Palisades Creek





Palisades Creek

Lower Palisades Lk

                                            Lower Palisades Lake and Creek Above

A while back we took a look at Big Elk Creek.  In a number of ways it and Palisades Creek are physically similar, and some of the comments made for Big Elk apply to Palisades Creek with respect to fishing. But there are also major differences when comparing these two first class fisheries.

First; whereas Big Elk Creek empties into Palisades Reservoir, Palisades Creek empties into the South Fork reach of the Snake River below Palisades Dam.  It is reached from U. S. Highway 26 where its access road goes roughly northeast leaving the highway about four miles below the dam. Within two miles the access road enters Caribou-Targhee National Forest where a full-service campground provides a base for fishing the creek or neighboring waters during an overnight or multi-day stay. The trail head for accessing the creek is above the campground on the opposite side and has ample parking.  The trail from which the creek is mostly easily accessed is well maintained and non-motorized being open to mountain bike, horse, and foot traffic.

Through emptying into the river, Palisades Creek is a major spawning stream for cutthroat trout.  Idaho Department of Fish and Game, as part of efforts to enhance cutthroat trout populations, operates a fish trap on the lower creek. Here cutthroat trout are allowed to pass to upstream spawning areas, and rainbow trout are denied access. Harvest of cutthroat trout is denied in Palisades Creek, and it is closed to fishing yearly during the month of June, all to minimize disturbance to this native salmonid while spawning. There is no harvest limit on rainbow and trout hybrids within the creek during fishing season.

The best fishing throughout Palisades Creek begins after run-off leaves, and dry fly fishing can be most enjoyable. It’s a stream of some gradient from lower Palisades Lake downstream, so most trout there will occupy holes, deeper runs, and just below structure.  Access at some places as well as an uninterrupted back cast, can be a challenge because of willow thickets, but the creek is small enough that it can be safely waded and crossed in a number of places after run-off leaves. During summer months wet wading is practical. Light-weight gear makes playing trout in the fast water fun,  so three and four weight systems are ideal. Trout here range up to moderate sizes with an occasional individual reaching trophy size. Caddisflies and stoneflies are the major aquatic insects present, so life cycle fly patterns for them are usually effective. So are traditional attractor patterns, dry and wet. Mayflies including PMDs, BWOs, and flavs are present but are relatively minor.  As mid-summer approaches terrestrial insects become abundant along stream banks adding another interesting dimension to dry fly fishing in fast water.

Here’s another way Palisades Creek differs from others in the South Fork-Palisades Reservoir drainage. Two major lakes, Lower and Upper Palisades lake are within its drainage.  The upper lake, on a tributary, has a subterranean outlet, and much of the outflow from the lower lake, on the creek itself, is also subterranean.  This flow helps keep good water level in the creek during dry weather periods. The lower lake is a bit over four miles by trail above the campground, and some of the best fishing on the creek is in the low gradient stretch just above the lake.  Because of beaver channels, willows, and marshy areas moving around here can be a challenge. But doing so is rewarding because the trout here average larger than in the fast water below the lake.

So Palisades Creek is another stream that offers great fishing, an easy approach, and solitude. Its trail is non-motorized so its tranquility means the only noise is the creek itself.

South Fork Winter Fishing

Just above Heise Br. (640x480)

We surely have been lucky to have such good warm weather recently, and it looks like more is to come during this second half of winter (Let’s hope summer isn’t correspondingly as warm!).  All this means getting out to fish should be really enjoyable. Much of the South Fork, even around Swan Valley is free of ice and snow, now offers many locations for wading.  Since February 6th flows out of Palisades Dam have been stepped up from around 900 cfs to around 2100 cfs today (February 10th). This change in flow should not have a major impact on fishing and certainly will not have a big impact on choosing a wading location.  Water temps are around the mid thirties in degrees Fahrenheit, so don’t get in over those waders!

