Fly Fishing The Yellowstone River (The Best Fishing Spots & Species)

Fly fishing the Yellowstone River – where I found prime spots, honed my techniques and crafted unforgettable angling adventures.

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The Yellowstone River Fly Fishing scene has been well-established for decades with roots dating back a century or more. Renowned names like Dan Bailey and touted artists like Russel Chatham and Jim Harrison call(ed) this river home.

From the humble trickles of Yount Peak, WY to the grandiose Yellowstone Lake and Yellowstone Falls of its namesake park, through Paradise Valley, MT, and on to Billings, Miles City, and Glendive until just over the border into North Dakota, fishing the Yellowstone River is as varied as the landscapes it flows through.

As a native of Billings, MT, I’ve had the privilege of fishing its varied waters for over 35 years. As a professional fly fishing guide for the last 15 years, I’ve been able to zero in on some of my favorite spots and tactics for fly fishing the Yellowstone River.

Fly Fishing In The USA

Where is The Yellowstone River?

The Mighty Yellowstone River (or ‘Stone as locals call it) is the longest freestone (un-dammed) river in the lower 48 states.

It begins in northern Wyoming just outside Yellowstone Park and flows through the park into south-central Montana. From there it continues its northeasterly course through eastern Montana and just crosses the Montana/North Dakota border where it hits the Missouri River.

The Yellowstone River Fishing: Why Go?

Fishing in The Yellowstone River, USA, is as storied as fishing gets, and for good reason.

A scenic view of the lower falls in Yellow Stone River National Park

The incredible fishing is matched only by the unbelievable landscape all around.

From its trout-filled mountain origins to its wide, agricultural-rich plains stretches, there is a vast number of sought-after species to target. Couple that with the gorgeous landscape and fun western towns full of friendly folks and Western and native culture, and you have yourself a fishing trip of a lifetime.

Types Of Fishing in The Yellowstone River

As mentioned above, the Yellowstone presents any angler with a plethora of opportunities. Depending on what species you want to target and how you want to fish, your perfect destination could vary greatly.

Fly Fishing The Yellowstone River

Fly Fishing the Yellowstone River is one of the favorite ways to target fish here, especially but not limited to, trout.

Anglers cast a fly rod in a river.

The most well-known fly-fishing sections of the river are from Yellowstone Park through Paradise Valley to Livingston, Mt.

You’ll find fly fishing traffic dwindling as you head downriver from Livingston but it’s still there. By the time you hit Billings, MT, there is almost no fly fishing traffic, but by no means is fly fishing a non-option from Billings down.

Spin Fishing The Yellowstone River

If you prefer to spin fish the Yellowstone River, there really are no limitations whatsoever. You’ll find yourself at home in the upper trout-filled stretches of the river, in the middle sections above and below Billings where cold and warm water species both thrive and on the lower river chasing prehistoric giants.

Of course, the target species will determine the type of rods and tackle you’ll need to have on hand.

The Yellowstone River Fish Species

Fishing the Yellowstone River will present you with a wonderful variation in species. The upper stretches will be dominated by cold-water fishes. The lower is dominated by warm-water species. The mid-sections can give you a great chance at both.

Coldwater Species

Cutthroat Trout

The native species for the area is the cutthroat trout. On this river specifically, it’s the Yellowstone Cutthroat strain.

Cutthroat trout

From the headwaters through Yellowstone Lake and down toward Livingston, MT, the cutthroat is the dominant trout species.

As with most trout, the flies used depend greatly on the current hatch but cutthroat are known for willingly taking dry flies. Fishing summer hoppers just outside the park and down through Livingston is a great way to find lots of spry cutties.

Rainbow Trout

While not a native fish, rainbows are quite adaptable to Yellowstone’s waters. You can find rainbows from Paradise Valley through Livingston and even down past Billings.

Finding rainbows isn’t generally too difficult and the hatch definitely matters. The portion of the river containing most of the rainbows, however, is heavily laden with stoneflies. Pat’s Rubberleg Nymph and Chubby Chernobyls are great choices as are terrestrials like hoppers and ants in the heat of summer.

