.. The madness of the meadow mambo and the order of the conga line have descended to the famous holes of the Madison River. A queue at the quay is now standard practice at the Barns Holes and Baker's Hole. .. Talk centers around the best fast water fly for the big fish entering the system. Many of the flies traditionally used have their fans. BUT! A few knowledgeable and well traveled local guides have a trick up their waders. .. The king has arrived! The WHAT? The KING PRINCE NYMPH. It has made inroads into the boxes of guides and knowledgeable neighbors in the last year or so. In surprising sizes it is taking more than it's share of fish during the Fall madness surrounding the runners from Hebgen Lake. .. Distributed by Idyllwild Flies and inching it's way across North America this little denizen is already making a name for itself. The novelty is that big fish are eating the small sizes, (14-16-18,) and in surprising numbers. .. We'll be badly maligned for this post. Our grog will be rationed. Our name will be mud: but you need to know. Don't abandon your streamer box just yet, put it on hold for an hour or two and see what happens. .. Read about this and other sorts of surprises HERE.
.. A pile of good catching gets ignored this time of year. Great rivers and great scenery are passed up in favor of dashing to the Madison River, Firehole River, and Gibbon River, in search of a big fish. .. If that's your gig - chase it! We caught a few over the weekend: good fun. Streamers, mice, soft hackles and leeches are just the ticket for head-hunting. .. Night fishing is becoming a ritual with a few of the neighbors: their stories are barely believable - no offense guys. .. Lost flies and tippets in trees make for good stories. Photos by headlight and cell phone are nearly convincing. .. Trophies in trees attest to the presence of wayward casts. But the number of leviathans reported seems a wee bit high. Oh well, to say the least - night is the time for big fish fun. .. On the other hand, a gentle drive up the road can carry the fisher to excellent Fall fishing and catching on the Gallatin River. .. There are little bugs in the morning, (including some midges.) There are minuscule caddis all day. There are hoppers by 10:30 A.M., (soon to change.) AND, believe it or don't, fish spawn in the Gallatin River too! They're hot, agressive, and hungry.
.. Grayling Creek at and about the park boundary is an excellent prospect for catching both resident trout and a few lake-run fish as well. There are a couple of places that the water is so clear that the fish look like sculptures. Stealth is a necessary element in your arsenal for any of the daylight hours. .. Large soft hackles, pink Feather Dusters, and Yellow Humpies will work just fine. A bead head Prince Nymph behind a Hopper is a neighborhood tradition for the thin water adjacent to deep pools and undercut banks.
.. The flows of Duck Creek are slowing somewhat and the upcoming weather should provide the freshets necessary for the runners to smell and taste their way home. Right now the tangled willow bottoms are a hit and miss proposition. .. The segment from the highway to the impoundment is hot. Large nymphs, soft hackles and small streamers are pulling in good fish in the late evening and during the dark of night. .. Above the impundment is working just fine and the last crop of mosquitoes seems to have starved to death. There are a few small bison bulls in the trees and thickets. Moose and bear are present at all times. Arm yourself and do battle with the trout.
.. The moon is cooperating nicely. Fuller & fuller it gets. Now we'll have to see how the clouds work out. Broken clouds are a blessing for the night fisher. That's when the trout sees your offerings the best. It's not too hard to wait for the next opening - unless there are too few to bother with. .. We'll venture a guess that after midweek the catching will be insane. If Fall changes to Winter like it did last year it will seem all too sudden. There will be 10 to 15 days of Firehole hatches, runners in all streams, residents gorging for the lean times and enough water to go around: even for this place. .. We're going to have some breakfast, visit the Horse's Mouth and Chi Wulff. Then some gentle fishing away from the elbows. Wave as you drive by.
