Firehole Ranch Fishing Season
Quick Reference for Weeks and Rivers Fished
(ranked in order of importance)
Week 2 of June: Henrys Fork, Firehole, Madison (YNP), Madison below Quake
Week 3 of June: Firehole, Henry’s Fork, Madison below Quake, Madison (YNP)
Week 4 of June: Madison below Quake, Henry’s Fork, Firehole, Madison (YNP), Gardner, Slough
Week 1 of July: Madison below Quake, Gallatin, Slough, Gardner, Lamar, Soda Butte
Week 2 of July: Madison below Quake, Gallatin, Slough-Lamar-Soda Butte, Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone
Week 3 of July: Madison below Quake, Slough-Lamar-Soda Butte, Yellowstone River & Lake, Gallatin
Week 4 of July: Madison below Quake, Slough-Lamar-Soda Butte, Yellowstone River, Gallatin
Week 1 of August: Madison below Quake, Slough-Lamar-Soda Butte, Backcountry Rivers, Hebgen
Week 2 of August: Madison below Quake, Slough-Lamar-Soda Butte, Backcountry Rivers, Hebgen
Week 3 of August: Slough-Lamar-Soda Butte, Backcountry Rivers, Madison below Quake, Hebgen
Week 4 of August: Slough-Lamar-Soda Butte, Backcountry Rivers, Madison below Quake, Hebgen
Week 1 of September: Slough-Lamar-Soda Butte, Madison below Quake, Backcountry Rivers
Week 2 of September: Madison below Quake, Slough-Lamar-Soda Butte, Firehole, Henry’s Fork, Gallatin
Week 3 of September: Madison below Quake, Slough-Lamar-Soda Butte, Firehole, Henry’s Fork, Gallatin
Second Week of June
Not a lot of options but the ones we do have are experiencing some of the best fishing that they produce all year long.
Lower Henry’s Fork
Warm River to Ashton is pumping out the hatches with PMD’s, assorted caddis, yellow sallies, golden stones, and Green Drakes. This is the time of the year when we routinely see the larger fish that inhabit this stretch of river. Lots of dry fly action!
Mesa Falls can be exciting at this time of year as well, and is fun for the hiking fisherman
Below Ashton the larger Rainbows in this stretch are on the surface looking for the all day gravy train that is arriving in the form of PMD’s, Green and Gray Drakes, golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, and assorted caddis. Both floating and wade fishing opportunities exist in this stretch.
Box Canyon can be real good for the hard core nymph fisherman. Chuck and duck with lots of weight and big stonefly nymphs gives the angler the oppurtunity to tie into the largest rainbows in the area.
Between the lakes is the best option here, with consistent nymphing. The stretch below quake can be very good for larger browns that are feeding strong in the heavy current of run-off on stonefly nymphs, sculpins, and worms. Some of the largest brown are caught when the water is stained. Floating is 50/50 possibility, it all depends on the amount of run-off.
Madison River in the Park
This river is touch and go every year. Some years it shines, others it is a dog. But if it is fishing, look for Caddis, PMD’s Baetis, and hopefully gray drakes, which pull up the larger fish to the surface.
A fun small stream that will get you away from the crowds and into classic small stream fishing. Both dry fly fishing and nymphing exist here.
It can fish well in June with both caddis and PMD’s. This is a sleeper bet, and if it is on, and not affected too much by run-off, it could be a good option.
There simply is not a better time to fish this river than June. With consistent daily hatches of PMD’s and caddis the spunky rainbow and browns are gorging and provide the dry fly fisherman with constant action. A classic fly fishing scene that should not be missed or overlooked!
Third Week of June
Lower Henry's Fork (Ashton to Chester)
Mostly Float Fishing with some wade fishing possibilities. Excellent Dry Fly Fishing and Nymphing. Large fish with the average rainbow around 14 to 16 inches. Can be crowded!
Hatches: Pale Morning Dun Mayflies (PMD’s), Caddis, Green Drakes, Goldenstones
Henry's Fork (Warm River to Ashton)
Float Fishing in one of the most beautiful floats we offer. Great Dry Fly fishing and nymphing. Smaller average size fish (mostly Rainbow and Whitefish), mostly in the 8-12 inch category with some possibilities of fish to 18 inches. In fact, this is the best time of the year to catch the larger fish in this section.