Cutbow Trout

Rainbows and cutthroat interbreed fairly easily. The resulting fish is called a cutbow and shows definite characteristics of both fishes but mostly looks like a rainbow with orange “cuts” on the jaw under the gills.

The Paradise Valley and Livingston stretches will have plenty of cutbows which can be caught the same way as cutthroat and rainbows.

Brown Trout

Browns are, of course, non-native as well, however, you’ll find plenty of brown trout from Paradise Valley and down.

brown trout diet

Some populations exist up to Yellowstone Park and browns can be found down past Billings as too, although the numbers do begin to wane.

For browns, all of the flies mentioned above will work, hatch depending. Caddis is ever important trout food and becomes even more important the lower you go in the Yellowstone’s “trout section” where browns are prevalent. Streamers like Lil’ Kim and the Mini Loop Sculpin in olive, black, or natural can get you some aggressive browns.

Mountain Whitefish

You’ll find plenty of whitefish from the headwaters to the lower river. Whitefish tend to get some hate from fly fishers but they are in the salmonid family and are native fish. They also can pull pretty hard and are indicators of a clean and healthy river.

Any nymph pattern will get whitefish. And, contrary to popular belief, they do take dry flies as well. Caddis and blue-winged olive hatches can bring up big pods of feeding whitefish.

Warm Water Species


Walleye, sauger, and saugeye like to rove and hunt the river and can be found in increasing numbers from Reed Point (below Livingston but above Billings) downriver. Walleye and sauger are similar species with slight variations while saugeye are the cross-bred offspring of the two.

Spin fishermen have better luck finding these fish but those who swing or strip streamers have a great chance too. I really like Kreelix minnows on the swing here as well as smaller wooly buggers or matukas with a sink line or split shot to get down in the slow, deep pockets.

All three of these fish are absolutely delicious! Their firm, white, mild, and buttery flesh is very tasty and palatable for even those who don’t like “fishy” or gamey-tasting fish dishes.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass can be targeted by both spin and fly fishers alike. The warmer, sometimes siltier sections of the river are best, especially from Billings downstream.

A smallmouth bass caught on a bass popper fly comes to the surface.

Fishing The Yellowstone River for Smallmouth bass means attacking overhanging brush, trees, ledges, and sunken structures like log jams, fallen cottonwood trees, or boulders and submerged ledges. Fly fishing with crayfish patterns like the Clouser Crayfish or smaller wooly buggers will get the job done.


Prehistoric fish like paddlefish still lurk in the depths of the Yellowstone River. Most of the paddlefishing will be done downstream of Billings…nearer Miles City, MT, and all the way down to the confluence with the Missouri River in North Dakota.

Paddlefish season is a spring season (May-June) and can close after a certain number of fish are caught. Catch and release is still possible after the limit has been reached and keeping fish is closed.

Spin fishermen with some reasonably heavy gear are best suited for paddlefishing but I wouldn’t count out determined and pioneer-minded fly fishers.


Another prehistoric species calls the lower reaches of the river home…the sturgeon. Both pallid and shovelnose sturgeon migrate upriver through the lower river. While the former is quite rare (and often large), the latter can be caught with regularity.

Here, again, spin fishers are better suited for catching sturgeon. Bait techniques will work best.

Fly Fishing The Yellowstone River: Access Points

When talking about fly fishing the Yellowstone River, the conversation is generally centered around the area of the river near Livingston, MT, and up into Yellowstone Park. There is still good fly fishing, however, well below Livingston through Big Timber and all the way to Columbus, Laurel, or even Billings.

The Canyons, Yellowstone Park

The fishing near Yellowstone Lake, both above and below, is not stellar at this point. Recovery programs are underway to address recent concerns.

An aerial view of the Canyon in Yellowstone park

Below the Yellowstone Falls, however, is a different story. Both the Grand Canyon and Black Canyon of the Yellowstone hold great trout populations and great dry fly fishing.

