Around this time of year for the past 40 years I drive into Yellowstone National Park and fish the Firehole River. The Firehole opens to fishing on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and a lot of my friends like to be there for the opener. I like to wait ten days to two weeks after the opener before I fish the river. Experience has taught me that the PMD and caddis hatches are much stronger and more consistent then. This year proved to be no different. I got to the river at 10:30 am just in time for the start of the PMD hatch. The hatch developed into a pretty strong one but I didn’t see as many fish feeding as I thought I should given the strength of the hatch. I blamed the lack of activity on the theory that the hatch was just starting and that the fish had not seen enough of the flies to really get into them. Also, the river was bank full due to snowpack runoff. I believe that when river flows are that strong the fish don’t like to fight the heavier current to rise to any hatch that might be occurring. Heavier flows tend to provide fish with more drifting food sources subsurface so the fish feed more readily on those drifting organisms. Whatever the reason there just wasn’t the activity that I thought there should have been given the strength of the hatch. That is not to say there were no fish working the hatch. I did manage to find a few fish up and feeding on adult PMD’s. The beautiful thing about this early season PMD hatch is that the adults are about a size #14 which is great for an old man who now has difficulty tying on and fishing/seeing anything smaller than a size #18. Before the hatch ended I did manage to land several respectable brown trout. As the PMD hatch waned I started to observe more White Millers(caddis) on the water. The caddis hatch was weaker than the PMD hatch but the fish were more interested in the caddis. Before I ended my day I managed to fool several more fish on a tan X-Caddis both dead drifted and swung. The interesting thing about the day was I caught only brown trout on the PMD’s and only rainbow trout on the caddis. Interesting! I ended my day a little early because the best part of my early season Firehole ritual includes having a milkshake at the Eagles store back in West Yellowstone.
Box Canyon: The salmon fly hatch is in full swing now and the fishing has been very good over the past few days. Fishermen have reported having success on both nymph and adult salmon fly imitations. The most productive nymphs include the usual suspects the black, brown and/or coffee and black rubber legs. A few of our favorite adult salmon fly patterns include Pat’s CDC Salmonfly, the Water Walker Salmonfly and the Flutter Bug. To maximize your success fishing the adult salmon fly I recommend fishing/floating the Canyon early (sunup to about noon) and late (five o’clock to around eight or nine in the evening). Also, do not waste time pounding the banks. This technique works in most rivers around the area that have salmon fly hatches but not in the Box. The bigger fish hold in the middle so fish in and out not out and in.
Last Chance: Fishing on this section of the river has not really developed yet. There are a few March Browns and caddis around and occasionally someone fools a fish using an imitation of one of these insects.
The Ranch: This section of the river is closed to fishing until the 15th of June.
Wood Road: I have the same report on this section as the Last Chance section with the exception that this area has produced some activity from seven in the evening until dark on caddis. Especially Rene’ Fertile Caddis pattern.
Riverside to Hatchery Ford and Cardiac Canyon: The salmon fly hatch is pretty much done but the fish will still respond to a well presented adult salmon fly imitation. The golden stone hatch is the soup de jour right now on these sections. Try a Tubby Gold or a Missoula Golden Stone for your adult imitation and a tan/brown Rubberlegs, a Sexy Stone Golden or Two Bit Stone for a nymph.
Warm River to Ashton: The fishing on this section of the river has been “on fire”. There is something for everyone going on here. Whether you are a dry fly, nymph or streamer fisherman you can expect great fishing. Golden stones, yellow sallies, caddis, PMD’s and rumor has it green drakes are all hatching on this part of the river. All of this activity has the fish on the feed big time.
Ashton to Chester and Chester to the Fun Farm: Like the Warm River section upstream these two sections are fishing very well. Pretty much all of the bugs that are hatching upstream are also hatching here with the addition of green drakes for sure and gray drakes in the backwaters. The green drakes and gray drakes are just starting so fishing down here should just get better and better.
Other area waters: Falls River: If you know how to access the Falls River the salmon flies are hatching and the fishing has been excellent using adult salmon fly patterns.
Warm River: If you enjoy small stream fishing and getting away from the crowds this little gem is the place for you. I fished the river the other day using only a size #14 Purple Haze and caught fish consistently all day long. I never encountered another fisherman.
Firehole River-Yellowstone National Park: Good PMD and caddis hatches are producing excellent fishing on the Firehole. The water is still high so use caution when wading.