Montana and Wyoming, Early Fall, 2009
Last week I returned from my semi-annual eight day trip out to the American West, and the land and water around Yellowstone National Park. This year I was able to spend some time traveling and fishing the Madison River Valley, the Firehole River, in the park, the Shoshone on the Wyoming side, and the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley.
That area has had a good summer this year, and water levels and weather have been reasonable. I like to travel out toward the end of August and the beginning of September and even though dependable hatches start in the mountains later than in the Midwest, by the end of summer the fishing isn’t really all that different — mostly a matter of terrestrials and caddis, which is what we see in Upper Michigan this time of the year as well.
This year I spent a day with a particularly great guy named Brian Sienkowski, an outfitter and guide who books through George Anderson’s shop The Yellowstone Angler just on the south side of Livingston, MT. We fished together on the Yellowstone River on a sunny, warm, and bright Friday afternoon. I’ll refrain from saying precisely what beat we fished, but “in the area of the Bird Float” will do well enough.
Brian is a patient and professional guide, in his early 30s, and originally from Wisconsin, though he has lived in the Bozeman area for many years. He is fortunate to guide about 100 days in the summer months, fish a great deal on his own, and spends his winters working on skis in the mountains around the greater Yellowstone area. He is a terrific and knowledgeable oarsman, and I can recommend him without qualification.
On our day together we spend most of the morning fishing a two-fly nymph rig and the point fly was the hot one — Brian likes to fish a small rubber-legged beadhead prince nymph under a simple larger rubber-legged stonefly imitation. If there was any problem with the rig it would be that it is TOO effective — in addition to some good trout action, we had at least 20 hookups with decent-sized whitefish! But you get that whenever the fishing is good on the Yellowstone River.
After lunch we switched to fishing on top. Brian went with another two-fly combination of a foam hopper with an ant as the point fly. Given the dramatic difference in the protein value of a hopper and an ant, you would think that the trout would key on the hopper. Not so. They took the ant almost every time! Fishing dries keeps the whitefish off your line and so the afternoon was almost all trout and we easily got our Western Grand Slam of a rainbow, a brown, and a cutthroat all in the same afternoon. The day before on a feeder to the Shoshone in Wyoming I landed the largest brook trout of my life, and so the trip as a whole was a great success.
If you get a chance this year to fish “out West” you should go do it — it’s a great year for Yellowstone fishing and not every year is quite so good. And if you’re in the Livingston area check out the Yellowstone Angler. It’s a quality fly shop and guide service.