Hatches: PMD’s, Yellow Sallies, Green Drakes, Goldenstones, and lots of Caddis
Henry's Fork (Box Canyon)
Very famous stretch of the “Fork”. Float fishing, but intense. Very difficult to impossible to wade! Almost all nymphing, but if dry fly fishing is going to occur it is at this time of the year. Large fish with a trophy always a possibility. Rainbow and Whitefish.
Hatches: Nymphing, maybe some Caddis, Goldenstones, and Green Drakes
Henry's Fork (Railroad Ranch)
Also known as "The Ranch" or Harriman State Park or “the world’s largest spring creek." This is the holy grail of fly fishing. The most famous river in the world and the most famous stretch of the fabled “H-Fork”. This is all wade fishing primarily, and all dry fly fishing “match the hatch”. Very technical and not for beginners! Rainbow trout that average 16 inches but can be had up to 24 inches!
Hatches: PMD’s, Caddis, and the “Fork’s” most famous hatch - Green Drakes, Brown Drakes, and more caddis
Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park (YNP)
Awesome fly fishing and the best time of the year to fish it. Incredibly unique river; geysers, hot springs, buffalo herds, wildflowers, and scenery galore. All wade fishing, but relatively easy to wade. A great river for beginners and kids. Mostly Dry Fly fishing, but with some unique opportunities. Small average size fish, with most of the Rainbows and Browns averaging between 6 and 12 inches, with some fish stretching to 14 inches.
Hatches: PMD’s and Caddis
Madison River in YNP
Limited fishing opportunity but can be very good. Highlight of this river is the opportunity to fish Salmonflies. Larger average size rainbow and browns than the Firehole (14”+).
Hatches: Baetis, Salmonflies, Caddis, PMD’s, Gray Drakes
Madison River below Quake Lake
All depends on snowpack and run-off but is usually clear no later than June 20th. Great nymphing and some streamer fishing. Both floating and wade fishing opportunities exist maybe the beginning of Salmonflies by Ennis. Rainbows, Browns and Whitefish
Hatches: Salmonflies, and a few Caddis
Fourth Week of June
Lower Henry's Fork
Flavs and Gray Drakes make an appearance! Still very good dry fly fishing opportunities, but the hand writing is on the wall for this stretch. Look for it to begin to quickly fade by July. Warm River to Ashton will follow suit!
Madison River in YNP
PMD’s, Gray Drakes, and Caddis, but it is really a river that is combined with other fishing options, such as the Firehole or Gibbon Rivers.
Madison below Quake Lake
The Madison will really begin to heat up by the end of June. More and more bugs begin showing up every day and dry fly fishing will get better and better, reaching a crescendo in mid July. Excellent nymphing as well. Both wade fishing and float fishing are some of the best options, with most folks wanting to float. The rainbows and browns average 14 inches with lots of fish in the 16 to 18 range, and there always exists the chance of a 20+ inch fish. The salmonfly hatch will be “on” somewhere on the “50 mile riffle”.
Hatches: Salmonflies, lots of Caddis, PMD’s Goldenstones
Fishing very well but will begin to fade as the month ends. Again mostly dry fly fishing, but lots of action and lots of fun.
Hatches: PMD's, Caddis
Gardner River in YNP
Small freestone river in the NW corner of the Park by Mammoth. Great small stream experience with the opportunity to catch Rainbows, Cutthroat, Browns, and Brook trout for the “Grand Slam”. It is just coming out of run-off and can be a little hit or miss still. If you hit it it will be great dry fly fishing for fish the average from 8 to 14 inches. Fast action in a beautiful setting. Wade fishing that is moderately difficult, some hiking can be had as well to access other parts of the Gardner.
Hatches: Salmonflies, Goldenstones, Caddis, Green Drakes, PMD’s
Slough Creek, although it is a long shot; Salmonflies can be found in the Canyons of the Yellowstone, although in a high water year these rivers can still be suffering in Run-Off.
First Week of July
Note: The Firehole and the Madison in the Park are beginning to get too warm for good fishing opportunities. Almost all rivers have recovered from run-off! July is the Bug Month, great hatches and some of the best dry fly fishing opportunities of the year is occurring in the greater Yellowstone area. The “Glory Bugs” are hatching (Salmonflies and Green Drakes).
