Yellowstone River Cutthroat and Other Trout
Fred Matero is today's guest blogger and has an excellent story to relate.
The Yellowstone River, at 678 miles, is the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48 states. Between Lewis and Clark and Yellowstone National Park., the Yellowstone River is rich in history, but I was there for the trout. Hello, my name is Fred Matero, and I had the great fortune this summer to fish this fine river.
At a rate of 500 fish per 1000 feet of river, the Yellowstone’s prime trout water is the section from Yellowstone Park entrance out though Livingston, MT. This area is well known as Paradise Valley. The valley was carved eons ago through Gallatin National Forest to the east and the Absaroka Mountains to the west. The valley itself is mostly privately owned with a huge agricultural presence. Access to the river is via multiple public points along Route 89, but it does not hurt to have a terrific friend named Pete with access right across the street and the knowledge to put us into some lesser known spots. The river is fairly swift though the valley as it comes out of the park at 7000 feet and drops to 4500 feet though Livingston. Cutthroat trout are native to these waters, but browns and rainbows stocked long ago are very prevalent.
Put me in control of a spin or bait caster and I am at home, but it was my intention to fly fish the great river. As I am less than a beginner when it comes to fly fishing, I relied on the knowledge of others to get me by. Pete did a fabulous job showing me the particulars of casting, knots, and fly choices. A visit to the professionals at George Anderson’s Yellowstone Angler in Livingston put me into a license, a few flies, and a lot of hope.
Fly fishing on the Yellowstone in the summer is an evening game for sure. Be on the river about 1 hour before sunset and witness the river beginning to explode with surfacing trout; many leaving the water completely. Trout can be taken during the day, especially on streamers imitating the local whitefish, but if you want classic top water action, the best choice is sunset.
Our first evening brought us to the smaller branch of an interesting split in the river. There was not a lot of fish evident, and casting a stone fly brought us no results. This was followed by a move to a bend in the river right near a rest area. Stone fly and a change out to a Wulff produced interest but no solid takers for us though the river was very lively with rising trout. The next outing put us in a very large eddied area below a class 3 rapid. That is where disaster struck as the drag control on my reel popped and parts disappeared into the river. Fortunately, I also had packed a collapsible spin outfit and a small selection of lures. I clipped on a ¼ oz gold Kastmaster and the second toss put me on a nice 14” rainbow. This was soon followed by another rainbow of 11 inches.
On my last day, I had the afternoon to kill, so decided to try a different approach. Returning to the eddy with a dozen night crawlers, I could not scare up a bite anywhere in the huge hole below the rapids, even with a switch to various spoons and spinners. Looking over at the class three rapids, I noticed that close to shore, on the inside bend, there was some relatively slower moving water with several deep holes. I threaded a half a night crawler on to a #8 hook. First cast into the top pool produced a hard fighting cutthroat of about 15 inches. Working methodically along the rapids edge, I ended the afternoon with 3 cutthroats, 2 rainbows, and numerous missed hits; all released to fight another day.
It was not the complete fly fishing experience I hoped for, but still incredible fun. Kudos to Martin Fly Reels; they offered to fix my reel at no charge.