Yellowstone's Small Streams

Fishing the Forgotten Waters

If you have fished in Yellowstone National Park, chances are you have stood in Buffalo Ford on the Yellowstone, cast tiny mayfly patterns on the Madison, or gazed at geysers along the Firehole.

When you come to this trout Mecca, you simply have to fish the big-name rivers, right?

Three million visitors descend upon the park each year and of them, 300,000 take to the lakes and streams. Go to Buffalo Ford on any day after July 15, when the Yellowstone River opens up, and you'd think all 300,000 of them are standing right there.

On stretches of the famous rivers in the park, the anglers often outnumber the trout.

You would think that with over 2.2 million acres and a thousand miles of rivers, there wouldn't be crowded water. But most anglers fish near the access points, the road crossings, the parking lots, the campgrounds, the bridges, and where the river parallels the road — and they like to fish the marquee rivers.

What that tells you is that if you get out and walk a bit, you won't see other anglers. Sure, go see the sights, fight the traffic both on the road and on the river, even fish the legendary waters for a bit. But the forgotten quality trout waters are the small streams.

Fishing the Blue Squigglies

But a small stream in the park is not always what the average angler thinks of as"small." Slough Creek and Soda Butte Creek are both as big as some so-called rivers in Colorado.

Finding small streams makes the Yellowstone National Park experience fuller and more fun. Take a look at a Yellowstone National Park map and you will see all the little blue squigglies. Read any book on the park and you'll rarely read about the smaller streams (although many streams are 10 20 feet wide, full of deep pools, tons of fish).

Imagine that when you look at that map, all those blue squigglies represent potential day trips, half-day excursions, chances to catch 20 or 30 or 40 fish in a day. Imagine that those blue squigglies present a new world, a fishing canvas you have probably never seen before because no one fishes it; you get to choose the hues and brush strokes, and the masterpiece is yours.

You'll find few photos of Duck Creek in the big magazines. There tend to be surprises along these small streams too. I've found a thermal hole along Little Firehole with elk bones in it, seen an eagle, a moose, a bear (black), and a lot of other surprises.

So if you don't mind catching 22 inches of trout (two 11-inch trout added together), then stuff the day pack, grab the lightweight rod and start hiking.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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