Monthly Archives: August 2018

Frying Pan River – 08/29/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River 08/29/2018 Photo Album

A slow day that yielded small fish had me considering alternatives for Wednesday, August 29. I tentatively settled on the upper Frying Pan above Reudi Reservoir, as I dozed off in my comfortable sleeping bag. I reasoned that the feeder stream and smaller fish would at least provide a faster pace, and I presumed that I would have the area to myself during the middle of the week. Most fishermen treat the Frying Pan tailwater as their dream destination, and they ignore the small fish above Reudi.

As I finished packing my camping gear on Wednesday morning, however, I experienced a change of thinking. The freestone section of the Frying Pan would offer even less in the way of hatches than what I observed on Tuesday on the tailwater, and this circumstance might translate to difficult fishing in low water conditions for small fish. I also reasoned that I drove four hours from Denver to fly fish the fabled Frying Pan tailwater, and I probably needed to give it a second chance. Perhaps the slow fishing on Tuesday was attributable to a change in the weather, and an extra day of stability would usher in more consistent hatches. Since I camped at Little Maude at Reudi Reservoir, I was merely two miles from the sought after water just below the dam, and I knew from a trip in May, that a high density of larger than average trout called this area their home.

A Guide and Clients Took My Spot

I turned on to the dirt road that accesses the upper Frying Pan, and I continued along the north side of the river. It was immediately apparent that quite a few other fishermen had the same idea, as all the prime spots, that I envisioned as my starting point, were occupied with early risers. I was disappointed, but I continued downstream on the paved road to check out the premium locations between mile marker (MM) 11.5 and 13. The possibility of finding an open stretch away from competing anglers improved, however, quite a few vehicles occupied the many pullouts along the way.

Yummy Shelf Pool

After assessing the upper four miles, I executed a U-turn and settled into a nice wide pullout .3 miles above the downstream boundary with private water. The air temperature was in the low sixties, as I slipped on two pairs of socks and climbed into my waders. The thicker grip of the five weight had an impact on my tennis elbow condition on Tuesday, so I elected to use my Sage four weight on Wednesday. The Sage was longer than the Loomis five weight with a narrower grip, yet it possessed a stiffer backbone than my Orvis Access four weight in case I tangled with a larger than average trout. In spite of Tuesday’s disappointment I harbored some optimism for a second day on the Frying Pan River.

Looks Appealing

I walked down the road to the long pool where a fallen tree forms a semi-dam, but a guide and two clients claimed the side of the river opposite the road. I retreated back toward the car and slid down the bank just above a long fast chute, where the river splits around a long narrow cluster of tiny islands. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line, and then I added the ever-present beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. I began casting to the nooks and crannies around the small islands, and within ten minutes I hooked and landed a ten inch brown trout that displayed deep coloration and vivid markings.

Cube Rock Pool

This approach became my mode of operation for the remaining time on the river. I experienced very little success in the large attractive pools, and most of the landed trout materialized from obscure lies along the bank or smaller midstream pockets. Two periods deviated from this approach, and I will describe them later. During the course of my dry/dropper prospecting I made several changes. During the morning I exchanged the hares ear for a size 14 prince nymph in an attempt to imitate the underwater stage of a green drake. The large nymph picked up a couple small fish, but it was not a highly sought after menu item. I also swapped the yellow fat Albert for a peacock body hippy stomper, and this conversion prompted me to abandon the prince nymph for an ultra zug bug. The salvation sacrificed its position on my line for a size 18 pheasant tail nymph in an effort to simulate the nymph stage of pale morning duns, but again the move proved ineffective. The ultra zug bug and hares ear nymph occupied my line for the longest time, and each accounted for a fair share of trout.

My What Spots

I progressed from my starting point to MM12, and then I reversed my direction and investigated the smaller left channel, where the river splits around a long slender island. On my way upstream I covered the south braid, so I was now interested in surveying the channel closer to the road. Typically this branch carries lower flows and provides more challenging fishing. On Wednesday I managed a refusal in the lower pool section, and then I netted a ten inch brown in the upper pocket section. I continued until I reached the abundant series of pockets scattered above the island, and I paused to observe. It was around 2PM, and I previously covered this area quite thoroughly on my dry/dropper search, so I was not optimistic regarding my prospects on the second pass.

