Photo of the Month: Ol' Gator Mouth

Photo of the Month: Ol' Gator Mouth
Showing posts with label Yellowstone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yellowstone. Show all posts

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Summer Snowstorm in Yellowstone

The same weather system that brought such enjoyable fishing on the Gibbon River turned decidedly colder as the day wore on. After fishing longer than I deserved, the rain had begun in earnest and my lovely wife was getting cold and wet watching me fish. It was time to give up on the fishing and look for warmer ways to spend the remainder of our day. Getting in the car, we cranked up the heat and debated where to go. A late day drive seemed like a good idea. Perhaps a bear or wolf might be out wandering around in the deteriorating weather looking for one last meal before the weather got too nasty.

After some discussion, we pointed the car towards Mammoth Hot Springs and embarked on a long loop drive through the northern reaches of Yellowstone National Park. Rain was fairly steady by this time although not particularly heavy. In fact, if it was much lighter I probably could have fished the Gardner River. As is usually the case, the rain mostly eased off in the vicinity of Mammoth Hot Springs. Some of the resident elk were out grazing and I snapped a couple of quick pictures out the window as we rolled past. 



A quick restroom stop allowed me to get a picture or two of one of my favorite western birds. Magpies are so striking and one of the big treats for me when I travel in the Rocky Mountain states. Since I don't get to see them often, I have to try and take at least a few pictures of them when I'm in their native range. Someone had dumped some trail mix or something similar in the middle of the parking lot. Magpies were coming from all around to get in on the excitement. I patiently waited in the car and snapped pictures as they swooped in for a snack. Here are a couple of my favorite pictures.



While the rain was minimal at Mammoth, we still had to travel back to camp at Norris and our intended route travelled up and over Dunraven Pass. The loop would take us to nearly 9,000 feet in elevation and with the cold weather, I was wondering if the pass would still be open. Snow was a distinct possibility even though it was still summer supposedly. The calendar said August, but the chill in the air suggested an early winter might be descending on Yellowstone.

As we began our long ascent towards the pass, the views opened up long enough to see what was happening up towards Mount Washburn. At this point, I was certain we would see snow. The only question that remained was how much. 


Thankfully, there were not too many other vehicles out and about. We were able to take our time and enjoy what will likely be the only August snowstorm either of us ever experience. The woods were magical. The snow was heavy and wet, coating all the trees with a thick white blanket. I was mildly nervous as I didn't relish the idea of spending the night out on a snowy road, but eventually we were over the pass and back on a downhill grade. 



By the time we reached Canyon, the snow had turned back to a fine light rain which continued all the way back to our camp at Norris. The snow stayed just a few hundred feet above us that night, but when morning broke I had a good idea. With the fresh snow, it was time to visit the Tetons. Check back soon for pictures from that adventure!


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Journey West

For many people like me who happen to be avid trout anglers in the eastern United States, the holy grail of our sport is a pilgrimage west. For some, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to cast flies in streams where trout are large and plentiful and the bugs hatch like clockwork. For others, this is an annual or semi-annual tradition. While I have been blessed to travel and even live in the west more than I deserve, every trip still excites me as if it is my first and perhaps only trip.

Preparing for the Trip

As my good friend Byron Begley of Little River Outfitters once said, "preparation is a form of anticipation." While this quote comes from the excellent daily fishing report from his shop, it is actually referencing his own preparations for a big fly fishing trip. So much goes into getting ready for each and every trip. There are may flies to be tied of course. This is true even if one's fly boxes are already crammed full to overflowing. Most fly anglers take the Boy Scouts Motto to the extreme. Being prepared is good and all, but when you decide to take your wife's Toyota Corolla on the long awaited road trip to Yellowstone for the good gas mileage, space is at a premium and extra fly boxes start to look an awfully lot like clutter.

I slowly pulled together an increasingly mountainous pile of gear. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I ordered a new two person sleeping pad. When it didn't fit in my two man tent, I also had to buy a new tent. Such is life when you are getting ready for a big trip. Unforeseen dilemmas appear and must be dealt with, but the preparation marches steadily towards the climax when suddenly you find yourself loading the car carefully, fitting each piece in like a jigsaw puzzle. The thought is always tickling your brain that it might not be possible to get everything back in the car for the return trip, but you move forward and hope for the best.

