The southwest corner of the Park is characterized by spectacular geysers, lakes, and waterfalls. Most access is by hiking trail rather than by automobile, and in its remote reaches this area is lightly visited. Bison, elk, bears, moose, deer, and numerous species of birds may be your only companions.
Geysers line the banks of the Firehole River and some of its tributaries. These mineral-rich waters make for prolific mayfly and caddis hatches, which produce the most consistent dry-fly fishing in Yellowstone. Anglers from all over the world travel here to fish these hatches in the spring and fall.
Lewis and Shoshone Lakes offer anglers the best trophy-trout fishing in the Park. Large brown and lake trout are taken, from ice-out in June to the season's closure at the end of October. In late autumn, wading anglers can take large, aggressive brown and lake trout from the Lewis River Channel between the lakes.
The Cascade Corner of the Park, home to the Bechler and Falls Rivers, offers good fishing and fabulous scenery, including 21 of the Park's waterfalls. The features in this corner of Yellowstone can only be reached by trail. You have to want to be there to get there. That's why we go there.
The Bechler begins just north ofPitchstone Plateau, on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide. Just over the divide to the east is Shoshone Lake. The river flows south-west through long, narrow Bechler Canyon, picking up water from small tributaries and numerous hot mineral springs. Small cutthroats live in the canyon, but this place is strictly for backpackers-too far out of the way to make a fishing trip worthwhile.
The canyon ends about a mile below two-part Colonnade Falls. The upper falls drops 35 feet; the lower, 67 feet. Bechler Meadows begins where Ouzel Creek spills over 230-foot Ouzel Falls to join the Bechler River. The river winds back and forth constantly in this 4-mile-long meadow section, and there are few trees to block visibility; its lined mostly by small willows. The water is crystal clear, with deep pools, undercuts, and overhanging grasses. Trout tend to hold in midstream, totally exposed in the gin-clear water. Just raising your rod tip can send them bolting for cover.
Fish range from 8-to 10-inch rainbows and cutthroats to a few that are very large. The secret to catching these fish is to spot them before they spot you. Once you locate one, you'll need to crawl on your hands and knees before casting. Usually, one cast is all you'll get, so be patient and don't hurry your presentation. One good cast can make your whole day.
We've seined the river and found a variety of insect life. This is the only water in Yellowstone Park that gets all the big Drakes-Brown, Gray, and Green. The Drakes bring up the big fish, and we make it a point to fish these early-season hatches. On the downside, mosquitoes and biting flies are merciless at this time. Long-sleeved shirts, head nets, and plenty of bug dope are mandatory to deter these bloodthirsty marauders. The swampy meadows, which don't dry until August, are another of the obstacles that make reaching the stream a downright chore. Therefore, most anglers choose to drum up trout with terrestrials in mid-August, when the meadows are dry and the biting-bug populations have diminished.
At the bottom of Bechler Meadows, you have two choices. The Bechler Meadows Trail leaves the river at this point, and the hike will take you back through the woods to the ranger station. There's no fishing along this trail. If you stay along the river, heading downstream, you'll come to the confluence of Boundary Creek and the Bechler River. The water is deep and cold, but it must be forded, as there's no bridge (the only bridge is upstream on the Bechler Meadows Trail, a mile out of the way). After crossing, you'll be on the Bechler River Trail, which follows the Bechler River down to its confluence with the Falls River, a distance of about 3 miles. There are some large fish in this stretch, but they're extremely scattered, and trying to find one is an all-day proposition. The river is mainly shallow riffles with a few pockets that hold small trout. While fishable, we can't recommend it.
The Bechler River ends at its junction with the Falls River, but the trail continues for a little less than a mile, ending at Cave Falls. Even though a trip to the Bechler involves a long hike, the trail is relatively flat and easy. Be sure to check trail conditions at the ranger station before making the hike.
Boundary Creek -
Because it's easy to reach, the area near Cave Falls sees the most fishing. The trout average 10 inches in this stretch, and the action is good. To go upstream above Cave Falls, ford the river to reach the South Boundary Trail, about Vi mile south of Cave Falls. The stream leaves the trail and only comes close to it again in two places along its 30-mile length. The first is the Falls River Cutoff Trail, 4 miles east of Cave Falls. The second is where the Pitchstone Plateau Trail crosses the river, 8 miles east of Cave Falls. You'll be traveling through prime grizzly country; huckleberries and bears are a combination to look out for.
