YNP, Yellowstone, Madison 07.30.2012

There are places in the Park that change every year, river bottoms undergo a massive change each season.  Ever read the Living River?  If you fish river at all, it gives a wonderful perspective of the Madison River and the changes it has went through during the days of Charlie Brooks.  The 6X6 bull elk rack, above from today, was not in this spot last fall, when I was here last.  I wonder if the river brought it downstream and left it here for us to enjoy?

The Lamar is on it’s way down, after a huge plug of mud from thunder storms in the NE Corner found it’s way in the river.  The Yellowstone in Montana blew out as well, but things have settled down a bit on that side of the Park and the Yellowstone has 2.5-3 feet of visibility.  I heard mixed reports today…..we are headed over to there tomorrow as long as the flows keep dropping by morning.  When the NE Corner is clear, it has been fishing well with ants, hoppers, smallish PMXs, various mayfly patterns and Wulff Cripples.

The Madison River in MT has the best flows for this time of the year since I started guiding it, 14 years ago.  The temps coming off Hebgen Lake are a bit warm in the afternoon, however, the river is still holding it’s own from dawn till about 3pm.  If we can get PPL and FWP to release these flows once the damn is fixed, the Madison will explode with trout.  Not that there aren’t good fish in the Madison, but we all know there could be a few more larger trout.

Yellowstone Spring

All winter long I write about Yellowstone National Park and post, from time to time, a few things about fly fishing.   During the summer, I hardly ever I write about the curiosities of Yellowstone as fishing consumes me.  Hiking without a fly rod is simply strange……as most of you know, the Park waters are not yet open to fishing, therefore I had to leave the rod at home.   Most of the rivers in YNP are muddy and should be clear by the end of June.  The Firehole will be fishable when the Park opens at the end of this month.

My wife, the Park Ranger, and I took hike yesterday up Specimen Ridge to look for petrified trees which have been exposed from wind, snow and rain erosion.  Yellowstone has the largest collection of petrified trees in the United States, some say the world.  A few trees are upright, in the growing position, yet geologists argue whether or not these trees actually grew right here or got pushed to this place by glaciers or mud flows…….geologists love to argue.    40-55 million years ago, these trees were covered in ash and volcanic mudflows.  At one point in time Redwoods grew here, telling us that the climate was much warmer and closer to the ocean, than today.

This blue grouse, or dusty grouse, was in full mating display for several minutes.  We sat down, watched and listened as he courted the female about 3 feet away.  Springtime in Yellowstone is one of the best time frames for seeing wildlife without the crowds of summer.   We saw eight different bears on our drive through the Park, two different sets of a sow and two cubs, and two different single griz browsing for food.  Don’t forget that bear spray!

Looking forward…..Fall is almost here.

Fall Colors

Not sure where time has gone this summer, down the river I suppose.   Seems like it should only be the first of July, but here we are sitting at the third week of August.  Morning temps have been hovering around 35 degrees and a hint of Fall is in the air.  Upland Bird season starts in 11 days.  Stella, my 10 month old pointer, has no idea what she is in for.  Huck, the 10 yr old, looks at me with anticipation when I get the double out for a once over with oil.  Archery Elk Season starts in early September and I haven’t shot my bow in weeks.   I normally head out to scout a couple of watering holes this time of the year, but since the season has barely slowed down, I have yet to get out in the woods for a walk.  

More fall colors. September 2010.

 The Madison is moody, but the wade stretch seems to be fishing more consistent than the float stretch.  The NE Corner continues to fish very well on most days and walking will find you some solitude.  There are still mayflies emerging on the Madison and rivers in YNP……as well as a few Salmonflies.   The Spruce Moth has been producing pretty good action below Lyons, Windy and around the Slide.  Nocturnal Stones are hatching around Ennis and above, but prolific hatches are rare in most years.  I have seen a few wet shucks on gravel bars below Windy Point and this hatch should get our big trout looking up once again with regularity.  There are tons of little trout (3-6 in) eating flies on the Madison.  The big fish are there, but are sneaky….very sneaky.   Large fish, in my opinoin, become nocturnal over the course of the summer and feed on small trout, sculpins and dead insects.  Time of day and section of river is very important when fishing dry flies and looking for big fish.  Spruce Moths are lazy and need the sun’s warmth to get moving.  10’oclock is just about right for them.  Big fish will come out looking for the moth, but small trout are fast and not too weary.  Hoppers need the sun as well and the afternoon bite has been spotty, but good.   This should continue to get better and better as we head on through August and into September.   Speaking of September……..we are just about 4 weeks away from seeing the first Fall Run Brown Trout to enter the Madison River in Yellowstone Nat’l Park.  Last year’s run was unreal and I would bet that things will be the same for this year.  If you are planning a trip out here this September, now is the time to get things rolling.  We have openings for trips throughout the entire month of September while October is already filling up.    Give us a call!

Yellowstone National Park – Fishing Report

Gordon, Phillip & Herm - love'n it.

Gordon, Phillip and I have fished together for the past 9 years.  This season, they brought another family member along, Uncle Herm, to experience Yellowstone and Montana’s fly fishing.  Thus far, we have had a blast walking all over the NE Corner catching cutties on dry flies.  Sound like fun?  September will be just as good……you coming out?  You should…..

Gordon, somewhere in YNP.

