A Trip to the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone

by | Oct 2, 2020 | fly fishing Yellowstone Park

YellowstoneFor me, the drive from Victor, Idaho to Yellowstone Park can be excruciating.  I don’t lack patience but when a normally 2 hour drive stretches to 4 because I get caught behind a few campers and grueling bumper to bumper traffic – I lose my mind.  I’m just not cut out for losing fishing time to traffic.  But somehow, this morning I didn’t notice it so much.  Its fall in the Yellowstone Country and despite the haze from the smoke and clouds, my long drive provided some rich fall glamor.


Yellowstone-RiverI was headed up to meet Derek Mitchell again.  I got some work in yesterday after our Henry’s Fork days and today we met on the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone.  We met at what used to be called Buffalo Ford.  The name was changed a few years back by a Park managing team that’s changed a lot of things in the Park.  This includes eliminating a lot of the nonnative fish like rainbows, browns, grayling and lake trout despite destroying great fisheries such as the Lewis River, Upper Gibbon River and Grebe Lake to name a few.

(You can read what I think of the nonnatives issue here.) 


Jeff-CurrierToday was cool and crisp.  A light wind blew and on a summer day you would hardly notice.  But in the fall at 8,000 feet high elevation, it was a tiny bit chilly thanks to the breeze.  There wasn’t much going on as far as a hatch so I made a wind block with my Explorer and kicked back in my Yeti chair and listened to the Cubs playoff game.  That was a mistake!


Derek wandered out fishing while I listened to my game.  He hit a few of our favorite runs and holes but came back emptyhanded.  “No hatch at all”, he said, “I didn’t see a single fish”.


flyfishingI still call this area Buffalo Ford and always will.  It’s a hallowed place to me.  My dad took me fishing here in 1981 and we returned together many times.  Much of the time during the Cubs game I wasn’t listening to it, but rather thinking about all the great times I had here with my father.  One thing neither of us ever did here is fish a wet fly.  We only fished dries.  But with no hatch and no fish sightings by Derek I had a decision to make.  Should I try a streamer?


Yellowstone-RiverMy answer to myself was, yes.  And I know dad was listening (he passed in January).  But I didn’t feel any guilt so I put on an Olive Woolly Bugger with a tungsten bead (no lead allowed) and off I went.


Streamer fishing wasn’t fast and furious either.  I only had a floating line with me but I mended and fed line in order to sink my fly to bottom.  I managed to hit bottom in most places but the fish weren’t there.  Finally, in the deepest run almost too far away to reach with my longest cast, I hooked up.


Jeff-CurrierThe Yellowstone River in the Park is famous for the size of the cutthroats that live here.  This one wouldn’t disappoint.  After a really good fight I landed a beautiful Yellowstone Cutthroat.  The fish looked mighty healthy and should winter well.  And then perhaps be even bigger for next summer.


Between the two of us we only hooked three cutthroats.  I’m pretty sure these cutthroats migrate back to the lake for winter.  I know I’ve had better days here in October so perhaps this year they left early.  But also, with the Parks lake trout killing in the lake over the years, at times quite reckless, no doubt the numbers of cutthroats have suffered too.


cutthroat-troutAt 5:30 we gave up on the Yellowstone River.  We waited and waited for a hatch but as the temperature dropped with the sun so did our confidence.  I pulled a wildcard move and dragged us to one of my longtime fall lake trout spots on Lewis Lake.  Derek wasn’t so sure about the idea, but off we went.


Lewis-LakeWe arrived at Lewis only minutes before sunset.  The lake was peaceful and it looked cold although it was not.  It’s a short hike to my spot and I entered the water.  Its tricky wading here.  Head the wrong direction and its over your head fast.  Walk just right and you can go for 100 yards thigh deep.  About 25 yards out and on my third cast I hooked up!


lake-trout“You got to be kidding me!”, Derek shouted and laughed.


My wildcard choice for our evening fish was a beauty.  We landed as many small lake trout as anyone could ever want.  In fact, I packed it up after an even dozen.  Derek, whose trip is winding down, stayed out almost till pitch dark and caught at least double.


lake-troutI was planning to return home tonight.  But Derek has a campsite here on Lewis Lake so I’m sleeping in my Explorer yet another night.  We’re about to cook up some rice and bean burritos.  That should keep us warm.  And of course, on my way home tomorrow morning I have to drive by Jenny Lake.  Maybe I can go back to work tomorrow afternoon. . …


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!