The Gibbon and Firehole Rivers

by K. Christopherson

Yellowstone may conjure up thoughts of geysers, bears and bison for most people. But anglers dream of this park as a first-class flyfishing destination.

There are numerous areas to fish within Yellowstone, each with their own species and setting. Perhaps two of the better known rivers, and a bit easier to reach, are the tributaries of the Madison - the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers.

These two rivers offer brown, rainbow, and brook trout depending where you fish. They also offer up some tough and unusual fishing, something not to be missed.

Firehole Cascades Firehole Cascades - different water

An angler might think that the park's geyser and fumarole activity would be a detriment to fishing. While this can be true in certain areas, the geothermal springs and vents offer a diversity of hatches not seen in many other western locations. And, the meandering meadow portions of these rivers also present the opportunity for using terrestrial patterns as well. The thermal activity can cause the Firehole's temperature to rise above what trout like during the summer - during this time they may migrate to cooler waters.

Yellowstone fishing Part of Yellowstone - Buffalo and fumaroles

The place to fish the Firehole is downstream of Old Faithful. The river is closed to fishing from just above Old Faithful for 2.5 miles downstream at Biscuit Basin. Here the picturesque stretch starts - flyfishers angling along the eerie steam. This is also reasonably challenging angling requiring stealth and long leaders - remember that these trout see an awful lot of tourists and anglers. Presentation will be key, using the right-sized fly and some luck. The river changes character in the lower canyon sections and also offers up some pocket water.

Firehole River One of the Firehole meadow areas

Much of the Gibbon holds fish. Whirling disease has had an impact on the rainbow population; hence the restrictions in certain areas. However, choose the type of fishing you like - high-country hike-in at the headwaters; meadows fishing for the majority of the Gibbon; or faster pocket water above and below Gibbon Falls.

Don't like crowds? Try fishing in off-season or hike to the tougher portions. Fall can be a great time to angle for spawning browns in the lower reaches of these rivers above their junction to form the Madison.

Gibbon River The Gibbon near the Ranger Museum
Gibbon River Fishing the Gibbon in the Upper Geyser Basin


  • Yellowstone N.P. has specific regulations for the Firehole and Gibbon click here
  • A separate license is required by Yellowstone to fish within the park - info
  • National Geographic topo maps Wyoming Buy a topo map for Yellowstone National Park