.. Done right, it's possible to exhaust oneself and catch fish all day on the west side of Yellowstone National Park. .. The fire(s) near Yellowstone Lake caused an intermittent road closure and it's best to check the road conditions before travel in that portion of the park, (CLICK FOR ROAD INFO.) .. The plume of smoke is visible from the Gibbon River, The Madison River, and the Firehole River - that's more than 30 miles. Helicopters with water buckets from Hebgen Lake thumped overhead all day Saturday. .. For our part a 14 - 18 hour marathon blitz is a mandatory exercise when the catching is as good as it has been the last few days. The beautiful weather has not hampered catching, and the upcoming cooling, (snow?) should only enhance the prospects. .. The Madison River is a bit low and sluggish right now. Pick your spots carefully. There are many traditional holds that are just too slow to collect the submarines from Hebgen Lake. .. A wonderful mix of residents and runners is in the offing for fishers with a varied fly box and techniques to match it's contents. .. The morning offers surface fishing to flies that imitate a spinner or a crippled emerger. There are still beetles and hoppers trying to swim by mid morning on these warm days - use that to your advantage. .. The Firehole River is abandoned by most fishers during mid day. Pick a well aerated riffle in a long run with some shade and you should get to dance with some eager resident fish. .. The same holds true for the Madison River, (although the shade is a bit fleeting, use the undercut banks and cover a lot of water.) .. A thermometer is a useful tool right now. There are both cold and hot springs in these rivers and if you find the right ones you can dance for hours. .. By 5:30 or 6:00 PM it's time for caddis. They are becoming a bit scarce. However, there are continual very small hatches of very small caddis and if you luck into the big ones the fish will pay attention. Elbows proliferate starting about 4:00 PM. .. Dusk, (8:00 PM,) is a good time for your second lunch. Big flies, ripped through pools and streamers with soft hackle trailers drifted around snags is good and frustrating fun in the dark. Hang-ups outnumber hookups ten to one - that's O.K.
.. Just before our second lunch we stopped to visit with some fisher folks. Bless their indulgent hearts! They agreed to allow us to try some stop action photography as they exercised the Firehole River and it's fish. .. The video below is a brief primer on the subtleties of the reach cast and the way to find dance partners in mid day. No fishers were hurt during this exercise. And, a big thank you to the kind and selfless fisher folks.
.. Today and tomorrow promise to provide exercise and entertainment despite the unseasonably warm weather. It just goes to prove the old adage that "FISH GOTTA EAT." .. Watchword for the current warm weather = aerated cool deep water! Watchword for the upcoming cold weather = aerated cool deep water. We anticipate that the conga lines will continue to grow.
.. We'd tell you about it but you wouldn't believe it. The Madison River is elbow-thick and everyone is catching. .. Enjoy the party, make new friends, give everybody room, spend some time on the bank, have a nip, discuss the differences in Cuban's and Nicaraguan's, join the conga line, but above all remember your manners - it's not life or death! .. The willow bottoms of Duck Creek and Grayling Creek have fewer folks and more fish. This must be the stuff of stories.
.. The submarines have arrived in the Madison River. Don't tell anyone and get out the streamers. Put a big soft hackle behind them. Start fishing at dusk. Catch big fish until 10:00 PM. .. If you're not here now, you're late. The weather's wrong. The water's wrong. The time is right. The fish know. .. Do the dark holes and use a herky-jerky strip. They're everywhere. They're hungry. They're fresh. They have no scabs. They're not shy. That's all.
.. For some reason the flows in Cougar Creek are down a bit for this time of year. Point bars are exposed and the current is confined to the shallow main channel. .. The willows and thistles are thick and the stream side game trails are bright green between the thickets. .. Access to these willow bottoms is becoming a genuine problem. Continued closures of trails and tracks mean that many time-honored access points are not available. .. Motorized access, (motorcycle, 4-wheeler, SUV, truck, car, etc.,) is frowned upon by the USFS. Walking to many of the "good" places is beyond these old legs. .. Fishing upstream from the confluence with Duck Creek is as tough as it gets. Casting, happily, is a bit easier this Fall with the stream confined to it's deeper portions and more distance from the willows. .. Crossing is also easier. Still, there are deep holes and the mud is soft and spongy. On the other hand, the crumbly banks are higher and still a treacherous proposition. .. Terrestrials and caddis are the standard fare, (until a genuine cold spell hits.) Just about any attractor, or a hopper, or beetle will draw fish. Short casts to snags and overhanging brush can find fish. Shade is important and should not be overlooked. .. The numerous back eddies that Cougar Creek is famous for have become shallow and stale. These areas will also suck you down to your knees. .. We'll have to wait and see if the Fall rains freshen the upper creek. Right now anything between the confluence and the park line is an exercise in bird and cloud watching - with very small resident trout added for spice.
(All images are 'clickable' - some are huge!) -------
.. It's just not a wholesome place to visit. The Duck Creek Meadows are six or seven times the size of National Park Meadows.
.. They are closed right now because of bears. Bison haunt the pine and willow thickets. Moose gallop from bog to marsh. The flats are dusty. The road in to this place is dusty & full of tank traps.
.. There are dark pools in the rivers. Campanula Creek drains the uplands, Richards Creek drains the high meadows. Both join Gneiss Creek to form Duck Creek in the self-same tangle of mosquito bogs and dense willows. The meanders are so convoluted it's hard to tell which creek is which.
.. The neighbors want you to become mired in the muck and goo. They have even erected a sign so that you don't get lost. Just follow the arrow.