Fifteen Inch Rainbow Made My Day

As I scanned the deep curled pocket directly above the point of the island and next to the roadside bank, I was shocked to see a fish, as it elevated to sip an unidentifiable object from the surface. I peered into the tail of the pocket, and I was sure that the feeding fish was a very nice rainbow trout. As this transpired, another sizable fish hovered a foot below the surface, and it too snatched a drifting bug along the current seam, where the river swirled around an exposed boulder at the upstream end of the curled pocket. My heart rate accelerated with this fresh sign of surface feeding by larger than average trout.

Now I needed to determine what these feeders were consuming. I paused and observed the air space above the river, and several medium size mayflies made an appearance. They were too small for a green drake but larger than a blue winged olive, although I spotted several baetis as well. I quickly removed a size 18 cinnamon comparadun from my fly box and dropped several nice drag free drifts over the rainbow at the tail of the small pool. No luck. The trout twitched its tail and rose a bit but then resumed its normal holding position. What should I try next? Normally I downsize, but my hunch in this instance was that the pale morning duns were larger than a size 18. I clipped off the size 18 PMD and replaced it with a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. I applied a generous quantity of floatant and preened the wing to a nice vertical position, and then I dropped a cast four feet above the target rainbow. I held my breath as the sighted fish slowly elevated and drifted under the fly, and then at the last minute it turned and ate!

I was dumbfounded. I quickly lifted my rod and set the hook, and the rainbow went into intense escape mode. I held tight, eliminated slack and cautiously waited for the thrashing fish to tire. When I concluded that the battle was complete, I slid my net beneath a gorgeous fifteen inch rainbow. I removed the comparadun and snapped a photo, while the pink striped beauty rested in my net, and then I lifted and lowered it to the river, and it was gone in a flash. Was this the beginning of an intense hatch and reckless feeding binge by large Frying Pan trout?

In short the answer was no. I disturbed the active pocket, so the other fish in that vicinity stopped their feeding and retreated to safety. I scanned the other pockets in the area, but I was unable to detect surface rises. Perhaps the pool below the large cube rock on the south braid had come alive? I slowly waded along the edge of the river, but when I arrived at the pool, it was devoid of surface action. Next I carefully waded along the inside edge of the island to the bottom and then crossed to the north branch and once again moved upstream. Again I found no evidence of a hatch or actively feeding trout.

It was now 3PM, and I was reluctant to believe that the brief fifteen minute feeding episode in the pocket above the island was the extent of Wednesday’s hatch. I decided to check out the long pool near the private boundary that was occupied by a guide and two clients at the start of the day. I was pleased to discover that it was vacant, so I stood on the bank and observed. It took awhile, but eventually I noted several sporadic rises. I positioned myself at the tail and made several cross stream casts to no avail. I once again paused, and now I noticed more activity in the moderate riffle on the opposite side of the pool, so I crossed above the fallen tree and positioned myself to cast in the neighborhood of the rises.

Small Pool Produced

For the next half hour I cast pale morning dun imitations and green drakes to the quality shelf riffle and center run seam, but I was unable to generate a single hook up. I spotted two green drakes, as they recklessly tumbled on the surface in an effort to dry their wings to become airborne, and this prompted me to test a parachute and comparadun imitation, but each could do no better than provoke a refusal from a ten inch brown along the center current seam.

At 3:30PM even the sparse random surface activity dwindled to nothing, and modifying my configuration for dry/dropper was not appealing. I was weary and faced a long drive to Denver, so I hooked my fly in the rod guide and returned to the waiting Santa Fe.

I accumulated sixteen landed fish on Wednesday, but aside from the fifteen inch rainbow and one or two twelve inch brown trout, the rest were small browns in the six to ten inch range, and at least six of the small fish were heavily weighted toward 6-7 inches. The hatch was sparse and brief, and I was frankly disappointed with my two days on the Frying Pan River. The upper water near the dam was crawling with anglers, and even the lower portion of the upper four miles contained a fair amount of competition. Unlike most previous ventures to the Frying Pan, large fish were absent, and I never sighted fish other than the risers during the brief hatch. The flows were a constant 181 CFS and cold and crystal clear. The daytime highs were in the middle to upper seventies. The wind was an annoyance both days, but never a show stopper. I am at a loss to understand why the two days at the end of August 2018 were so lackluster. The Frying Pan River has always ranked as one of my favorites due to the consistent hatches of green drakes, pale morning duns and blue winged olives. Where were they during August 28 and 29?

