When run-off leaves Yellowstone Park’s Slough Creek, it becomes a destination from July through September for fly-fishers from all corners of the world, especially to encounter Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Just viewing Slough Creek is a pleasure, and not having a high resolution camera when fishing it is a mistake. Few places anywhere can be a better example of a meadow stream, and it is the stair-step meadow reaches of this stream that attract so many fly-fishers. The first meadow is approached from the access road beginning at the Northeast Entrance Highway and ending at Slough Creek Campground, a distance of a few miles. Needless to say this meadow reach gets “hammered” because of being beside or not far from a well maintained road. In addition to cutthroat trout, this part of the stream also holds cutthroat-rainbow hybrid trout, and Yellowstone Park now requires that these be killed. Not far above the campground, Slough Creek passes over a steep cascade which prevents, on a natural basis, these hybrids from entering the stream above. Above the cascade Slough Creek flows through two breath taking meadows, known unofficially as “first above” and “second above.” When traveling to the campground from the highway, one passes the trail head and parking lot for reaching these meadows. An entertaining past time here is to see how many states, provinces, or countries are represented by visiting fly-fishers. At times little parking space remains there, so popular is the stream in the two meadows above. But the further upstream a fly-fisher is willing to venture, the less company that person will experience. The lower of these two meadows requires a walk of about two miles up a well maintained trail which also serves as a tote road for supplying a ranch north of and predating Yellowstone Park. The stream in the upper and larger meadow requires about another three more miles of effort to approach. A good strategy for enjoying the stream in the upper meadow is to reserve one of the primitive campsites to use as a base of operations for an overnight or longer visit. The rewards for efforts to fish the stream in either meadow is a population of essentially only Yellowstone cutthroat that range up to trophy sizes. As previously mentioned, the fly-fishing season here is best when run-off leaves. That is usually before the first of July, but can be later following heavy snowfall winters. Yes, there is the early season progression of mayflies (and later in the season that of tricos) and responding trout here, as is the case on many Greater Yellowstone Area streams. But where Slough Creek really comes into its dry fly fishing own is when terrestrial insects become important in the trout’s diet. That usually begins as the meadows dry out in July. At that time a much overlooked opportunity comes from presenting patterns for mating and egg-laying damselflies on the stream. Success during times when trout take terrestrial patterns has a major requirement: the angler must keep out of sight of feeding trout. One must remember that these trout inhabit the water “24-7,” and any temporary change in their field of vision puts them into flight mode. Thus long casts, a low profile, gentle stepping, and subtle use of sunlight are required where even a person barely five feet tall can be the most prominent object around. Want to lessen these requirements? Try fishing waters in the timber reach between the two meadows. There is a background of tall timber here, and shelter from winds and intense sunlight. In my experience the trout are not as cautious as those in the stream out in the meadows, and you will have fewer interruptions from other fly-fishers. So if you have yet to visit this superbly attractive stream, put in on your “to-do” list. Also we can help you with strategy details.
If you are following the big stonefly emergence, it is about over in the river from Ashton Dam to Chester Dam. Your best bet for enjoying it through dry fly fishing is to concentrate on the Riverside to Hatchery Ford and Box Canyon areas. Expect a lot of boats, especially through the Box Canyon.
Flow out of Palisades Dam was bumped up to 12000 cfs from 10400 cfs this morning because of irrigation demands. This action should not impact fishing success very much.
McCoy Creek is the most easily fished of the major Palisades Reservoir tributaries coming out of Idaho. That is because a well-maintained gravel road parallels most of its length. As with Big Elk Creek (and Palisades Creek below the reservoir), a large and popular campground sits very near its confluence with Palisades Reservoir. McCoy Creek is approached from Idaho Falls by traveling US Highway 26 to Alpine Wyoming. From there one goes south out of town a few miles on US Highway 89, turns right on the McCoy Creek Road which crosses Salt River, skirts the southeast corner of Palisades Reservoir, then crosses McCoy Creek to parallel it upstream for several miles.
Entering the reservoir several miles southeast of Bear Creek, McCoy Creek is a significant run-off stream through draining Caribou Mountain and nearby high country. This means high and discolored water can make it difficult to fish in the early season. The most attractive locations to fish this stream are its meadow reaches that begin a few miles above the reservoir. Upstream of these meadows the stream flows through a small canyon, much like Bear Creek. Above this canyon reach the stream branches into tributaries, several of which host beaver ponds. McCoy is also a significant spawning and rearing stream for cutthroat trout. It is subject to catch and release regulations from December 1st until the opening of Idaho general fishing season. A daily limit of six salmonids applies, but no harvest of cutthroat trout is allowed. Other than cutthroat trout, whitefish and a very few brown trout are present in most of the creek. Some brook trout, escaping from beaver ponds, may be present in upper reaches.
