Fly Fishing The Greater Yellowstone: Lessons Learned

Firehole River Yellowstone National Park

Any experience, or set of experiences, in life will result in memories; hopefully more good than bad. But experience without an opportunity to learn from that experience means

Travel, and most life experiences for that matter, result in memories – hopefully more good than bad. In addition, if we pay attention to what we’ve seen and done, there are lessons to be learned.

Don’t Overlook the Obvious

I spent months working on the itinerary, planning and making reservations for our stays, deciding where to fish rivers; what flies we might need – with some to buy here and others to buy from local shops; which rods to bring (a 5 weight Scott Radian and 6 weight Sage Accel for me; two Reddingtons – a 5 weight and 6 weight for my wife); water temperatures; and last minute weather forecasts to figure out which clothes to bring.

The only thing I didn’t think about was waders.

I use Simms G4Z waders in Puget Sound. Unless it is very hot and midday, I’ve never found them to be too warm. Given those were the only waders I had, I wore them on our first morning on Rock Creek. It took very little time to realize I was overheating. At it hit me at that moment that I had never thought when packing them that they would be too hot for where we were going. I made it through the morning but decided I’d need to buy a lighter pair.

During our stay in Bozeman, I picked up a pair of Patagonia Rio Azul waders at the Orvis dealer, Fins and Feathers They worked great for the rest of the trip. Light and easy on/off, they were a life saver.

Next trip to Yellowstone – unless it’s winter, I’ll leave the Simms G4Zs at home and take the Rio Azuls.

Changing the Paradigm

I watched a fly fisherman while we were on the Henry’s Fork. He was upstream of us and stood in the middle of the river unmoving for what I guess was at least 45 minutes. He then shook his head and moved down and off the river. I got a chance to share a few words with him a bit later and saw that he had a dry fly on a bamboo rod.

During that same time he was standing in the river, my wife and I were swinging nymphs, getting hits and landing a nice Rainbow trout.

The Henry’s Fork has renown as a dry-fly fisherman’s dream. Most people go there with the hopes of catching a rising trout on a dry fly. We did. But when it was apparent there were no hatches underway we switched to nymphs and had a great time.

Perhaps that fly fisherman would rather stand in the river and catch nothing than switch flies and go with a nymph. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There are many people who think of fly fishing as only using dry flies. For me, dries, nymphs, and streamers are all ways of catching fish.

Of course then there’s the flip side.

While we were using nymphs for the entire trip, we basically stuck to a tight line swing. That worked well on the wide easy moving Henry’s Fork, but not on the pocket waters of the Madison and Ruby.

Over the years,I have disdained indicator-type nymphing as clunky casting and as too much like the cane pole and bobber fishing on the first fishing I did as a child in Missouri. But the guy who pulled the 20-inch brown out of the Ruby was using a round indicator as were all his friends.

Eventually I bought some indicators. Being rigid in one’s thinking doesn’t always bring in the fish.

It is What It is

I had first seen someone fly fishing in 1975. It was a cold snowy Sunday in October and I was heading out of Yellowstone on the west side road. In the area of 7 mile, I saw a lone fly fisherman casting in the light snow. That image has stuck with me ever since.

But, in all the years since, I had never gone fly fishing in Yellowstone. Until this year.

And as I recounted in the previous post, it was a bust.The Firehole and Gibbon rivers were already in late summer conditions – too warm for fishing. The Madison was running dirty in high winds.

It was a bit disconcerting. But then again I knew we had other rivers to fish and we were in Yellowstone National Park and I was fly fishing there.

No success is guaranteed. Fly fishing on Puget Sound reflects that. As I once heard it described by Jason Cotta from Orvis Bellevue, “the only thing consistent is the inconsistency.”

Already being back home I smile when I think about how I finally got to fly fish in Yellowstone. There was magic even in that. And it’s only a very long days drive from here.

New Perspectives

This is the first vacation, now more properly termed a trip, since I retired last year. So this was the first time I did not have to return home and dread thinking about returning to a corporate job. And so it’s been possible to savor all the experiences and live with a different sense of time than when one’s return to work with all its overburden of pressures and stress crush the life out of the experiences.

It made me appreciate that this next stage of life has even more rewards.

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