See that picture above? It was taken just above the far side of the Heise Bridge. Look at all the accessible river just in this view alone.  There is good water in front of the far side gravel bar.  And you cannot see it that well, but even better water is in the upstream bend with another gravel bar  giving easy access. That is typical along the river. The river road above Heise is passable with care, but close to motorized travel above where the road from Table Rock joins, and offers many places where you can get to the river to fish.  For sure come springtime, all this accessible water such as we have now will not be available for wading.

If you want to enjoy top water fishing, midge emergences provide the most consistent action. Some will take place on sunny days, but densest activity takes seems to take place overcast days without wind (if that’s possible).  Pack such as black or red zebra midges, high voltage midge pupa, and spent midge patterns. Don’t overlook those old favorites the Griffith’s gnat and the renegade. You can fish these on top or as an emerger just under the surface.  Use all these in sizes about the same as the natural insect.  Expect most of the action to take near or at the surface, so go with a floating line and long, fine leader. A downstream drift with a gentle rise of the rod tip when the fly reaches rising fish will bring strikes. Expect many of these to be from whitefish.   If you prefer to present wet flies in deeper water golden stonefly nymph patterns are numerous, and each can be effective when drifted along riffles and into tops of runs and holes Try the same with rubber leg patterns. Usually a sink tip line allows the best presentation, but a full sink line can be used for fishing long slow runs.  Try patterns that simulate an aquatic worm. San Juan worm and wooly bugger patterns are some of these.  Another favorite technique for encountering bigger fish is presenting streamer patterns.  Best time for presenting these is during low light conditions. That means early or late in the day and when overcast conditions prevail. Clouser minnow types are very effective and therefore popular, but small fly rod jigs work just as well during these times. Presenting feather wing streamers also have enthusiasts. Sink tip fly lines seem best for presenting streamers.  Be sure to use a stout leader. And bring that camera!

End of an Era Coming




End of an Era Coming

Look at that color (1280x960)                           Don’t let that color fool you: he (the fish!) fought like the devil!

Since 2001 I have much enjoyed fishing for huge Kodiak silver salmon.  So much, in fact that I have returned every year except three for family reasons, during this twenty-first century. This Kodiak strain produces the largest, on average, silvers in Alaska. Tying into these in fresh condition is like no other salmonid I have experienced. They jump and run to challenge your personal durabilty, the length of your backing, the flexibility of your rod, your knots, your leader strength, and the drag system on which your reel operates.

I owe most of my pleasure in fishing for these superb salmonids to Dan and Randy Busch’s Kodiak Island River Camps operation. For the last twenty-one years Dan and Randy, husband and wife retired school teachers, have offered services second to none for fly-fishers seeking a memorable experience. They begin the season with whale watching outings, then July outings for sockeyes and chum. The real fun begins with their mid-to-late September outings to the Pasagshak River system for the fresh silver salmon.  Their scheduled trips end in mid October with fly-in steelhead outings to Kodiak’s fabled Karluk River. I did the Karluk trip about ten years ago. What an experience: steelhead and a late run of fresh silvers. Talk about fly-fishing heaven!

What does their service consist of, you ask?  Their fee, which for five solid days of fishing, is perhaps the most reasonable to be found during Alaska’s silver salmon season. From the time Dan picks you up on arrival at the Kodiak airport (usually on a Sunday afternoon) to when he returns you for departure (usually on the morning of the following Saturday) all meals, all transportation, all accommodations are covered under his fee. The only items outside their fee is your fishing license ($55 for seven days) and any particular food or beverage you wish to supplement the superb meals you will experience. On Sunday arrival you go to Dan & Randy’s home for a superb welcome dinner. From that you leave for the Pasaghak system forty-some-odd miles south of town for five days full of fishing. On Friday evening return you go to Dan & Randy’s home for another superb meal, their farewell dinner.

