It’s a heck of a drive to get there with the road construction between Mammoth and Norris, but this season the Firehole has been SO worth it. We’ve had a couple years in a row of big flushing flows in May, and this might explain the hyper-abundance of several different types of insects we’ve been seeing all season on the Firehole. Most years, there’s a brief flurry of BWO and a smattering of tan and olive caddis, with the White Miller (Nectopsyche) the star of the show. For the past ten days or so, we’ve had a mix of White Millers, tan caddis, olive caddis, PMD, and even little olive stoneflies. This smorgasbord has the fish eating well. On Wednesday, I took a longtime client (good fisherman, if a little wedded to the dry fly) and his beginner granddaughter. Grandpa did well on Blonde Palmered CDC and Elk Caddis, while granddaughter caught good numbers of fish on Glasshead PT Soft Hackles swung in the riffles. Pictured are grandpa and granddaughter and granddaughter with her second fish (grandpa was busy fishing dries upstream for #1).
While the hatches have been good all day on the Firehole, expect them to shift to the morning to early afternoon with the warming weather, with cloudy skies typically best.
As many of our customers know, 2017 was an off year for me since I had open heart surgery on July 7th. When all was said and done it added up to two bypasses, a valve replacement ( I am now part cow ), a valve repair, a stent and installation of a pacemaker. I was in the hospital for eight days, pretty much completely out of play for a month, and on very limited duty for the remainder of the season.
Thanks to my great crew who all stepped up to fill the gaps we weathered the season and managed to meet all or our commitments. I spent a good deal of the fall and winter in rehab and am now in better shape than any time in the last three or four years.
With parts of three days in the field I am happy to report that I am now officially back in the saddle. Kody Marr, our new staff member this year, and I took a few pokes at the Firehole and spent a bit more time on the Gibbon May 30th during an orientation tour. We had our best results on the Gibbon. I got 3 browns including one about 13 inches in the hour or so we spent and then got out just ahead of a rain squall. Trevor Robbins, new last year and a huge help, and I were out with a beginner family June 13th on a half day guide trip. This was Trevor’s first ever guide trip and my first since the fall of 2016. A good time was had by all except the several brook trout landed by the clients.
On the next day Kody and I went to check out one of our favorite little creeks for beginner trips in the park. Access to the creek is complicated by the major road construction project between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris so mission #1 was to figure out a practical way to get kids to the water. Despite it really being still too high and too cold we ended up with about a dozen brookies ranging from just under 4 inches to about 9 inches which is about the usual range for this stream. Conditions on our northern park streams are improving as the spring runoff ends and will be getting better with each passing day.
From now through about October 20, ever-increasing numbers of brown trout will be entering the Madison, lower Firehole, lower Gibbon, and Gardner Rivers in Yellowstone Park. The run in these rivers has been underway for a while now, but the cool and wet weather we’ve been blessed with most of September has hurried things along and made for great fishing. The photos inserted in this entry were all caught in recent days on my (Walter’s) guide trips, but Ben, Bart, and Don are also putting their clients on LOTS of browns. Six to ten fish in the 14 to 18″ range with one or two often in the 20-22″ range is average, but there have been a couple trips recently when we’ve put experienced anglers on as many as TWENTY-FIVE to THIRTY-FIVE of these fish. You can’t plan on that, but it’s possible, especially when the weather sucks… Guide availability is very limited for another week, but after September 27 things open up dramatically. October is particularly empty, as usual. It’s hard to get as many clients as we’d like once mornings below 25 degrees and a few snow showers during an average week of fishing cross from “possible” to “likely.” For those who do brave the elements, big fish await.
For right now, nymphing is the best tactic. Stonefly nymphs trailing eggs or medium-sized attractor nymphs will bring the most fish, while streamers will bring a few aggressive smacks and potentially larger fish. This is particularly true when the light is flat or the weather is awful. The streamer bite will get steadily better through the middle of October. On the Madison, don’t hesitate to swing large, flashy soft hackles or even small steelhead flies. This river is ideal water for the swung fly, and most anglers swinging will be using big junk, so somewhat smaller (#8 to 14) wets can interest fish that are just spooked by the big streamers.
Fresh fish will continue to enter these rivers through the close of the park season on the first Sunday in November, but more and more of them start actively spawning after the middle of the month. From that point on, AVOID fishing shallow water to avoid bothering actively spawning fish (and to avoid trampling eggs). Fishing the deep water downstream of shallow spawning areas is productive right to the end of the season and does not bother active spawners. The deep water is the bar at 10:30PM –lots of fish are there looking for a fight. The shallow gravel is the bedroom at midnight.
Look for the Lewis run to begin around October 15 between Lewis and Shoshone Lakes and immediately downstream of Lewis Lake, and in the Snake and Lewis near the South Boundary of YNP around October 1. The browns are also getting frisky in the Yellowstone River outside the park, so you never know what a big streamer might bring.