On Friday Doug Winnicky, Trouthunter fly shop manager, and I headed over to Yellowstone National Park in search of some small stream Brook trout fishing. Over the past couple of years Doug has been getting into fishing small streams with light line fiberglass fly rods. Originally from New Jersey, Doug grew up fishing for brook trout in the small streams around his home town. Even though he has lived in the west for over twenty years where he has had the good fortune to fish many of the area’s great rivers for rainbows, cutthroats and browns he has never lost his appreciation for the fish of his youth. As for myself, I also have a soft spot in my heart for brook trout. My first experiences with a fly rod involved fishing for brookies in the small headwater streams and beaver ponds of the White Mountains of Arizona. I was excited to be introducing Doug to some of my favorite off the beaten path fishing spots in Yellowstone. Not only was I excited about sharing my knowledge about some great brook trout spots in the park I was also supremely confident we would experience success the likes of which Doug was not accustomed to. Now, to make a long story short, Murphy’s Law kicked in the minute we entered Yellowstone. The law that some cosmic force invokes every time you become over confident about your knowledge or abilities. I took Doug to three of my favorite spots only to be skunked in every one of them. I was completely dumbfounded and, to say the least, embarrassed. Over the years I have been an avid believer in what Bud Lilly coined as the “Total Experience”. You know, the belief that catching fish is only part of the overall fishing experience. That the grandeur of the western landscape and the companionship of the day are just as important to a successful day of fishing as catching fish. Well, on this day, the landscape of Yellowstone was, as usual, beyond compare and the companionship was first rate. However, to get skunked on a brook trout expedition where I was supposed to be the Yellowstone guru was totally unacceptable. My shoulders are not big enough to bear the weight of the shame I would have felt if the word got out that I, Rick Smith, got skunked on a brook trout expedition into the Yellowstone backcountry. As Doug and I headed home in the late afternoon I insisted that we stop at one last spot along the upper Gibbon River. A spot that in years past had always produced good fishing for myself and, back in the day when I was guiding for a living, my clients. This was not a spot that would produce brook trout, our target fish for the day, but hopefully a few good brown trout and a somewhat successful end to what to that point was a very frustrating day. Once in the river I figured this was it. If I didn’t produce a few fish I might as well jump into the river and go over Gibbon Falls (good by cruel world). As I stood there in the rushing water of the Gibbon River I thought to myself that no matter how much a fisherman tries to convince himself that not catching a fish is all part of the fishing experience, we have all said to ourselves that is why they call it fishing and not catching, no fisherman worth his weight in split shot wants to go home skunked. It didn’t take long for the two of us to get the monkey off our backs. Within just a few casts we were both into fish. Before we decided to call it a day we had managed to hook and land several brown trout a couple of which were nice size fish for the section of the river we were fishing. Doug insists that he enjoyed the day and looks forward to going back to the spots I showed him to see if he can find those brook trout that I promised him would be there. Personally I think he’s just saying that to try and make me feel good.
Box Canyon: This is starting to sound like a broken record but the “Box” continues to produce solid fishing. Nymphing is pretty much the name of the game but there has been some decent streamer fishing as well.
Last Chance: There have been some good fish up in the Last Chance Run area and just above the Log Jam. The fish are working small baetis (size #20 to #24) and midges.
The Ranch and Wood Road: There have been some very heavy baetis hatches over the past couple of days and the Mahogany hatch has been more predictable as well. The weather continues to be warmer than average for this time of year so the fish are still susceptible to a well presented hopper imitation.
Warm River to Ashton: This section of the river continues to produce good fishing with dry flies, nymphs and streamers. This is a great section to fish dry/dropper rigs covering both dry fly and nymph fishing in one cast.
Ora to Chester and Chester to the Fun Farm: These two sections of the Henry’s Fork are starting to produce consistently good fishing with dry flies, nymphs and streamers. The streamer fishing that everyone looks forward to beginning at this time of year has been a little slow to get going but it should pick up as soon as we get a few colder nights.
Other Area Waters: The Madison (Montana) is producing good fishing especially up in the walk/wade section of the river due to the presence of decent fall baetis and midge hatches. The float sections are producing good fishing primarily with nymphs. With the Indian summer we are experiencing there is still some hopper fishing to be had and the streamer fishing is getting better every day.
The Madison (Yellowstone National Park) has started to see more fish making their annual run up from Hebgen Lake. I’ve had reports of good fish being taken from the park boundary all the way up to Madison Junction.
The Firehole River (YNP): Excellent hatches of fall baetis and White Miller caddis have fish on the feed all up and down the river.
The Lamar/Soda Butte/Slough Creek (YNP): Fishing on all three of these very special rivers has been excellent with beetles, ants, hoppers and fall drakes.