Where do I fish, you ask? Dan leases a summer home with all utilities near the Pasagshak River. Comfortable and clean, it is the base of operations for upcoming fishing on the Pasagshak estuary which you can walk to, the river itself, and Lake Rose Tead about a mile above the home. Then there is a special location about five miles away on the road back to town. This is Kalsin Pond which drains into the Olds River which also hosts silvers and can be fished.  When Kalsin Pond’s silvers feel like hitting your offered flies, it can be an unforgettable fly-fishing experience. For fishing the lake, pond and estuary, Dan provides kick boats and fins. The rivers (Pasagshak and Olds) can be waded. Whether you fish the lake, the rivers, or the pond your day begins with a hearty 6 AM breakfast then fishing begins soon after until a lunch break and ends just before 4PM with a return to the home to relax for a while before an excellent dinner.  Evenings can be used for sea-side walks, fly tying or “philosophy” of all kinds.

What are the silvers like, you ask? Full of energy, they come in from the ocean a bit more than a mile away. They average fifteen pounds and run up to just over twenty.  Other than an occasional jack, (early returner), it is not common to encounter an individual under twelve pounds.  A good day is when you land five of these devils. A fifteen to twenty minute fight is usual, and for sure you are doing good to land half of your hook-ups where near hundred yard runs are possible.  Between encountering fish, the wise fly-fisher checks flies, knots, leaders, lines, and rods for integrity.

What equipment do I need, you ask? An eight or nine weight system including a nine to ten foot rod works well. For shallows in the lake, pond, river and estuary a floating line works best. Two-handed rods can be used when wading the river or shorelines. When fish move to deeper water in the relatively shallow lake, an intermediate line is ideal.   Nine foot leaders of fifteen pound test are almost a requirement. Simple fly patterns patterns in infra-red (fucshia, pink, red) and ultra-violet (blue, green, purple) colors are the norm. So are needle-nosed pliers or stout forceps for removing flies from toothy mouths. A reliable raincoat, waders of the same property, a stripping glove, and clothes comfortable enough for fifty degree Fahrenheit air and water are musts.

What is the weather like in this northern location? With a marine climate, Kodiak, will have daytime air temperatures in the 50s of degrees Fahrenheit. Nighttime is mild, but a light frost is possible. Any visitor must expect rain, sometimes mild and pleasant, but other times ferocious and pounding with strong winds. Therein lies the need for a reliable raincoat!

Alaska Airlines has the best connections for reaching Kodiak from the lower forty-eight. We in east Idaho can leave Boise in the morning and, with connections met in Seattle and Anchorage, arrive in Kodiak that afternoon. Be advised that weather can interfere.

Dan and Randy will wrap up their operations in a few years, and that is why I offer this description of an unusually great opportunity to enjoy fresh, powerful silver salmon. You can get more details from them at their email address: [email protected] We, here in the shop, can also help you contact them and provide the benefit of experience.  A hospitable and action filled fly-fishing experience awaits you through Kodiak Island River Camps.


Some Yellowstone Park Small Streams


obsidian crk 2

Obsidian Creek

For years I pretty much avoided waters demanding lightweight equipment, but when I experienced the fun of using such, I succumbed to what Ernie Schwiebert named “The Song of the Small Stream.” Now I make it a point to fish small waters, especially ones new to me, and Yellowstone Park offers numerous candidates to enjoy.

