After a week fly fishing the Madison River, we looked forward to fly fishing Yellowstone National Park. Our plan was to fish the Yellowstone River and the waters of the Lamar Valley in the northeast corner – Soda Butte Creek, Lamar River, and Slough Creek.
We drove into the park with a plan to stay at Bay Bridge campground, which is next to Yellowstone Lake, for three nights. It was close to our intended fly fishing destination, the Yellowstone River. Our target was the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.
This section of the Yellowstone River opened for the season on July 15. We arrived on the 17th with hopes of catching the Salmonfly and Golden Stone hatch. Oh, there should be Green Drakes hatching as well.
We kept our fingers crossed our timing would be perfect. After all, we had just left some great fishing on the Madison River.
We were surprised the first morning to see so many Mayfly spinners on the water, but no trout eating them.
The water was higher than we’ve experienced in previous years. It was running at 4,000 CFS, but clear and cold.
A fly fisher we met who fishes the Yellowstone River frequently this time of year told us he thought the body color of the Golden Stone was darker than a normal Golden Stone seen on other rivers. Here is an image. You can decide for yourself.
Activity didn’t begin until around 2 pm each day. We saw a few Salmonflies and Golden Stones flying around and depositing eggs on the water’s surface.
But this is how we spent most of our time, waiting for the hatch.
Rises were sparse, with few fish coming to the surface.
We felt lucky to hook three fish and land one the first day. Another fish swirled at a Golden Stone imitation. It all happened in about 20 minutes.
I hooked and landed this one on a Clark’s Stone – Salmonfly. Another was hooked on a Norm Wood Special.
Overall, fly fishing was pretty slow for us. The second day, I saw five fish rise once each. None were interested in the flies I was throwing to them. All I received that day was a tired arm from casting so much!
Our last evening staying around Yellowstone Lake found us trying to find a grizzly bear and cub. The same fly fisher mentioned above told us where he had seen the bears and planned to return that evening to see if they could be seen. Since fishing the previous evening resulted in no rising fish, we thought we’d try it as well. We lucked out!
Soda Butte Creek
If you’ve been fortunate to visit and fish the Lamar Valley, you’ll recognize the wide, spectacular valley in which Soda Butte Creek flows and eventually runs into the Lamar River.
We have some favorite spots we enjoy fishing on Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River. Unfortunately, many of those spots were filled with fly fishers. In fact, I think it’s the most fly fishers we’ve ever seen in our many trips! We didn’t end up fishing the Lamar River because of that.
Here is a section of Soda Butte Creek we have fished in previous trips. A new log found its way on the rocks from runoff. Here again, we found higher water than we’ve seen in previous trips.
But the higher water made other fishable water for us.
We only planned to fish one day until our return to the Madison River. We arrived early one morning to “save our spot”. Unfortunately, the fish weren’t early risers.
Later in the morning, a few Cutthroat Trout came to the net. Several more moved to the size 16 tan X Caddis tied on our leader, but either didn’t eat the fly or just gave up.
Sunsets in the Lamar Valley rival the Madison Valley at times. It too is a special place.
Our last stop was at Slough Creek. As I mentioned above, we couldn’t believe all the fly fishers we saw on Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River. We expected the same as we arrived at Slough Creek.
We usually stop and check out fish before we get to the campground, which was closed by the way. Walking to the creek, we saw one fly fisher upstream from us. Hmmm, didn’t expect that.
Cautiously, we walked to the edge of a cliff above the water. It’s a place we’ve looked for rising fish on past trips.
We saw two fish. Only two fish.
The water was higher than last year, and we expected to see a few random rises. Nope.
We walked to a couple of pools trying to locate fish. Here is one that was actively feeding, and I was able to capture it in a short video.
Here is a series of images of the same fish rising to eat a fly.
We chose to not bother the two fish.
It was time to head towards West Yellowstone, MT with the anticipation of a long trip because of all the traffic we experienced a couple of days earlier when we drove from the Yellowstone River to the Lamar Valley in the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park.
As expected, the traffic was very heavy. The road from Canyon to Tower (where Roosevelt Lodge is located) is closed due to road construction. Plus, there are several miles of single lane road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Madison Junction. Cars were backed up forever!
We had a wonderful time in the Park…always do. I have a great fly fishing partner to share my experiences.
We are headed back to the Madison River where we will stay for a week and fish the river around $3 Bridge. I’m looking forward to another spectacular sunset in the Madison Valley
Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!
2020 Fly Fishing Road Trip Locations…so far
enjoyed the story and the pictures
John, love your narratives about your and Karen’s time in the Yellowstone area. Normally my wife (Connie) and I would be there too, fishing many of the same waters, however because our lodging and eating accommodations were going to be altered so greatly because of the Covid pandemic we cancelled our July/August trip. But I get to enjoy it though your wonderful photos and journal. Connie has met Karen at an FFI meeting in Livingston 3 years ago and also enjoys your adventures. I suppose we should get an RV and camp like you’re apparently doing so we can avoid motels and restaurants.
Good luck on the Madison!
Dave and Connie Dillon