Parks' Fly Shop: Walk-Wade Guide Trips, Yellowstone Park Guide Trips, Yellowstone Park Fly Fishing, Yellowstone Park Fishing Guides

Intro to Walk & Wade Trips

summer slough creek cutt

Both the fish and the scenery available on walk trips are hard to beat.

Parks' Fly Shop is lucky to be located on the doorstep of Yellowstone Park, the largest expanse of easily accessable trout water in the United States. Some of the most famous and most productive rivers in the world have their headwaters in the Park, and there are myriad guided trip options available for visiting anglers of any skill level or level of fitness and to suit a wide range of fly fishing techniques.

For those just getting started in fly fishing or looking to learn, portions of the Firehole, the Gibbon, the headwaters of the Gardner, and myriad small mountain creeks offer loads of small, aggressive fish that are just perfect to help you gain confidence before trying for bigger and more difficult fish next time. If you're a beginner just looking for a taste of fly fishing, you might want to head over to our beginner trips page, or you can read on to learn about our general walk/wade trips.

Depending on the time of year, we might guide experienced anglers to fish brawling canyon water in the Black and Grand Canyons of the Yellowstone far from the road, where the cutthroat trout love streamers and big attractor dry flies, or take them to the glassy-smooth waters of the Firehole, where finicky rainbows and browns sip Pale Morning Dun mayflies while geysers churn in the background and tourists stop to gawk at the show. There are literally hundreds of options between that fall somewhere between these two, and we look forward to showing them to you.

In addition to the Park, several smaller streams outside the Park offer changes of pace. These creeks are harder to access than the roadside streams in the park, but they are never crowded, and some of the rainbow-cutthroat hybrids typically found in these creeks are among the most beautiful trout you'll ever see. Walk trips are also available on the Yellowstone outside the Park and (with contract outfitters) on the Madison below Hebgen and Quake Lakes.

Walk & wade trips are available as full-day and half-day options in high season, half-day trips during the spring, and as short three-hour trips in the winter. Full-day trips meet at our shop between 6:00 and 9:30AM (typically 8:00AM), while half-days are available as morning or afternoon trips meeting at roughly 8:00AM or 12:30PM, with some trips meeting at 6:00AM early in the fall. Spring trips usually meet around 10:00AM, while off-season trips in the winter will meet in early afternoon.

We figured we'd be in a lot of trouble if we didn't get pics of both brothers in here. The Lane boys with a pair of fat cutthroats, caught after a strenuous hike into the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone in July 2013.

lane boys black canyon 2013

Public water walk trips are particularly good options for beginning and novice anglers, anyone who'd prefer to spot and stalk their quarry or match hatches, avid hikers, anglers interested in learning about a particular stream in detail, people who want to fish small water, and anyone who'd like a slower-paced day than is possible on a float. Walk and wade trips offer more opportunities for personalized instruction than floats, including detailed information on access points and tactics for when you fish the Yellowstone area on your own. There are also more opportunities for wildlife watching and other non-fishing activities.

With a few exceptions, public water walk trips are not good choices for those with limited mobility. They are also not good choices if members of your party are fishing with spinning tackle. In fact, we do not permit spinning tackle on our walk trips.

Read on past the rates table to learn about some of our top walk trip destinations at different times of year, or simply click one of the following links if you'd like to skip down to Winter and Early Spring Walk Trips, Late Spring Walk Trips, Summer Walk Trips, Early Fall Walk Trips, or Late Fall Walk Trips.

