Copyright 2015 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide for the Firehole River (YNP)
The Firehole River starts out as a tiny stream that flows out of Madison Lake at about
8,200 feet elevation. It is basically a brook trout stream until it flows under the bridge at the
Grand Loop Road near Old Faithful. It is closed to fishing in the Old Faithful area
downstream to the bridge just above Biscuit Basin. There it's joined by the Little Firehole
River which picks up the flow from Iron Spring Creek just a few yards above the its
confluence with the Firehole River. Both of these streams are cold water streams with little
thermal influence. The trout move into these small streams during the hot summer months
unless it is an exceptionally fine water year from heavy snowpacks and rain.
The river meanders back and forth through some large meadows in the Biscuit Basin. The
water changes from very deep to shallow in close proximity and can range from very
smooth to fast flowing in a few places. The banks are usually deep on one side and shallow
on the other with plenty of places for the brown trout to hide. Undercut banks are common.
The fish are a mixture of browns and rainbows from Biscuit Basin downstream.
Below Biscuit Basin there's about two or three miles of shallow pools and riffles. The area
just above the Iron Spring Bridge has some deeper water and usually holds a good number
of larger trout. Below the bridge is Mudshoe Bend, another area that hold plenty of trout.
The upper half of the eight mile long section of the river from Sentinel Creek to Biscuit
Basin is easily accessed from the nearby Grand Loop Road. The lower half of this section,
about four miles long, requires a short hike of a mile or so from the road.
Below Sentinel Creek, the Firehole River flows through area of alternating meadows with
lots of weeds in riffle sections for the first couple of miles downstream. Soon thereafter,
there are more riffles than smooth flows because the gradient of the stream decreases all
the way to the Firehole Falls.
The last couple of miles of the river below Firehole Falls consist of fast riffles and runs. It
flows through a canyon all the way to its confluence with the Gibbons River where the two
streams form the Madison River. The canyon section of the river gets some spawning
browns from the fall migration up the Madison River from Hebgen Lake. Some of these fish
can be rather large.
From Sentinel Creek north to the Madison River, a distance of about six miles, the Firehole
River is accessible from the Grand Loop Road. Below the falls, the river is accessible from
Firehole Canyon Drive but only in a few places.
The wild rainbows and brown trout in the Firehole River can become very selective on
certain insects, so matching the hatch is sometimes absolutely necessary. They can also
become very easily spooked from heavy fishing pressure and sightseers. It is a very
delightful stream to fish and one of our all time favorites.
Firehole River (YNP)
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