Departing for the West

On the day of our departure, my wife Leah had to work before we actually left. The plan was for me to pack the car and do all of the last minute chores around the house. When she got home, we planned to head west for an all-night drive. We had reservations in the Black Hills of South Dakota for the next evening so it was essential to make good time that night. We hit I-40 west from Crossville Tennessee at around 6:00 pm Central time. The sun was sinking low in the sky as we approached Nashville. By the time we were in Kentucky, the reality of a long night ahead was setting in.

Other than quick stops for gas, we kept on moving through the night. Paducah and St. Louis came and went. Finally, as I approached Kansas City at 2:00 am, I was getting sleepy. Knowing that a bit of rest was crucial for the hard push west that day, we found a rest area and stopped for a quick snooze. Four hours later, Leah woke up and felt ready to drive. I felt like I had taken NyQuil and just could not bring myself out of the fog. I guess I'm getting too old for these late nights and long drives.

Enter South Dakota

As the sun came up, we were soon in Iowa and then South Dakota. Excited to finally be out on the plains, I was awake and took over driving duties for the rest of the day. Of course, it would be a long day. The plan was to stop briefly in the Badlands on our way to the Black Hills. We arrived there late in the day and made the quick drive through the Park. Wildlife abounded and we saw several interesting birds and animals including mule deer, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, a lone bison, and a burrowing owl.







The sun was setting as we merged back onto I-90 headed west towards Rapid City. There we would leave the interstate and head southwest into the heart of the Black Hills. It was well after dark as we pulled into Hill City and found our accommodations for the night. Both of us were extremely tired and fell asleep shortly after hitting the bed. The next morning I felt like a new person. A good night's rest and nice breakfast had me ready for another big day.

Big Day Two

The agenda for that day was optimistic: stop by Mt. Rushmore, drive through the scenic Spearfish Canyon, see Devils Tower in Wyoming, get groceries for the weekend ahead, and finally snag a campsite in the Bighorn Mountains near the Medicine Wheel for the night. Amazingly, we kept moving and made it all happen. As the sun sank low in the sky, we had our tent setup at the Bald Mountain Campground near the Medicine wheel just off of highway 14A high in the Bighorn Mountains. Nearby, cattle kept things interesting for motorists by wandering along the highway throughout the night. The occasionally honking reminded us that, while it might seem that we were in the middle of nowhere, civilization was still just a car ride away.




The Moose Magnet Legend Grows 

This day was a continual list of highlights. The prairie dogs highly entertained us at Devils Tower while a moose spotting added to a growing legend. My car, the Moose Magnet, was not with us on this trip. Leah's car gets better gas mileage and we decided that would be more important than marginally better comfort. The sun was getting low as we ascended the Bighorn Mountains. Driving up a high mountain valley complete with a meandering meadow lined with seemingly endless willows, I mentioned to Leah that she should keep her eye out for moose as it was excellent moose habitat. As I drove around a curve a quarter mile later, I saw it and added, "Like that moose over there..." Sure enough, a large bull moose was feeding below us in the waning light. Just up the road, we would spot a second moose, this time a cow. By the time our trip was over, more moose would be spotted prompting my wife to suggest that perhaps I was the moose magnet and not my car. I countered with the suggestion that maybe my awesome car had just rubbed off on her car. Regardless, in the meantime the legend continues to grow.



Medicine Wheel Wildlife

Waking up the next morning as the sun was rising, we decided to head over to the Medicine Wheel and let the sun warm things up before taking down our dew laden tent. I'm always in awe at the Medicine Wheel. The large stone "wheel" lying on the shoulder of a mountain in the northwest Bighorn Mountains is around tree line which makes for some incredible views. While we were there, heavy smoke from fires across the west made visibilities restricted. The Bighorn Basin was completely obscured. Views to the east across the Bighorns were marginally better but still not great. The marmots and pikas proved to be a highlight of our visit to the Medicine Wheel. Already some of my favorite creatures, Leah also fell in love with them, particularly the pikas.