Madison River below Quake Lake
Now is the time - everything is busting loose. Hatches galore, very crowded, and perfect water conditions. Floating is the way to go, but there are plenty of wade fishing opportunities for the discriminating angler. Both excellent nymphing and dry fly fishing.
Hatches: Salmonflies, Salmonflies, and Salmonflies! Goldenstones, Yellow Sallies, PMD’s, Epeorus, Green Drakes, and the best hatch the Madison offers - tons of Caddis
Limited opportunities in the lower river, but Warm River to Ashton can still be good. Box Canyon will be all nymphing and will remain that way for much of the rest of the season. The Ranch will be good but very challenging! Hiking in between Mesa Falls starts to be great option: easy fishing, both dry fly and nymphing. Great for beginners. However it does require a fairly strenuous hike of 2 miles, anglers should be in good shape. Lots of rainbows in the 10-14 inch category. This is really a good option for the rest of the summer. No one fishes this, so it is a great trip to a beautiful river, with no competition.
Some of the best “Match the Hatch” fishing of the year for this river occurs in the beginning of July. A backcountry meadow river. Slow, flat water, in character, fishing to fish that you can see before you make the cast. Easy to wade and offers primarily dry fly fishing. Native Yellowstone cutthroat and some monster Hybrids (rainbow and cutthroat crossed) call Slough Creek Home.
NOTE: Biting bugs can be very bad!
Hatches: Gray Drakes, PMD’s, Caddis, and lots of Mosquitoes and Horse Flies - ouch!
Gardner River in YNP
Great fishing for the Walk Wade angler looking for the small stream experience. Lots of dry fly fishing and lots of action throughout the month.
Hatches: Goldenstones, Salmonflies, Caddis, Assorted Mayflies, Grasshoppers
Both inside YNP and throughout the canyon stretch downstream towards Big Sky. A beautiful river with plenty of access. All Wade fishing, that can be moderate to difficult. Rainbow , Hybrids, Whitefish and Browns averaging 12 to 14 inches with some opportunities for fish that can stretch to 18 inches. Backcountry hiking options exist on this river (to the Upper Gallatin and Fan Creek) and can be great fishing in relative solitude. Hiking is moderate, distances of 2 to 4 miles, with little elevation gain or loss.
Hatches: Salmonflies, Goldenstones, Green Drakes, and some Caddis.
Second Week of July
Madison below Quake Lake
Is still the reigning champ, and will be most of the month of July, with most fisherman wanting to float or wade this classic river. Salmonflies are gone but lots and lots of caddis, PMD’s, and many other bugs of lesser importance, yet add to the fishing opportunities. Great Dry fly and nymphing.
Hatches: Caddis, PMD’s, Caddis, Epeorus (Mayfly), Caddis, Yellow Sallies (Stonefly), and Caddis
Great fishing and July is one of the best times to sample this beautiful mountain river. Great time to fish the stretch that lies within YNP. Sometimes biting bugs can be annoying.
Hatches: Green Drakes, Caddis, and PMD’s
Very good fishing as the water levels continue to improve. However the biting bugs continue to improve as well. The other two major rivers in the NE corner of YNP along with Slough Creek, also begin to fish well now too-The Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek. Biting Bugs can also be a problem here as well. Also the drive to the NE corner of the Park is close to 2 hours from Kirkwood, however the reward of incredible dry fly fishing for Native Yellowstone Cutthroat with scenery that is unparalleled is more than worth it!!! The “Cutties” average 15 inches with many, many, opportunities to catch fish that push the 18, 19 and occasionally even the magic 20 inch mark!
Hatches: Green and Gray Drakes (large Mayflies), Caddis, PMD’s, and Terrestrials
Pretty much all opportunities in the lower river are gone (water is getting too warm). Wade fishing between Mesa Falls will continue to be a great option throughout the month. The Ranch can be good but is getting even more challenging as the season progresses, definitely for the experienced angler only. The Box is all nymphing, but can be worth it. The Box Canyon is a short float of only 3 miles and can be combined with another option, such as wade fishing the Madison in the afternoon.
Third Week of July
Maybe the best week of the year to have the most options available! However, July is very crowded!