.. The NPS is vigilant in it's warnings. This is now & always has been, one of the most clearly marked boundaries in all of Yellowstone National Park. Enter at your own risk! .. Despite the terrible road & despite the dust & despite the fact that the guides and feather merchants ignore this bit of paradise; the neighbors visit regularly.
.. Armed with bear spray, ribald songs and hoots like drunken owls they trudge the paths and game trails in search of fish. Some even catch fish. There are tagged fish to be caught and they should be reported.
.. There is "mouse water" right at the boundary between the forest and the park. It's best in the glow of twilight. That's when the trout turn into bass. They cavort in the darkness. They splash as would a brick dropped from a mosquito. They eat things full of calories and fur. .. The scenery here is drab and mundane. The pedestrian surroundings have kept the gawkers and casual visitors from this vest-pocket wilderness. After all, it's necessary to leave your car behind. The best catching water is out of sight of your vehicle - horror of horrors!
.. Guides spurn the place. Internet forums tell and retell tales of once visited - twice shy experiences. After all, the glory of fishing in Yellowstone National Park is narrated in terms of waters adjacent to the roads. We're pleased that this is the case. .. The cosmopolitan fishers write the books and articles. They go where others have gone. They relate the same stories of the same places and vicariously wade in the footfalls of long dead authors and current celebrities. [Hint: rivers do change!]
.. We catch hell every time we make mention of the neighborhood fishing holes. Rightly so! This is a bit of paradise that requires intimacy. It's not a simple fishery. You don't just show up and catch.
.. Walking is required, (a tough task for aged legs,) but it's worth it. Frequent visitation will allow an understanding of the personality of the meadows and their waters. Wet years are best - for fish, fishers, and mosquitoes. The holes are darker: the willows thicker, the visitors fewer.
.. Experts and authors become instant novices in the face of the six little creeks in this basin. After all they only have a few hours to visit. Guides can't brag about the number and size of their mosquito bites. Feather merchants haven't developed the "perfect fly" for these waters. It's just a wasteland. .. Campanula, Cougar, Duck, Gneiss, Maple, & Richards Creeks are not storied in "THE LITERATURE."
.. The fish that are caught are small and few - so say the visiting fishers. They probably never caught a fish in Gneiss Creek or, for that matter, Maple Creek. Not in the legends! Too hard! Too small! How many springs dot the shores of the creeks? Not mentioned in the guide books! How about the beaver ponds on Richards Creek? Where?
.. We spent the weekend on the edge of the bear closure. There was rain each morning, and on & off all day each and every day. The mosquitoes loved it. We caught some fish. We reported a 13" tagged rainbow.
.. We can't wait until the September, 30th opening of Area "B": then we can visit the springs and swamps, and pools, and snags, and mosquitoes, along Richards Creek. It should be just in time for some submarines. But, you didn't hear it here!
.. Appearing below is a little video compiled in the dark of night. A warning to the adventurous: stay out of this wasteland. You have to abandon your car and walk to the catching!
.. After a day on the water it's just plain common sense to relax at the neighborhood watering hole. The neighbors are there. The pros are there. The visitors are there. The women are there. A cold one is mandatory. .. Or, dullards take note, go to the vise in anticipation of the bright moon. Given the weather forecast, and the slowly cooling waters, and the increasing exuberance of the fish; a mouse or three might be in order. .. The big fish from Hebgen Reservoir ought to hit the popular aquatic parking lots in numbers just about the time the bright moonlight revisits our skies. The timing for the Madison River this year is neigh unto perfect! .. There is some discussion among us crazies that use this monster fly - "is it the silhouette or is it the wake?" Our cousins across the pond have settled on the wake solution and have a most un-mousy mouse. Their fly is reminiscent of the Bomber so familiar to steelhead aficionados. Can you say riffling hitch? .. The fisher folks in New Zealand are already calling this the year of the mouse because of the population explosion of invasive mice, and the mouse eating trout down there. And they have the necropsy's to prove it. .. There is a good crop of mice here too this year. The coyote numbers are down. The perfect spring provided both warmth and wet that yielded good forage, (the wet was hard on the baby grouse though.) And, too, the lingering salubrious weather has allowed frisky behavior among the rodent population as they expand their feeding territories, (along the river banks where grass stays greener longer and seeds mature later.). .. In New Zealand it's the Beech Tree Seeds: here it's the grass seeds. The rodents of our meadows are feeding voraciously - so will the trout! .. We've always used a mousy silhouette. This year we're going with all three. An English Torpedo Mouse, a Black Bomber, and a Yellow Headed Mouse. Just one at a time, mind you. .. Now then, can fly fishers in the neighborhood forgo a night or two at the pub? We'll see.