Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fly Fishing in Yellowstone

It had been years since I had visited or fished the famed Yellowstone National Park. My last trip was in boy scouts where we backpacked along the Yellowstone River, finishing in Gardener, Montana. The fishing in my memories was stellar, so when our good friends Greg and Amy Morgan invited Katie and I to stay with them and fish in the park for 4 days, we couldn't say no. It would also be Katie's birthday during our time there and every year we try to get out of town. What better place than Yellowstone?
We made the trek over to West Yellowstone where Greg and Amy had already secured a room for the week. It was hard to drive past the Henry's Fork of the Snake River, knowing that right now, a lot of big browns are moving to strategic locations just waiting for me to toss them a streamer. They would have to wait, because our target fish on this trip would be the Yellowstone Cutthroat trout.
The first evening I was able to convince everyone to go fishing, and since Greg and Amy had done well the previous night on the Fire Hole River, we would fish there.  
The Fire Hole fished fair that first night. A few small browns and a rainbow to hand. Not a bad start to the trip.
The following day we made our way to the bison filled Lamar Valley. Here we fished the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek, seeing a lot of wildlife along the way.

Despite the crowds, we wadered up and gave it a go.
It wasn't long before we were into our target species: the Yellowstone Cutthroat.


Besides the other fisherman, we had a few spectators.

On the way back, we stopped at Mammoth Hotsprings. Elk were scattered about in the manicured lawns surrounding each building. The bugle of a large bull caught our attention as he paraded down the middle of the road. Being the hunter I am, I brought along a cow elk call. I let out a call and the bull stopped and turned our direction. He appeared to be looking for me. I let out another call and just as a van slowly crept past the elk, he lowered his antlers and rammed the vehicle driving past him. Whether I caused him to ram that vehicle I will never know, but I like to think I did. 

The cascading pools of mineral rich, geothermal water was a unique sight.

The following day we fished the Madison and Yellowstone Rivers. Neither one produced much, but simply being in such a beautiful place made it all worth it. No trip in Yellowstone is complete without seeing the great waterfalls on the Yellowstone River.

Some tracks in the mud gave us a friendly reminder to be careful while fishing in the park.

Katie's birthday was the following day and she wanted to go see Old Faithful and some more of the geothermal sights. Despite the crowds and my disdain for feeling like a tourist, I had to admit, seeing Old Faithful erupt was quite spectacular.
Katie agreed that a little fishing on her birthday would be a good idea as well, so we hit the Fire Hole again. As we approached the river we found a lot of fish rising to some unique caddis flies: the Fire Hole Millers. The fish were all stacked in a small feeding area next to a grassy bank. Greg and Amy went upstream to check out some other areas while I put Katie into position to catch these rising fish. It wasn't long before Katie was into some gorgeous little brown trout.
Katie began to catch one after another and put on quite the show. Greg and Amy eventually wandered back and we had them get into position. It wasn't long before they were giggling and catching fish as well. We all had a blast taking turns catching the little browns. But as birthday luck would have it, Katie caught way more than anyone else. 

We finished the day out by hitting the delicious Wild West Pizza in West Yellowstone.
Katie and I had to leave the following day. Greg and Amy had been gracious hosts, and they will likely find us inviting ourselves next year!After we said our goodbyes and thank you's, we pointed the car South West into Idaho. Of course I planned it so we would have time to hit a few spots on the Henry's Fork on the way home!
The first spot we hit was a half mile long riffle that stretched clear across the Snake River. As usual, it was loaded with a lot of 10-16 inch rainbows. Katie was quickly into fish after fish. 
A stout whitefish also came to hand before we chose to move onto the next location.
The next spot we would strip streamers. I knew there could be some monster browns lurking in the depths and would love Katie to tie into one. She hadn't stripped streamers much, but I handed her the rod and she did it like she had done it her whole life. She had a big swirl on her fly as she pulled it out of the water to make her third cast. With the next cast, the rod was nearly ripped out of her hand as she came tight to a great brown trout. She fought it like a champ and eventually the fatty rolled into the net.

I handed the rod back to Katie and she continued stripping. Several casts later she was into another.
We worked our way along with just the one rod and Katie was doing so well, I stood by and enjoyed the show.
Katie was ready for a break, so she handed me the rod. After missing a couple takes, I connected with a great brown.
We fished a bit longer before walking back to the car. With a long drive ahead of us, we packed up and drove on back to Boise. 
No trip across Idaho's Highway 20 is complete without a stop at the Wrangler Drive In in Fairfield. Katie and I each got a milkshake to cap off a great trip.