Western Cattle Roundup

Upon returning to camp, we noticed several cowboys and cowgirls heading out. As it turns it, we were fortunate to witness a roundup. The free range cattle that had been startling drivers on the road the night before were pointed down the valley. Snow was not far away at this late point in the summer and the ranchers were apparently moving them towards lower elevations. This was perhaps one of Leah's favorite parts of the trip in no small part because of watching the herd dogs helping out. The dogs looked like they were having the time of their lives and so were we watching them work.

Repacking for Yellowstone

The sun finally dried things out. I am always amazed at how fast this process can happen in the dry climate of the American west. Taking down a tent and putting it back up is much better if that tent is dry. We were soon back on the road and making the harrowing descent into the Bighorn Basin. This was the day we would make it into Yellowstone and we were both excited!!!

-To be continued...

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Trout Zone's 2015 Year in Review

With the end of the year comes the usual "Year in Review" posts proliferating on your favorite fly fishing blogs. Mine is no exception. This is a long running tradition that I try* to accomplish every year, not for my readers but for myself. Not everyone is able to enjoy the adventures that I experience on a yearly basis, and reliving those moments reminds me of how blessed I truly am.

If you are interested in catching up on some previous years' posts, here are a couple of my favorites.

2014 Year in Review

2011: Quality Fishing


Just looking over those two posts reminded me of the great times I've had. I'm also reminded of the tough times. Checking the archives reminded me that I did not do a year in review for 2013. That probably has something to do with a transition back to TN from Colorado and career change. Regardless of how exciting that can be, it also comes with a lot of stress and difficulty. Thankfully, 2015 has been a very good year, both for the second year of my new venture as a fly fishing guide, and also for my own fly fishing and exploring opportunities.

Early in the year, I had one of those memorable days of streamer fishing that every streamer junkie dreams about. As it turns out, that would be a precursor of things to come.

As the winter continued, the early pleasant weather of December and January gave way to some of the nastiest winter weather. Not one but two ice storms pounded the Cumberland Plateau. In between the crazy weather, I did manage to enjoy some time on the Hiwassee and experienced first-hand how successful the delayed harvest has become.


Once the ice hit, we were knocked out of business for a while. With electricity (and Internet) out for 10 days, I returned to the days of the pioneers. Turns out that is not necessarily a bad thing! I got to bed early every night (what else was I going to do?), building up strength that was then spent cleaning up from the general devastation. We're still seeing and hearing limbs coming down from the ice storm.


As we rolled into March, some of the biggest news of the year happened, at least if you were a Smoky Mountain fisherman: Lynn Camp Prong was opened after a multi-year closure to restore the native southern Appalachia brook trout. There are still way too many people fishing that stream for my taste, but another year or so should fix that as people get it out of their systems and move back to trying other equally good (or arguably better) waters.

Also in March, I added a new state to my list of places fished. A pleasant trip down to South Carolina to see my cousin gave us time to catch up and get some much needed spring fishing in. Tennessee was still trying to catch up from the cold weather and our spring hatches were a bit delayed. In South Carolina, I found both bugs and rising trout although most fish were caught subsurface.

Shortly thereafter, I managed to sneak away for a day of brook trout fishing in the Smokies. This turned out to be one of my favorite days of fishing for the year. Admittedly, I do have a few of those. Another was soon to come in fact.


Squeezing a fishing and camping trip around a guide trip, I managed to fish more new water (I did that a LOT in 2015!). This time it was a trip over to the North Carolina side of the Park. Not only did I get in some streamer fishing (there's that theme again!), but I hiked up a stream that I had wanted to fish hard for a while and had a banner day.


Guide trips were in full swing by the end of April and we were seeing hatches complete with rising trout nearly every day. Not just a few bugs here and there, but lots of bugs across all of the streams fished. Important lessons were learned in the process as the fish become just selective enough that you actually needed to have more or less the right bug on the end of your line.

May continued with more of the same great fishing and catching. Two highlights in particular stand out for that month. The first was a float trip with my dad down the Caney Fork. We spent a considerable amount of time teaching him to both cast and to set the hook, but once that was accomplished things went quite well. Late in the month, around guide trips and other things that kept me busy overall, I had a banner day fishing for smallmouth on a Cumberland Plateau stream that yielded my largest small stream smallie to date.