When we think of fly-fishing Yellowstone Park, streams with the great names always come to mind. Such as the Bechler, Fall, Firehole, Gallatin, Gibbon, Madison, Slough, Yellowstone deserve all the renown they are given. But these are only “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to the quality streams that the Park offers the visiting fly-fisher. The number of quality small waters here is almost overwhelming, but we can start here by describing some of the most approachable and best. To do this let’s first concentrate on those around the Grand Loop with words about location and strategy. For all of these small waters lightweight equipment is most appropriate.  When one heads north out of Norris Junction the fun begins. The Gibbon River,  especially around Norris Junction and its tributary Solfatara Creek offer brook, brown and rainbow trout with a very occasional grayling in the river. These eager fish take almost any offering, especially dry attractor and terrestrial and small beadhead nymph patterns. These streams do get “hammered” a bit because of the large campground at the Junction, but evening visits will offer some solitude.  Further north on the Grand Loop heading to Mammoth, an number of small roadside streams are present. Obsidian and Indian Creeks and the upper Gardner River offer almost non-stop action for brookies that will take anything they can get their mouth around.  When one pasts Mammoth heading east, Lava Creek  offers browns and rainbows and Blacktail Deer Creek offers brookies, but all these are not quite as eager as the Obsidian and Indian Creek brookies. Fast water attractor, caddis, terrestrial  and small bead head nymph patterns will work well as they will for Tower Creek rainbows further east at Tower Junction.  After one turns south, descends Mount Washburn, and approaches the Canyon area, a short walk takes one from a picnic area to Cascade Creek and its Yellowstone cutthroat trout. This is a meadow stream, so any kind of hopper, ant or beetle pattern will bring the cutts to the surface. Not many small waters are available further south along the Grand Loop. But after one turns west from Thumb Junction and travels toward Old Faithful, DeLacey Creek crosses the highway near the halfway point.  Brook Trout inhabit this creek, and if  the adventurous fly-fisher walks down the creek about a mile on the well maintained trail, the stream passes through a meadow that offers terrestrial insects to its eager brookie population. After passing Old Faithful heading down the Firehole River one approaches Upper Geyser Basin, and Iron Spring Creek and Little Firehole River enter from the west. The lower parts of these streams act as a summertime refuge for Firehole River trout with their cooler waters. because of their increased summertime trout population, these streams attract fly-fishers.  Further downstream as one approaches the Firehole River Canyon, Nez Perce Creek crosses the highway. If one parks in the nearby campground and walks upstream away from the highway, good fishing for brook, brown, and rainbow trout can be had.

So here’s a look at some of the best small stream candidates around the Grand Loop, the most visited part of the Park. Rest assured that roads from the five entrances feeding the Grand Loop pass by quality small streams. Perhaps an article describing some of these waters would be fitting. One thing for sure; you will find a better measure of solitude on all these streams.


Slough Creek


upper slough (2)

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.

McCoy Creek


 McCoy CreekMcCoy Creek2

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.


Mainstem Snake River



In the minds of so many fly-fishers the Snake River from the Henry’s Fork confluence downstream to American Falls Reservoir takes a back seat to the South Fork reach (Palisades Dam to the Henry’s Fork confluence and to the Henry’s Fork. Perhaps it is because the best fishing on the main stem is very seasonal and also because access to the river is more limited because of the vast expanse of private land through which it flows. Best fishing is seasonal mainly because when the irrigation season begins water to satisfy demands makes successful fly-fishing more difficult to come by.  High and fluctuating flows during that season make wading more dangerous than in many area waters and can also influence boating.  Nevertheless success can be found  at certain locations.  BWOs and PMDs can be seen emerging in season, and when flows begin to drop and stabilize around Labor Day a legendary snowflake dun emergence begins on the river. It is heaviest from just below Blackfoot down to the reservoir.  In August when waters are almost always high a hexagenia emergence takes place from certain locations along the river.  Silt is required as nymph habitat for this giant mayfly.  One location where this is present in quantity is the river bed going through Idaho Falls.  Specifically this habitat is above the power plant diversion forming the still water just above the Broadway Street Bridge up to the John’s Hole Bridge.  Another good habitat location is in Gem Lake a few miles below town.  Hexes emerge in the evening and during nighttime.  Some of them find their way to building fronts in town, and it is comical when a puzzled fly-fisher comes during morning into the shop holding one and wondering “what the h— is this? Do PMDs get this big?”  So yes, there are mayfly seasons on the main stem, and there also are numerous caddisfly, yellow sallies, and midges emerging almost year round.  Best time for the BWOs is early in the season before irrigation water takes over, then later after it is mostly gone.  During these times BWOs can be seen just about anywhere on the river. Same with midges and caddisflies.  So when low waters come around and overcast or storms prevail a BWO experience from walk-in wading at  select locations can rival those on the South Fork and Henry’s Fork

