Twice over the past two weeks I have found myself driving over to the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park to prove to myself there are still fish in the rivers around the area and that I can still catch one. It’s not that there are no fish in my home water, the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork, but over the past two weeks I have consistently found myself on the wrong part of the Ranch at exactly the wrong time. For instance, the other day I decided to fish the Gravel Pits area. Absolutely nothing happened! Yet when I returned to the fly shop at the end of the day everyone was excited about the great baetis hatch that occurred just above the Log Jam. And, just a few days before, I was at Millionaire’s Pool and no hatch occurred and not a fish was to be seen anywhere. Again, when I was in the shop the next day I was told there had been some great fishing the day before around the Islands and Bonefish Flats. I’ll stop here because I think you get the picture. Especially because at one time or another, if you fish long enough, you undoubtedly have found yourself experiencing the same dilemma. So, it was off to the Firehole in hopes that I would find myself at the right place at the right time. I don’t want to insinuate that the Firehole is a second rate fishing destination. My wife, Minori, and I look forward to spending at least half a dozen days on the Firehole over the course of a season. We like to spend a couple of afternoons on the river during the early season, the month of June, when the PMD’s and caddis are hatching. Minori especially enjoys this time of year when she can see the new born buffalo and elk calves cavorting in the meadows that border the river. We usually skip the summer months of July and August because of the crowds and the higher water temperatures. We especially look forward to the months of September and October when the fall caddis, locally referred to as White Millers, and baetis are on the water. On our first trip we were greeted by a compound hatch consisting of White Millers and baetis. The presence of both insects made for just enough challenge to make things interesting but not so difficult that success was not an option. Believe me I have experienced the latter far to often. It is a rather humbling experience to have your butt handed to you by a bunch of 8” to 12” Firehole River fish. I should mention that those 8” to 12” fish you mostly find in the river in June have grown up to be very respectable 10” to 14” or maybe even 15”/16” beauties by September. The challenge, on this day, was to determine which bug an individual fish was keyed on. You couldn’t shot gun cast a caddis or a baetis imitation out among the many rising fish and expect to be successful. You had to concentrate on individual fish and figure out what they were taking. Some were selectively feeding on the White Millers and others on the baetis. This day turned out to be a very special day for Minori (and myself). Minori, who is an experienced and accomplished fisherman, had spotted what she believed to be a very nice fish taking baetis at the top of a riffle. She took her time and waded into position. She tied on to 6X tippet a size #20 adult baetis imitation of her own design that she had tied herself. After just a couple of casts the fish took. That fish put up a very spirited fight that included several leaps that I swear cleared the water by six feet. Minori’s very nice fish turned out to be the largest trout I have ever witnessed caught on the Firehole. I’m not going to say how big the fish was I am only going to say that it was very big. I have been fishing the Firehole for over forty years and the biggest fish I have ever caught there was at least three or four inches smaller than the one Minori landed. We went home that evening and toasted her success with a couple of rounds of Mr. Jack Daniels. Our second day on the river was a little less challenging. We encountered only baetis hatching and the fish were actively feeding on the freshly hatched adults. We caught a number of fish ranging in size from 10 to 15 inches. It was a wonderful day of fishing on one of the most beautiful and interesting rivers to fish in the world.
The Box Canyon: The “Box” is still producing good fishing with nymphs and streamers. The water is a little skinny right now due to low water releases from the dam. Best success has been dead drifting small rubber leg nymphs (sizes 10/12’s) with little (sizes 16/18/20) beadhead trailers.
Last Chance/The Ranch/Wood Road: Fishing on this section of the river has picked up rather nicely over the past few days. There have been some solid baetis and midge hatches going on and fisherman have reported finding good fish working both hatches.
Warm River to Ashton: Fishing has been very good with dry flies, nymphs and streamers. Fisherman have been reporting good success fishing dry dropped rigs with Purple Chubby’s on top and small (size 16/18/20) beadheads as droppers. Also try double nymph rigs using small rubber legs with your favorite beadhead nymph as a trailer.
Ora to Chester/Chester to the Fun Farm and below: These sections of the river have been experiencing some solid baetis hatches providing good dry fly fishing during the late afternoons. The brown trout are on the move so this is the time of year to chase these aggressive fish with you favorite streamers.