Winters of major snowfall can push the beginning of good fishing here past the general season opening on Memorial Day weekend. Lingering snow can also make the road paralleling the creek impassable into June, but early season fishing can be good as run-off diminishes and access improves. Streamer and large woolly bugger patterns work best in the early season. Cutthroat having spawned will return to the reservoir but will take these flies when properly presented. Some of these returnees can exceed twenty inches in length. However as water drops to base level by early summer, few large trout remain. By this time the best fishing McCoy Creek offers begins. A good population of moderate sized individuals are present, and aquatic insect emergences attract them. Caddis, yellow sallys, and PMDs predominate with a few golden stoneflies, but as time advances through July, terrestrial insects become important food items. Lightweight equipment with a floating line and fine leader (4X-5X) are a best fit. Long casts will not be necessary for success here.
Easily approached in its meadow reaches, and having a good population of eager trout, McCoy Creek is an ideal stream for introducing a youngster or entry level person to dry fly fishing. The same applies for a taking a physically challenged person fishing. Afternoon and evening hours are the best time for dry fly action beginning in July and going well into September. The only disadvantage to fishing this stream is its distance from town compared to near equivalent creeks such as Palisades, Big Elk, and Bear Creeks.
Reservoirs to the southeast are picking up with respect to fishing. The upper end of Daniels Reservoir (near inlet and around dead trees) is producing for those trying midge pupa patterns under an indicator. Just find the taking depth. Damselfly and small leech patterns also work here. Try leech patterns in Hawkins Reservoir where fish are cruising just in front of the dam. Damselflies are starting to fly and mate at Twenty-Four Mile Reservoir. Fish are in the shallows at Chesterfield Reservoir where midge pupa patterns under an indicator and leech patterns are producing.
Opening weekend saw great fishing on Henry’s Lake. Fish are close to shore all around the lake. Midge pupa patterns fished under an indicator are producing. So are leech patterns presented on intermediate lines.
Nearly all of our small streams draining high country are flowing with run-off. This means all Teton River, Fall River, and South Fork tribs. Warm River, running a bit high and clear above the Robinson Creek confluence, is an exception, so is Buffalo River. Try caddis life cycle patterns and your favorite small bead head nymph patterns. On Buffalo and lower Warm River, look for PMDs to become active. Fishing on Birch Creek above Lone Pine is excellent, especially when approached with ultra-light tackle. The aggressive rainbows and brookies here will take just about any pattern, dry or wet, in small and medium sizes.
Big attraction here is the stonefly emergence. Fish are responding best to dry patterns from Lower Mesa Falls to the Chester backwaters. Warm River to Ashton remains a productive float trip for presenting big dry fly patterns. Forget fly-fishing below Chester Dam because Fall River is putting in big time run-off. No stoneflies flying significantly in Box Canyon to date, but big nymph patterns should work any time now. Be sure to have caddisfly life cycle patterns on board when fishing from the Riverside area downstream to Chester backwaters.
Lots of folks fished the river this weekend, and results are good throughout. Rubberlegs patterns produced the best, and bead head nymph patterns were effective in the riffles and heads of runs. Dry fly fishing remains slow. Water coming out of Palisades Dam is at 49 deg. F. , and has been flowing there around 10400 cfs for weeks. At this time USBUREC plans no flush out of Palisades Dam until run-off characteristics are determined. If and when that flush takes place, we will post such information here. For now, the rising water temperature and constant flow means good fishing success.
We received a message from Yellowstone Park Visitor’s Service Office that most of the lakes in the Park have much of their surfaces covered with ice. The Office warns that most of this ice is unsafe for holding any weight and that falling through it would result in immersion in very cold water resulting in a low survival rate. If you plan to fish any of the Park’s lakes in the upcoming days, consider calling the Visitor’s Service Office, 307-344-2107 or -2109 to determine surface conditions where you plan to visit.
Fishing is good on The Firehole River. Try swinging soft hackle flies through runs. Caddis and BWOs are getting interest from trout. Look for some early PMDs to emerge. The Madison is high and a bit discolored, but run-up rainbows from Hebgen Lake may strike at a deeply fished streamer pattern.