June was busy enough with my guiding that it tied for the month with the second fewest blog posts. The guiding went quite well, however, with a Father's Day guided float trip seeing a big trout landed on the Caney Fork.

In July, we received a much needed shot in the arm with rain finally falling after an extended period of low flows in the mountains. This cool deluge brought down stream temperatures, boosted flows, and got the fish interested in feeding heavily again. One of the highlights of the year guiding was having a return client nail a big brown trout on a terrestrial in the Smokies. We were both really happy about that!

The streamer theme for the year really took off in early August. A change of plans had my cousin and his father-in-law throwing streamers on high water on the Caney. We found some willing trout and some big ones at that! This fish tied for my largest of the year although I think my Yellowstone trout took the top honors for several reasons.


Speaking of Yellowstone, the last two weeks of September were dedicated to a long anticipated fly fishing trip to Yellowstone. I camped and fished until I was tired and ready to go home. In fact, I still owe you some posts on my trip there! The best day of the whole trip from a catching standpoint happened early, on the second day in fact. It began with epic fishing for cutthroat trout and finished with the big brown trout that I had travelled all that way to catch.


I returned from Yellowstone to a busy guide schedule in the peak of the fall fishing season. This was a great October for fishing across middle and east Tennessee. Float trips on the Caney saw some of the lowest numbers of the season but we still saw quality trout including this big rainbow. Fly fishing in the mountains was excellent. Fish were rising to dry flies well but also taking patterns like my Isonychia Soft Hackle like there was no tomorrow. The fall colors were as good as I can ever remember.


This good fishing continued into November and then December, almost like fall had never ended. The leaves were off the trees but the fish kept eating like it was October. In fact, the largest fish caught on a guide trip this year came in early December in the Smokies. This is actually a very good time to target large brown trout in the Smokies, but we admittedly got lucky since we were not sight fishing to this bad boy. What a great big brown trout!

With the holiday season came rain. Lots and lots of rain. In fact, I unfortunately had to cancel guide trips this week with high water dominating in the mountains. Better to cancel a trip though then to take someone's money and spend the whole day looking for fishable water or at least that's my opinion.

In between guide trips, I still found a few fish for myself to catch as well!


As we move into the near year of 2016, I'm excited to see what is in store for me, Trout Zone Anglers, and fishing across middle and east Tennessee. I'm currently taking bookings well into spring 2016 so if you are hoping to spend a day on the water with me in 2016, book the trip soon. I can tailor a day on the water to suit your goals. If the adventures I had in 2015 look like something you would like to experience, then email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884 to book your day on the water.


*Note that try only corresponds with actual achievement some of the time.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Diversity: Yellowstone Day Three

Gallatin River, Yellowstone National Park

After being fortunate enough to catch a big brown trout which was the fish of the trip, I knew that I needed a day to just explore. While I would like to think that my skill helped me to have such a great day on day two, in reality I'm just an average fisherman who was blessed to experience near perfect conditions and everything came together for that magical day. Not to mention that I have some great friends who have taught me a lot about chasing the large brown trout in places like the Gibbon River and even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and again. Thus it was that day three was as much a break to return to reality as anything. To fully appreciate the great day I had, I needed a normal day of fishing.

By this time, my friend Kevin had arrived for a couple of days on his way through to Montana for guide school. He needed to get into town for a couple of things so we decided to hit West Yellowstone for some Internet and errands and then roll up the road to the Gallatin. The good folks in Blue Ribbon Flies gave us an honest report. That is to say that they didn't act very enthusiastic and suggested that it was a bit late in the season for this river to fish well. However, the gentleman we spoke with also mentioned that he would be curious to hear how we did which suggested there was at least a little hope.

Undeterred, we headed north and soon found ourselves rigging up alongside highway 191 which runs through the far northwest corner of Yellowstone. I found myself ready before Kevin, probably since I had already been fishing for a couple of days and had two or three rods rigged and ready to go. Anxious to see what was happening, I headed down to the water. It didn't take long. A nice rainbow trout hammered a large nymph I was fishing. This is going to be good, I thought.


