Yellowstone's Small Streams

Obliging Run-Off

Last summer, my brother-in-law Kenny and I took his son Chase and our nephew Bryan on a two-week trip to Yellowstone National Park.

The drive was long, even longer with two 14-year-old boys being teenagers, and after 20 hours, we were ready to get there (and to never hear that plinkety-plink music of Nintendo GameBoy ever again).

Early July and all the rivers we wanted to fish were still a little high. We had little choice but to put these teenagers on the fickle Firehole or mercurial Madison or take them hiking into the backcountry and onto the smaller streams not affected as much by run-off.

The sky looked fake. It was a little too sky-blue, the clouds a bit too puffy, kind of like a bad oil painting at a starving-artist sidewalk sale. We were watching Bryan cast to four or five cutthroats holding over a sandbar, oblivious to his splashes and shadow.

Little Water, Big Day

In the last hour, he had already caught four cutts from the little meadow creek, each one a wholesome 12 inches long and more colorful than a painter's palette. He hooked up again as we watched, his 4-weight rod bent over like Grandpa's back, the kaleidoscope of a fish twisting and jumping against the fake blue sky.

Chase came over to admire his cousin's catch. The boys reluctantly posed for a picture. The inevitable question"whaddya catch'em on?" and Bryan, with some hesitation, replied, "I caught him on a Malcolm X Caddis."

We snickered, not wanting to show him up. We'd save that for later.

We ate a lazy snack that day on Cascade Creek, a lazy, meandering feeder stream of the mighty Yellowstone River. Cascade Creek is typical of the underfished small streams of the park.

The bigger rivers in the park were blown out, swollen from melting snow and recent rains, so we opted for Plan B: We fished the small streams of the park and had one of our best days of angling ever.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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