Yellowstone report

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Kent Lufkin, Jul 25, 2004.

  1. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Posts: 7,136
    Not sure
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    I got back last weekend from my first visit to the Holy Water of Yellowstone National Park to an absolute shit-storm here at work and so have not had time to write a proper report until now. For those of you who have not been there, the park is massive (3400 square miles) and besides roads, shows almost no other sign of impact by man. No fences, no telephone or power poles, no cell towers. Just wide open spaces with meadows stretching nearly as far as the eye can see.

    The critters are absolutely oblivious to the all-too-frequent traffic jams as overweight tourists in skin-tight shorts and shirts ignore the warnings not to approach the animals as they try to get within yards or even feet of bored elk, bison or even coyotes, dead-set on capturing a Kodak moment to send to Aunt Martha back in Sioux Falls. One afternoon we got caught up in a snarl with a ranger and ambulance at its nucleus, loading a woman on a gurney who had ignored the cars trying to thread their way through the vehicles parked haphazardly in the middle of the road. Camera to eye, she had wandered right into the path of an oncoming minivan whose driver was likewise distracted by the same bull elk. Their sad, violent encounter probably ruined both of their summers.

    Ours was a family vacation with three other families, all of us with kids of a similar age. Since the park is so huge, most of our days were spend slowly driving from one spot to another to see Old Faithful and the geyser basin, the Grand Canyon, Mammoth, the Fishing Bridge, etc.

    By now, it should be dawning on the perceptive reader that our agenda of sightseeing day trips and evening feasts left precious little time for moi to fish. As fun as it was to explore the park and see the sights, sadly the fishing left a lot to be desired, both in terms of quantity and quality.

    Fishing the Madison near our campground at Madison Junction and the upstream confluence of its two tributaries, the Gibbon and Firehole, several hours of pitching dries and nymphs brought just two little (~6") fish to hand. Another early morning further up the Gibbon in the canyon produced even more disappointing results, despite being some of the most gorgeous water I've ever seen. The lights were on but no one seemed to be home.

    Finally on Wednesday, I was able to sneak off with a friend and fish further upstream in Gibbon Meadows. A leisurely, spring creek as it meanders through a huge meadow, the Gibbon reluctantly gave up a handful of browns to 14" and a couple of 10 to 12" brookies, all to a size 18 Griffith's Gnat, dead drifted against a cutbank or over a submerged rock or log.

    Despite daytime temps in the high 80s and low 90s, there was almost no sign of any hatch activity or the famous terresterials, even in the evenings. Who knows where the bugs went?

    A final trip to the NE corner of the park let me play in Soda Butte Creek for an all-too-short hour one sweltering 90ยบ afternoon, fighting off biting deer flies the size of small birds. The creek was gorgeous with wide gravel banks although slightly off-color with visibility of perhaps just 6 feet.

    Skunked for nearly an hour, an elk hair caddis drifted through one run and up against a cutbank produced the tiniest of takes - so small and subtle that I first thought I'd found another pod of fingerlings like those on the Madison. But my little 4wt bamboo quickly bent double and my reel screamed to life, correcting me that this was indeed a fish of consequence. Five minutes later I released an 18" Yellowstone Cutthroat that was my own Kodak Moment - if only I'd had the camera or had anyone else been there to snap it for me. Five casts later it was time to hike back to the truck to meet the others for an al fresco dinner overlooking the gorgeous Lamar Valley while listening for wolves in the surrounding hills.

    One final note: July 15 was the opening of the Yellowstone for fishing. As we drove that day from Canyon to the Fishing Bridge, I saw literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fly fishers. The water was thick with them, sometimes standing shoulder to shoulder in the broad, slow water. Every wide spot along the road was choked with cars and with fishermen rigging up, walking along, standing around BSing or getting ready to leave for another spot. I even saw one guy wearing breathables and a fluorescent pink lame wind jacket. Reminded me of combat fishing on the Kenai.

    On the long drive back, I mused that while my pilgramage to the Holy Water was a siginificant event in my fishing experience, the actual catching was far better within an hour or two of home.

    Here's a link to a composite panoramic shot looking east across the Hayden Valley with a buffalo herd in the foreground and the Yellowstone river at the base of the hills in the middle distance, perhaps a mile away.
  2. T Dub New Member

    Posts: 148
    Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Thanks for the report, Fortuna. Sorry you didn't get to fish/catch as much as you would have liked. I had the same experience last September. There's so much to see and do there. I love that place. Maybe when you go back, you will be able to fish more since the manditory sight seeing will have aleady been completed.