Walk & Wade Trip Rates

walk trip rates

Winter and Early Spring Public Water Walk & Wade Trips

Mid-January through March

Winter sees fishing at its lowest ebb of the year. This is not to say that there aren't fish to be caught, however. Any day the temperature rises to close to freezing and it's not so windy you can't stand it, the fishing on the Yellowstone River can be quite good for several hours in midafternoon. Many days even see good dry fly fishing, with the trout rising viciously to emerging midges for an hour or so. Parks' Fly Shop is blessed by its location near unquestionably the best stretch of the Yellowstone for winter fishing, the stretch flowing right through Gardiner. This stretch is fed by the Gardner River, which runs into the Yellowstone immediately upstream of town. Since the Gardner never runs below about 50 degrees due to the Boiling River Hot Spring several miles upstream from its mouth, it keeps the Yellowstone right through town warmer than the rest of the river. This means ice-free water and aggressive fish.

Later in March, on days that feel more like spring than winter, options further from Gardiner expand. If you're here during one of these periods and are eager to fish great big nymphs and streamers, it's possible we can put you on the largest fish of the year before the season has even begun for most Yellowstone area anglers.

Mid-April through late May

Mid-April sees the lower elevations starting to green up and the fish starting to get more consistently aggressive towards larger flies. While the dry fly fishing isn't as consistent on the in the spring as it will be later, the trout feed eagerly on nymphs and streamers, trying to fatten up after a long winter, and when a hatch does happen the fish can go crazy for dries for an hour or two. Mid-late April is a particularly good time to target larger trout.

In early May the famous Mother's Day caddis hatch occurs, and fishing it on foot ensures you're in a good spot when the fish start to rise. A big benefit of walk trips over floats at this time is that we'll typically fish water where the boats don't go.

We typically run trips in late spring as half-days, under special reduced rates.


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Late Spring Public Water Walk & Wade Trips

firehole 2013

Angler fishing the Firehole in mid-June. No waders needed due to the geothermally-heated water, which is what makes the Firehole good at this time.

Memorial Day Weekend through June

Late May is runoff time on many area rivers, but with the opening of the Park season on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, the geyser-fed Firehole, Madison, and Gibbon offer great fishing when everything else is out of play. Typically the best fishing on the Firehole and Gibbon occurs in June, while the best match-the-hatch fishing on the Madison also occurs at this time. Several hike-in lakes offer a change of pace and the chance for grayling and the summer's first cutthroats, as well as some truly huge brook trout for the physically fit. On some days early in the season the Gardner is fishable, and it becomes fishable for good later in the month. When it is fishable, it can turn out huge numbers of fish on nymphs for the fit angler.

As an added bonus for late spring walk trips, area tourism really doesn't get crazy until about the 20th of June, so crowds (both on the roads and on the rivers) aren't as bad as they will be later.

Below: an excellent early season brook trout from Lake X.

spring brook trout

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Summer Public Water Walk & Wade Trips

little creek cutthroat

Believe it or not, this client's late summer cutthroat came out of a creek you could almost jump over. It ate a small beetle.

Late June or Early July through Labor Day

The rivers across the northern part of Yellowstone Park, the Yellowstone outside the park, and many creeks begin dropping into fishable condition sometime in late June or early July depending on the year, while the Firehole, Madison, and Gibbon in the Park shut down due to high water temperatures. Our top destinations in the summer are the canyon sections of the Yellowstone River, the Lamar River, Slough Creek, Soda Butte Creek, portions of the Gardner River, and various small creeks we aren't going to name online.

Overall summer offers visitors the most consistent fishing of the year, some of the most consistent hatches, the most comfortable weather, and (in early summer at least) the dumbest fish, so crowds are heavy. Both Parks' Fly Shop and our competitors see our heaviest bookings during the summer months, so if you'd like to come in the summer, it's a good idea to book your flights, lodging, and guides as soon as you can.

While we like to hike all year long, summer is particularly friendly to clients who are up for a 1-5 mile hike just to get to the fishing. Some of our hikes are strenuous, while some are flat and easy. All are beautiful, and the rewards are immense. Clients who hike in with us are usually rewarded with solitude, easier fishing, and big, healthy trout. Our favorite hike-in destinations are several sections of the Yellowstone River in its Black and Grand Canyons, the First and Second Meadows of Slough Creek, and portions of the upper Lamar, plus a couple small tributaries to the Yellowstone and upper Gardner Rivers.