Remember that whole thing about a normal day of fishing? Well, in a normal day of fishing, a fish right off the bat is usually a bad sign. Turns out that it was a normal day of fishing. We worked very hard for a handful of fish. I did have the enjoyment of catching a cuttbow and whitefish to add a total of three more species to the list for my Yellowstone trip thus far.



Kevin needed to head on up to Bozeman for a bit so I headed back towards camp. Another late evening brown trout hunt yielded my fourth species for the day which was definitely awesome.


As day gave way to night, I had to pause and take it all in. The moon, approaching full status, reflected in a lazy meander of the Gibbon River near Norris Campground. The tranquility is something I would not have traded for anything. In the end, big fish are a blessing to be appreciated, but just as much so is the whole experience. All too often, I find myself so caught up in the effort to be catching that I forget to be fishing. As many of you already know, fishing is about a whole lot more than catching fish. I paused to thank the Creator for allowing me the opportunity to enjoy such a magnificent place.


Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Yellowstone Cutthroat Love the PB&J


With my Yellowstone vacation wrapped up, I'm still deciding whether or not I'm glad to be home or not. Like all good trips this one had to end, but not until I had caught plenty of big trout and enjoyed some unseasonably warm weather. Foul weather and large numbers of lake run fish would have been nice, but not waking up to lots of snow and freezing temperatures was also nice.

One of the best parts about the trip is that I threw streamers or hoppers almost exclusively except for when I dropped some soft hackles off of the streamer or large nymph for the lake run fish. Lots of streamers were thrown including one of my favorites, the PB&J.  As it turns out, Yellowstone cutthroat love the PB&J just about as much as Tennessee tailwater trout do. This despite the fact that there are not any shad around on the Yellowstone River, but the lack of shad did not seem to make the fish shy about eating it. Apparently it is just one of those patterns that catch fish under a large variety of circumstances.

I'm still in the middle of processing the many gigabytes of pictures that I took. Starting in another couple of days, I'll be guiding pretty steadily for a while also. That means that Yellowstone reports will come along but may stretch out over the next month or even two. Thank you for your patience. In the meantime, watch the Little River Outfitters message board for an initial abbreviated report and also my Facebook pages for the Trout Zone and Trout Zone Anglers for pictures and other tidbits from the trip. Some pictures will also show up on Twitter.

If you are looking for a guided fly fishing trip this month or next, the calendar is getting close to full. Book sooner as opposed to later or else I will be out of open dates. Right now, I have October 21 and 22 available as well as some days the last week of the month. November is looking a bit more open as of right now, but the inquiries are starting to come in so don't wait too long. Contact me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com if you are interested in a guided fly fishing trip in the Smokies or on the Caney Fork River.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Story Time

Today's entertainment is over on the fishing report at Trout Zone Anglers.  I got to rambling about trips to Yellowstone in warm weather.  Enjoy the story and the pictures of the big brown trout!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Head Gear

Recently, while cruising through the Big Thompson River canyon, we spotted a bunch of Bighorn Sheep.  That in itself was not particularly unusual or shocking, but the cool part of the trip was seeing a group of 3 mature rams hanging out on and around the highway.  These bad boys were sporting some serious head gear, and I would hate to be on the receiving end of a headbutt from one of these critters.


Of course, it didn't take long for me to begin pondering the implications for fishermen.  After all, one of the most important pieces of equipment that we have is our favorite lucky fishing hat.  Not only does it have all that good fish-catching mojo stored away, but it also shades and protects our eyes so they can spot fish.  But imagine this now: What if fly shops started selling head gear that very closely resembled something a viking sailing the north Atlantic would feel comfortable wearing.  Imagine how intimidated the trout will be when they see that coming down the stream at them.  They will probably just role over and wave the surrender fin...

I think I'm onto something here, but it will probably take me a while to discover how to come up with some Bighorn Sheep horns legally and more important cheaply.  In the meantime, here's an old one but a good one of what I might look like with quality elk head gear...


