Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yellowstone River Beat Down

That is actually a slight exaggeration, but since you have no clue what I'm talking about let me start at the beginning. My cousin Nathan is definitely all about fly fishing just so long as he is catching fish every now and again. In Yellowstone, our first day's trip turned out to be a bit tough on the less experienced fly fisher. My buddy Joe and I were catching our share of fish but not without making good casts and getting nearly perfect hook sets each time.

The plan for our second day in the Park was to head into one of the canyons on the Yellowstone River in search of salmonflies. Word in all the fly shops was that the bugs should be somewhere in the park but no one really seemed to know exactly where. On the way back from Slough Creek on day 1, I saw a lot of salmonflies around the bridge on the northeast entrance highway. Things were looking good for day 2!

We woke up and after a good hot breakfast headed down into the canyon. Upon reaching the bottom, we headed upstream a good half a mile or more to get away from another group of anglers that were fishing where the trail hit the river. When we finally reached the spot we were going to start at I saw a few big bugs flying around. Since the main goal of this trek into the canyon was to hit the salmonfly hatch, I tied on a big nasty dry that looked a bit like the naturals that were out and about. The hatch was definitely not a blizzard hatch by any means but why settle for less? I wanted to fish dries and so I did, for a while anyway.

Our first stop produced fish for all three of us. Joe hooked a couple good fish and Nathan started cleaning up. I had convinced Nathan to bring his spinning rod. The fast paced canyon water was ideal for throwing a small spinner and the cutts are dumb as far as trout go. I figured Nathan would have a decent day.

About the time that things started to really get going, the sky clouded up and thunder started rumbling in the distance. As the storm got closer, we saw the lightning strikes approaching until we didn't feel too comfortable fishing anymore. Standing in the middle of water waving a lightning rod during a thunderstorm doesn't seem too intelligent so we headed over to the base of a hill to wait out the storm. The rain never got too hard and we took advantage of the lull in fishing to eat our lunches. Finally the storm moved on to the east and we started fishing again.

Within just a few minutes Nathan had taken the lead as far as numbers go. I managed a few and Joe was doing fairly well. As we moved upstream Joe and I started to regain the upper hand until we reached a nice side channel that was absolutely full of structure.

As we were moving up, I kept fishing the dry for awhile and missed some nice fish on it. Eventually it became obvious that the fish were looking for something subsurface. Salmonfly nymphs with a caddis pupa dropper seemed like a good combination, and both Joe and I were wearing them out. Then Nathan got things going and put on a clinic.

For probably 30 minutes Nathan stood at the edge of a nice run in the side channel and caught fish on nearly every cast. Most of them weren't as large as the ones coming to the fly but nice fish nevertheless. He was using a small gold spinner, and I suspected the fish were taking them for golden stoneflies. This suspicion was affirmed when I tied on a Golden Stonefly nymph from James Marsh and started catching fish again. There were a few of the bugs in the air but obviously the majority were still in the nymph stage migrating towards shore. The best tactic seemed to be a dead drift followed by a slow swing towards shore. Most of the time the fish would take the fly right at the end of the swing.

In general I feel that I can catch more fish on a fly rod (as long as we don't factor live bait into the equation), but this was clearly a day that the fish liked spinners. I had the most success when I used flies that were similar in size and color to the spinner my cousin was using and also used a similar retrieve.

Joe and I redeemed ourselves a bit by catching one of many doubles for the day. What made this one special was that Joe caught two fish at once. Is there such thing as a double double in fishing?

Eventually we fished up to a high ridge that blocked upstream progress unless we felt like doing some climbing. We stopped As it was late in the day, we headed back downriver, hitting the best spots again as we went. Everyone caught a few more fish, but Nathan was still firmly in the lead as far as numbers for the day. Another storm moved in and convinced us to hustle on up the trail to the car.

Upon reaching the top, we looked back across the canyon. A gorgeous double rainbow greeted us, arcing down into the canyon we had just left. We had already found the pot of gold though...lots of cutthroat trout...


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  2. Im glad I made the trip out there. It was just like old times, except I was spanking you in Yellowstone instead of the Smokies :)

    (old times meaning when we were less than teens and you were first learning to use the fly rod)

  3. Looks like a great trip! Nice photos. Thanks for the post.

  4. Hey David. Looks like a great day. Thanks for the info on the antiques. I decided to go modern. Tight lines.

    Mark (Shoreman)

  5. Great pictures and loved reading about your trip. Yellowstone is an incredible place.

    Thanks for sharing!