Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM; 1:30PM – 2:30PM
Location: Ten miles from confluence with the Yellowstone River
Steve and I questioned our guide, Jeff Welke, during our float trip on Friday for ideas on wade fishing on Saturday in the vicinity of Livingston, MT. Jeff suggested several options, but Steve and I finally settled on Mill Creek, a tributary of the Yellowstone River that enters near Emigrant, MT. An eighteen mile drive placed us on Mill Creek Road, and after six miles of travel on a paved rural road, we reached a gravel forest road. We were alarmed to discover that the creek was a mere trickle between a bed of exposed boulders, but we persisted. After an additional three miles we passed a concrete diversion structure, and we rejoiced when we gazed upon the adequate cold clear flows of Mill Creek. The creek looked like a promising cold mountain stream, and we were anxious to cast our flies. A few additional miles of driving took us beyond Sno Bank Campground, and we found a functional pullout next to the creek and prepared to fish.
Steve elected to work his way upstream, while I ambled downstream for five minutes to a point where the stream veered next to the road. I negotiated a steep bank and tied a red hippy stomper to the line on my Orvis Access four weight. My optimism was high, as I began to probe the deeper pockets and runs, but after ten minutes the sight a fish remained wishful thinking. The fly shop salesman suggested a yellow stimulator, so this was my next fly choice. Despite relatively accurate casts and drag free drifts, the fish showed no interest in my heavily hackled stonefly imitation, so I opted for a size 16 Jake’s gulp beetle. One subtle look ensued, and after forty-five minutes I paused to assess new approaches.
My go to approach in these situations is dry/dropper, so I defaulted to a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear nymph. Even this normally productive combination failed to arouse interest, so I added an ultra zug bug below the hares ear. I preferred not to utilize three flies due to the threat of entanglement and the close quarters of streamside vegetation, but I was certain that fish were present yet not interested in my offerings.
Finally it clicked. From 11:45AM until 1PM eleven cutthroat trout rested in my landing net. 75% nabbed the trailing ultra zug bug, and the others snatched the hares ear. I learned that marginal pockets were a waste of time and concentrated my casts to spots with more depth.
At 1PM I strolled back to the car and met Steve, and we quickly devoured our lunches. Steve reported decent success albeit small fish, and we discussed our afternoon options. Eventually we agreed to devote another hour to Mill Creek, and I entered the stream above a private bridge .2 mile from the car. I continued with the three fly configuration and boosted the fish count from eleven to thirty. In short I had a blast. The knowledge acquired in the AM made my casts more strategic, and I skipped marginal spots previously probed. Once again the cutthroats preferred the ultra zug bug to the hares ear in a ratio of three to one.
A dependable technique involved drifting the Chernobyl over the lip of a pocket, and then lifting as the nymphs neared the end of a deep slow area. Quite often an eager cutthroat grabbed one of the nymphs on the lift. Another winning water type was wide and long pools of moderate depth. In this type of water a pause of the Chernobyl after an upstream cast resulted in a hook set and a wildly catapulting cutthroat.
I strolled back to the car at 2:30 basking in the euphoria of landing thirty wild cutthroat trout in the space of three hours. I was very pleased with our choice of stream on Saturday, August 18.
Fish Landed: 30