YNP

We started 2018 on the Guadalupe in Texas (Guadalupe River Update), then visited Arizona to see our daughter in Phoenix, play some pickle ball and watch some Cactus League games.  After Phoenix, we headed up to fish the Lees Ferry again (Lees Ferry Redux).  Finally, we packed up the SaraLinda and headed back to our second home, Bozeman (MT). 

Since we arrived,  the weather has been crazy.  One day we see sunshine and 50-60 degrees…. the next, we awaken to a fresh 2-3 inches of snow on the ground.  What we’ve learned is that this is “typical” for a Bozeman spring.  We also learned that the winter here was anything but typical, as Bozeman and the surrounding mountains experienced almost record setting snowfall.  The snowpack is tremendous which means runoff, when it happens, will likely bring flooding, but will also hopefully bring good water conditions for fishing throughout the year.  Fingers crossed!

While we’ve been out fishing a couple of times on the Gallatin and Madison Rivers, we’ve been spending time unpacking some boxes and getting our place here ready for an extended stay.  However, we always get the urge to take a road trip when we’ve been here for more than a week, and that usually means Yellowstone,  here we come.  You can find our previous Yellowstone adventures at: Yellowstone Spring 2017, Snow Day and YNP Magic.

For now, please enjoy the short music video above chronicling our most recent trip across the northern section of the park.  For details regarding the video, please continue reading below.  

While both the north and west entrances to Yellowstone are equidistant from Bozeman, in springtime, the only entrance that is open is the north entrance where the famous Roosevelt Arch welcomes visitors.   We always pause here, take a few pictures (yes, we’re always tourists here) and make our way up the mountain to the Mammoth Hot Springs area.  

Springtime brings many different animals into view as you travel through the park from Mammoth Hot Springs to Tower Junction. We found small herds of elk near the Arch, as well as along the roadway to Tower.  At one point, we saw a herd meandering its way through a group of bison who were grazing in a small open space near the roadway.  Neither the bison or the elk seemed to mind they were intermixed together as they migrated through the area.

We stopped and had lunch overlooking a valley with a view of what was to come on our journey through the park….. snow!  There were small patches of snow still on the ground as we drove the road between Mammoth and Tower, but only patches.  However, when we stopped for lunch and looked in the distance at the mountains, they were still snow covered.

After lunch, we made it to Tower Junction and continued on the road toward Cooke City (MT), crossing the Yellowstone River.  This north road in YNP is kept open the entire winter to allow the residents (and visitors) to Cooke City to get back and forth to civilization.  This YNP road is the ONLY road open to Cooke City in the winter.  

The road to Cooke City eventually meets up and follows along the Lamar River for a stretch, including a canyon section of the Lamar where we ran across an osprey couple getting their nest ready for the babies to come.  Last summer when we drove by this spot, a pair of eagles were raising their young in this nest.  Turns out, sometimes eagles “steal” osprey nests before they come back to nest in the spring.  The eagles got the best of this nest in 2017, but the osprey beat them to the punch in 2018.

As we continued along the roadway, the amount of snow continued to show itself.  No longer were there simply patches, but snow everywhere.  We were gaining elevation each mile we drove toward Cooke City.

The Lamar River is one of our favorite fishing destinations in Yellowstone, so we stopped at various spots to take pictures of some favorite fishing holes.  We’re not too concerned about giving anything away however, since at this elevation, the river was shrouded in snow.  You’d be hard pressed to see the photo and find it again come summer, when the fishing gets going on these stretches.  

At the point along the road the Lamar breaks away and heads up into the distant mountains, Soda Butte comes into the Lamar, and the roadway follows it all the way to Cooke City.  Soda Butte is another of our favorite fishing spots in the park.  It’s also the favorite of many anglers who head here in summer to catch native Yellowstone Cutthroats.  

As we progressed toward Cooke City, the snow piled up about 3-4 feet along the road.  This part of the park isn’t going to be “clear” for some time to come.  However, we had to stop and take a few pics of how beautiful the snow covered meadows and mountains were.  

On the way back, we of course encountered more elk and bison, but also, a lone coyote ambling along the highway, scrounging for food while taking drinks out of the runoff streams that seemed to be flowing everywhere.  What is so special about visiting the park during this time is how quiet it is.  We drove miles at a time without seeing another car, yet the scenery, geological features and animals that people come from the world around to see in summer, are all on display.  Can’t wait for fishing season to open in the park Memorial Day weekend!

Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is one of our favorite places on earth.  We’ve fished in the park many times before, primarily in the northeast corner on the Lamar, Soda Butte and Slough Creek.  While we’ve fished the Madison and Firehole rivers before, we’d never fished them with a guide.

We hooked up with our guide, Patrick Daigle at Blue Ribbon Flies, ready to explore a few of YNP’s gems, the Madison, Firehole and Gibbon.  Patrick took me out to our first hole, totally away from any other anglers, not a soul in sight, and the “Magic” began.  Swinging flies for hungry trout coming up out of Hebgen Lake into the Madison is so fun;  waiting for that strike on the fly as it swings and sets off the trout.  We explored a few holes, had a few tugs but no takes and then, boom!

First it was Barb who hooked into one of these incredibly beautiful rainbows and the fight was on.  We learned some new techniques from Patrick, the most important one was tilting our rod down and upstream.  When we did this, it caused the trout to swim upstream toward us.  This made Barb’s landing of that first fish of the day so much easier.

Next it was my turn in the pool and within about 5 casts, fish on!  While I was practicing the same techniques to land the fish, this trout was really ticked off at getting hooked.  He jumped and then ran way downstream and around some rocks.  Patrick was preparing me for the likely outcome of loosing the fish on the rocks.  However, with a couple of other tips from Patrick, we were able to get the fish away from the rocks and headed back upstream to our waiting net.  It was an amazing fight to hook and land this big rainbow.

Our day was made, but there was so much more to come.  We went to another hole on the Madison and decided to nymph fish.  Good decision!  We hit into a great number of big, beautiful rainbows who hit our rubber legs, shop vacs, and prince nymphs.  It was lunchtime but we didn’t want to take a break given how great the fishing had become.

Afterward, we hit the Firehole in the canyon section and then the Gibbon.  However, the Madison kept calling us back.  While we didn’t get back to it with Patrick, he had shown us an “epic” day in YNP and we were able to go back the next day and hook more fish.

Patrick is an outstanding guide and gave us the confidence in reading the waters, picking the right flies, putting us on fish and helping us with the techniques needed to land them in these waters.  I won’t mention any of the holes where we hooked into all the fish.   You’ll have to book Patrick and let him show you these pristine waters through his eyes and expertise.  For now, please enjoy his interview we did along the Madison river after a magical day in YNP.