Fish Landed: 16


Frying Pan River – 08/28/2018

Time: 12:00PM – 4:30PM

Location: Folkstead Spring

Frying Pan River 08/28/2018 Photo Album

There is no denying that I had high expectations, and I was disappointed with my first day of a two day fly fishing trip to the Frying Pan River. I am repeatedly attracted to the Pan because of the consistent hatches in an intimate tailwater environment. An explanation for my subpar day on August 28 is difficult to formulate. A drop in air temperature occurred on Monday night, and generally this results from a cold front or high pressure system. Historically I have not experienced many solid days of fly fishing the day after a front moves through an area, so perhaps Tuesday’s results were attributable to this weather situation.

The Frying Pan River

I left Denver at 7:30, and this enabled me to arrive at the wide parking area by Folkstead Spring by 11:30. By the time I climbed into my waders and rigged my Loomis five weight, I was ready to fish. Another angler arrived, as I was gearing up, and he asked which direction I was heading. I intended to go downstream a bit, but his presence caused me to start directly across from the spring.

I launched my day with a size 14 parachute green drake, as I hoped that the fish were accustomed to seeing the large olive mayflies. It did not work. I prospected for twenty minutes with nary a look, so I migrated to a tan pool toy with a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph. This combination was also not effective, although I did manage to net a six inch brown trout to eliminate the possibility of a skunking.

As the start to my day was evolving, a different angler charged across the quality run thirty yards upstream, and he began working along the right bank. He appropriated my intended path! Some undisturbed quality water remained, before I overlapped with my nemesis, so I continued, but the lack of response to my dry/dropper offering caused me to revert to the parachute green drake. I noticed a sparse number of blue winged olives in the air, so I concluded that the water temperature elevated enough to generate increased mayfly and trout activity.

Nice Early Catch

Before tying a tiny blue winged olive fly to my line, I decided to go large. The strategy paid off, when a gorgeous rainbow inhaled the green drake in a long deep trough in the center of the river. The striped stream resident measured fourteen inches, and I was quite pleased with this fortuitous turn of events. Eventually I would discover that this was the highlight of my day.

I conjectured that perhaps I reached a turning point in my day, but despite some scattered refusals, the drake could not repeat its magnetic impact. I downsized to a size 18 light gray comparadun, when I observed some pale morning duns, but only a refusal or two resulted from this change. Next I stepped up to a size 16 comparadun, as the visible duns appeared larger than the size 18 on my line. Again I was thwarted.

Button Flowers

I now speculated that the trout were following through on blue winged olive emergers, so I switched to a pool toy, salvation nymph and RS2. It was a great idea, but it appealed to fishermen and not to fish. I also experimented with a 20 incher to imitate a green drake nymph during this phase, but this ploy was yet another disappointment.

Finally I progressed to a point where the river morphed into a fast water chute, and the only attractive locales were pockets along the right bank, and this was water that the upstream angler disturbed. I abandoned the spring area and walked downstream a considerable distance, and I reverted to the parachute drake. The green drake provoked a pair of refusals along a band of slow water next to the bank, so I once again forsake the dry and returned to a dry/dropper. The water ahead was fast and consisted of a large quantity of pockets and deep runs, and these conditions are more suited to the dry/dropper approach.

A Bit Larger. Salvation in Lip

During the 2-3:30PM time frame I cast a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph, and several versions of a pheasant tail nymph. I finally earned some consistency and built the fish count to ten. Unfortunately this included three more browns in the 6-7 inch range, but also a muscular thirteen incher joined the mix along with some wild browns in the 10-12 inch range.

Hops Blossoms

By 4PM I found myself across from the spring again, but the less than torrid catch rate subsided to inactive status. I jumped in the car and moved to mile marker 12, where I made a feeble effort to add to my fish count. It did not work, and I abandoned my efforts at 4:30 and secured a campsite at Little Maude.

Tuesday may have been my slowest outing ever during the July – October time frame on the Frying Pan River. I applied considerable effort to my approach during the afternoon to reach double digits, but the size was lacking. Consistent hatches of green drakes, pale morning duns, and blue winged olives are the hallmark of the Frying Pan River, but they were absent or meager compared to historical standards on Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 10


Clear Creek – 08/24/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Within one mile east of Tunnel 2

Clear Creek 08/24/2018 Photo Album

Jane and I had tickets for the Cardinals vs Rockies game on Friday evening, so my fishing options were limited to relatively close destinations. The closest choice was Clear Creek, so I made the short drive to the narrow canyon west of Golden, CO on Friday morning. Traffic was flowing reasonably by the time I left the house around 9:30AM, and I arrived at a very wide pullout on the south side of US 6 east of Tunnel 2 by 10:15.

