Trip Report Trip Report - Yellowstone Sunrise Slam

Went to lunch Thursday with a friend in Ennis. Smoke from the Goose Fire so bad it was tough to breath. Visibility was extremely poor and the mountains Montana is known for had gone invisible. So Friday morning I headed East, hoping to get better air and fish a stream with some semblance of normality. The gauge I rely on had just gone below 3000CFS. About 3-4 weeks early, but there was still plenty of water to be had. I was on the water at 5:30AM about a 1/2 hour before official sunrise. The access point which is usually empty at dawn, now had foreigners camping and taking up several parking spots, despite the fact that overnight camping is not allowed at this access. What was most disturbing was the scattered trash around the camping vehicles.
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Once on the water it takes me about an hour to get to the most productive stretch upstream from the access. The sun struggled to clear the mountains and low clouds to the East. A dull orange glow permeated the dawn light accentuated by the smoky air while I carefully moved upstream. Once above a major riffle I was able to fish off a mid-stream bar that grew significantly during run-off this year. The bar, now about 2-3’ deep, gives access to the main channel for at least 100 yards. Whitefish and a couple of spunky rainbows came to hand as I fished a big streamer off the bar.
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As I reached to channel I planned to fish, it was evident there was still sufficient flow to keep fish in the reach. Two deep riffle buckets separated by a wide shallow section still held fish. The long pool above the second riffle showed some bug activity while the upper most riffle bucket was too shallow with current flows. This channel will be toast within a week as the flows drop. It takes about 2 hours to fish this reach effectively. There are a lot of nuances that hold fish. As I fished up the reach with a #16 Bi-Visible a lot of fish came to hand. Caddis were about along with other mysteriously invisible bugs and the bi-visible was a decent imitation for the low light conditions. Browns, Yellowstone Cutts and rainbows all fell prey to the bi-visible.
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I’ve started carrying a stream thermometer with me as low flows and high daytime temps are indeed problematic this year. At 5:30AM temps in a fast riffle were 62 degrees. By 9:30AM I couldn’t find water that wasn’t below 68 degrees. It was early and things were going to warm up fast. A friend, who is an industry insider and I had a discussion recently about the efficacy of “Hoot Owl” closures on Montana streams. His opinion was that although well intentioned, they had little actual affect because once stream temps approached the upper boundaries of trout survival range, the fish just weren’t going to bite anyway. Antidotally, my experiences tends to validate this, at least on most SW Montana streams. Once water temps approach the high 60s, things really slow down and places you know hold fish just don’t produce.

I packed it up at 9:30 after achieving a Sunrise Slam on the Yellowstone—brown, cutt, rainbow and whitefish multiple times. As I made my way back to the access having seen no one else all morning, it was busy with outfitters and foreigners—Washington, Oregon. Utah, Idaho, Colorado and California launching their drift boats and rafts for a mid-day parade down the Yellowstone. One can hope they had a good day, but the warm water temps portends otherwise. As for me, when the crowds show up and the water warms to lethal levels, I am off the water heading home to whatever the other half wants me to do for the day.
 
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im near idaho falls, gee, can i go fly fishing with you some time? Me and my black lab would love it. we both need this. i've been here a year and haven't been to yellowstone yet. my health is ok but river walking is rough with my 4 new stents. i've owned 4 boats in my time.
 

MT_Flyfisher

Active Member
Mike -

A friend and I often fished that part of the river in the evening, from around 5:00 to dark, and we also had the whole river, or most of it, to ourselves, and to the hungry fish.

With the unusually low water and warm weather this year, fishing at the crack of dawn like you’re doing is much better than fishing in the evening, even if it was allowed.

99% of the fisherman there normally fish from 9 to 5. They float the same places on the river, and hammer those same poor fish over and over and over all day long, week upon week, all season long.

I could never understand why more guys aren’t like you (guides included) and fish very early in the morning, or later in the evening (when it’s not prohibited by hoot owl restrictions).

John
 

Mike.Cline

Bozeman, Montana
Mike -

A friend and I often fished that part of the river in the evening, from around 5:00 to dark, and we also had the whole river, or most of it, to ourselves, and to the hungry fish.

With the unusually low water and warm weather this year, fishing at the crack of dawn like you’re doing is much better than fishing in the evening, even if it was allowed.

99% of the fisherman there normally fish from 9 to 5. They float the same places on the river, and hammer those same poor fish over and over and over all day long, week upon week, all season long.

I could never understand why more guys aren’t like you (guides included) and fish very early in the morning, or later in the evening (when it’s not prohibited by hoot owl restrictions).

John
My sentiments exactly: The Matutinal Crespuscular Angler
 

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