The Yellowstone - 9th Street to Otter Creek Map Size 17" x 72"
The main decision for the fisherman headed to the Yellowstone for the day is usually "up or down?" - in reference to floating above or below Livingston. If the choice is down then your first option is putting in at 9th Street (L) ramp where 10th Street hits the river just upstream from the infamous 9th Street Bridge. The bridge used to be one of the biggest boat eaters on the entire river (that problem however should be solved by the replacement bridge slated to be complete by Spring of 2011.) The water at the launch here is relatively shallow but quickly becomes deep and fast after the 9th Street island channel joins the main river about a quarter of a mile downstream. Riprap armored banks extend for pretty much the whole length of Town on the left creating an obvious eyesore but also provide cover for smaller fish. A couple of fractured bedrock bars hold big fish but also make for some interesting navigating on this stretch. Mayors Landing (L) is your last in-town shot at getting in or out before the start of a stretch of braided cobble, heavily vegetated cutbanks and snags, that dominate the river until about Mile 71. The river below here gradually transitions from an urban setting to the open ranch country that makes up its shores all the way to Big Timber and beyond. Located on a flatter single channel segment of water just above the Shields River confluence is the 89 Bridge (R), an easy in or out concrete ramp. A short ways down from 89 is Shields/Yellowstone confluence. A squirrely, boulder strewn mixing zone of the two rivers, the confluence is filled with powerful hydraulics, snags, and, more often than not - large fish. Shortly before Mile 73 the river explodes into a tangle of braids that seem to change with every flood event. This is classic, boat accessed wading terrain with cobbles and deep holes that hold every size & species of fish that this stretch of water has to offer. From the river, Sheep Mountain (L) is one of the most nondescript launches on the Yellowstone. It is buried back in the trees and if you are planning on getting out here you better have a good idea of where the launch is BEFORE you get to it, especially if it is getting dark. If it is early and you miss it, look at the bright side, there is a lot of good fishing on down to the next launch, excellent views of Sheep Mountain to your left and you should have enough cell coverage to let the wife know you will be home...er... late. At Mile 76 the river turns single channel again, with bedrock protrusions that are a streamer chucker's wet dream and hopper banks on both sides that don't often disappoint. Pig Farm (R) launch is another one of those "easy to miss" take-outs, falling right in the middle of the fast, bedrock bottom streamer water. This launch is off of the I-90 frontage road and is accessed upstream from Exit 343 or downstream from Exit 350. At Mile 80 the single channel gives way to braiding, cobble, cutbanks, riprap & bedrock- slow, fast and sometimes vicious, this stretch of water presents the floater with every type of structure that the Yellowstone has to offer and an equal opportunity chase fish on the bottom, middle or top. Springdale (R) is a notched cobble bank immediately after the Springdale Bridge. This is the put in for one of the 2 longest uninterrupted floats on the Town Down section. While no longer "blue ribbon" water, the fishing here remains world class. Floating through braids and single channel water, beautiful farmland country extends to your left and right while the Crazy Mountains dominate your northern horizon. The technicality of this water changes dramatically depending on the stage of the river. Higher water can mean surfing waves at Mile 88.7, Mile 91.6 & Mile 95 while low water can make these areas boneyards. Low water can also mean high water temperatures which make it hard on the mortality of released fish, this should be a consideration when deciding on the day's fishing plan. Grey Bear (R) launch, right after Henson Bridge is the put in for what is the longest float on the Town Down portion of the Yellowstone. This launch is a sand bar and if you back in too far or stay too long, you will be parked there until somebody pulls you out. The water from Grey Bear down slows and warms considerably, trout are still plentiful here, but the increased temperature also caters to carp, catfish and (I have been told) to smallmouth bass as well. As you approach the town of Big Timber around Mile 101, fresh spring water starts to trickle in from river right, concentrating trout in the river. These springs are also the source of water for the Yellowstone River Fish Hatchery, located in Big Timber at about Mile 103. Big Timber Creek (L) & the Boulder River (R) are the last real fishing hot spots before the well developed Otter Creek (L) ramp.
Regardless of where you float, wade or just relax on the Yellowstone you are sure to get a taste of what is some of the best water in Montana. Please respect this river- and I don’t just mean in “cherish the majesty and magic of nature” or "take only pictures, leave only footprints” sort of way (which you should be doing no matter where you recreate) but in way where you are really thinking about what you are doing when you are floating, wading, or playing beside it... respect it and it will treat you right, but if you get cocky or if you let your guard down, the Yellowstone has a special, sometimes fatal way of reminding you who is really in charge.