Yellowstone's Small Streams

Tactics & Streams

The fish aren't all that much smaller in Yellowstone's small streams, and are sometimes the same size as fish in the big rivers. The feeders of the Firehole have fish that move up during summer when the main river heats up. And streams like Soda Butte, Cache, Slough, and Duck Creeks hold some big trout.

Hatches are less important but don't totally discount them. These fish see few anglers and are not that skittish (except when it's shallow and clear, as on Slough Creek). Don't go fishing up just any creek without knowing where it goes, without letting someone know where you are, and without checking if it holds fish — some streams are fishless.

Lots of these small streams come from or near lakes, ideal for taking lunch or varying the fishing. Think dry flies, light leaders, stalking, kneeling, varied casts, staying low and dapping. Go with a buddy.

Some of the Finer Small Streams

Cascade Creek: Meadow stream full of cutts in the north-central part of the park. Take the Howard Eaton Trail one-half mile west of Canyon Junction. The stream parallels the trail more or less. Cascade Lake lies at the end of the trail about five miles in.

Fan Creek: West side of park, 20+ miles north of West Yellowstone. Reach this Gallatin feeder from Fawn Pass Trail onto the Sportsman Lake Trail. Fan Creek is a great place to see moose or bear. Fan Creek is a smallish meadow stream but holds some nice cutts and rainbows with a few solid browns.

Duck Creek: West side of park, up Highway 191, then east on Duck Creek Road. Wide, shallow stream that winds its way back and forth, slowly, through wide grassy fields. Most anglers bump nymphs up tight to the bank and on bottom to reach the athletic, big rainbows and browns and brook trout.

Obsidian Creek: At Indian Creek Campground south of Mammoth near the Gardner River. Small brook trout for sure but it's a great place to teach kids how to fish. The river stops and starts in the down-timber forest, then smoothes out through the open meadows.

Cougar Creek: On the west side of the park, take Highway 191 north, then east on Cougar Creek Road. Met a mad moose here a few years ago right when I hooked up with a nice brown (probably in the mid-teens). I don't know what was the bigger surprise — seeing the moose up close all of a sudden or not catching the same little brookie I had caught at every slack bend pool.

Specimen Creek: Feeder stream to the Gallatin River. Take the Specimen Creek Trail from Highway 191 north of West Yellowstone. Fish this more for the thick brush scenery than the big fish. Catch rainbow and cutthroat hybrids in the two rugged forks of the creek.

Nez Perce Creek: Medium-size meadow stream that enters the Firehole River less than six miles south of Madison Junction. Fishing is good for brown trout and the occasional rainbow and brook trout. We've always seen bison in and around the stream. Concentrate on the water above the bridge to Spruce Creek (where you'll find fun fishing for small brookies and a few browns and rainbows). You can park at Fountain Flats Road and fish the 4 and a half miles upstream or take the Mary Mtn. Trail. If you see Mary Lake on the map at the stream's headwaters, don't think of fishing it. It has no fish.

Cache Creek: In the northeast section of the park, on the Northeast Entrance Highway. Take the Lamar River Trail or Cache Creek Trail. Underfished even though its confluence with the Lamar lies near the highway. Anglers can expect to catch bigger rainbow and cutthroat than in many similar-sized streams.

Soda Butte Creek: In the northeast section of the park, this diverse stream parallels the Northeast Entrance Highway. Soda Butte Creek has lots of changing characteristics, ranging from a bumpy run in its upper reaches to a wide, meadow stream as it meets up with the Lamar. The rainbows and cutts are above average in size.

Upper Gibbon: At Virginia Meadows, at the Norris-Canyon Road river crossing on the downstream side. The brook trout are small but plump. This is a good place to learn how to cast or fly fish.

Others: Glen Creek, Indian Creek, Panther Creek, Blacktail Deer Creek, Hellroaring Creek, Aster Creek, Beaver Creek (near Heart Lake), Slough Creek. Any number of Upper Yellowstone streams like Thorofare Creek but not until July 15. The pressure is almost nonexistent because the streams are in the smack-dab middle of bear country.

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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