hunters in Last Chance (Island Park).
Unless you're dead set on fishing a specific river wait to see what the guide says. Let the guide know you're preferred fishing method and expectations he should be able to point you in the right direction. That's what you pay them for.