Copyright 2015 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Yellowstone River - Yellowstone National
Yellowstone Lake To Yellowstone Falls:
Below Yellowstone Lake, the accessibility and popularity of the Yellowstone River drastically
changes. The river is an eleven mile long stream that is big and wide. Opening day is July 15th
at the current time. For the first few weeks after the opening, it is usually quite crowded with
anglers. Although the fishing isn't as good as it was at one time, anglers still score fairly well. It
is much more like a huge spring creek than a freestone stream. It has a very smooth flow
except for the Le Hardy Rapids. After the trout have been cast at a few times, they can become
difficult to catch. Much of the lower part of this portion of the Yellowstone River is closed to
fishing to protect wildlife and the fish. The area above the falls is closed to protect people from
going over the falls.
This section of the Yellowstone River has a very large and diverse population of aquatic
insects. Its very fertile water is home to many species of mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies. It's
probably a good thing that the native cutthroats are not usually highly selective, because it
would not be easy to match the multiple hatches occurring most days.
This area of the river doesn't open to fishing until July 15th at the current time and that is
unlikely to change. The delay is created to provide the huge number of cutthroat trout that
move into the river from the lake to spawn. During June and the first couple of weeks of July,
the river is full of spawning cutthroat trout. When the season does open, it can become very
crowded. These conditions only last a few days. Even though the population has declined
some over the last few years, there are still plenty of cutthroat in the river. By the end of
August, most of the cutthroat will move back into the Lake leaving only resident fish.
The spawning and resident cutthroats average a very large size, usually fifteen to eighteen
inches long. Of course they get much larger. They can be sighted and individual fish targeted
and caught blind casting if a large hatch is occurring.
This area of the river runs close to the Grand Loop Road north of Fishing Bridge. There are
many pull off areas you can park and fish. Only a short section of the river requires a hike to
reach. The area of Nez Perce Ford is the most popular section of the entire river. Its shallow
water provides the perfect place for spawning cutthroat. The access to the Nez Perce Ford
Picnic area is about five miles north of Fishing Bridge.
Another access to this section is just above the Grand Canyon is off Artist Point Road. It turns
off the Grand Loop Road about two and a half miles south of Canyon and across Chittenden
Bridge. The Howard Eaton Trail Head is located just past the bridge. You can travel it in an
upstream direction about a mile and then leave the trail and hike down to the river.
After the initial crowds, the pressure will slow down drastically. By the end of July there will be
fewer and fewer anglers but also, fewer fish. Most of them will have moved back into the lake.
This does not mean that there isn't any cutthroat trout remaining in the river. There should still
be plenty and if fished properly, the river will usually provide a good day of fishing. The key
during this time is to fish the hatches and spinner falls. They tend to concentrate the cutthroat
on the large river.
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