If you're visiting Jackson Hole and are looking for a unique river the Yellowstone truly fits the bill. Although not technically true, for most anglers the Yellowstone River starts when it exits Yellowstone Lake. This river is much like a spring creek in character, with long stretches of fairly smooth gin clear water in which you can actually see the trout you're fishing for. Even though you can see them, and they probably won't bolt for cover, make no mistake; these fish know you're there. The stretch of the river from Yellowstone Lake to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the most popular fishing stretches of any river in the park. Because of this the fish have become accustomed to anglers and often they will take up a position just downstream from your feet if you're wading in the river.
The most popular stretch of the Yellowstone River to fish is the stretch downstream from the lake to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This water opens on July 15th and is perhaps the best large Cutthroat stream fly fishing in the world. It is rare to see a fish less than 15 inches and the average is at least 16 inches.
Probably the most important aspect of fishing this river is a drag free float. The pattern can be exact, but let it drag just a tiny amount and it will be constantly refused. For this reason a long leader tapered to 6x is suggested and it is often helpful to tie on a tippet section four feet long.
A variety of flies hatch on the Yellowstone and often more than one will hatch at a time. For mayflies, you can usually take fish with either a Parachute PMD or Parachute Adams in sizes #18-20. In the fall a size #20 Blue Wing Olive and some midges may be necessary. There are several caddis that hatch throughout the season. When the trout are taking the adults, a size #16 Hemmingway Caddis with either a tan or olive body will usually work. However, sometimes the trout are taking emergers. In that case try either the green or yellow Sparkle Caddis Pupa.
Sometimes there is no surface activity at all. When that happens a Pheasant Tail Nymph #18 or Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear will often save the day. Be sure to use non-toxic lead substitute to weigh down your nymph, because lead is illegal in all waters of Yellowstone Park.
The Yellowstone can be a confusing place and it is often helpful to have someone who is familiar with the river and its hatches. We offer streamside fishing trips on the Yellowstone starting July 15th. Call Bruce at 307-690-0910 to book these trips or for more information. Whether you fish alone or with a guide be sure to buy your fishing license and read the regulations carefully. There have recently been a number of changes in the regulations.