With the cooler temperatures of September and October, come some of the best fishing in the areas surrounding West Yellowstone. The area is home to some of the country’s top trout streams including the Madison River, Gallatin River,Yellowstone River, and the Henrys Fork of the Snake River. The Gallatin River, one of Montana's most magnificent, offers blue-ribbon rainbow,Yellowstone cutthroat, and brown trout streams.

Some of the best float and deep-water trout fishing is available on Hebgen Lake and Earthquake Lake as well as Henrys Lake and Island Park Reservoir, all a short drive from West Yellowstone. Hebgen Lake is located just nine miles northwest and offers something for everyone. Several marinas offer docks, as well as convenient boating (including rentals) and fishing supplies.

Remember, it pays to be prepared when it comes to fall fishing. Fall weather can be unpredictable ranging from warm afternoons to crisp evenings. September temperatures can range from lows in the 30’s to mid’60’s during the day (F). October is slightly chillier with lows in the 20’s to mid’ 50’s during the day (F). You can experience a day of drizzle or a brief snow shower.  The first snow shower of the year usually appears in mid-September, although any accumulation usually melts.

The trick is to always be prepared especially for rain or snow. Dress in layers so that you can add or subtract for comfort. Be sure to bring a warm jacket, high-quality breathable waders and jackets, long underwear for cold mornings, fleece, and rain gear. Bring a vest for those chilly early mornings and late evenings. As always, don’t forget to include your sunglasses, insect repellant and sunburn lotion.  

I have always had a sneaking suspicion that if you could delve into the brain of a fall fisherman you might discover an interesting truth. Just as important as the actual fishing is that chance to get outside, absorb the last warm seasonal rays of an autumn sun, the signature honking of a group of geese flying overhead, or the distant sound of a bugling elk. Maybe it is the chance to share the river with a blue heron, all gawky long legs until it takes off and skims along the river, grace in motion.

Maybe it’s just the sound of the river’s current or lapping waves along the shore. It’s that steady, soft background gurgle that seems to slowly lull you into a relaxed state. Suddenly, you realize that frustration of a challenging work day, an aggravating boss, or an unexpected bill all seem to diminish in scope. It is easy to truly become just part of the surroundings.

You can spend your afternoon battling beautiful rainbows and hefty browns on the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake. Towards evening, an osprey might fly overhead, gliding on thermals lower and lower until it dived into the lake, emerging triumphant, a large trout clutched in its talons. 

The fall sunsets turn the clouds into a world of vibrant reds and oranges. We heardYou can hear the sound of a coyote pack hunting across the lake accompanied by the mournful sound of a lone loon. 

As September turns to October, the west side of Yellowstone Park is the place to find some of the best fishing action. Did you know that approximately 50,000 of the park’s three million visitors fish while they are inYellowstone?

September and October bring excellent hatches to many Yellowstone Park rivers.  It is also the only months when the Lamar drainage,GardnerRiver,YellowstoneRiver, andMadisondrainage offer dry fly fishing.  Streamer fishing is superb on most rivers as trout prepare for the hard winter ahead. And, the best big fish of year appear as fall-run trout migrate to their late fall spawning locations.

The Lamar, Slough Creek and the Yellowstone River fish well at this time of year. Smaller mayfly imitations become important, along with some terrestrials on warmer days. The Madison, both inside and outsideYellowstonePark, is at its prime, along with the Gibbon and Firehole inside the park. You can often find some solitary fishing and match the hatch fishing. Depending on weather conditions you may see Pale Morning Duns, Blue-Winged Olives, or two species of caddis.

On the Firehole River, where geysers and hot springs spew boiling water into the river, the trout become lethargic during the heat of summer. But colder fall nights cool down water temperatures allowing trout and other aquatic life to become more active.

In early to mid-September, cooler conditions prevail. Much of the insect activity is focused during the middle of the day. Small mayflies and some caddis can hatch on the Firehole,Madison, and smaller streams. Caddis hatches provide good dry fly fishing in the evenings, but the biggest event is the Baetis hatches. Small Baetis nymphs make up a great deal of the trout’s diet and larger stonefly nymphs once again become attractive.

Even fall’s cloudy rainy days can be great fishing ones. These days bring out the biggest emergence of these hatches and fish rise to the surface to gorge themselves. Fall weather does bring challenges as river conditions vary wildly through the fall resulting from just as varying temperatures.

The trout come into Yellowstoneas the summer crowds are departing. The first to begin their annual spawning runs is the brown trout. Starting about September 10th, the brown trout in Hebgen Lake migrate up the Madison River and the Firehole Rivers, spawn, and then return to the lake. The Firehole, Gibbon and the South Fork of the Madison also have fall runs of brown trout. Brown trout also congregate in the Lewis River, between Lewis and Shoshone lakes.

Lake-run browns and rainbows enter the river in increasing numbers as the month goes on and their numbers peak in October. These fish average 16-18 inches and 2-3 pounds in weight. Great fishing for these fish will continue right up to the close of theYellowstone National Park season on the first Sunday in November, and on the Yellowstone outside the Park boundary for perhaps another two weeks.

In late September and early October, there is also a run of rainbow trout (two to three pounds and larger). Rainbow trout follow similar routes to the browns, but many stay in the rivers through the winter, spawn in the spring, and then return home.

Most waters in Yellowstone Park are open for fishing through the first Sunday in November, between the hours of 5am and 10pm. A valid Yellowstone National Parkfishing license is required for all anglers 16 years of age and older ($18 three-day permit, a $25 seven-day permit or a $40 season permit).  Licenses are available at local fly shops or Yellowstone Park Visitor Centers or ranger stations.

Make sure to obtain a regulations book as it contains specific information about restrictions, as well as maps and locations.  Regulations are often complex concerning fishing seasons, temporary and/or permanent area closures, tackle restrictions, and species specific number and size limits.

Bait fishing is generally not allowed, some waters are designate fly fishing only or closed altogether, and only lead-free weight is allowed. It is your duty as an angler to inform yourself of the regulations that apply to the water or waters that you plan to fish when visiting Yellowstone. In addition,Yellowstone has adopted a barbless hook rule, to reduce handling time and injury, and improve the overall condition and appearance of fishes, especially in heavily fished waters. 

Outside of Yellowstone Park, fishing licenses for non-residents are $25.00 for 2 days, $53.50 for 10 days, and $70.00 for the season. (Cost includes the required conservation license). Licenses are available at numerous locations in West Yellowstone, Big Sky and Bozeman.

Don’t wait. Skip work for an afternoon of fall fishing, even if you have never tried it before!  Many of the fishing stores in West Yellowstone offer a package for beginners, complete with equipment and instruction.