Hot Sunny Day on Clear Creek

The high temperature for Denver was projected to reach ninety degrees on Friday, so I elected to wade wet, and this decision proved to be appropriate. I rigged my Orvis Access four weight for small stream fishing, and I ambled along the shoulder of the highway for .2 miles, until I found a reasonably safe spot to negotiate the steep rocky bank to the creek.

Jake’s gulp beetle historically yielded excellent results on Clear Creek, so a size 10 foam terrestrial became my first fly choice. I lobbed it to likely deep spots, and I observed a few looks, but the trout failed to open their mouths, before they dropped back to the stream bottom. Unwilling to deepen my frustration, I switched to a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, and this matched the small naturals that covered the streamside boulders.

Very Nice Brown Trout for Clear Creek

My move was immediately confirmed as a winner, when I tossed the caddis to a deep hole below a large exposed boulder situated along the bank. As I looked on, a decent brown trout slowly elevated to the surface and sipped the caddis impostor. Needless to say I was very pleased. I methodically worked my way upstream along the left bank and added another representative brown that was quite nice for Clear Creek but smaller than the first netted fish. A pair of smaller brown trout followed, but then a series of refusals ruined my state of fly fishing bliss.

The water type shifted to fast runs and deep pockets, and I speculated that perhaps the Jake’s gulp beetle might be more effective and surely more visible, so I made the switch. Initially the foam beetle accounted for fish number five, but then it lapsed into another ignored or rejected dry fly. At this point I paused for lunch in a rare shady location overlooking a gorgeous run and pool. The deep center run cut the pool in half and created two very attractive shelf pools on each side.

After lunch I extended the leader by eighteen inches, and I exchanged the Jake’s gulp beetle for the size 16 deer hair caddis that provided success during the morning. By now the sun was directly overhead, and its rays beat down on the river and anyone attempting to fly fish in the canyon. Apparently the fish were affected as well, because the same caddis that yielded confident takes in the first 1.5 hour now provoked tentative looks at best. I persisted, however, under the mistaken belief that the right spot along the bank would yield positive results in spite of the bright blue sky and soaring air temperatures.

First and Best on Deer Hair Caddis

After an hour of dry fly frustration I decided to try one last approach before I surrendered to the heat and exited the canyon. I tied a size 12 Chernobyl ant to my line and added a beadhead hares ear as a dropper. Initially I cast this combination to similar locations as those prospected with the dry flies, but after another lull in action, I began to focus on faster deep runs and frothy sections at the top of pockets and riffles. A small brown trout grabbed the hares ear, and my method was finally vindicated.

I moved along and experienced a couple momentary hook ups, but then the small yellow indicator on the Chernboyl began to twist around on the underside of the body. The top fly was not drifting topside up, so I replaced it with a size 14 chubby Chernobyl with a brown body. With the more buoyant surface fly I added a second dropper in the form of a size 16 yellow caddis pupa. I continued to target the faster aerated spots in the creek, and the deep nymph approach paid dividends, when two brown trout mashed the caddis pupa, as it began to swing at the end of the drift.

Smaller but Appreciated Brown Trout

Just before two o’clock the chubby paused in the middle of a current seam, and I responded with a quick hook set, but after feeling some weight for a split second, the line went limp. I stripped in the line and discovered that the hares ear and caddis pupa were missing, as apparently I tied a bad knot between the chubby and the upper nymph. I was within minutes of when I planned to quit, so rather than undertaking the task of tying two replacement flies to my line, I climbed the very steep rocky bank to the highway and paced back to the Santa Fe.

Late August is typically a slow time for fly fishing in Colorado on freestone streams, and the hot weather added to the challenge, so I was pleased to land eight trout in 3.5 hours of fly fishing on Friday. Hopefully I have more time next week, and that will enable some longer trips to tailwaters in Colorado.

Fish Landed: 8


South Boulder Creek – 08/22/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/22/2018 Photo Album

Jane and I returned from Wyoming and Montana on Monday, and that was a bit earlier than planned. I caught up on some chores on Tuesday and cleared the calendar for a day of fishing on Wednesday. Since my outstanding visit on 08/09/2018 to South Boulder Creek, I was aching to return, in case the green drake activity intensified. Wednesday, August 22 would be that day.

