Yellowstone River Fishing in May

Yellowstone River Fishing in May

Through May the montane snowpack fuels the Yellowstone as runoff creeps closer, muddying the river and filling its vast network of channels. Use the productive pre-runoff weeks to connect with trout keying on prolific insect activity during the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch.

Expect runoff to hit the river sometime in early to mid-May, rendering the main-stem waters un-fishable for 4-8 weeks. During this time, it is best to avoid the river as conditions are not safe for floating or wading anglers.

Spring Hatches Accelerating

The timing of the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch varies from year to year and is temperature dependent. Expect the hatch to start between late April and early May.

Many Montana anglers watch the Fins and Feathers Yellowstone River fishing report closely this time of the year to track the hatch progress.

March Brown and BWO activity is heavy on overcast days in early May and they will hatch concurrently with the Caddis.

Tactics Adapting to Conditions

Dry fly fishing during the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch on the Yellowstone River is what we are all hoping for once the insect starts to emerge. Popular fly patterns for the hatch include Elk Hair Caddis in Peacock or Dun in sizes 12-16.

Anglers of all skill levels will find success with dries when the river is in good condition and the hatch is heavy with activity.

Dry/dropper rigs with attractor patterns such as a Royal Wulff or Chubby Chernobyl in sizes 10-12 with a lightly weighted Caddis pupa pattern are standard setups as well. When trout are rising sporadically during the hatch, our guides will fish an unweighted soft hackle to imitate a swimming Caddis Pupa just below the water’s surface.

Nymphing with tandem nymph rigs under a strike indicator or streamer fishing is productive during the pre-hatch periods as the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch looms on the Yellowstone River.


Bozeman Fly Fishing Guide Pro-Tip:

Fly fish patterns that are big and dark in color to contrast the changing water conditions, targeting areas along the bank or behind large structures that break the water's current. Stay safe when fishing this time of year, especially when the river is high and off-color.


Our Yellowstone River Fly Box for May

Runoff Is No Obstacle

Yellowstone River fishing trips in May are limited by the conditions on hand, which are impossible to predict more than a few days in advance. Some years, the river is completely unfishable by late April, while others see our guides on it daily through the middle of the month.

There are plenty of Montana fly fishing options near Bozeman that our guides rely on as backups to Yellowstone River fishing in early May. When the Yellowstone blows out, we shift our local focus to the upper and lower Madison Rivers as they remain fishable for a while longer than the Yellowstone at the start of the runoff.

The Bozeman fly fishing guides at Fins and Feathers also operate on the Missouri River near Craig, Montana from April through June. Missouri River fishing trips are great experiences in themselves when most Montana Rivers are amid the runoff season.

Anglers of all skill levels can expect to learn a variety of fly-fishing skills on a guided trip with our experts in early May. However, Yellowstone River conditions can change quickly this time of year and anglers should have flexible plans to ensure success.

Bozeman has world-class fly fishing in every direction, so the experienced angler can count on our 23+ years of experience to find suitable alternatives when river conditions change.

Contact Us to learn more about planning a Yellowstone River fishing trip with our Bozeman fly fishing guides. Reservations can be placed online, via e-mail, or by calling us at 1-406-468-5019.