First image below: Mid-fight in the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Second image below: Not bad for her second trout ever! Black Canyon of the Yellowstone.

mid fight in the black canyon

first fish ever!

For anglers who want to stay close to the road, Soda Butte Creek and other portions of the Lamar River are the best bets for experienced anglers. These famous streams are full of people at this time, but they're also full of lots of big cutthroat trout that love to eat dry flies. Portions of the lower Gardner River also run close to the road and can be prime, especially in July.

First image below: Angler fishing Soda Butte Creek.

Second image below: Here's why people like Soda Butte besides the fantastic scenery. This big boy came on a Flying Bicolor Ant in 2013

soda butte scenic

herb's cutthroat

Summer is prime time for beginners, whether they're on one of our specialty beginner trips or a normal half-day or full-day walk & wade trip. At this time it's possible to get even rookie anglers into vast numbers of small but pretty brook trout while fishing the small but pretty streams in the upper Gardner River system, or if they feel like trying for somewhat harder fish, the lower Gardner or portions of the Yellowstone can turn out some solid fish even for beginners, as long as they're patient and listen to their savvy guide.

Beginner and brook trout on an area meadow stream.

beginner brookie fishing

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Early Fall Public Water Walk & Wade Trips

early fall brown

A nice brown caught on an early fall walk trip.

Labor Day through September

September is a time of transition, and the transition doesn't come all at once. It is possible to fish the Firehole in a driving snowstorm the day after Labor Day, catching fish on mayflies, then fish the Lamar under bright, warm sun on the 25th and catch fish on grasshopper imitations. Thus September offers the largest number of fishable streams of any month.

Fishing is typically more demanding in September than during the summer, but the fish are fatter and stronger than they are earlier in the year, the first fall-run browns are now entering the Gardner and Madison systems, and the cutthroats and rainbow-cutt hybrids in the Yellowstone are beginning to get hungry for streamers and fall Blue-winged Olive mayflies. Anglers coming in September must be prepared to do what conditions dictate: if it's hot and sunny, we're going to fish the Yellowstone, Gardner, or Lamar system, while cold weather might mean nymphing up browns on the Gardner or swinging wet flies on the Firehole.

One thing early fall is not is uncrowded. Typically crowds for the first three weeks of September are as heavy as they are earlier in the summer, particularly on famous roadside rivers. If solitude is what you're after, consider coming even later in the fall.

Below: Early fall brown trout.

fall 2012 brown trout

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Late Fall Public Water Walk & Wade Trips

late fall 2012 big brown

Great fish, so-so picture. This 25-inch October brown trout was the largest caught on one of our walk trips in 2012.

October through early November

In October, our focus shifts more strongly towards the Madison system and the Gardner. Typically we focus on the Firehole for dry fly fishing and the Gardner when pursuing larger fish, but there are large numbers of big fish entering the Madison, lower Firehole, and lower Gibbon in earnest and sometimes heavy hatches on the Gardner and Yellowstone, as well. Except on warmer days, we avoid the Lamar drainage in October, while the Yellowstone can still fish very well as long as we don't get an extended cold snap.

October sees far fewer anglers coming to the Yellowstone region, with the exception of the Madison just inside the gate, but this is your best time to catch a large trout inside Yellowstone Park. When the weather is at its most miserable -snowing and with temperatures at or below freezing- both big trout and big numbers of them are possible. If you book a trip for a snowy day in the middle of October, it's very possible we can put you on the best fishing of the year.

The Yellowstone Park season closes the first Sunday in November. After that, it's back to winter rates and winter fishing conditions.

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phone 406 848 7314, address 202 Second Street South PO Box 196 Gardiner, MT 59030 E-mail Walter Wiese E-mail Richard Parks link to PFS Youtube Channel link to PFS Facebook

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