I delayed my departure until 9:10AM in order to check on an issue at a store, when it opened at 9:00AM, and this enabled me to arrive at the kayak parking lot below Gross Reservoir by 10:30AM. Three other vehicles occupied the parking lot, and two fishermen were about to embark on the trail, as I threw on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. The air temperature was in the low 60’s, as I took my first step down the steep trail to the edge of South Boulder Creek. Flows were 117 CFS, and the water managers held the flows at this level for a week in a welcome and unusual display of cooperation with anglers.

Began in This Area

I hiked a decent distance below the dam, and I passed a cluster of three young fishermen in the first section above the pedestrian bridge. I never encountered the two gentlemen, who departed as I was preparing in the parking lot. By 11:30 I was positioned on the creek in a nice section characterized with an abundance of pockets and tumbling riffles. I pondered my choice of flies and decided to begin with a parachute green drake. If the large western mayflies were in attendance, I speculated that the trout might react to a large dry fly regardless of the time of day.

Deep Black Spots

It was a strong hunch, and it was on target. Between 11:30 and a lunch break at 12:15 I netted ten trout from South Boulder Creek. All of the beautiful wild fish chowed down on the size 14 parachute green drake, and I was in a state of euphoria. I sat on a large flat rock in the middle of the creek and consumed my sandwich, while I observed the water, and surprisingly I never saw a green drake in the surrounding air. The first seven trout were fooled by the green drake that duped two gorgeous rainbows on the North Fork of the Shoshone River in Wyoming, but then a feisty brown dragged my line over a sharp branch and snapped off the popular paradrake. The replacement was slightly larger, and it accounted for three additional creek dwellers, but refusals were part of the package with this fly.

After lunch rejections of the parachute green drake became more frequent, so I elected to switch to a size 14 comparadun with no ribbing. The smaller mayfly imitation was effective initially, but when I cast to a pool with smooth water, the trout once again inspected but did not eat my fly on a repetitive basis. I reverted to a parachute style; however, the new dry fly was smaller than the previous replacement for the lost fly.

Attractive Section Ahead

In the early afternoon time frame the catch rate slowed from the morning blitz; however, enough trout consumed the parachute green drake to maintain my interest. I cast the low riding parachute to appealing pockets and deep runs, and a steady supply of positive responses enabled the fish count to climb to twenty-two. During the 1-2PM period rainbows began to dominate my net, and I was pleased with this shift.

Another Aggressive Rainbow Trout

At three o’clock I began my return hike; however, along the way I paused at a productive section to spray a few casts. The trout in this area rejected the parachute green drake, so I decided to experiment during my lingering time on the creek. I clipped off the drake and replaced it with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle, and I began to plop it behind exposed rocks. The ploy paid off as two trout smacked the terrestrial within five minutes of making the conversion.

I spotted several fish in a nice pool along the bank, but they darted upward and snubbed the terrestrial, so I paused to make yet another change. Several rises commenced along the edge of a nice long run above my position, and a size eighteen mayfly floated upward. This observation persuaded me to knot a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line, and the low floating mayfly imitation prompted a slurp from a pretty ten inch rainbow. The comparadun did not appeal to other trout in the pool, so after ten minutes of futile casting, I called it a day and completed the hike back to the car.

Speckles and Stripes

Wednesday was a fun and productive day on South Boulder Creek. Twenty-five fish was a rewarding experience, and the ability to confidently cast a single green drake for three hours was highly appreciated. Hopefully the flows will remain in the current range for the foreseeable future, and this fly angler will certainly return for more green drake action. I already restocked my boat box with my remaining supply of size 14 parachute ties from the winter.

Fish Landed: 25


Boulder River – 08/19/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 1:30PM

Location: Two miles south of Falls Creek Campground

Boulder River 08/19/2018 Photo Album

Jane and I drove from Livingston, MT to the Boulder River south of Big Timber. Based on some research I determined that most of the public access was south of Natural Bridge State Park. I drove on a somewhat rough gravel road beyond the state park for another six miles, until I parked on a wide shoulder across from a Christian ranch. Jane and I agreed that I would fish from 11:00AM until 2:00PM, while she walked and read her book.

I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and walked downstream along the dirt road for thirty yards, until I found a reasonably safe place to angle down to the river. The Boulder River in this area consisted of a mass of large boulders with clear greenish tinged water swirling and cascading over and around the exposed rocks. Deep pockets and runs characterized the flowing water for most of the section I fished on Sunday. The air temperature was in the low sixties, when I began.

