There are certain rivers in the world that you can’t help but be in awe of every time you fish them. The Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is one of those rivers. The first time I fished this river it felt as if I was on another planet; the steam from geysers and barren landscape are not common trout river features. I’ll try and fish this river every time I return to the park.
A Little Bit About the Firehole River
The Firehole River flows through three active geyser basins with hot water flowing into the river at all times. Despite the uncharacteristic conditions, anglers will find healthy populations of fish and amazing hatches all season long. It’s one of the most productive dry fly streams in the country!
This 21 mile river is broken down into three sections: headwaters, above Firehole Falls and below Firehole Falls. All sections hold fish, but the 10 miles above Firehole Falls are the most productive.
Fishing in Yellowstone opens Memorial Day weekend. The first few weeks after Memorial Day are always productive on the Firehole. After those few weeks, the water temperature steadily warms and hits 80 degrees in July causing the fishing to shut down until September. Once the September cold snap hits, the season reopens until the first week of November.
You don’t want to fish this river when the water temperatures are above 72 degrees.
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Firehole River Access Area
If you’re looking for an easy place to access the river and do some fishing, spend time here. Located about 10 miles north of Old Faithful, you’ll find a nice amount of parking, restrooms, picnic tables and easy access to the river. Many anglers work their way up and downstream from this point.
Here, the river is wide and free flowing. It’s categorized as a larger spring creek with a nice amount of plant life.This section has extremely productive dry fly fishing. It’s easy to locate the rises and wading is simple. If you’re looking for a place to have a picnic and show some people how to fly fish, this is a great location.
If you’re willing to hike up and downstream, you can find more seclusion and do well.
Below Firehole Falls- Salmonfly Hatch!
Below Firehole Falls, you’ll find only about a mile of fishable water. Since it flows into a canyon, you’ll find the type of water has changed entirely. It’s not the easy, open fishing that you find above the falls. It’s more choppy and requires some solid pocket water technique.
This section of water should be a priority to fish because the fish moving from Hebgen Lake migrate here. As a result, it’s the best place on the river for you to find a trout that’s above 15 or so inches.
Also, this portion below the falls has a Salmonfly Hatch right around Memorial Day making it one of the earliest hatches in the region. Salmonfly hatches are the most fun hatches to fish! It may not be as glamorous as the picturesque waters further upstream, but the temptation of large fish and large dries should entice you.
Entrance of Nez Perce Creek- Good Fishing!
Fountain Drive off of 191 just north of Maiden’s Grave Spring gives anglers access to the confluence of Nez Perce Creek and the Firehole River. The cool, spring water provides a much needed temperature cool to this section of the river. Like the rest of the river above Firehole Falls, this has a nice combination of riffles and smooth water. Bring those dry flies here and you’ll be in business.
Why the Firehole River is Perfect for Fly Fishing
The Firehole is Perfect for Fly Fishing because it’s accessible, holds a high population of wild fish and there are dozens of world famous attractions within a few miles of the water. You can spend a few hours fishing and spend the rest of the day sightseeing in the Upper Geyser Basin or completing hikes along nearby trails. There’s fun for the entire family.
Plus, the season is relatively short, so you know when the fish are going to be feeding. Fish those first few weeks of June and as soon as those temperatures cool in September.
What Stream Flow is Best for Fishing the Firehole River
If possible, you want to fish this river around 300 to 400 CFS. Since it widens out in portions, it won’t seem as if the river is flowing overly fast. However, when you get below Firehole Falls, the walls of the canyon push the water at a faster pace! Be prepared to use a variety of methods to land fish on the Firehole.
What Kind of Fish Can you Catch on the Firehole River
The Firehole River holds populations of Brown, Rainbow and Brook trout. The Brown and Rainbow Trout are catch and release only. You’re allowed to keep up to five Brook Trout a day.
Favorite Flies for the Firehole River
Parachute Adams- Size 18
BWO hatches are the first ones to get going each year, so keep those Parachute Adams high and dry.
White Miller- Size 10
White Miller’s are unique to the Yellowstone Region. They’re a larger, cream colored bug and local fly shops hold a nice amount of them.
Salmonfly- Size 14
If you’re fishing the Firehole Canyon, bring those Salmonflies. Go a bit smaller since the fish aren’t overly large.
Hatch Chart for the Firehole River
|Fly Name||Size||Start Date||End Date|
|Midge||18-22||May 15||October 31|
|Sculpin||2-8||May 15||October 31|
|Caddis||2-14||May 15||October 31|
|BWO||16-24||May 15||October 31|
|Flav||14-16||June 1||June 30|
|PMD||16-20||June 1||July 15|
|Salmonfly||2-8||June 1||July 15|
|Golden Stone||6-10||June 1||July 15|
|Yellow Sally||14-16||June 15||July 31|
|Terrestrial||10-18||June 15||October 15|
|Mahogany Dun||14-18||June 1||July 31|
Fly Rod and Reel Setup For the Firehole River
For the Firehole River, you won’t need anything more than a 8’6” 4-weight rod. Make sure your reel matches your rod. The fish in the Firehole aren’t overly huge and you won’t have to make any exceptionally long casts. As long as you have 4x or 5x tippet to keep out of the way of the fish, you’ll be good to go. They can be spooky!
Guides and Fly Shops
- Arrick’s Fly Shop– If you’re staying in the West Yellowstone area and are wanting to fish in Yellowstone, Arrick’s Fly Shop is for you. They have a great selection of flies and all the gear you need!
- Madison River Outfitters– Madison River Outfitters is located in West Yellowstone and is a full service guide shop with guided trips on the Firehole.
Last Cast for the Firehole River
If you’re ever in the Yellowstone Region and are looking for a unique fishery, visit the Firehole River. No, the fish aren’t massive, but the populations are high and the experience is one you will not forget!
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Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fly fishing. Growing up in Minnesota gave him the opportunity to experience all types of fishing and grow his skills. After living out in the Western United States for several summers in college, his fly fishing obsession grew. Having the opportunity to share in his passion for fishing through writing is a dream come true. It’s a lifelong hobby and he strives to make it understandable for people of all skill levels