Soda Butte Creek was our first stop. We decided to fish the meadow sections downstream from Icebox canyon. I was told by a friend to start at the actual Soda Butte, since you can’t miss it. It’s a big mound of calcium carbonate formed more than a century ago by a hot spring. The first morning was a little cold so I started with a Bead Head Olive Woolly Bugger. I found my first undercut bank and made a few casts, and within the first ten minutes of fishing was hooked up with my first ever Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout! This was the moment I had been dreaming about for months. I landed a solid, 15 inch, chunky, Yellowstone Cutt. My trip was complete after ten minutes of fishing! I had found paradise and it was called Yellowstone!
The rest of the first day only continued to get better. I had decided to switch to a traditional nymph rig under an indicator, and focused my attention on the deeper undercuts, pockets and pools. This way I was able to cover more water and see different parts of the stream. I had a lot of success fishing this way. I don’t think many people go to Yellowstone to fish nymphs, but there was hardly any bug activity due to the cooler temps. I didn’t come all this way to wait for a hatch to come off; I was there to catch fish!
I kept it simple though. When I came across a new section of stream, I tried to compare it to somewhere I had fished before. That way I had in my mind what drift I wanted to make and what presentation I wanted to give the fish. This worked well for me, making my cast more efficient. I ended up fishing the great looking water and by-passing the good water. Yes I may have passed up some fish, but I was maximizing actual fishing time. This is how I spent the remainder of the first day. It paid off with lots of fish to the net and plenty of good pictures.
The flies that worked best for me on Soda Butte were B.H. flash-back, Hares Ears and Blue Copper Johns.
The Lamar River and Slough Creek were next. There was a little more angling pressure on these two streams. So the plan was to get as far away from the road as we could. This was easy, since the Lamar River follows the Northeast entrance road a good way. Find a place to park, put the road to your back side, and start walking. The weather had cleared and the temps had gone up. Now we were starting to see some bug activity.
Right around 11 a.m. the small Baetis begin to pop. The hatch was on, so we did what the bugs told us to do. We spent most of the day casting small Baetis patterns to rising and willing Cutthroats. It wasn’t too hard to figure out. Make good drag-free drifts with the right flies, and inevitably, you’ll get takes! Between the hatches, small terrestrial patterns such as ants, beetles, and bee patterns brought plenty fish to the net.
Later in the day we hit Slough Creek a tributary to the Lamar River—just below the campground and had some outstanding fishing on Green Drake patterns. This is where I landed my first Yellowstone rainbows and cuttbows. The biggest fish we encountered, during our week, were on this section of stream. All of the fish we landed here were between 14 and 18 inches. The patterns that worked the best on these two rivers were tiny Baetis, beetles, and the Green Drakes until the hatch ended.
The last two rivers we fished were my favorites. The first is a small tributary to the Lamar River called Cache Creek. This creek is only accessible by hiking the Lamar river trail 2.75 miles until it intercepts the Cache creek trail, then another .25 miles to the actual stream itself. The hike was well worth it. I can’t tell you how many fish we caught. I just know it was one of the best days, if not the best day, of fishing I have ever had!
You could catch as many 8-14 inch Cutthroats as you wanted. I fished a size #18 parachute Adams almost the entire time and could not keep the fish off. I think the key to this stream is the lack of pressure it receives. Or maybe we were lucky and it was just one of those days!
I would suggest designating a day to hike in and fish one of the smaller streams. There’s a lot to choose from. Not only will you have solitude but you’ll be able to take in the surrounding beauty Yellowstone has to offer.
Up to this point we had focused our efforts on the Lamar River and its tributaries. We caught Yellowstone Cutthroats, Rainbows, and Cuttbows. Now it was time to round out the grand slam, so we headed even further west.
The Gibbon River was our last destination, and this river has it all: meandering meadow stretches with deep undercuts inhabited by big browns, riffles with rambunctious rainbows, and pockets holding voracious brook trout.
We started fishing downstream of the Cascades through the second meadow section. This was “on your knees” fishing to wary brown trout and brook trout. If you’re into stalking fish, this is the place for you. One bad cast and the fish were gone.
I was able to land a good number of brookies on this section of stream using small terrestrial patterns. I also managed to miss a few larger browns. We continued down river to the next stop — Gibbon Falls. The water drops 88 feet, forming a barrier to migrating trout. The river here is a succession of riffles, runs, and pools—custom made for a nymph angler. I worked my way through the pockets and pools with a size #14 B.H. Hares Ear under an indicator. I managed to land a couple of brown trout — the largest close to 15 inches. I reached my goal: I landed a Cutthroat, Rainbow, Cuttbow, Brook, and Brown trout in the park. The flies that worked the best on the Gibbon were small terrestrial patterns through the meadow and classic nymphs through the pocket water.
As I looked up at the Gibbon Falls it really hit me. It was no longer about the trout. It was about the water and country the trout lived in. This was an incredible place not only to fish, but also to see and be a part of. If you are a trout angler, Yellowstone is the perfect place. You have so many rivers to choose from to fit every style of fishing.
This was just a taste of what I experienced. I don’t know if there are enough words in the English language to describe the beauty I saw and the excitement I felt! Yellowstone is one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit and the fishing is phenomenal. Every penny you spend on this trip will be worth it.
If a 28 year old fishing guide from Pennsylvania can do it, so can you!