Brawling Boulder River

After significant success on Saturday on Mill Creek, I reverted to a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph. During the early going several trout refused the fat Albert, but after twenty minutes a twelve inch rainbow trout grabbed the salvation nymph, as it began to swing at the end of its drift. I continued with this approach for another hour and tallied three more rainbows to boost the fish count to four. Three rainbows nabbed the salvation, and one snatched a 20 incher from the drift.

First and Best Fish on the Boulder River

I was rather disappointed at this point with the slow catch rate and the small size of the fish. The river was gorgeous and suggested much better fishing, and the failure of the Boulder River to meet my expectations was inexplicable. I read prior to Sunday that the Boulder River was a nymphing and caddis river, so I embarked on the somewhat time consuming task of configuring my line with a strike indicator, split shot, an emerald caddis pupa, and a salvation nymph. I theorized that the split shot and two nymphs would allow me to get deeper in the boulder strewn river.

The ploy failed. I applied the new approach for twenty minutes, and then I implemented another 180 degree change, when I switched to a size 14 chubby Chernboyl. Within minutes a ten inch rainbow darted to the surface in a long deep trough, and it crushed the foam imitation. This initial success was followed by a series of refusals, so I once again elected to change. I replaced the chubby with a gray size twelve stimulator. The stimulator experiment continued until 1:30, before I declared it a failure.

Decent Rainbow

I pondered my next move and concluded that a return to dry/dropper was perhaps my best chance for additional success. I did not relish the knot tying exercise, and I was within thirty minutes of my agreed upon quitting time, so I ended my fly fishing early. The best part of Sunday was our one hour hike within Natural Bridge State Park on our return drive to Big Timber and ultimately Billings, MT.

Fish Landed: 5


Yellowstone River – 08/18/2018

Time: 3:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Mill Creek Road Bridge

Yellowstone River 08/18/2018 Photo Album

On our way back to the cabin Steve and I decided to check out the crude boat launch area next to Mill Creek Road, where it crosses the Yellowstone River. The sky was black, and the wind gusted, and light rain began to fall, as we strolled down the potholed ramp. I wore my raincoat, and we began fishing on the north side of the bridge. The Chernobyl ant, hares ear, and ultra zug bug remained on my line from Mill Creek, and the configuration included a short two foot dropper.

I was skeptical that I could produce results along the edge of the huge Yellowstone River, and I suggested to Steve that I would be happy with a whitefish. I ignored the main river and focused on the fifteen feet next to the bank and methodically prospected the band of water along the shoreline, until I reached the bridge. My thorough coverage and attentive casting were not rewarded.

This Fat Albert Fooled a Yellowstone River Brown Trout

By now steady rain was in progress, and the Chernobyl was difficult to track in the dim light. I made a major change and removed the three flies and replaced them with a single yellow fat Albert. Despite the worsening weather and my lack of confidence, I persisted.

A Huge Surprise

A series of sequential shelf pools appeared above the bridge, with each roughly fifteen feet wide and fifteen yards long. The river cascaded gently over some barely visible rocks at the top of each pool and then slowed  in a deeper depression. I shot a pair of casts to the center of the first pool, and the fly’s drift was unimpeded on each pass. Cast number three; however, yielded a different result. A bulge materialized in the center of the pool, and the fat Albert disappeared in a swirl. In a state of disbelief I lifted the four weight and felt a solid connection. Initially I thought I hooked a whitefish due to the subdued color of the thrashing fish, but I quickly realized that the fat Albert would not fit in the small mouth of a whitefish. After several dives and rolls I guided a sixteen inch brown trout into my net. What a surprise!

Yellowstone Beast

I eagerly progressed upstream along the bank for another thirty yards hoping for more magic, but the prize brown trout proved to be the only interested inhabitant of the Yellowstone River in the vicinity of my fly on Saturday, August 18.

Fish Landed: 1

Mill Creek – 08/18/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM; 1:30PM – 2:30PM

Location: Ten miles from confluence with the Yellowstone River

Mill Creek 08/18/2018 Photo Album

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.

Postcard Beauty

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.

Vivid Coloration

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.

A Cutthroat Emerged from Beneath the Tree Roots

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


Yellowstone River – 08/17/2018

Time: 9:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Mayer’s Landing to Pig Pen take out.

Yellowstone River 08/17/2018 Photo Album

I anxiously looked forward to the centerpiece of our trip to Wyoming and Montana, and that day arrived on Friday, August 17. Our friends Steve and Judy Supple joined us at Moon Dance Ranch between Bozeman, MT and Livingston, MT on Thursday, and several months earlier Steve arranged for a float trip on the Yellowstone River on Friday. We met our guide, Jeff Welke, of Montana Fly Fishing Guides at The Yellowstone Angler parking lot at 7:45.