The Gardiner Stretch

Gardiner lies just outside Yellowstone Park’s north boundary. The river here is accessible and runs through an open valley. There are high trout populations here as well. Gardiner is a small town but has some amenities like groceries and a fly shop with a shuttle service.

The lower portion of this stretch runs through Yankee Jim Canyon. In low, summer, and fall flows, this stretch isn’t too difficult and floaters with medium skills can navigate. However, in the runoff season, the canyon waters are treacherous, and only highly skilled paddlers should enter. Fishing at this time isn’t great anyway.

Paradise Valley

Fly fishing the Yellowstone River, Montana, generally conjures up quintessential images of picturesque Paradise Valley. Its open valley and meandering river backed by rugged western peaks are as iconic as it gets.

Paradise Valley is aptly named as it’s an absolutely scenic place to fish, whether wading or from a boat. This is also the most heavily trafficked area regarding fishing and boating. The fish populations are high, the river is generally easy to read and navigate, and it’s not too far from Livingston where the nearest shops will be.

Livingston/Big Timber Area

Just below Paradise Valley is the town of Livingston, MT. There are plenty of fly shops and other amenities like restaurants, hotels, and groceries.

The river here begins its journey through a more open, broad valley topography. The trout populations may not be as high as the above sections, but there are plenty of fish to be caught and the number of big brown trout increases greatly. Here, the river is broad and generally follows Interstate 90.

Columbus Area

Downstream of Livingston and Big Timber is a small town called Columbus, MT. Here, the Stillwater River flows into the Yellowstone. The topography is similar to the Livingston stretch but the number of fisher-people dwindles greatly. There are still strong trout populations here.

Best Spots For Fishing The The Yellowstone River

With a river as long and free as the Yellowstone, you will find some wonderfully varied water. Whether you’re looking to hike the canyons for cutties, fish in a place called Paradise, or escape the crowds, the following list will help you accomplish your aims.

Fishing Yellowstone Falls to the Lamar River Confluence

Yellowstone Falls to the Lamar confluence includes most of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Lots of willing cutthroat thrive in this stretch. To reach canyon waters, you’ll have to do some hiking.

Lamar River Confluence

Just below the canyon near the Lamar confluence, the access is easier with park roads near Tower Junction.

The runoff lasts into July usually but that’s when fishing is hot. Fishing remains good until the park closes for winter. While open, the park roads are easily driveable for any car. This is a great dry fly stretch with good hatches and a ton of stoneflies.

Fishing the Lamar Confluence to Gardiner

From the Lamar Confluence/Tower Junction area down to Gardiner, fishing is similar to the above stretch. Roads around Tower Junction make access easier but, as you head toward Gardiner, accessing the river (especially the Black Canyon stretch) means hiking one of the many trails.

The Yellowstone River Trail just outside Gardiner is a great choice. Hiking any trail for a mile or more will help put you beyond much of the Yellowstone crowd and give you plenty of water to work with. Like the above section, this is a great dry fly area.

Fishing Gardiner to Emigrant

This stretch is easily accessible for any vehicle as Highway 89 runs along much of the river. It is also open all year since it is outside Yellowstone Park’s boundary. The river itself is now mostly in an open valley dotted with pines and a few cottonwoods so casting isn’t generally difficult.

Aside from the Yankee Jim Canyon stretch, both wading and boating are options here. If you want to run Yankee Jim, make sure you have a skilled person on the oars.

This stretch is also very productive for dry fly fishers. The summer stonefly hatches are wonderful and the aridness of the area makes for fantastic hopper fishing.

Mallard’s Rest to Carter Bridge

This is the quintessential Yellowstone River trout fishing section. It’s also the most popular fly fishing section. This stretch is the epitome of the iconic Yellowstone River meandering through broad Paradise Valley with lots of open space, easy floating and wading, and the stunning Absoroka Range looming just beyond.

Here, you’ll find plentiful hatches and good-sized fish. There’s a strong mix of rainbows, browns, cutthroat, cutbows, and whitefish. The hatches are plentiful but you may have to resort to nymphing here more than the previous stretches.