One fact that many fly-fisher find tough to accept is that there are more truly large fish in the main stem Snake River than in the South Fork reach or the entire Henry’s Fork.  And the best way to encounter these is through presenting streamer patterns (sink tip lines, short stout leaders, and seven to eight weight systems). This is true even during high water times, but then such as fast sink tip lines are necessities. Even lead core lines to get down in calmer sections can work. Yes  it was caught through using bait, but the state record rainbow trout came from the river below Tilden Bridge, and bait fisherman take double figure poundage browns and rainbows year round. In years gone by, cutthroat trout this size were common in the river.  For the fly-fisher the best time to encounter the large trout this part of the river offers is from the end of irrigation season through winter and on until irrigation season begins.  Much of the river can be safely waded, and fish are concentrated relative to during the high water season.  At these times, as always when fly-fishing, presentation trumps fly pattern selection.  Have bright and somber patterns in the fly box.  Expect best fishing during low light conditions, and when bright sunlight prevails, seek  parts of the river out of direct light.   Locations during low water are aplenty, and the best way to make a selection is to come to the shop and discuss “where to fish” with us.

Henry’s Fork 10-26-13

Nearly everything we offered in the latest South Fork fishing report applies to fishing the lower Henry’s Fork.  Water is low and walk-in wade locations are abundant from just upstream of the Wendell bridge to below St. Anthony.  Brown trout are migrating throughout with BWOs and midges emerging, but all these are best during overcast days.  The river in Island Park and below Island Park Dam is also low with only 19 cfs coming out of the dam. This makes inflow from Buffalo River very important.  Nevertheless the river at Last Chance and into Harriman State Park is choked with weeds, but BWOs are active with some fish working.

Lower Blackfoot River

Lower Blackfoot River

As offered earlier in these articles describing regional fishing locations, the Blackfoot River varies in character from a classic meadow stream in upper reaches to being confined to a steep canyon in lower reaches.  Here deep holes punctuate the abundant riffles and runs. Most of this canyon reach is below Blackfoot River Reservoir, and water management practices there make for very seasonal best fishing in the river below.  Here the river (but not above the reservoir where a July 1 opening applies) is currently open during the catch and release season as well as the general season. Fishing can be good during the catch and release season as long as water flow remains low and flow constant.  However when the irrigation season begins, flows can vary widely through being subject to irrigation demands in the Snake River Plain below.  This variation impacts fishing success the same as changing flows out of Palisades Dam on the South Fork or Island Park Dam on the Henry’s Fork immediately below.  Nevertheless some success can be had, and the summer season will see drift boats and such on the reach from below the dam to Morgan Bridge.   Below this point there are no practical boat launch facilities except with difficulty at the Trail Creek Bridge and campground.  Below this location the river gradient increases steeply to the point that even kayakers avoid certain sections.  Access for fishing is also limited here until the river enters the Snake River Plain.  So irrigation water and terrain limit fishing on the lower river.  Below the Trail Creek bridge and campground the south bank of the river is on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation and therefore subject to reservation access regulations. Also as the river approaches the Snake River Plain increasing private land limits access, although the angler who stays within the high water level is legal.

