As I write this, I’m cruising the friendly skies at over 30,000 feet with nothing better to do than reminisce about my first fly fishing trip to Yellowstone National Park over the past few days. Like all memorable trips, the weather was worse than expected. Like all memorable trips, I had to leave just as I was starting to settle in. And like all memorable trips, I’m not really too keen on going back to a cubicle and all the joys of 16 hour workdays. This was the kind of trip that makes you take a hard look at your life, and ask yourself how you can make all of the chaos go away, so you can just focus on what you truly love; instead of focusing on your task manager.
Sunset on the Firehole after our first afternoon in Yellowstone
With vistas like this it was hard, at times, to concentrate on catching fish
When I booked this trip in August, the local fly shops warned me that the weather in October is unpredictable at best. A buddy once told me that I should only consider making fly fishing a career if I actually preferred spending my days hearing and talking about other people’s adventures, instead of spending time on the water myself; so with the past several years of living out his prophecy, I was determined to not endure another Winter where I spent three months ramming my head through a wall, regretting not getting out more.
Snow squall on the Gibbon.
Freshly fallen snow on the Madison. I doubt you would find this much solitude on this famous river during the summer.
Despite the weather, we had ample opportunities, but only dad managed to seal the deal with a twenty-one inch rainbow and a very respectable brown. I hooked up with at least three fish over twenty inches that resulted in two break offs and one spit hook. I cursed the trout gods with their lust for 6X tippet and barbless hooks…. It was by far some of the harshest fishing conditions I have ever faced, but there were indeed opportunities to catch fish, and that just goes to show how special Yellowstone truly is.
The glassy gin clear water in meadow stretches of the Firehole is some of the most technical water I have ever seen. A few weeks prior I can imagine the terrestrial fishing in this stretch was on fire!
Amongst the anglers we did see were a few who knew their shit, and made us look like the foolish bass fisherman that we are. I have to tip my cap to the gentleman that was slaying the bows on a meadow section of the Firehole, casting size twenty two Beatis dries with forty plus mph winds. I gave that idea a feeble attempt and quickly realized that it was just not going to happen. There was also a guide with two clients who put on a nymphing clinic where the Gibbon and Firehole meet to form the Madison. We must have seen eight trout over twenty inches caught in the matter of hours.
The Madison Junction, where the Firehole and Gibbon meet to form the Madison River.
Even though I cursed the trout gods a few times, the experience was worth frost bite, wind burn and a severely bruised ego. It’s time to get started planning the trip for next year and plotting my revenge.
The Gibbon with National Park Mountain towering behind it. Madison River
The Madison along with the Yellowstone is amongst the most fabled fly fishing rivers in the world. The trout are wary and well educated because of the angling pressure it receives. As we witnessed, if you have the skill and the flies they are looking for, the Madison can provide a bounty of bows and browns over twenty inches.
Most of our time on the Gibbon was spent in the meadow within the last mile before it meets the Firehole to form the Madison. Most of this water is less than twenty feet across but is surprisingly deep. The outside edges of the bends are well over ten feet deep in some areas with undercut banks providing the trout with ample prime habitat. While the Gibbon is mostly known for its dry and terrestrial fishing, we found streamers to be quite productive.
The Firehole River is a strange yet magical place and probably my favorite water we fished during our trip. The river is littered with geothermal features many of which are on the river’s edge and provide nutrient rich warm water making for perfect conditions when other rivers get cold.
A small sample of the fish that were caught. Not many were caught each day but the fish that we did hook and land were healthy, beautiful and full of piss and vinegar, which explains why a high percentage spit the hook, or broke us off.