It’s rare that I would catch myself going to Yellowstone National Park to fish any time near the 4th of July; however that may change for the future. My friend Michigan Mike is visiting through Sunday. We pounded the Henry’s Fork earlier this week then to Texas Creek and this weekend we were stumped on what to do on his last two days. Without weighing in 4th of July we decided to go to Yellowstone.
I have many places in Yellowstone I cherish. There’s quite a few I can’t mention and then there’s plenty everyone knows about. On Saturday morning we headed in to fish a place I refer to as New Zealand. The place has very few fish. They are mostly browns. And if your fly fishing skills are in top form when you’re there you often catch a giant brown trout with some of the most bluish hallows around their spots you ever saw.
When Mike and I arrived at Yellowstone’s entrance we were mortified. It’s 4th of July week! There was a line a half mile long to get in the Park. I couldn’t believe the mistake we’d made and told Mike to turn around. He thought for a minute and said, “No, let’s just do it.” And we did.
Surprisingly, after miserable stop-and-go traffic, when we got to the river we were the only ones. It was just me and Mike and a few elk on the far bank. The only problem was there were no fish. It was bright and sunny and 86º. This is the absolute worst conditions for brown trout fishing. To make the day even more annoying, I began by wading over the top of my waders. It took me about two hours to dry out. Then we literally sat from 11 AM until 8:30 PM and hardly a fish rose. We actually saw a couple one time risers that we’d get all excited and set up on, stand like a heron for an hour and then they’d never rise again.
At 8:30 it was cool and the sun was behind a mountain. Now the hatches started and the rusty spinners poured down the river. Sure enough the browns started boiling for them. Soon both Mike and I were set up on some fish. These fish are so spooky you almost have to fish them from shore. Unfortunately I reminded myself of that by spooking away the first big brown I cast too just because I created waves while wading. On my next chance (I was lucky to get one) I made a long cast from shore. Then I fed out line all the way to the edge of my backing making myself a 20 foot drift in my presentation. As my fly approached the now frenzied fish I knew he’d eat it and sure enough he did.
These browns absolutely tear you up. Nonetheless I fish them with my 4-weight Ross rod. There’s no better rod to make a perfect presentation with than this one. And again, this place requires a perfect presentation. As expected this fish ran me all over and jumped several times. He was no monster that this place is famous for but he was a very respectable 18”.
Mike and I landed three nice fish Saturday night and we never saw another angler. The day took a lot of patience but I got in a nap and some well needed relaxation. We reeled in around 10:30 PM and made camp just outside the Park. First thing this morning we made a beeline to a favorite popular river, the Gibbon.
On the Gibbon River you catch fish. There’s’ many of them and although most are not big there’s always the chance of catching a memorable fish. Depending on what section you fish there’s a chance at brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and even some grayling. After the slow day yesterday we needed a fish fix so we began in the woods and meadows near Norris Junction. This is the tiny almost headwater section of the Gibbon and the incredibly twisty section has a heap of gorgeous little brook trout.
I love a brook trout stream. It’s not the type of fly fishing I look for every day but to do it once or twice a month and perhaps hook a fish every cast – it’s a kick. In less than two hours Mike and I probably released fifty little brookies and this lonely baby rainbow trout. Not sure where the rest of his family and friends were but he was certainly beautiful all by his lonesome with his bright stripe and par marks.
Mike and I moved downstream to the lower meadows for the afternoon session. After a great grilled chicken lunch prepared on the banks of the Gibbon by Mike we set out through the tall grass. Like most days this summer, it was windy as heck and it was a struggle to make accurate casts against the banks. I fished an elk hair caddis and when the fly landed where I wanted it there was almost always a small hungry brown.
Like fishing yesterday, there were no other anglers out today. Mike and I landed a few dozen browns from the Gibbon ranging from 8” to a respectable 14”. Even in the heat and high winds fishing was good and we soon had our fish catching fix. Mike wanted to end his trip on the Henry’sFork so we made the hour drive back to the Harriman Ranch with hopes of seeing one last hatch of brown drakes. We got there around 8 PM and were both set up on big persnickety Fork rainbows before 9. But tonight the rainbows won and neither of us landed one of these big fish.
We didn’t get out of our waders until around 11 PM. There was still the glow from the sunset and the rise of the near full moon. If the hatches didn’t’ stop we could have fished well into the night. It was a great action packed fishing week with Mike that started with the Marathon. As for Yellowstone I think I’ve come up with a theory about the 4th of July. The Park is full of traffic but few are anglers. Therefore if you can handle a little traffic which many are used to, fishing Yellowstone Park around the 4thof July is actually a good time to have some rivers all to yourself!