Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yellowstone - Part 1

Well, I'm back.  I made it through a wedding in Michigan and a week in Wyoming and still managed to bring my new bride (shall we call her Mrs. Michissippi?) back to Mississippi with me.  This being an outdoors blog and all, I'd like to talk about our trip out west.  We spent half of the week in Grand Teton National Park and the other half in and around Yellowstone National Park.  The hiking was great.  The views were fantastic.  The animals were abundant.

Okay, I'll 'fess up.  I did a little bit of fishing too.  I brought my lightly used Cabela's Custom Glass 4 WT all the way from Mississippi and was very excited to use it on some wild trout.  Also, I had potentially my very own personal photographer with me if I could keep her from getting bored.

I convinced Mrs. Michissippi to go on a hiking/fishing expedition one of the days we were staying near Yellowstone.  We drove a few hours (it would have taken about 30 minutes if not for wildlife jams) to the Lamar Valley in the northeastern portion of the park.  There we hiked 2 miles to a certain creek based on the recommendation of a park ranger.  I hadn't heard of this place, but apparently it is fairly well known, because, while it wasn't crowded, most of the people we saw hiking had long tubes strapped to their packs.

And for good reason.  The place was amazing.  A cutthroat trout aquarium.  The creek meandered slowly through an endless meadow, and large trout could be seen, not holding a position as expected, but cruising up and down the river.  Even better, they were very eager to rise.  There wasn't a visible hatch, but every few minutes, a large nose would poke its way through the surface and suck something down.

We had only just arrived and I was struggling with my decision making.  Part of me wanted to throw my stuff down, set up my rod, and start fishing right where the trail met the river.  Another part of me wanted to walk a good distance to find less pressured trout.  Another part of me wanted to eat lunch.  I ended up doing all three.  I set up, walked down the river bank until I just couldn't handle it anymore, made a few casts, and then decided to sit down and eat lunch.  The trout would be there when I was done.

With all things now made ready, I finally began fishing in earnest.  This was ninja fishing.  Crouched in the tall grass on the bank, I would wait for a big cutt to cruise by and then make a very short cast, landing my grasshopper pattern in front of the fish.  If it was a good cast, the fish would usually make a subtle change in its course, heading toward the fly, rising in the water column, increasing my heart rate, only to pause two inches below the fly and return to its previous course.  Agonizing.  It was almost too easy, but then it wasn't.  I couldn't decide if the trout didn't like the pattern, or if they could see the line, or if it wasn't realistic enough, or what.  But the pattern I had was about as realistic as I've got, and I was already using 6x tippet, so I didn't bother changing anything. 

Trout checking out my grasshopper
On a sidenote, you can get surprisingly close to a fish without spooking it if you are not moving.  If I crouched completely still on the very edge of the river, trout would swim just 2 ft away without a care in the world.

Eventually everything came together.  I had wandered onto a small island, and Mrs. Michissippi was on the opposite bank.  She spotted a fish for me, I found it, and I made a cast.  We watched as the trout meandered over like normal, paused under the fly, and sucked it down!  I was so surprised I think I strip set the poor guy!  He brought the fiberglass to life, and after a decent battle, I pulled in a beautiful Yellowstone Cutthroat trout, my very first, about 13 inches long.

Stylish, I know...

 From there the action increased.  I had two fish eat an unweighted pheasant tail nymph only to somehow avoid being hooked.  I felt weight on the hookset but the hook pulled right out of their mouths.  Perhaps I need to start sharpening my hooks...

The highlight of the day occurred in the late afternoon.  I had been chasing a particularly large cutt up and down a long, deep bend in the river.  I was back with a grasshopper pattern and had been denied by him several times already.  I wasn't leaving because he was a big one.  Somehow I just knew that he would eat if I got enough good drifts by him.  I was right.  He slurped my fly down and my rod bent severely on the hookset. This guy slowly went deep and started a series of mighty headshakes.  Partly due to the large fish, and partly due to the small, medium action rod, I've never felt headshakes like this.  The force was frightening.  I was scared for my 6x tippet and my barbless hook.  I was relieved when the fish started swimming upriver.  Now I started regretting every time I've told people that good reels aren't important for trout fishing.  This guy just kept going.  I've never had a trout take out line like him.  He didn't make it to my backing, but I could see it through the 3 or 4 wraps of fly line I had left.

Attracting a crowd
 After a few moments of tug-o-war, I started pulling him in.  I think it was at this moment, I thought, OMG, I'm going to land this guy.  In his tired state, he started some desperate thrashing.  I made it through a nervy two rounds of thrashing and started pulling him into the shallows.  I reached out to grab the leader.  He made one more thrash, and the hook popped out.

This guy was in the 20 inch range.  Really too good of a trout for a casual trout angler like me to catch on a short day trip to a river I've never fished.  But boy it was sweet while it lasted.

I haven't been this disappointed about losing a fish since a certain redfish, and that loss was quickly avenged with many other redfish caught.  Unfortunately, this loss will not be avenged for a loooooong time.

I had said at the very beginning of the trip, I would be happy if I could catch just one cutthroat.  And I am happy.  But that big cutt continues to haunt me...

Overall, the trip was fantastic.  Fishing was just a small part of it.  I'll be posting more on the trip here in a few days.


  1. Nice! Shame you lost the big one though. Looks like a great trip.

  2. great scenery and glad you got to hook up a few times. thanks for sharing the experience!

  3. Uggh. Gots to go fish there sometime! I stumbled on this blog not long ago, and have really enjoyed the pics and posts. Keep up the good work, and tight lines!

    1. Daniel - thanks for the feedback! Glad to hear you enjoy the blog.

  4. Great photos and report. You did pretty well considering how many flies get thrown at the fish in that creek in mid-July and August...especially in that particular stretch of water.

    1. Thanks! That makes me feel slightly better...