Madison River Below Quake Lake
Still going strong and still one of the best options for fisherman. Both floating and wading, both nymphing and dry fly fishing. A Gorilla Slam Dunk!
Hatches: Caddis, PMD’s, Epeorus, Yellow Sallies, Flavs (Mayfly)
Also fishing very well! Hiking into the backcountry meadow stretches can be a good option for anglers looking to get away from crowds! Fun, non-technical fishing.
Hatches: PMD's, Caddis
Slough Creek, Lamar River, and Soda Butte Creek
Because of their close proximity and that the character of the three rivers are similar (meadow streams, easy to wade, relatively easy to fish, dry fly fishing, and native Yellowstone cutthroat), you can usually talk about all three rivers at the same time.
Great fishing option, especially for the dry fly angler. The crowds will have started to show up here as well, but there is plenty of water. Slough Creek recovers form Run-off earlier than the Lamar and Soda Butte, but by Mid-July it is usually safe to consider them options as well.
Hatches: Green Drakes, PMD’s Caddis, Terrestrials (Grasshoppers, Beetles, Ants, & Crickets)
Yellowstone River in YNP
Opens above the Upper Falls to fishing every year on July 15th in order to protect spawning Cutthroat.
A tremendous dry fly river, that opens with great hatches and lots of fishing opportunities. Wade fishing only - like all the rivers in YNP! Easy to wade, and there are easy access points and other access points for anglers willing to hike. A user-friendly river indeed, that can accommodate most anglers wants, needs, and desires. Absolutely a beautiful river and is one of the classics, a must fish river for any flyfisherman before they die! A chance for the largest Yellowstone Cutthroat around, averaging 16 inches with some fish topping the 20 inch mark!
Note: Numerous environmental problems — whirling disease, illegal introduction of Lake Trout, natural population swings, and certainly multiple factors we don’t even know about — have had a detrimental effect on this fishery. It is a shadow of what it was just 7 years ago, but every year there is hope that it will begin to regain some of its former glory!
Hatches: Green Drakes, Goldenstones, Salmonflies, PMD’s, Gray Drakes, and lots of Caddis
Lower Yellowstone River in the Grand or Black Canyons
Strenuous hikes of minimum 2 miles (most from 4 to 5 miles), but if you can hack it, the fishing is only surpassed by the scenery, and the feeling that you are experiencing the Park like few people ever get too. All dry fly fishing, moderate wading, and Yellowstone Cutthroat that average 14 inches.
Hatches: Salmonflies, Goldenstones, PMD’s, Caddis, but it doesn’t really matter as these fish see little fisherman activity and are quite innocent.
Fishing good but is starting to see less insect activity. Tributaries to the Gardner such as Indian, Panther, Lava, and Straight Creek can provide a fun diversion from the fast paced action of the famous rivers. Mostly Brook Trout fishing, with dry flies, to fish averaging 6 to 10 inches, Lots of fun!
Hardly anyone takes advantage of the incredible dry fly fishing that lakes can offer. Some of this can be had from wading along the shoreline, thus not requiring a boat. There may not be a better lake in the world for this type of fishing than Yellowstone Lake. Challenging fishing, but highly addictive to the angler willing to try a new experience. This is a short window of opportunity but is highly worth it!
Hatches: Callibaetis (mayfly)
Other Lake options that can be worth fishing in YNP: Grebe, Cascade, Grizzly, Trout, Lewis, Duck.
Fourth Week of July
Still chugging right along, but the hatches will begin to dwindle as the month comes to a close. Excellent nymphing and the dry fly fishing is still good. Crowds have thinned somewhat as there are so many options for good fishing, but the Madison remains one of the best options, as it always does.
Hatches: Caddis, PMD’s, Yellow Sallies, Epeorus, Flavs
Fishing good, definitely suited to the active angler who can get around.
Good fishing for what it has become. Hatches will remain good through the second week of August.
Hatches: Caddis, PMD’s Gray Drakes, Callibaetis
The last week of this incredible activity, look for it to be over with by August.
Slough, Lamar, and Soda Butte
Fishing strong and will be one of the best options for the remainder of the season. Good news on the biting bug front, they usually start to mysteriously disappear by the end of July-Yahoo!
Hatches: Mayflies and terrestrials (grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, and ants).