Access is easy via the highway, plentiful campgrounds, and state-run Fishing Access Sites (FASs). You can fish year-round here but winter can be chilly (yet productive). You can also pay to fish the famed spring creeks in this section..DePuy’s and Nelson’s. These two creeks offer the best fishing near The Yellowstone River.

Livingston to Big Timber

This is what many fly fishers and even guides will refer to as the lower end of the fly fishing section on the Yellowstone River.

Wild westslope cutthroat trout caught.

Fishing is great coming out of the narrows at the lower end of Paradise Valley and through the town itself.

From town to Big Timber, the River enters a very wide and open valley and is roughly followed by Interstate 90. The river is broad and flows through a lot of private ranch and farmland. Boating is the best method but wading specific FAS sites or public roads can be done. It can also get very (famously) windy here!

Cutthroat thin out, rainbows remain strong, and the chance for the brown trout of a lifetime increases. Fishing here may be slower or it may be lights out. With this risk comes the reward of less traffic. Dry flies have their time here but nymphs and streamers are often the best bet. Hopper season can be great too.

Big Timber to Reed Point

This stretch of the Yellowstone remains fairly on par with the Livingston to Big Timber stretch except there are generally even fewer crowds. The river is broad, wind can be a factor, and fishing might be amazing or the toughest thing you’ve done this year.

No matter what, stay in the game and chunk the river down into smaller pieces. Instead of looking at the whole, find a single riffle, a drop-off, a gravel shelf, a boulder pocket…something to give you a target. Crayfish and streamers can work well here. Big caddis abound, and hoppers could land you a big, bad brown.

Reed Point to Columbus

From Reed Point to Columbus, you’re still dealing with a broad river but it can feel a little less daunting. I feel that is due, in some part, to the fact the landscape closes in on you again. The valley closes up a little and you’ll find yourself floating or wading near steep hills or rock faces.

You’ll still need to chunk down and pick your shots but finding seams, riffles, and structure isn’t difficult. Just as in the section above, crayfish patterns, streamers, and nymphs are your best bet. You can find hatches here too and stoneflies become a little more numerous with the cliffs, hills, and rocks surrounding the river.

The Stillwater River flows into the Yellowstone just above Columbus and, from a few miles above to a few miles below the confluence, fishing for browns and rainbows seems a little more steady.

Columbus to Billings

Columbus, being just below the Stillwater confluence, holds plenty of trout. While it might not be the best fly fishing in the Yellowstone River, it’s still a low-pressure, very viable fly fishing option.

Man casting a fly rod in a river. 

The river here is still broad although remains somewhat sheltered with the foothills of the Asoroka/Beartooth wilderness pressing in. It isn’t until you pass Park City and head toward Laurel and Billings that the valley begins to open up again into a vast plain.

As you leave Columbus and Park City and head toward Laurel, the river can run clear or sometimes have a “greenish” tint. This is because the granite and limestone of the mountains gives way to the sedimentary sandstone of the Yellowstone Valley.

While trout populations slowly decline as you continue through this section, you’ll still find some great places for fat rainbows and lurking hook-jawed browns. I’ve even found big, fat bows downstream of Billings near Huntley, MT. Warm water species start to mix in well here and everything can be caught on nymphs, wooly buggers, crayfish patterns, or other streamers.

Floating & Paddling The Yellowstone River

Floating and paddling the Yellowstone River is a great way to see and access lots of water. Much of the river is “user friendly” and without rapids or other worrisome obstacles. While wading access is possible at certain locations, much of the river flows through private lands making boating ideal for access.

The portion of the river within Yellowstone Park is not open to boating, however. While this might frustrate some, with the high volume of park visitors, it keeps the river in a less crowded, more natural state.

Below Yellowstone Park, much of the river is navigable for even intermediate or novice paddlers. Knowing the location of hazardous water, i.e. Yankee Jim Canyon or the Huntley Diversion Dam, is very important. Thankfully, on the ‘Stone, these places are few and far between.

