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  • Friday, July 07, 2006

    Yellowstone Flies & Flies


    Success & Tradition,
    let them eat caddis!
    we do.

    <- photo courtesy of
    Jason Neuswanger

    -- The impedimentia of fly fishing can often get in the way of fly fishing. The old adage; "If it 'aint in the water - they 'aint gonna' eat it," is too, too, true. Too many choices make for too many changes.
    -- We seldom wear a vest, seldom carry more than two fly boxes, & seldom more than a couple of spools of tippett material. And, that may be too much.
    -- Along with contempt, familiarity also breeds appreciation. We are blessed with the time to become familiar with the waters hereabout, and we have come to appreciate the traditional flies for the fish. The caddis pupa shown above, (the fly fishers 'emerger',) is helpless, juicy, and plentiful in our local waters. Trout love it.

    -- The GREEN THING, (previous post,) shown at the left does a fine job of imitating the pupa; is traditional in most of the western United States, and works well. We use it more than frequently. Any number of similar flies work just as well, and we recommend them all. BUT NOT ALL AT ONCE.
    -- When asked, "Why are there so many flies?" - the fishing sage replied, "Because they all work!" The rivers of Yellowstone have very frequent and regular caddis hatches. The trout 'remember' this form and take it even when there is no apparent hatch.
    -- If your Yellowstone boxes need any single fly; this, (or something similar,) is the one.

    <- photo courtesy of
    Jason Neuswanger

    -- With most of the Rivers in Yellowstone coming into shape, it's time for the Mayflies. There are many sorts of these gossamer creatures. We refer you to "FISHING YELLOWSTONE HATCHES" by John Juracek & Craig Mathews if you want to know about the local flies. Check out the sidebar for the new "Know Your Bug" links.
    -- Again, despite the many imitations that are available, (&, yes they all work,) we find ourselves using just a couple. They are traditional in the area; they are easy to tie, and they, too, work.

    -- The YELLOWSTONE MORNING GLORY is a local favorite among the "old farts;" is easy to tie and persistently nudges even the most recalcitrant of trout. It is out of favor with some of the younger set because it just isn't realistic enough. That's fine, there's more to this business than just catching fish; or, so we've been told.
    -- Most of the flies we gravitate to are generally classified as "attractor" flies. The word is frequently spit out of the mouth as if it had some foul taste.
    -- In our, very simple book, attracting the fish is what a fly is supposed to do. We'll continue to use these flies because of the tradition and effectiveness of them.

    <- photo courtesy of
    Jason Neuswanger

    -- The Mayflies have always been something of a mystery to us. Even in a single hatch the individual differences can be astounding. The sizes seem to be pretty consistent but the morphology can baffle even the experts.

    -- Because of this we also use a second pattern: THE YELLOWSTONE COACHMAN. It is a fly that has found very little favor with most fly fishers. It is not too imitative; is gaudy, is hard to tie correctly, and can hurt you.
    -- We prefer the 'Fan Wing' variant because it is easy to see. With modern rods, this version sails and sings, and twists like a banshee and can end up in your ear. With our old Eustes Edwards wand it floats and glides to the gentle rhythm of the old grass switch.
    -- Of course, Jenny, the fly on the water will catch the fish. And, now that July is here, it's time to get to the rivers.
    -- The Firehole River is on it's last legs. The warmer it gets, (Currently spiking to 80 degrees,) the slower will be the taking. Good fish can be taken at the submerged cold springs, (if you know where they are.) The evening caddis will bring some fish as well. If your time is limited, fish Iron Spring Creek, The Little Firehole, or the Firehole on the Lone Star Geyser trail. The walk is gentle and there are always eager fish.
    --Slough Creek is about perfect right now. The flows are constant, the temperature is in the low to mid 60's and the hatches are prolific - more than should be expected this early. Use any golden stonefly imitation in the quicker sections along the road into, and around the campground parking area. PMD's are still working, and a few Gray Drakes have been seen.
    -- Soda Butte Creek is flowing well below seasonal averages, (about 300 cfs,) and it's still in the 50's. The Cutts here are always eager and we have trusted reports that the shadow pools in the tail of the canyon are still holding fish to 14".
    -- The Lamar River is finally under 1,000 cfs and clear, (sort of,) and the section at the cottonwood picnic area has been producing fish on streamers. The tail of the first big pool, (across the bridge in the confluence with Soda Butte area,) has reported very large fish. Maybe tomorrow we'll visit there.
    -- The Gibbon River is beginning it's peak fishing time. Diurnal temperature spikes are approaching 70 degrees and the meadows are fishing excellent in the evening to a very prolific caddis hatch. The Mayflies are still spotty in the meadows but should bust loose any day. The riffle - run sections have large fish in the deep bends and many eager 12" Rainbows in the shallow riffles in the evening. Use a Hare's Ear, Prince, or Green Thing here.
    -- The Gallatin River is perfect - a bit cold - and not crowded yet. That's where we're going. Some Stoneflies are still working between mile post 21 & 27. Caddis are hatching all day, (can that really be true?) This is the ideal time to fish the undercut banks and the heads of the little pools below the many riffled breaks. Floating nymphs and soft hackles will do just fine for both.
    -- The fish in lower Fan Creek are holding tight to the bank and following the shadows. The ones in the first willow meadow are still in mid-stream -- cast carefully and sing loudly the bears are still there. A floating soft hackle, or your favorite emerger pattern will produce all day in the lower section - right down to the willow bottoms by the road. Use a Green Thing in the first meadow, (or try a small Elk Hair Caddis - size 14 - 16.)
    -- Maybe we'll have a pancake sandwich at Campfire Lodge and test the tailwater Madison before we get to the Gallatin.