Day 1 - 7 Mile Hole: Yellowstone River
We had high hopes for the beautiful cutthroat trout Brent kept telling us about. He told us last time he fished it he stopped counting, the fish were so plentiful and eager. It was to be dry fly fishing with big bugs. Stone flies, both regular and golden, are coming off into the end of July. On top of the stones, there are plenty of hoppers. It's a dry fly paradise. Foam, or lots of hair, is a must, unless you don't mind reapplying floatant every other fish. It's also a must with the turbulent water along the river banks.
|Starting up the trail|
It is good fishing for a reason. The hike, for lack of a better word, sucks. It's a 5.5 mile hike one way. The first 3.5 miles in are relatively easy going. There are a few slight ups and downs, and the trail follows the "Grand Canyon of Yellowstone," presenting some beautiful views along the way. It is when you hit roughly the 3.5-4 mile mark that things get hairy. The next mile and a half is why some locals call it "7 mile hell."
|Grand Canyon of Yellowstone|
The trail then drops rapidly down a 1300' descent, full of switchbacks, loose dirt with gravel, and passes between thermal vents. The hike down and the hike up both have their pros and cons. We each slipped more than once on the way down, with some pretty epic falls. A good set of trekking poles would have been a nice addition.
Once down in the canyon you are presented with spectacular views both up and down river. The river was lower this year than it has been in times past. This made for a lot of turbulent water, but also made it so we could trek down river farther than is usually accessible. Upstream isn't even an option with a steep loose dirt wall you would have to be insane to venture along. Going downstream is tough hiking because of the steep bank and loose rock, but the fishing got even better if that can be believed.
|The new RIO Perception line is killer.|
The day was filled with beautiful cutthroat trout that averaged 12-16 inches. The largest we probably picked up was roughly 18 or 19". Almost every spot that looked good held at least one fish, if not multiple. The stone flies were still out, along with some goldens, though it was obvious they were winding down. I can't even imagine what it was like in the middle of that hatch.
If you ever decide to make the trip, be very careful. The river is full of unpredictable hydraulics. Brent waded a little bit right on the banks, but Shane and I kept it dry as much as possible. There's very little, if any, need to wade. I imagine on a higher water year there may be more need if someone wanted to access further downstream, but am not sure that's even a possibility with higher water.
|Trying for an underwater shot|
It is certainly bear and wolf country. The wild raspberries along the river bank were a treat, but made us all the more wary of unwanted visitors. In fact, after we went down river we were pretty certain we happened upon a couple wolf dens. Fortunately the occupants were out for the day. We had bear bells and pepper spray on the hip just in case. Never venture into this country without protection. It is rugged and bad things can happen really quick. For that matter, I wouldn't make the journey with any less than three people.
The fishing was so phenomenal that even the foam concoctions took a beating. This stonefly pattern had barred legs and check out that foam.
Apparently this marmot, I suppose we could call him Chuck, is a grumpy resident. He was there when Brent made the trip last year too. He kept an eye on us. It was fun to watch him watching us. My favorite part was when he would lay down on his stomach, like a sunbather, all the while still staring at us to make sure we weren't up to no good.
We had all caught enough fish to be considered gluttonous. Over 100 per person is an insane day of fishing. I even threw a streamer for a bit with fantastic results. With sore arms and shoulders we began the journey back. The hike out was rough, and it was such a relief to reach the top of the canyon. A storm rolled in just as we started the level part of the hike back. Rain, thunder, and lightening ushered us back to the truck. Little did we know it was a premonition of the rest of our trip. Once to the truck we headed to the Roosevelt Lodge for some dinner. The food was amazing and we would highly recommend it.
Day 2 - Tower Fall: Yellowstone River
We were beat. We decided to sleep in the second day, and head over to Parks' Fly Shop for some intel on where to fish when the rain comes and everything washes out, since it had been raining into the night. They were very helpful, but left us with somewhat low expectations for the day. We had initially planned on hitting Slough Creek, but it was too late in the day to really consider the 5 mile hike. Brent decided to stay at the camper for the day and try to catch up on some work.
|Shane being Shane|
So Shane and I took the truck and decided to try the Yellowstone again, but where Tower Creek dumps in. It's an extremely easy/short hike (1/2mile) from the parking lot down to the river. First thing we did was cross the creek and head down river for a bit. It was deep water with large boulders. I decided to throw a streamer in hopes of a larger fish, and Shane kept at the dry fly. I kept getting short, soft strikes from multiple fish, but with very few hookups. Shane had a few looks, but very little action outside of that. He headed back upstream (you can't go very far down stream before you run into impassible banks and big whitewater) and I kept trying to hook one of the many decent fish that would chase the streamer. After a while I decided to follow Shane up river, so I B-lined it to catch up to him, passing all the people playing in the water right below the trail's end. I threw a couple times on the way up to eddies behind the few rocks there were upstream, but without even a chase. Once I reached Shane he said he had only picked up one fish.
It was apparent that this section, with it's easy access, had a lot of pressure. As we headed up just a bit more we ran into a grizzled, but nice older gentleman heading back. He informed us that a bear had been sighted a bit further up and that there were no less than a dozen anglers up ahead of us. He had headed up early in the morning, to be the first on the water, and had hiked in a ways before fishing. It was no wonder we weren't having much luck, we were fishing sloppy dozen-ths.
|One of a few nearby bear tracks|
We fished around the bend a bit. With the streamer I was able to pick up at least a dozen fish, in the faster water that most of the others hadn't covered. Shane stuck it out with the dry, but with little success. A storm began rolling in and we decided to call it a day.
As we finally (there's was road construction between Tower Fall and the Roosevelt Lodge) pulled out of the parking lot, the clouds broke open and it began to pour. We had initially planned on staying and fishing somewhere in the morning for a little while before heading home, but we began rethinking this plan on the way back to camp.
The Gardiner River was full-blown chocolate milk. This sealed the deal. We decided to head home that night despite our already paid for reservation at the RV park.
As we discussed it we decided to camp the last night somewhere closer to home and try fishing there for a bit in the morning. So we loaded up and headed that direction.
During the whole trip we only saw a handful of animals, none of which were buffalo. That had to be the first time I've been in the park without seeing a buffalo.
We pulled up to the ranch just as the sun was setting and a storm was passing over. We fished for an hour without any luck. The ranch is a tricky place when there aren't any hatches and the terrestrials have all gone to bed.
It was one of those trips where you learn a lot. Next year we'll know what things to prepare and plan for. The first day on the Yellowstone is what made the trip. We'll definitely be back.