    Those Buffalo jams are fun, huh?!:eek:

  3. Hormel Member

    Posts: 64
    Seattle, Wa, USA.
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Glad to see your report, my experience was very similar to our "family trip". It was the small ball of trout fishing. I found myself fishing from 6-8 AM before the family was up. From the Madison campground I would pick up 0-3 fish each morning. The Firehole away from camp always treated me better than the Gibbon. Almost always on beadheads on a sinking line, I don't know why but that usually worked. The couple of times I got out on the evening hatch but I could never match the exact caddis so I retreated to a small Adams (since I was getting bitten by mosquitoes, duh) that usually worked for a couple of fish right off the campground on the Madison.

    A buffalo did follow me from the campground for about a 1/2-mile up the Gibbon one morning. That kept me moving and casting upstream at a good pace. Came across a bear while hiking, the kids thought that was neater than the wife and I did. I was constantly amazed at how quickly you could get away from the traffic. They say only 3% of the people leave the road or paved trails. We did all of the animal road stops and massive amounts of driving.

    I found a nice pod of bull trout in the picnic area above the falls on the Gibbon. They went after a small Cutt I had hooked like piranhas. I could get them to follow a myriad of streamers I threw out but I never hooked up. I was also never able to hit the 10:30 PMD hatch on the Firehole. We stayed on Rock Creek on the way back, got skunked and fell in, slippery little sucker as always.

    What was better was getting a 20" cutthroat and 18" rainbow first thing in the morning on the Madison in Ennis. We also hit a small spring creek there and got the kids into a couple of 10-12" browns. I would recommend staying in Ennis, not a lot of hiking but the kids had a blast at their 4th of July Parade and Rodeo, good small town stuff, lots of horses for the girl and cowboys for the boy.

    I look forward to going again with my fishing buddies, because dinner, s'mores, and bedtime really conflict with fishing. The kids will remember a lot of good times, and they still talk about the different kinds of scat....
  4. Starman77 Active Member

    Posts: 176
    Kent, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +69 / 0
    Hi, Kent! Nice report! Appreciate the way you tell it like it really is... combat fishing and all. Maybe old memories get better with age, but it seems like Yellowstone was a great place 40 years ago... Have things changed that much? I don't know...

  5. Nooksack Mac Active Member

    Posts: 1,945
    Bellingham, WA, USA.
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    The latest report from Bud Lilly's fly shop indicates that the Firehole River is now at 80 degrees Fnht., and that the trout should be left alone for the rest of the summer. As summers get hotter and drier, even Yellowstone Park is not immune.

    There's a lot of fine fishing in the park, a easonable walk or hike away from the highways and too-popular spots. (Now you have a reason to go back... No, you don't have to thank me.)
  6. Denny Active Member

    Posts: 4,044
    Seattle, WA, USA.
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    Nicely done, Kent.

    Notice you didn't fish the lake and the callibaetis; missed out, dude, especially when you were right there!:thumb
  7. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Posts: 7,136
    Not sure
    Ratings: +1,224 / 0
    I missed out on a lot of fine fishing in YNP. But life is all about time and priorities and mine was after all a *family* vacation. I like the sleeping arrangements in my house way too much to have forced it into a *fishing* vacation. Like the now-governor of California once said: "I'll be back."
  8. Longs for Cutts Member

    Posts: 337
    Gardiner, MT (formerly Bellingham)
    Ratings: +15 / 0
    Bull trout and cutthroat in the Gibbon???!!!

    There are no bull trout in Yellowstone. So far as I know, the closest bulls to YNP are in the Clark's Fork. There have never been any cutts in the Gibbon upstream from Gibbon falls, and those below the Falls were westslopes that are now extirpated from the upper Madison drainage. The river was fishless above the falls (except for sculpins) until it was stocked in the early 1900s. There are rainbows and grayling above the upper Gibbon Falls, upstream from Virginia Meadows, joined by brookies (and soon supplanted by them) below the upper Falls, and joined (and soon supplanted) by browns below Virginia Cascades. Below Gibbon Falls there are more rainbows again, as well as whitefish.

    Walter Wiese
    Parks' Fly Shop
    Licensed YNP guide