Casting in Paradise

A Year on the Yellowstone
By Rod Walinchus & Tom Travis
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Yellowstone River
Mountains rise steeply above the Yellowstone River.

We are often asked where and when we fish along the Yellowstone River over the course of the season. What follows is a month-by-month account of where we would fish if we had our druthers for an average year. Obviously, there are many variables, such as water flows, weather patterns, and so on, that are very different from year to year and will affect our choices. We will offer our opinions of the best places to fish over the course of what could be considered an average year. Some months offer a wide variety of opportunities, so we will offer only our mutually agreed upon first two choices. Yes, we have had some minor discussions, and we each have reluctantly compromised on occasion in an attempt to offer you accurate selections. Here they are:

January is a month where we are hoping the temperature of winter moderates so we can go fish. However, there are winters when all we can do is sit around and watch the NFL play-offs and the Super Bowl. In those years when the weather cooperates we find ourselves in the Ninth Street island back-channels fishing nymphs.

There is rarely a February where we don't get a warming trend. This will bring us out of the tying room looking for the midge hatches. One of our favorite areas to fish the midge hatches is in the Pine Creek channels. They have flats, back-eddies, and good riffle water for nymphing if we happen to miss the midges.

March brings us more days to fish as the weather moderates. However, be careful winter hasn't totally gone. March brings a continuation of the midge hatches as well as the start of the blue-winged olives. Also during March the nymphing activity picks up. For this action we like the Mayor's-Landing-to-89-bridge section. There are excellent flats to work during the hatches and plenty of good riffle corners.

The month of April will find us somewhere between Mallard's Rest and Carter's Bridge. Early in the month the annual rainbow spawning run is underway, and the fishing off the mouth of the three local spring creeks can be awesome. You also have a continuation of the blue-winged olives and midges, and this section has plenty of back-eddies, riprap banks, and flats to work. By mid-April the western march browns will appear. It is best to fish these insects below riffles, and this section has many. By late April the caddis hatch starts, and there is then no better section than this to be on.

We will take what we can get during May and finish the caddis on the Mallard's-Rest-to-Carter's-Bridge section. Generally the river goes out and becomes unfishable around the tenth of May due to the annual runoff. Now we go find another river!

Through much of June the river is still unfishable and you will find us fishing other waters. However, by late June the river starts to drop and the salmon fly hatch begins. During late June you can normally find us on the Gardiner-to-Yankee-Jim section chasing the salmon flies. During this same time we will have an eye out for the green drakes.

This is a tough month to decide where to fish because so much of the river fishes very well during the month. Early July could still find us in the Gardiner-to-Yankee-Jim section fishing the salmon fly hatch. We might also be found chasing the hatch up the Black Canyon. However, we always spend a few days this time of year between Yankee Jim and Emigrant fishing the many hatches this area offers. After mid-July we would prefer to be on the Yellowstone above Yellowstone Falls. This section of the river has some truly incredible hatches and fishing opportunities.

During August you can always find us in the Sheep-Mountain-to-Big-Timber or Big-Timber-to-Reedpoint sections. The big attraction is the super hopper fishing these sections offer. There are some other good hatches that we like to fish in these sections, but the hopper fishing is the headliner!

September is another month where we divide up our time. Early September might find us on the river above Yellowstone Falls, stalking individual fish and challenging the selectivity of the cutthroats. Midmonth will often find us fishing close to Reedpoint, where we can fish the Trico hatches in the morning and work the streamer pools in the afternoon.

October means spawning brown trout, and we will divide our time between the Grey-Bear-to-Otter-Creek and Mallard's-Rest-to-Carter's-Bridge sections. It is in these two sections that our favorite streamer pools are located. Often we take time off from fishing the streamers to work a midge or blue-winged olive hatch along one of the riprap banks or below the mouths of the spring creeks. However, we will always save a couple of days to travel down to the lower river and fish the ghost fly hatch.

On a year-in-year-out basis, this is the month of wind, along with the first real storms of winter. During November we may wander the river, spending a day wherever our mood takes us. In very early November we may spend a day on the river above Yellowstone Falls to close out the season in the park, knowing that it will be many months before we can return to this favorite water. Mid-November may find us fishing a midge hatch around LaDuke Hot Spring or fishing streamers and big nymphs through some of our favorite streamer pools. Late in November, weather permitting, you might find us working the Pine Creek channels or nymphing in the Ninth Street side channels.

Once again weather is the determining factor. Some years find us sitting behind the fly-tying table creating patterns for the next season. As for other anglers, December brings lots of other events that take our time. Rod is normally found at the drawing table plying his craft as an outstanding illustrator. Tom has no such talents, so he spends his time figuring out how he can talk Rod into another book. Merry Christmas!

© Article copyright Pruett Publishing.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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