Walking will get you places that no one else goes to.  While these types of trips aren’t for everyone, there is just something about fishing all day without seeing a single person.  Try that on the Soda Butte near the confluence of the Lamar…..not a snow balls chance in hell.  Bear spray is a requirement when walking in the backcountry of YNP, actually, one should be carrying bear spray where ever they are in YNP.  Bears seem to be everywhere this season.  We found fresh griz tracks and saw the biggest pile of bear shit, still wet and green, that I have ever seen – ever.  It felt as if someone or something was watching us all day long.

The white Alpha Female - Canyon Pack

While driving through the Gibbon Meadows in YNP, this wolf was eating an elk calf.    At one point, when the crowd got too much for her, she picked up the elk calf and carried it back in the trees.  Apparently, some folks watched as several wolves chased a herd of elk through the meadow, across the Gibbon River, over the road and then this wolf caught a calf.  

Ruffed Grouse

What I like about hiking in YNP, is that one can see lots of wildlife and fishing almost becomes secondary.  Sure, we are here to fish, but if you really enjoy the out of doors, then watching wildlife should be just as cool.  Our trips in to Yellowstone National Park focus on fly fishing, but we often stop to view wildlife and that does cut into the fishing time.   Rarely will we fish 8 hours when traveling over to the NE Corner of Yellowstone.  Normally, we get in about 5-6 hours of fishing as the drive back and forth takes up a bit of time. 

Griz on the Soda Butte.

Yellowstone National Park

Somewhere in YNP

 The Italians (Enrico & Andrea) and I have been hiking around YNP for the past two days.  We have spent our time in the NE Corner of Yellowstone and no, I won’t say exactly where.  It has taken me over 15 years to figure some of these spots out and flat out saying where we are fishing just ain’t cool.   Today was fantastic with trout rising all day.  Grab your boots, a buddy,  some bear spray, your dry flies and start hiking.  I was introduced to the NE Corner of YNP back in 1992 – Thanks Dad.  All these streams will fish on through September with hoppers, ants, beetles, spruce moths, stoneflies and mayfly imitations.  We have one more day of fishing and I still have yet to make the decision on where to go for their last day. 

Drying out.

 Most often, I will change flies about 3 times for refusing Cutthroat Trout.  That is what it usually takes……and a drag free drift of course, to hook these fish.  Cutties are known to be dumb, but they still want the fly drifting free.  Refusing a fly normally means that other adventurous anglers have been fishing these streams and like us -are having a blast fishing for trout which rise.  There are lots of nice cutthroat and cutt-bows in YNP this year.  I really have a problem with some folks who want to kill all the cutt-bows.    Politics and fly fishing don’t belong in the same conversation.  A fish is a fish and just because some poeple don’t want them around doesn’t mean they’re right.  SAVE THE CUTT-BOW!

Wood - old and new.

 This chunk of petrified wood weighed almost 30 lbs.  Large peices like this are rare anymore because they walked out in someone’s backpack.  While I really wanted to take this home, it is illegal to take anything out of YNP.  Now maybe someone else will be provoked to think about how long this peice of wood has been around – 50 Millions years?  Maybe so. 

Stonefly Shuck

YNP, Gulpers & a Guides day off

Griz on Dunraven Pass

Headed up Mnt Washburn a few days ago, this Grizzly was just off the road browsing the hillside.  It was early in the day, so we narrowly avoided the inevitable Bear Jam.   The rivers throughout the NE side of Yellowstone are dropping, clearing and fishing pretty damn well.   The Lamar is still high and crossing it in waders is probably not the best descison one could make.  The Yellowstone is also high, a bit chalky green but it’s trout are hungry.  With most hatches in full swing, it is not hard to find rising Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.  They have yet to get picky, but don’t worry, that’ll come soon enough.   Traffic in the park is not too bad, if traveling early or late.  Otherwise, one must take their patience pill and realize that most of these tourists have never, ever, ever, ever seen wildlife outside of a zoo.  I must say that parking your RVs on Dunraven Pass, 3 deep on a narrow turn, is rather stupid and inconsiderate when th pull off is right  behind you. 

Wade fishing on the Madison River

August on the Madison is shaping up to be pretty sweet.  The water is cool and the flows are just above normal. Salmonflies can still be found in very specific places (think needle in a haystack), but they are on the outs.  Caddis are thick river wide.  PMDs and Epeorus are beginning to show up as well.  Nymphing is working and the Mtn Whitefish are biting – but big trout are hooked everyday on the nymphs as well.   Thus far, the small dry fly game hasn’t worked all day long just yet.   Mornings have been cold – 35 to 40 degrees – and that makes life hard when your a half inch long insect, clinging to that willow branch trying hard to have sex and then die…..rough life.   Once things warm up, the dry fly is worth sticking to.  There are some nice trout rising this season in the Madison, but the little trout are fast to the fly and beat them to it quite often.  Like I’ve mentioned before – this river rewards skill. The big fish are really wild right now, appear out of no where and eat the fly coming down stream.   Will you hook that fish coming down?  You will if you wait just two more seconds and let him turn into the current……after he has eaten your fly and gone under water. 

Evening view from the front porch......not too bad.

B. Worley looking for lips.

For just a short few hours, three of us hit the lake looking for rising fish in a spot which has not yet been producing all that well.    It was busy with boaters, jet skiis, water skiers and a few anglers, luckily there were just enough fish up to make it interesting.   Getting out to fish once in awhile, during a crazy busy season like this one, recharges the batteries for the many hours spent behind the oars in the days to come.  

This Gulper ate it.