Don't bother, unless an expert fisherman wants to try their hand at the Ranch.
First Week of August
Notes: August is hot and dry and thus Terrestrial fishing on most rivers becomes important. However we still have some isolated pockets of good hatches and great dry fly fishing that goes along with it. Most of the fishing stays pretty consistent and relatively the same throughout the month. It is the best time of the year to explore the many, many backcountry fishing opportunities, and the many, many small stream options which are too numerous to mention!
Becoming mostly a nymphing game, but if we have a good “hopper” season it can provide quite exciting fishing for the remaining 6 to 8 weeks. Wade fishing the Madison can be excellent for the patient angler willing to hone their skills, but floating is also a good option still. Fishing is not as good as it was in July, but it is still a strong option.
Hatches: Caddis, a few Stoneflies and Mayflies, but mostly Terrestrials.
Slough, Lamar, and Soda Butte
Good hatches of Mayflies continue through the month keeping the fish “looking up”, meaning the dry fly fishing stays good over here all the time. Terrestrials become very important for the rest of the season and can be the most exciting dry fly fishing of the year. Hiking anglers can take advantage of the numerous fishing locations over here on these rivers, and their tributaries.
Hatches: Terrestrials, Heptagenia
Lower Yellowstone in the Canyons
Great and will remain so for the next 6 weeks! It will be all about terrestrials and a good pair of hiking boots.
Hatches: Any fly you throw in the river.
Gulper fishing has begun! (Gulpers are large, fat, and gluttonous rainbows and browns that “gulp” copious amounts of Callibaetis and Trico mayflies off the placid surface of Hebgen Lake every morning for the next 6 weeks). This is very challenging dry fly fishing, but might be the most rewarding and addictive aspect to fly fishing in the greater Yellowstone region. Hebgen Lake is the world’s BEST dry fly lake! By shore, drift boat, canoe, raft, or float tube, this can be quite an experience!
Hatches: Callibaetis, Trico's.
Note: This is a great time to float the Yellowstone outside the Park if we can make that work!
Backcountry Options: Canyons of the Yellowstone, Mesa Falls of the H-Fork, Blacktail Creek, Grayling Creek, Upper Gallatin, Taylor’s Fork, Bacon Rind Creek, Straight Creek, Upper Gardner, Cache Creek, Meadow stretches of Slough!
Second Week of August
The “crown jewel” of the greater Yellowstone region is still a great option. Float fishing can be one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a hot summer day. Mostly nymphing, with some afternoon dry fly fishing with terrestrials.
Hatches: Grasshoppers, Flying Ants, Beetles.
Good fishing although it requires a little more effort to catch fish now than it did a month ago.
Slough, Lamar, and Soda Butte
Wow, the fishing here is really good! Dry fly fishing all day long, by searching the water with terrestrial patterns. Keep an eye out for free rising Yellowstone Cutthroat to some magical mayfly emergences.
Hatches: Crickets, Hoppers, beetles, Flying Ants, Mayflies (Heptagenia and Epeorus)
Gulper fishing is hitting a crescendo!
Hatches: Callibaetis, Trico's, Flying Ants
Henry’s Fork, Firehole, and Madison River in YNP
For all intents and purposes, an angler should be fishing elsewhere.
Backcountry Options: These rivers are all fishing great and you cannot pick a better time to try these overlooked and out of the way prizes!
Third Week of August
Same as the second week of August.
Fourth Week of August
The fishing is starting to change as Fall is fast approaching. Kids are going back to school so the crowds have thinned out somewhat before we get a resurgence over Labor Day.
Transitioning into its Autumn mode. Great nymphing, with afternoon dry fly fishing. Look for a reappearance of Hatches as the nights begin to cool. Floating and wading are equally as good.
Hatches: Terrestrials and Baetis (small Mayfly), Caddis.
Gulp, gulp, gulp...
Slough, Lamar, Soda Butte
It is a broken record over here: great fishing, and the most consistent dry fly fishing around!
Hatches: Terrestrials, and Mayflies (Heptagenia, Eperous, Baetis).
It might be time to start thinking Warm River to Ashton, mostly nymphing but some good terrestrial fishing can be had. No crowds and still quite beautiful.
Backcountry options should be heavily considered!