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Glad to NOT be in Yellowstone

Temperatures across Wyoming were bitterly cold this morning. For once I'm glad to NOT be in Yellowstone. It was -39 at the Canyon Ranger Station compared to a relatively balmy -17 at Mammoth. On the plus side, the water supply in Yellowstone is looking great for next summer with current predictions stating that
The Upper Yellowstone, Snake, Shoshone, Clarks Fork, Little Snake, and Laramie Watersheds are expected to see normal to above normal snowmelt stream volumes this spring and summer.
After the low flows and warm water temperatures last summer, this is some of the best news in awhile...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Yellowstone Days 4 and 5


I finally found a little time to add another short post about Yellowstone. The first of these two days was spent on the Lamar and upper Soda Butte. The next day was for fishing the Yellowstone River and it was quite memorable.

When I woke up and looked out of my tent on day 4, I saw two fawns and two does grazing quietly through our campsite. It was a treat to have these animals coming so close and I snapped a few quick pictures. One of the fawns gave me the opportunity for this shot as he peered at my with curiosity.


We decided to give the canyon section of the Lamar a shot and accordingly scrambled down to the river from the road above. When we got there, we started out using big dries which seemed like a solid bet. Strangely, the fish just weren't looking up at all. I soon switched over to some nymphs and started catching a few fish but nothing particularly noteworthy. I had on one decent fish that would have been nice to land but it through my flies. Here in the canyon section we were catching mainly cuttbows along with a few cutts.


The afternoon provided another opportunity to check out upper Soda Butte during the afternoon closures on lower elevation streams. Once again, it provided us with some great moments and nice fish.


The next day would prove to be much more memorable. We had decided to hike in at Tower Falls and fish upriver from there on the advice of a couple guys from Bud Lilly's Trout Shop that camped next to us. This turned out to be an excellent bit of advice but things developed slowly. Once again, upon arriving streamside, we started out throwing large dries such as chernobyl style flies and big stimulators. We were rising a few fish but felt that things could be much better. Finally, even though I really wanted to fish dries, I put on a double nymph rig and a couple of indicators about 4-5 feet above. This proved to be the ticket with a beadhead PT and a small black simi seal leech both doing well. Now, hardly a drift went by without getting a strike. All the fish were solid cutthroat in the 10-16 inch range that fought well in the powerful current of the mighty Yellowstone. Finally, we had to quit fishing as the afternoon closure approached but I'll be back to fish this section, hopefully during the salmonfly hatch next time.



On the hike out, we saw many bones, at least some were probably from kills made by the park's large predators. This large elk skull and antlers would have made a great souvenir if it was legal to keep such things...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Eyes Turn Westward

As summer approaches, the realization that my trip west is approaching has me scouring the Internet for any and all information on the Montana and Wyoming areas. I enjoy keeping track of the fishing Journal at Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone just to see what they have been catching and what works at various times of the year. The Dakota Angler & Outfitter maintains a fishing report as well that I check from time to time. Western South Dakota really has some excellent fishing and is a must-fish stop for me when heading to the Yellowstone area.

The latest word from the Billings Gazette in Montana appears to indicate the the Mother's Day Caddis are starting on the Yellowstone River. Rumors have been floating around of good numbers of caddis showing on the famed Arkansas River in Colorado as well. Of course, this leaves me wondering why I chose to head west at the hottest and most crowded time of the summer. Some of my best fishing in western South Dakota has been during early May to mid June. The early season in Yellowstone National Park can be an experience as well. The Firehole is often one of the best options for early season fishing in the park and it provides reliable hatches of BWOs, PMDs and evening caddis.

The early season can be a hazardous time to plan a trip around however. Depending on runoff, most western rivers will be high and dirty at best and quite possibly downright unfishable. If you time it right however, early season fishing can be among the best of the year as the crowds are nowhere to be seen and big trout hungrily feast on the bounty of spring. This can be the best time to fish the high country lakes throughout the Rockies. The expert stillwater fisherman will generally all tell you that the time for large fish is either soon after ice-out or in the late fall just before everything freezes. Some of my best early spring memories involve high country lakes. From Apache trout in Arizona to Grayling in Yellowstone, the early season often provides non-stop action for the adventuresome angler.

That's all well and good, but this year I'm going to settle for the terrestrial action of summer. I've been dreaming about the big Cutts in Yellowstone for awhile now and this is the year to make it happen, which reminds me...I've gotta tie some flies....