The Gibbon River          

fly-fishermen, Gibbon River
Fly-fishermen enjoy a fall day on the Gibbon River in Gibbon meadows

The Gibbon River begins its short journey into the Madison in the center of Yellowstone National Park, at Grebe Lake from there It flows for a short distance into Wolf Lake. Upon its exit from Wolf Lake, the Gibbon River twists and turns through narrow canyons and great meadows and thermal areas until meeting with the Firehole River for the genies of the Madison River.

The upper section of Gibbon River has very difficult access, not much volume and involving bushwhacking through difficult terrain. You will catch brook trout, cutthroat trout and grayling, all on the small side, rarely exceeding 10 inches. But the difficulty is worth it for the opportunity to catch grayling, as they require the cleanest of waters.

Downstream form Virginia Cascade the fishing improves; here the Gibbon River has lots of undercut banks, some pools, and crystal clear water. Brown trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout are all found in this section of the Gibbon River.

All the meadows both above Norris Geyser Basin and below provide good fishing for sizable trout. Many undercut banks are found along with some deep pools. The river tends to be narrow and the trout are wary and leader wise. Careful presentation on light tackle is needed to have successful fishing on this section of the Gibbon River.

Bugling bull elk, sunset, gibbon meadows, yellowstone national park
A bugling bull elk graces Gibbon meadow at sunset

These meadows are also great places to watch wildlife, elk and bison are common, and when you are lucky you can spot a wandering grizzly bear or if you are extra lucky you can see a pack of wolves trying to make a kill.

Gibbon Meadows is also easily accessed from the Grand Loop Road. Rainbow
and brown trout reach upwards to 16 inches with some browns growing to a
much larger size in this meadow. It does receive a lot of pressure because it passes by a campground here.

In Norris Meadows, the stream widens and winds back and forth through the
meadow. rainbow and brook trout are present in the stream at Norris. From the Norris Meadow the Gibbons River flows through an area of rough pocket water for a mile before it reaches Elk Park.

In Elk Park Meadow the fish range from 10 to 14 inches, Elk Park is a large meadow. The river winds back and forth through the park creating shallow areas on one side of the stream and deeper, undercut banks on the other side of the stream. The long slow moving sections of the stream are connected by short sections of riffles. Access to Elk Park is provided by from the Grand Loop Road.

These meadows lying just east of the Gallatin Mountain Range is a great place for scenic photography as the lazy Gibbon winds through meadows with fly-fisherman on its banks, elk and bison grazing in grassy meadows and towering mountains gracing the skyline.

Grey Wolf, Gibbon River
A Grey Wolf pauses as he strolls along the Gibbon after dining on winter killed bison carion.

Below these meadows, the Gibbon River makes its run for Gibbon Falls. The river has extensive riffles and pocket water on this section with numerous rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout averaging around 10 inches. Access is easy through this section as the road is never more that 100 feet away.
The Gibbon River concludes this canyon section when it tumbles over eighty-four Gibbon Falls, a beautiful waterfall easily viewed by a roadside turnout.

Below the falls to where the Firehole joins with the Gibbon to form the Madison River. This section of the Gibbon has lots of riffles; pools pocket water and easy access.

The fall is an excellent time to fish for the larger rainbow trout and brown in the Madison and the Gibbon River because large lake fish migrate up from Hebgen Lake to spawn. During this period, the Gibbon and Madison Rivers receive a ton of fishing pressure as anglers travel from all over the country to catch these large, migrating fish.

The New Zealand mud snail is an invasive aquatic species that was first observed in Yellowstone waters in 1994 and is now found in the Gibbon River. This animal is about 1/8 of an inch or 2-4 mm long and lives in dense colonies on aquatic vegetation and rocks along streambeds. These snails crowd out native aquatic insect communities, which provide nourishment for fish. They also eat algae, another primary food source for fish and other native species. Studies indicate that they can pass through the digestive tract of a trout unharmed, while offering no nutritional value.
No one is sure how this exotic organism was introduced into the park’s waters, but likely it arrived via boaters and anglers who unknowingly carried it from other fishing locations around the country.

We as fishermen must be careful when we travel from river to river and be cognizant that we may be carriers of invasive species and clean the felt on our waders after fishing anywhere.

Gibbon River Hatch Chart

Insects

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Gibbon River Fly Patterns

Mayflies
                         
Blue Winged Olive (BWO)     •  •
          •
  • Dry Flies: BWO's, Parachute BWO's, Parachute Adams,
Nymphs & Emergers:
Pheasant Tails, Hares Ears, BWO Emergers. Beadhead Nymphs
Pale Morning Dun             •   •
  •       Dry Flies: PMD's, Parachute PMD's, Light Cahill. Pink Cahil, Pink Sparkle Dun, Parachute Adams,  Adams,
Nymphs & Emergers: Pheasant Tails, Hares Ears, PMD Emergers, Qwiggly Cripple. Beadhead Nymphs
Green Drakes          
            Dry Flies: Paradrakes
Nymphs & Emergers:  Prince Nymphs, Beadhead Nymphs  
Caddis
                         
Caddis             •
  •   •       Dry Flies: Elk Hair Caddis, X Caddis, Stimulators,
Nymphs & Emergers
: Peeking Caddis, Buckskin Caddis, Beadhead Nymphs
                           
Yellow Sallies             •    •   •       Dry Flies: Yellow Stimulators, Henry's Fork Yellow Sallies, Yellow Elk Hair Caddis.  Nymphs & Emergers: Prince Nymphs, Beadhead Nymphs
Golden Stoneflies             •
          Dry Flies: Yellow Stimulators, Irresistible Stimulators. Chernobyl Ants, Royal Coachmans, Madam X's, 
Nymphs & Emergers
Prince Nymphs, Stonefly Nymphs, Halfback Nymphs,
Salmonflies             •   •           Dry Flies: Sofa Pillows, Orange Stimulators. 
Nymphs & Emergers: Black Rubberlegs, Stonefly Rubberlegs, Bitch Creek Nymph.
Terrestrials
                         
Ants           •  •  •   •  •   •     Black Fur Ant, CDC Ant, Foam Ant, Flying Ant
Grasshoppers               •   •   •   •     Dave's Hopper, ParaHopper, Foam Hopper, Madam X's, 
Beetles & Crickets             •   •   •   •   •     Deer Hair Beetle, Foam Beetle, Dave's Cricket, Henry's Fork Cricket
Others
                         
Midges     •   •   •   •   •
  •   •   •   •   • Dry Flies: Griffith's Gnat, Double Midge, Fuzzballs. 
Nymphs & Emergers: Brassie, Midge Emerger,  Disco Midge, Serendipity, Tungsten Beadhead Larva
Egg Patterns                
    Egg Patterns

Insects

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Gibbon River Fly Patterns

 

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