First Week of September
Fall is in the air and the fishing is all about Terrestrials, Baetis Mayflies, and Nymphing. Can be the best fishing of the year if the conditions all line up right.
Really begins to heat up after coming through fair and steady August. Great nymphing, with afternoons being dominated by dry fly opportunities. Float fishing is good but so is the wading! Crowds have thinned considerably. Streamer fishing is becoming an option for the head hunters.
Hatches: Caddis, Baetis, and terrestrials.
Still Gulping, but will begin to wind down as the month blossoms!
Slough, Lamar, and Soda Butte
Maybe the best month of the entire year to fish these special rivers. Mostly afternoon fishing, but it can be hot and heavy. The crowds will have really begun to thin out. A unique Green Drake Mayfly hatch occurs over here that gets the fish going wild for a couple of weeks.
Hatches: Green Drakes, Heptagenia, Baetis and Terrestrials.
Often overlooked but is great in September. Good dry fly fishing and the nymphing is also consistent.
It is time to start thinking this awesome river again. The cooler nights lower the water temperature bringing it back into play. However the fishing has become more considerably more challenging than it was in June.
Hatches: Caddis, Baetis, and Terrestrials.
The Box Canyon can be good nymphing, the Ranch has some good dry fly opportunities in the morning, which means this trip can be made into a combo trip easily! Float the “Box” or wade the “Ranch” in the morning and wade the Madison in the afternoon.
Hatches: Tricos, Callibaetis, and Mahoganies (all mayflies), Caddis, and terrestrials
Backcountry Options can still be worth it, such as the Canyons of the Yellowstone, meadows of Slough Creek, and the Upper Gallatin to name just a few.
Second Week of September
If you are fishing in September, this is the time to come! Lots of options, beautiful Indian Summer weather, and the fish seem to get a little more active as winter is approaching.
Fishing great as the trout put on the weight for the long winter ahead. Excellent nymphing, with the fishing going strong all day. Look for great dry fly fishing on the cloudy days, but terrestrials can still play a role during Indian Summer. Crowds are way down and it is beautiful! Streamer fishing can start to be real good and is fast and fun action for anglers willing to try this technique
Hatches: Baetis, Caddis, and Terrestrials.
Slough, Lamar, and Soda Butte
Going out with a bang! Great dry fly fishing still, if it doesn’t happen with Green Drakes or Baetis, than the terrestrials will surely shine.
Good fishing and no crowds!
Great fishing with lots of dry fly opportunities. Not quite as easy as it was in the spring. But once again one of the most unique fishing experiences in the world. The fish are also a little bigger than they were in the spring, averaging around 11 to 13 inches with a few brutes pushing 16 inches. The Firehole fish may be the most spunky fish we have!
Hatches: Caddis, Baetis, and Terrestrials
Madison River in YNP
Widely publicized is the Fall Run of Rainbows and Browns migrating upstream from Hebgen Lake to spawn in the Madison. Some truly large fish can be caught at this time of the year, but you have to put your time in and have faith! This is nymphing and streamer fishing primarily, although some dry fly fishing can be found for the creative angler. Note: For all it’s fanfare it hardly ever lives up to it and fishes best in late October, however it is a fun thing to combine with other options to make a great day.
The lower river will begin to fish again, but the float from Warm River to Ashton will probably be the best option. Although extremely challenging the Ranch can provide some great dry fly fishing “match the hatch” that is classic H-Fork. The Box will be consistent as it has been all summer, but highly-intensive nymphing that is a lot like work.
Third Week of September
Same as the second week of September.
There are 4 major groups of aquatic insects that flyfisherman are primarily interested in.
The major bug the sport was founded on. Incredibly widespread, and diverse, individual species are named in color, latin, or latin slang.
- Pale Morning Duns (PMD's)
- Baetis or "Blue Winged Olives"
- Green Drakes
- Gray Drakes
- Brown Drakes
Tons of different species but are generally referenced by their size and color, or most often just lumped together as simply as Caddis. Very important throughout our region, and the dominant bug on the Madison.
The granddaddy of the aquatic insect world, these primitive large bugs can cause as much frenzy among the fisherman as it does the fish. Very short time frame in which they make appearances on individual rivers.
- Yellow Sallies
Not important for anglers in the Greater Yellowstone area in the Summer.