Mayer’s Landing Launch Point

Friday was overcast and smokey from the many western wildfires for the first two hours, before the sun broke through, after which the weather developed into a quite warm August day with highs in the low nineties. The Yellowstone River was flowing at 3,000 CFS…double normal for mid-August. Jeff set Steve and I up with size 14 chubby Chernobyls with tan bodies. He explained that the small rubber leg fly imitated a nocturnal stonefly as well as small grasshoppers. We covered multiple insects with one fly.

Over the course of the day we drifted 12.5 miles and flicked the chubby along the bank, through current seams, and bounced it over riffles of moderate depth. Steve and I both registered rainbows in the first hours, and this elevated our expectations for the day. The cool cloudy conditions and early success foreshadowed a fine day of fly fishing.

Yellowstone Cutthroat Caught by Dave

Unfortunately we remained locked on one fish until the sun burned through the clouds. Around this time we floated through some outstanding structure with frequent slow bank side pockets, so Jeff added a Pat’s rubber leg nymph to both our lines. I continued to fish the two fly dry/dropper until 2 PM, when Jeff removed the nymph. During the dry/dropper period I landed three additional small trout, and four medium sized whitefish. The action was actually better than three fish might suggest, as I also connected with four additional fish that escaped and pricked several others for a split second. A dose of refusals augmented the action.

Alerted to Our Presence

The pace slowed measurably at 2PM, so Jeff removed the dropper fly, and we fished the chubby Chernobyl as a single dry. I was surprised by a gulp in a current seam in the afternoon, but I managed to react in a timely manner, and this enabled me to land the best fish of the day, a fourteen inch cutthroat.

Taking Flight

The heat became a significant factor between 3PM and 4PM, and our arms and enthusiasm wilted. Jeff filled the lulls with animated conversation, and the scenery was magnificent. The quality of the water was outstanding, but spots that qualified as sure fired fish producers were quiet.

On Friday the heat was a factor, and the mid-August time period occured between post runoff hatches and the cooler fall weather. Given these factors Friday was a successful day on the Yellowstone River.

Fish Landed: 5

The Settlers’ Cabin

North Fork of the Shoshone River – 08/15/2018

Time: 8:00PM – 9:00PM

Location: Long pool near the campsite

North Fork of the Shoshone River 08/15/2018 Photo Album

After dinner and clean up I revisited the river by the campground with the hope of encountering the hatch that entertained me on Tuesday evening. I succeeded. By 8:10 PM I spotted several rises in the slower tail section, and I knotted a size 18 light gray comparadun to my line. In short order a fish gulped the fly, and my expectations soared, until I netted a fat whitefish. I was unable to extract the fly from the tiny lip-ringed mouth, so I eventually cut off the fly, although I probably killed the whitefish during the extended ordeal.

I replaced the comparadun with a size 16 caddis, and in the center of the pool a small rainbow inhaled it. By now the pool was alive with rising fish throughout its expansive area. I placed a nice cast toward the middle, and another solid take ensued. Once again my excitement morphed to disappointment, when a small whitefish flopped in my net. The magic hour was slipping away, and I had only a small rainbow for my efforts.

The fish seemed to ignore the caddis, so I reverted to a size 18 comparadun. This fly was totally ignored during the most intense surface feeding of the evening. Finally at 8:45 I flicked on my head lamp and returned to a size 16 light gray caddis. By now the fly was very difficult to follow in the dim light, so I cast above rises and executed the setting motion, when I approximated my fly to be in the vicinity of a rise.

Tail Grasp Before Release

It worked. I lifted and felt weight, and some aggressive thrashing followed. This fish felt different from the whitefish, and indeed a sixteen inch cutbow eventually rested in my net. I snapped some photos and released the sought after prize, and then I dried my fly and resumed a last ditch effort to repeat the near dark success. I suspected that I spotted a pair of rises upstream near the bank in the faint glare. I shot a couple casts to the area, and when a barely visible dimple appeared, I set the hook. Another fish! Alas, this fish revealed itself to be another whitefish. Fortunately the hook was embedded in the outer lip, and a quick release was possible, before I ascended the bank and returned to the campsite in darkness.

For the second night in a row I fished to numerous rising fish next to the campground in waning light. I love the electricity associated with frequently rising fish, approaching darkness and feverish casting. I should do more evening fishing.

