Yellowstone Sampler by David Knapp
Arguably the most famous fly fishing destination in the United States, Yellowstone’s waters beckon to anglers worldwide. This summer I had the good fortune to spend a considerable amount of time travelling out west and fished in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. The Yellowstone trip was an eye opening experience. For the first time I spent time fishing outside the park on the Madison River and it was incredible.
The trip became a reality for me when my buddy Joe Mcgroom invited me to join him on a trip to Yellowstone National Park. At that time our goal was to chase big browns in various streams on the west side of the park. The cutthroat were somewhat of an afterthought as was fishing outside the park on the Madison.
Early in the trip, we dedicated our time to chasing the native cutts. The first and second days were spent on Slough Creek and the Yellowstone River respectively. An unexpected bonus came on the second day when we found salmonflies hatching on the Yellowstone River near Tower Falls. Catching plenty of stupid cutthroat on big dry flies was a good way to get the trip going.
The next few days of the trip were spent hunting wild brown trout. We had some good information on several places to try and put in a lot of time looking for big fish. In the end, neither of us landed any fish over 18 inches, but we definitely had our chances at larger fish.
The unexpected high point of the trip was the Madison River. Anyone that has spent much time fly fishing has heard of the Madison River. The river definitely deserves its reputation as a good trout stream. The fishing is not necessarily easy however. During the two days that we spent on the river, we never caught huge numbers of fish nor did we see other anglers catching tons of fish. This river is all about quality over quantity.
The first day on the Madison was a day of discovery. We stopped by Kelly Galloup’s Slide Inn and met the well-known streamer fanatic himself. Joe got inspired and bought a few streamers. Little did we know what was in store. Both of us caught a few fish on nymphs under indicators early on but it seemed that we should be doing much better. We were seeing fish and were constantly surprised at the type of water that good fish would be sitting in.
Eventually Joe put on a streamer, and before long we were both converted. We weren’t able to exactly imitate Galloup’s streamer techniques since we weren’t using sinking lines. Heavily weighted streamers got down sufficiently in the water column to entice the fish. As daylight began to fade on my first day of fishing the Madison, the evening hatch got underway. The lower light made the fish feel safe and even the big guys came out to feed on the surface. We spent the remainder of the evening fishing dry flies to fish that averaged a legitimate 17 inches and missed some that were much larger. Finally we couldn’t see our flies anymore and made our way back to the vehicle.
On the way back to camp we discussed where to fish the next day. Joe had flashed a lot of big fish while ripping streamers and we were both anxious to land a few with this technique. The choice of where to fish was obvious and we agreed to return to the Madison. The next day we picked up a few more streamers before fishing. When we got to the river I fixed myself some breakfast, and Joe rigged up and headed off to fish.
As I finished eating, I made what would prove to be an excellent decision. The previous day I had been afraid to carry my DSLR on the stream with me. A hard-to-wade river doesn’t mix well with nice cameras. I normally carry a waterproof point and shoot camera, but the quality difference is obvious. Something convinced me to carry the DSLR for the day. I rigged everything up and started walking up the river to find Joe. As I got closer I saw him netting what looked like a large fish. “I’ve got my good camera!” I hollered and started jogging along the path to get there. He rested the fish in the water while I prepared the camera and then lifted the fish up for a picture. What a fish!!! I was thrilled to finally see a twenty inch fish on the trip, and we got a few nice pictures to remember it by.
If I hadn’t been convinced before, I was now and quickly tied on a streamer. We were both working our way upstream, leap-frogging so we stayed close together. Not too much farther upstream, I spooked a good fish off of the bank. Naturally I assumed that it was useless to cast into that run but something made me do it anyway. On the third cast, I was bouncing the streamer along the bottom when I saw a golden flash. As I hopped the streamer closer, I saw a big brown following behind. My normal reaction is to stop and stare in awe, but this time I did everything correctly. Hopping the streamer just a little quicker to trigger the brown’s natural instinct, I watched in satisfaction as it chased closer and closer. Suddenly it darted forward and inhaled the streamer. I gave a low, sweeping hookset to the side and was attached to a hard-fighting brown trout.
Joe saw that I had hooked up with a good fish and hurried up to give a hand. I didn’t want to risk losing such a nice fish but knew that I shouldn’t let the fish run. A rapid was just below, and if the fish got started I wasn’t sure that I would be able to stop it. Thankfully, I was able to maintain enough pressure without breaking off, and Joe soon had a net under the fish. When the fish hit the bottom of the net, the streamer fell out of its mouth.
We got a few pictures of the fish, and I spent some time admiring it while reviving it. Finally with a powerful thrust of its tail, the big brown was gone. This fish was the highlight of the trip out to Yellowstone, at least for me. A few more fish came to the streamer but no monsters. Our last day in Yellowstone country proved to be the best. Catching big browns is just about as good as it gets…
Visit David's website by CLICKING HERE