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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fishing the Madison River in Yellowstone

One of the things we've really wanted to do is to fish the mighty Yellowstone rivers:  the Madison, the Firehole, the Gibbon, the Nez Perce, the Yellowstone, the Lewis, the Snake.  We got a chance to fish the Snake River in the Grand Tetons a week or two ago.  Ranger Roy at Grant Village here in Yellowstone had recommended we focus in Yellowstone on the Madison River, and the Nez Perce and Gibbon where they enter the Firehole River.  A young fellow at Arrick's Fly Shop in West Yellowstone (the shop came highly recommended to us for its honesty and fair prices) pointed us to the fly patterns for these spots right now:  Royal Wulff, Tan Caddis, a stonefly, Pale Morning Dun, and - just to be safe, a generic nymph pattern.

Today was our first chance to fish in Yellowstone, and we chose the Madison River.  We had scouted the river yesterday when we drove down to see Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin, so we knew which spot we wanted.  This section of the stream had endless big structure (huge boulders, fallen logs, big riffles, confluence with a creek, all within maybe 200 yards of stream.

We were up early at 5:30 am to get in and start fishing before the crowds arrived.  It was light, but the sun was very low and the temperature a brisk 44F as we got out of the truck.  Just after we arrived, some fishermen in another pickup truck sped in; but they looked us over and decided they didn't want to share the stream with us, so they reluctantly drove off to look for another spot.

We felt victorious, and this was a sign the fishing would be good today.  Here's Kathy with that "Fishland Security" look.  She's determined to bag her man - I mean fish.

The stream was gorgeous.  Here's a view downstream.  You can see the clarity of the water and the freestone bottom, with lots of plant life.

Just as the sun hit the water, caddis and other mayflies just exploded all over the water.  The most common was a tan-grey number with similarly colored wings.  It had the color of the Caddis and the form of the Pale Morning Dun, but didn't quite match either of those patterns.  Luckily, we each had a fly in our own boxes that "matched the hatch" well enough to get some action.  There were so many flies in the air, and they were everywhere, so it was hard to call it just a "hatch."  They simply all arrived in droves with the sun, out of nowhere and everywhere --- much like the tourists that arrived a little later in the morning.

Other wildlife wandered about.  Just downstream of us, a herd of elk was grazing in a meadow through which the river ran.  On our stretch, a mother duck was leading her "duckies six" along the edge of the stream, fishing and showing them how to search for food:

After an hour or so, we took spots directly across the stream from each other, right where the truck was parked.  Here's Kathy starting her marathon attack on her half of the stream.  Note the look of utter concentration and the fine form her line has at it lays out there into the current:

Meanwhile, David fished the riffle in the foreground above, as well as the current from a tributary that entered the river directly behind the camera in the photo above.

Kathy was the first to strike gold.  Here she is, hauling in a pretty little 12" rainbow trout.  He gave her quite a fight until, on one leap, he jumped right into her net for her.

No sooner was Kathy getting her fly set to try again after that catch, than David struck gold with an energetic little 9" cutthroat trout.  David was too busy bagging the trout to take the photo.  Oh well, you just have to believe Yours Truly about that cutthroat.

We fished and we fished and we fished.  By the time we looked at our watches, we'd been in the stream for four hours, which is quite a long time for us.

Kathy said she knew it was time to quit because the tourists gawking and talking and taking photos were starting to get her irritated.  All morning while we fished, people would pull their cars into the pullout, jump out, come look at the stream, take a photo of either or both of us in our classic flyfishing poses, and then chat a bit, maybe take a photo of each other in front of the river, and hop back in their vehicle and leave.  Generally, we get it and it didn't bother us, but it can be distracting.

We agreed that, in any event, we'd had a full morning of fun and were ready to pack it in.  Even as we left the stream, the trout were still rising and slurping flies across the stream against the bank.  We'll leave some fish for the next guys.

By the time we left the stream it was 11:00 am.  As we drove back to the campground, we got a taste of how terrific is the traffic in Yellowstone around July 4.  Here's a photo of cars streaming into the park.

They were bumper to bumper and often at a standstill.  Any little hitch along the way stops everyone from the entrance station all the way in.  Thank goodness we were headed out of the park.   This resolved us to to always get as early a start as possible each day we enter the park.  Folks, a word to the wise should be sufficient.

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