My friend David Fisher from Saginaw and I flew to Bozeman, MT, rented a car and drove through Livingston, down to Gardnier and entered Yellowstone at its Northwest entrance and headed towards Lake Yellowstone. Along the way we wade fished the Gallatin and Yellowstone rivers and caught beautiful cutthroat, rainbow and brown trout..
I'm not sure which we enjoyed the most.........the fishing or the spectaular scenery and awesome beauty of Yellowstone. We were stopped many times by bison crossing the road, bears, wolves, elk
and mule deer as well as the majestic landscape of the mountains, valley's, geisers and hot springs.
We spent the first night at Yellowstone Lodge on the banks of Yellowstone Lake. It reminded me of the Grand Hotel on Michigan's Mackinac Island only smaller. It was built in the late 1800's and although modernized (but still no cell signal or internet) has managed to maintain it's historical charm.
The next morning we continued our route around Lake Yellowstone, to Old Faithful and then back north to Mommouth, always stopping to fish at the access sites along the way. According to the literature provided by the park, cuthroat trout stay in Lake Yellowstone until they are 2-3 years old and have grown to 14-16 inches in length.At that time they move upstream into the Yellowstone river to spawn and live out the rest of their lives. Thus, any cutthroat you catch in the Yellowstone
River will be of a size that provides a thrill to hook and land. We continued our jouney up to Mammouth where for a reason only know to God, the Elk come down from the mountains to graze on the sweet grasses in the center of town and walk through traffic without a care in the world.
From there we exited the park back at Gardnier and drove up to Livingston to spend the night.
The next morning we met our Saginaw friend Jac Ford who spends the summer in Livingston. Jac pulled into the motel parking lot pulling his drift boat and told us we had been invited by a rancher friend of his to fish a mountain lake on the ranch called "Checker Board". It was a two hour drive north but worth every minute. After launching the boat we rowed not quite to the middle, dropped anchor and immediately began catching rainbows on hopper flys. I lost count of the fish we brought to the net at somewhere around 35 and not a one was less than 16 inches with most around 20-22 ".
Jac, our ever gracious host, pulled out his grill and made buffalo burgers as we relaxed in the boat and took in the spectacular mountains and panorma of valleys below us.
The next morning we met Jac at a launch in Paradise Valley, between Livingston and Gardnier and floated the Yellowstone back downstream to Livingston. We fished.nympths and streamers but unfortunately the typical "hopper" fishing was not to be. Jac says no one has seen a grasshopper all summer long and surmises that the February-March warmup and then the resumption of cold weather had probably destroyed the eggs.
Wecnesday morning the three of us left Livingston and headed 3 hours north to Craig, MT and the headwaters of the Missouri River. Craig is the size of Lovells and contained 3 fly shops, a bar, restuarant and a 5 room motel. Yet I was shocked to see hundreds of cars with drift boats. Fisherman came from all over the world to fish the morning's Trico hatch, For some reason that only a entomologist would understand the Trico fly thrives there. In spots they were so thick you could hardly breathe without getting a mouth full. If you stood still they covered you from head to foot. The trout certainly appreciated them and gorged on them until mid day. We were fishing just below Holter Dam and at one time we counted over 50 large rainbows head and tail rising around us. Each of us caught and released at least 10 rainbows ranging in size from 16-22 inches.
We stayed in Craig Thursday and Friday and floated the Missouri each day 10-12 hours from the dam back to Craig. Around every bend we found pods of frenzied feeding fish. In late afternoon the caddis hatches began and all 3 days brought more hatches that started the feeding frenzy once again.
Friday night it was time to head home for Jac & I. He dropped me off back in Bozeman and I stayed the night to catch a Saturday morning flight. Dave was staying another 5 days and was heading towards Missoula to fish with people he had met on previous trips.
It is nearly impossible to describe the wonder of Yellowstone and Montana in a few short paragraphs so I intend to post more pictures and stories in the coming days but suffice it to say that it was an incredible adventure and a trip I'll never forget.