Most of the traffic engaging in fly fishing the Yellowstone River will be in the Paradise Valley-to-Livingston stretch. Below Livingston, there is less traffic and the river is fairly broad and easygoing. This is a great place for new padders to learn.

The Yellowstone River Water Levels

As a freestone river (the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48, remember!), water levels can change constantly and sometimes drastically.

Runoff on the Yellowstone River can be life-threatening, however. There are no dams to control water flows and, in recent years, high flows have claimed bridges and homes from the bank. May and June are typical runoff times. You’ll want to check river reports and river flows before heading out.

After the runoff, usually early or mid-July, river levels begin to drop and boating/fishing becomes safer again. As August and September approach, the river drops to its lowest levels of the year. Your favorite riffle from April or July may only be a few inches deep, leaving you to search out deeper, previously unreachable troughs.

With the onset of fall, mountain rains and snows and hibernating flora will allow the river level to rise a little again. With lowland/river bottom snows coming in winter, the level may rise a little more but remain fairly stable until the spring melt-off.

Best Flies For Fishing The Yellowstone River

After much personal experience, the best flies for the Yellowstone River are listed below. Keep in mind that current hatches, flows, time of year, and other factors play a role here. It’s best to consult a local fly shop to find out the current best patterns.

Rogue Stonefly

The Rogue Stonefly pattern is a foam-bodied dry fly with a bullet head and long legs. It comes in a variety of stonefly colors and, as the runoff subsides, it’s one of the best flies for fishing the Yellowstone River. Make sure to have them in the salmonfly color (black/orange) and golden stone color (yellow/gold).

Chubby Chernobyl

This workhorse, do-it-all dry fly is definitely one to have handy on the ‘Stone too. Have big ones to match the salmonflies or golden stones of early summer or use smaller ones to imitate everything from ants to hoppers to October caddis.

How to tie a chernobyl ant - fly tying tutorial

It’s a good idea to have some in attractor colors as well… royal, purple, or pink.

Because of its floatation, the chubby is a great choice for fishing a dropper nymph, especially big, heavy salmonfly or golden stone nymphs.

Rio’s Foam Run Caddis

Caddis are everpresent and will be a good part of Yellowstone trout’s diet from the Mother’s Day caddis hatch all the way into late fall with the October Caddis. The Foam Run’s foam body allows it to float well for long periods.

For a big river like the ‘Stone, long dead drifts may be necessary so this buoyant fly works well. You may also need to fish it in fast riffles or add a twitch/skate to entice fish and help them find you vs. you finding them.

Pat’s Rubberleg Nymph

Pat’s Rubberleg Nymph is the workhorse of the nymph game around here. You’ll find stoneflies in most stretches of the Yellowstone so, as nymphs, stoneflies are everpresent.

Fish them anywhere from the park to Billings and have varied sizes and colors…black, brown/black mottled, olive/brown mottled, brown, and even purple are great go-to’s. Use them as a dropper under a big, foamy dry, under an indicator, or drag them behind a streamer across the riverbed using a tight-line method.

More Or Less Hopper

Hoppers are very important on the ‘Stone from July through September and sometimes into October! I tend to start with smaller hoppers in July and get gradually bigger through the summer.

The More Or Less is a favorite as it’s based on a tried and true pattern with slight modifications. It’s also realistic enough without being too realistic. A fly that is too realistic can seem too polished and perfect and lack that “buggy” and natural look.

Jig Soft Hackle Hare’s Ear

A modern version of the classic, the jig soft hackle hare’s ear is a great fly to have on your Yellowstone trip. Have various sizes on hand from 12-18 in classic gray/natural and olive.

The soft hackle hare’s ear is a great caddis pupa imitator. If you tie them on with an open loop knot, the jig hook has some really nice natural motion in the current and with a little added twitch. They work great under an indicator but it’s this fly is one of my favorites to fish under a dry fly.