Fish Landed: 2

North Fork of the Shoshone River – 08/15/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Rex Hale Campground until above the second bridge upstream

North Fork of the Shoshone River 08/15/2018 Photo Album

Wednesday was my day to fish after spending most of Tuesday enjoying a hike in excess of two hours on the Elk Fork Trail. Warnings about grizzly bears at the national forest ranger station in Cody, WY and signs at every campground and trailhead kept Jane and I on high alert. After success that exceeded my expectations on Tuesday evening next to the campground, I decided to simply fish upstream, and this option enabled Jane to access the Santa Fe, while I was gone. Well deserved bear phobia restrained Jane from hiking alone, so I swapped the car for bear spray.

I elected to wear my waders despite forecast high temperatures in the low eighties, and I assembled my Sage four weight in the event that I was fortunate enough to tangle with another trout in the fifteen to twenty inch range. Two such cutbows found a home in my net on Tuesday evening, so I reasoned that additional trout of that size were possible on Wednesday.

I began fishing with a yellow stimulator in the area just above the campsite, where I enjoyed brief success on Tuesday evening. I managed one small seven inch rainbow, and then as I moved upstream casting to the long shelf pool, I switched to an olive stimulator and nabbed a small brook trout. I was rather surprised to encounter the char species in the Shoshone, since I read that it contained exclusively rainbows, cutbows and cutthroats.

View from Lunch Spot

Next I progressed to a huge bend pool just below the first bridge, and I paused for lunch. By this time I converted to a size 8 Chernobyl ant trailing a salvation. The change was implemented, after I spotted a single pale morning dun. Despite my keen observation, this tactic was unsuccessful, and after lunch I briefly experimented with a Jake’s gulp beetle. Terrestrials were not on the menu, so after I passed under the Yellowstone Avenue Bridge, I tied a size 14 parachute green drake to my line.

Downstream Toward Campground

I approached a nice long shelf pool above the bridge that was twenty feet wide and shot some casts to the mid-section. On the third drift along the heavy current seam a fish rose and confidently slurped the drake. I could tell immediately that the feeder was a stronger fighter than the previous dinks, and the fish proved its mettle with five or six strong runs, before I guided it into my net. The length of the rainbow trout exceeded my net opening, and it displayed an ample girth. My confidence soared, but the paradrake generated only refusals after the big catch.

Well Fed

I pondered the situation and speculated that the drakes were in favor, but maybe the trout preferred a larger version or different style. I swapped the parachute for a comparadun that displayed a tall wing profile, and the ploy paid off when a plump twelve inch rainbow slammed the fraud.

Broad Shoulders

The next interesting area featured a fifty foot long pocket of moderate depth, and two current tongues merged at the top after splitting around an exposed rock. I dropped a cast toward the top of the pocket in the merge area, and a large mouth engulfed the comparadun drake. Once again the game was on, and another muscular rainbow found a home in my net after a spirited battle. This silver brawler also extended beyond the net opening and measured seventeen inches.

In spite of the difficulty following the comparadun, I persisted, and an eight inch brown trout nabbed it in a small bank side pocket. A brown trout? Once again I was stunned to count a rogue species for the Shoshone among my catch.

Productive Water Ahead

I continued around the bend on the north side of the highway and passed under bridge number two. I was about to prospect a nice long narrow shelf pool, when another fisherman arrived. We exchanged greetings and information about our days up until that point, and then the other angler proceeded to wade into the river no more than fifteen yards above my position. I was dumbfounded. I reeled up my flies and shook my head in the direction of the interloper’s buddy, who remained on the bank, and then I circled around and re-entered the river at some pocket water above the long run.

I prospected the entire length of fast water and landed a small rainbow near the top section. Along the way I switched from the comparadun to a Harrop hair wing green drake. A nice large section of moderate riffles presented itself next, and I covered it with a moderate amount of thoroughness, but evidence of fish was lacking. The lull in action caused me to climb a worn path to the cinder road that paralleled the highway. Near the end of the gravel lane, I crossed some prairie grass and returned to the campsite via the highway.

Typical North Fork of the Shoshone River

The bright blue sky and warm temperatures made Wednesday a challenging day for fly fishing. I was actually very pleased to land seven fish, and especially thrilled that my catch included two strong muscular rainbow trout. I never spotted a single green drake, but the Shoshone residents were apparently aware of their infrequent presence.

Fish Landed: 7