Copyright 2015 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Gardner River - Yellowstone National Park
As mentioned in the introduction, the upper section of the Gardner River, shown on your upper
left; the middle section, shown on your upper right and the lower section shown in the first
three thumbnails below, all fish differently. The main difference is the species and the size of
trout. Brook trout are predominant in the upper section above the Ospray Falls, rainbows,
cutthroats, cutbows (hybrid) and some brook trout are present in the middle or canyon section,
and brown and rainbow trout are present in the lower section. The water in the upper section is
mostly smooth, moderately flowing water over a cobble bottom. The middle and lower sections
consist of fast pocket water with a few pools but mostly runs and riffles.
We think the lower section is the best section to fish. Not only does it have very easy access, it
has the larger trout. Many anglers drive right by the best water that begins just inside the
park's North Entrance. I guess they think it is just too convenient to be a good place to fish. We
have fished this area of the river for the first few miles upstream and had all of the water for
ourselves on more than one occasion. You can catch lots of trout if you will go to the trouble to
"high stick" the water, or fish a nymph with a short line in the runs of the fast water. Most often,
however, you can catch plenty on the dry fly. When the stream first gets into shape from the
runoff, Salmonflies and Golden Stoneflies start hatching in large numbers. This is probably the
best time to fish but it is also good during the summer and early fall during the terrestrial
season. Hoppers, ants and beetles work great during that time.
The middle section above the high bridge on the Mammoth-Tower Road not far from Mammoth
is a great place to fish but it does take some effort to access the stream. You can park near
the bridge and hike upstream. Another access to this area is at the Larva Creek Trailhead.
The trail, located across from the Mammoth Campground, leads to a footbridge on the
Gardner River. From there you can fish upstream along the trail. There's also an access
located below the Mammoth Housing area that will take you to the stream between Mammoth
and the High Bridge.
The upper section of the stream consist of several miles that flows mostly through open
meadows. The trout are almost all brook trout that are easy and fun to catch. It can easily be
accessed from the Grand Loop Road about seven miles South of Mammoth. The section below
the Grand Loop Road bridge down to the falls can be fished downstream to the Ospray Falls.
Just be careful fishing near the falls. The water gains speed and is dangerous. These small
trout can be taken on generic and attractor flies fairly easy. Several tributary streams join the
Gardner River just above the bridge that also have plenty of brook trout.
The section just below the 45th Parallel Bridge runs through some meadows but it is not
normal meadow type water. It is fast water riffles and short runs with some long pools. This is a
great place to fish terrestrials because the stream is bordered with high grass.
Don't overlook the opportunity to catch a large brown trout during the fall season. These larger
trout move out of the Yellowstone River up into the Gardner to spawn. During the migration,
brown trout up to twenty inches and better can be taken on streamers. The fish will migrate all
the way up into the canyon section of the river above the high bridge.
If you like fishing fast, pocket water, then you will enjoy fishing the middle and lower section of
the Gardner River. It is usually non-stop action with plenty of easy to access water that sees
far less anglers than it probably should. Accommodations are great right in the town of
Gardiner, just outside the North Entrance as well as the Mammoth Campground. .
Gardner River, YNP
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