Mini Loop Sculpin

Sculpin are found all over the Yellowstone and make great big fish food. If you’re looking for one of the Yellowstone’s famous lurking, hook-jawed brown trout, bring some mini loop sculpins in natural, black, and olive.

The bunny body has fantastic movement in the natural current and when stripped. For this streamer pattern, you can fish with a classic streamer strip or hang it under a (larger) indicator.

One of my favorite ways to fish it, however, is the tight-line method: cast to the side and slightly behind the boat, keep your line taught, and let the boat “pull” the streamer along. You’ll feel the fly bouncing along the bottom and trout takes are quite obvious.

The Yellowstone River Hatches

Earlier hatches on the stone will include blue-winged olives (BWOs) and midge. Midge patterns may get some takes, especially on dry flies, but often the bigger, more filling BWOs are preferred by trout here. Both will make an appearance in the fall again as temps fall.

Caddis will show up around Mother’s Day and continue hatching (various species) throughout the summer and into October.

The most exciting hatches, however, happen as runoff begins to taper and last through the late summer. As runoff subsides, big stones will have been moving and hatching.

A photo of a salmon fly on a green leaf

Salmonflies come first followed closely by golden stones. As temps rise and water levels continue to fall, pale morning duns and yellow sallies start to show.

While not technically a “hatch,” hoppers offer some of the best dry fly fishing opportunities on the ‘Stone. While most hatches are best fished in the morning, evening, or on cloudy days, hopper fishing can remain hot all day…even in the bright sunlight of the afternoon.

The Yellowstone River Fishing Season

The Yellowstone River fishing season is truly year-round. Aside from the Yellowstone Park section, which closes for the winter, the river is generally accessible at any time.

Winter in the first of the year can be rather frigid, however. There may be times of slush or solid ice but many faster riffles remain open.

A scenic view of Yellowstone River in winter

The early winter/end of the year may see its share of snow, but temps are often just warm enough (warmer than Jan/Feb) to keep ice from forming.

There is a great window in the early spring when the snows and ice have come and gone but the river hasn’t swollen with runoff. Trout are often hungry in this time of “awakening’ and are quite willing to take a fly.

Runoff usually comes in late spring/early summer and can be tough or even dangerous to fish. The Yellowstone gets quite muddy this time of year. As soon as flows drop and turbidity becomes clearer, the big stoneflies are out. This is an opportune time for those with a guide or a boat to find lots of happy fish.

Midsummer-to-fall is maybe the best Yellowstone River fishing season. The legendary hopper fishing is hard to beat and the scenery, streamer, and caddis fishing are generally pretty solid.

The Yellowstone River Fishing Report

Currently, The Yellowstone River fishing report has been quite good. This transition time into fall is a godsend after long, hot August and early September days.

A school of trouts rushing to the surface of the water.

Longer, cooler nights allow for the water temps to fall and have the trout active throughout more of the day.

Terrestrials and attractors are solid choices throughout the day for dry fly action. Summer nocturnal stones have been winding down but a small or medium Pats Rubberlegs can be a good dropper choice, as is a jig hare’s ear. Fish are starting to move out of fast, oxygenated water into riffle tail-outs and deeper seams.

The browns will begin spawning soon and you can take advantage of cloudy or low-light times to toss streamers. Streamers will continue to get better and better as browns become even more active and aggressive right up until the spawn.

Some of the best fly fishing in The Yellowstone River at present is anywhere from the falls in the Park to Livingston. As high temps continue to steadily drop, the fishing from Livingston to Billings will also continue to improve.

The Yellowstone River Fishing Guides

There is no shortage of guides on the Yellowstone that know the best fly fishing waters in the area. Here’s a list of some favorites:

Montana Angler

Montana Angler is based in Bozeman, MT just a short drive from Livingston. They have guides well-versed in the Yellowstone River fly fishing scene and have great access to fly fishing near the Yellowstone including private lakes, ponds, and streams. Many lodging options are available from local hotels to large fishing lodges and even river camping.