Yellowstone cutthroat are the native inhabitants here and make up the bulk of salmonid population. Rainbow trout were introduced into the reservoir decades ago, and escapees are  in the river below.  Brush Creek features stair-step beaver ponds holding numerous brook trout. Some of these make it to the river below the Brush Creek confluence. Resident trout have abundant caddis, leeches (small, black, with imitations tied on 3X long streamer hooks, size 10-12), snails, a reduced number of mayflies (BWO, PMD, tricos) because of silt, and some yellow sallies.  Sadly, the silt also limits the number of large stoneflies in the river below the dam, but faster waters above the dam host the largest giant stonefly nymphs I’ve seen anywhere. Also present are crayfish, actually in the river above and below the reservoir. That presence provides evidence that this river is extremely rich in nutrients, particularly bicarbonates.   Without question the best time to fish this part of the river begins the first of October when irrigation water is no longer needed and extends into November or when winter makes roads tough to negotiate.  The low water concentrates trout into the deeper holes and runs. What flies should be in the fly box for fishing the river below the Dam, you ask?  Streamers in both colorful and somber shades are your best bet for encountering the largest trout.  Thick bank side grasses host volumes of hoppers which stay numerous until killing frosts hit.  Rocky banks host ants and beetles in abundance. Of the mayflies present tricos seem the most numerous, but they are in good concentrations only at specific locations. Look for their spinner falls to provide some good late morning and mid day fishing at these locations.  When October rolls around PMDs are rare, but BWOs are active. As in any water their hatching numbers are best during overcast conditions.  Traditional attractor patterns, wet and dry work well in riffles and runs. Visit us for more information on this river which is one of the last strongholds for Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

Lewis River Channel

Lewis River below Shoshone Lake

Yes, because of the shenanigans currently going on in Washington DC you cannot get into Yellowstone Park to enjoy and appreciate what happens in Lewis River between Shoshone and Lewis Lakes this time of year.  But if those “pols” ever recover their reason, do their job and open government functions before the end of Yellowstone Park’s fishing season the first weekend of November, consider the following (that is weather and roads permitting).  Here’s what goes on there: you will see the densest population in the Park and maybe anywhere of brown trout congregating to spawn. They come from both lakes into the riffles in the upper part of the river to seek the right substrate for spawning.  Like the beginning of an Old West gold strike the males move in to establish a “claim” (spawning territory in this case). They scrap to keep out interlopers ( claim jumper in the case of humans).  Soon the hens come in to take advantage of the claimed territory, and the spawning begins. Because of the brown trout population in both lakes,  the Lewis River system hosts the biggest brown trout population in Yellowstone Park. Their spawning run between the lakes begins late in September and peaks about a month later. For decades it was almost a secret shared by anglers from Jackson Hole , West Yellowstone, and other communities close to the Park.  But in the 1960’s  an angler craving notice published in a national magazine an article on the spawning run, and its presence thus became common knowledge.  Now this event is a destination for many anglers.

There is a way to avoid the resulting crowds that slosh through the river and by doing so put many fish down. Get there early in the day before the disturbances start and more action will result. It may mean beginning the four mile walk from the trail head just above Lewis Lake at “oh-dark-thirty”, camping for the night at the outlet campground or at one of the nearby canoe campsites (permit needed), or waiting for a stormy day.  But if you are successful in being among the first on the three-quarters of a mile of river where the fish concentrate you can be in for unforgettable fishing.  All you need is a fairly stout rod (six or seven weight) and strong  (3X-2X) nine foot leader, floating line, and large (4-2/0)streamer flies in either colorful or somber hues.  Trying to keep a low profile or presenting from as far away as possible while swinging a streamer in front of a school of browns will result in hard, deliberate strikes. These strong fish range from around seventeen on up to near thirty inches and they do not give in easily, such is their spawning urge.  Warm clothing, reliable  waders and good physical conditions are required. So is preparation for bad weather. I recall a trip when three of us arrived at the same time as a storm came in. As snow accumulated and winds dropped wind chill to uncomfortable levels, anglers left in droves. We, however, fortified with “potable antifreeze” spent the night and awoke to an abandoned river which offered unbelievable streamer fishing. It cleared off that night, making wake-up air temperatures around ten below in degrees F.  But the three of us had the river to ourselves, so cold did not matter.

Here’s something to consider: if those Washington DC shenanigans end sometime this month, those browns will have been undisturbed for days if not weeks. The first several fly-fishers visiting the river will experience unbelievable fishing.  That could be YOU!