The Gibbon River
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.
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
In Norris Meadows, the stream widens and winds back and forth through the
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.
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.
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.
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.