George Anderson’s Yellowstone Angler

The Yellowstone Angler is located just outside of Livingston on the way to Paradise Valley. Located on the river itself, this shop has been a mainstay for fishing in the area for a long time. Their knowledge of the Yellowstone River from Yellowstone Park down to Big Timber is hard to beat.

Stillwater Anglers

Stillwater Anglers is located in Columbus, MT, below Big Timber and above Billings. Stillwater Anglers is well versed in fishing the stretch from Big Timber to Laurel and beyond and is your resource for the Stillwater River as well.

They have lodging options available and can even put together an area-wide adventure including the Bighorn River. If you’re looking for bass or walleye on top of trout, this is your shop.

  • Website:
  • Address: PO Box 969, Columbus, MT 59019
  • Phone Number: 406-322-4977

The Yellowstone River Fly Shops

There’s no shortage of Fly Shops in the area too. Most are found in Bozeman, MT, just over the pass from Livingston. Livingston itself has a few as does Columbus and Billings.

The River’s Edge

The Rivers Edge is one of the most well-known shops in the area. They have two locations in Bozeman… one in town and one on the western outskirts. The shop’s selection is second to none and they know a lot about a lot of the area, not just the ‘Stone.

Dan Bailey’s Outdoor Co.

Dan Bailey’s is a well-known, long-established shop in downtown Livingston. Folks come from all over to seek out gear and advice from this shop. If you don’t know the shop, you may have heard the name or come across Anthony Bourdain gearing up for fishing for his No Reservations Montana episode.

East Rosebud Fly and Tackle

Not many have a passion for fly fishing, fly gear, and classic rock like the folks at East Rosebud. Driven by the charismatic, ACDC-loving owner, Rich Romersa, East Rosebud has expanded to three shops. Billings is its home base but a Red Lodge, MT shop and a Columbus, MT shop have been added in the last few years.

The Columbus is a seasonal shop that closes in the winter. The Billings store is open year-round.

FAQs About Fly Fishing The Yellow Stone River

There are always a lot of questions when exploring a new river. Here are some FAQs for the ‘Stone:

What’s unique about the Yellowstone River?

The ‘Stone is the longest free-flowing river in the Lower 48. It starts in Yellowstone Park and it’s considered one of the best trout streams in the country.

Where does the Yellowstone River start and stop?

The Yellowstones’ headwaters are in Yellowstone Park. The river flows north/northwest toward Livingston, MT, where it curves and heads northeast through Montana. It empties into the Missouri River just across the North Dakota border at Buford, ND.

What is the depth of the Yellowstone River?

The average depth is 3-6ft. The deepest point is 43ft.

Where is the best fly fishing on the Yellowstone River?

Most will say from below Yellowstone Lake to Livingston, however, fishing remains great all the way down to Billings.

Can you wade fish the Yellowstone River?

Yes, but a boat makes things much easier. Wade fishing in the park is the only way to fish. Below the park, wading is possible for sure but, the further down you go from Livingston, the more difficult it can get.

What is the best city to fly into if I want to fish the Yellowstone?

For the most river access, Bozeman, MT is your best bet. For the park, Idaho Falls, Idaho is also an option. If you’re wanting to fish Columbus to Billings, Billings is the best choice.


Fly fishing the Yellowstone River is truly a stellar experience. With its many, varied sections each having distinct character, the Yellowstone has something to offer all fishers, fly or spin.

The virtual cornucopia of species is enough to get any fisherperson excited and the myriad of fishing methods means that your fishing day is never one-dimensional.

Couple all that with stunning scenery, a mostly user-friendly paddling and floating experience, and, if needed, a very experienced local guide, and you’ve got yourself the trip of a lifetime!

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Born and raised in Billings, MT, Nic was blessed to be brought up in an outdoor-minded family. Fishing and hunting were a part of his familial culture. Blame it on my Aquarius birth or some divine design but, from as early as he can remember, he had to be near or in the water. Guiding since the early 2000s, Nic has thousands of hours of fly fishing and guiding experience and has helped hundreds of people get into the sport of fly fishing, or better their skills as anglers.

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