Yellowstone National Park

DA – At a wild guess, roughly half of the American population has decided to join us in Yellowstone National Park. The traffic is dense and slows up the winding mountain road into the west entrance of the park.

Oddly though, it never actually feels very crowded on the river and, with a little walking, we always manage to find quiet water. The upper Madison follows the west road into Yellowstone where the fishing is pretty good over some of the biggest and best glides and most epic riffles I’ve ever seen.

LA – The first bridge where we cross over the Madison is too much for me, wrenching the car over to the side of the road. The meadows in this part of the world are epic and this one calls me into its lush green surrounds, framed by mountains on either side.

The fishing is good, but the scenery is better. I guess David is seeing goats, because he’s stopped fishing and started taking photographs.

Firehole River

DA – While I would describe the Madison as serene, the Firehole is more like something out of Dante’s Inferno. Hot springs and steaming vents rise randomly through the meadow and great lines of tourists follow the well-worn path to the Grand Prismatic Spring – one of the busiest destinations in the park. Thankfully they’re not interested in fly fishing and the river is fast, clear and full of eager pan-sized trout. The Firehole is a must-do location in Yellowstone.

LA – Most tourists come to Yellowstone to see the geo-thermic features and larger wildlife like bears and bison. So its with surprise that the procession of geyser gazers look on as I enter the Firehole River, with fizzing sulphur crusted banks and hot springs flooding into the otherwise alpine water temperatures.

Aside from the no-fishing zone signed just downstream, it feels like the most unlikely place to catch trout. Not true – my first cast confirms there are trout and plenty of them, shadowing the weed lines and all too eager to rise to a dry. It’s a surreal experience.

Gibbon River

LA – We cruised through the park heading north, from one spectacular view to another. President Ulysses S. Grant was onto it when he advocated making this wonder the first national park in the world.

Arriving at the Gibbon River, it wasn’t long before we spotted rising trout in yet another lush green meadow. Dave was still looking at goats, so I had the water to myself. Medium-sized duns were visible popping off the water and the trout were sipping at them in the runs and seams. The tall grass on the bank offers excellent cover, providing an up-close view of the quarry as they sip down the small chocolate klinkhammer. The trout don’t seem affected by the fine drizzle that begins to fall as the afternoon deepens and neither are we.

A magic mayfly hatch - Gibbon River, Yellowstone NP

Slough Creek

DA – The large notice board at the trailhead leading to the more remote parts of Slough Creek has a map overlaid from corner to corner with warnings about grizzly bears. There’s one on how not to surprise grizzly bears, how you can’t outrun them or escape up a tree if you do surprise one, and what to do when one starts chewing on you – remain quiet and play dead while it rips in and hope it gets bored and wanders off. No, I don’t like Australia’s seriously toxic critters either, but at least bumping into one arguably results in a fairer contest for survival between man and beast.

Nervously I mention bears to Leighton and unsurprisingly he shows not an iota of concern legging it up the trail, leaving me to juggle my cameras as I scramble to keep up.

LA – Inspired by any destination you have to walk into, reading up on Slough Creek fired our imagination with it’s three distinct meadows linked by a walking trail over the book ending spur lines. Add in this corner of the park is less visited and the promise of pure cutthroat trout and I was bounding up the trail over the first rise, despite the stifling summer heat.

First meadow - Slough Creek, Yellowstone NP

DA – After an hour or so of walking the well-graded trail, a massive meadow opens out, cut deeply into the mountains where we get our first view of Slough Creek. It’s breathtaking, snaking its way around a bright green field dotted with huge patches of wildflowers and a smattering of bison for full effect.

Though Americans consider this part of Yellowstone a ‘remote wilderness’ fly fishing destination, we were seeing plenty of other people on the trail. Several horse-drawn wagons loaded with tourists pass by and we run into a couple of anglers along the way. On their way out, we exchange notes on the fishing and are startled to see one is carry bear spray in and the other a revolver in a holster.

LA – Now I’m starting to get nervous. Are the bears really that bad up here? Cause I’m pretty sure a whipping with my four weight ain’t gonna cut it! We dismiss it as overkill and push on down to the creek in the first meadow anyway.

DA – This is cutthroat water and although considered the easiest of the trout to catch, ours are a little fussier than expected, possibly because of the heat and several other fly fishers ahead of us. Leighton eventually manages to bring a few undone though and the experience of catching a species not available in Australia more than makes for the effort to get here.

LA – It’s hopper fishing paradise, with undercut banks and overhanging grass. The cutthroats are clearly visible in the crystal clear water. The fish we land are all in fantastic condition and their unique markings, including the bright red gill slash that gives them their name, are a wonderful reward.
We run into quite a few bison, one in the middle of the creek. They’re enormous yet majestic as they mosy on through the grasses. We never encounter a bear though; I think Dave’s incessant ranting about not wanting to be eaten alive probably scared them off.