Beginning in July you'll see stoneflies, Pale Morning Duns, and Brown and Green Drakes. In September look for Tricos, Gray Drakes, and Mahogany Duns. Otherwise, terrestrial species dominate here.
Firehole River -
The river is closed to fishing in the vicinity of Old Faithful to protect the thermal features. It opens to fishing at Biscuit Basin, about 2 miles downstream of Old Faithful, where the road crosses the river. For the next 12 miles downstream to the Cascades of the Firehole, this is mostly a meandering meadow stream, with a few riffles thrown in for good measure. This stretch is Yellowstone's prime dry-fly water, with fine emergences of mayflies and caddis.
The river's brown and rainbow trout average 12 to 14 inches, with 16-inch fish not uncommon. Trout of over 20 inches are possible if you have the patience and nerve to
seek them out. These trout are known to be spooky during the prolific emergences of Pale Morning Duns and Baetis (Blue-Winged Olive) mayflies, as well as several species of caddis. The larger trout prefer to take up feeding lanes near the banks, shorelines, and weed beds, where the flies are concentrated. A stealthy approach upstream with long leaders and fine tippets comprises the recipe for success on this spring creek.
Matching the hatch is the most successful way to fool the larger trout in the smooth-water sections. During mayfly activity the fish will feed on all stages: nymphs, emergers, cripples, duns, and spinners. The same holds true for caddis periods: pupae, emergers, cripples, adults, and egg layers all draw the trout's attention.
Its hard to believe anyone could love this river more than we do. We live to fish the Firehole both spring and fall, exploring other streams in the Park during July and August,
when the Firehole's waters may climb into the 80s and force trout to seek relief in the cooler waters of its tributaries. No matter how much time we spend or experience we gain, though, we feel we're still learning to understand the complex moods of the Firehole.
About 1/2 mile downstream of the Firehole picnic area, the broad, smooth water changes pace. As the elevation drops and water speed increases, the river percolates over boulders and a rhyolite lava bottom, creating the Cascades of the Firehole. After I Vi miles the river leaves the road, heading west toward the 40-foot drop of Firehole Falls and the canyon. To get to this stretch, travel another mile north; a one-way road takes you back upstream through the canyon to Firehole Falls. This 1-mile stretch of water is a favorite of nymph and wet-fly fishers during the June salmonfly hatch and fall spawning run. This is your chance for a big, wild, Firehole River trout. Below the canyon, the Firehole comes to an end at the junction pool where it merges with the Gibbon to create the Madison River.
The Firehole is unique. On no other river in the world will you experience this mix of superb fishing, geysers, and hot pots, with a chance to fish alongside elk, bison, and wolves.
Lewis Channel -
The prime fishing here is in October, specifically the last two weeks of the month. Brown trout and lake trout migrate into the channel and provide spectacular streamer fishing for truly large fish. We can still remember the snowy October days of 1983 when we accompanied Charlie Brooks and Dan Callaghan to the channel for their research on .Fishing Yellowstone Waters (Lyons &: Burford, New York, 1984). It was the last time Charlie was able to make the trip. We'll never forget his nonstop ear-to-ear grin as Dans motor-drive camera burned more than 30 rolls of film, photographing the colorful spawning brown and lake trout that Charlie landed.
Little Firehole River
Nez Perce Creek -
Beula Lake is the headwater of the Falls River, and it has good fishing for cutthroats in the 12-inch range. You can fish the lake from shore, but a float tube makes things a little easier. A few inlets and springs enter the lakes south end, making this area marshy and difficult to navigate. One of these streams is the outlet from nearby Hering Lake. Callibaetis mayflies, caddis, and midges provide surface action in the summer. Otherwise, we recommend damselfly, dragonfly, and leech patterns for subsurface fishing.
Lewis Lake -
This is also the only lake we know of where you can catch brook trout, browns, cutthroats, and lake trout on a dry fly. Most of the angling pressure is from spin fishers, but a few local fly anglers make the lake a regular stop, fishing the drop-off along the southwest shore with sinking lines and leech imitations. The entrance to the lake's outlet is also a good place to land big trout on big dry flies, such as a size-8 Royal Wuiff. Fishing from a tube or a boat is more reliable than wade fishing the outlet.
The best times to fish Lewis Lake are at ice-out in mid-June, warm summer evenings, and late October, when the spawning brown trout become aggressive. Stick with streamers and leeches in the early and late season, and look for caddis on warm summer evenings.
Canoeing is allowed on Shoshone Lake. Its quite the saga to canoe and portage up the channel between Shoshone and Lewis Lakes, but it's well worth it once you arrive. Because of its remoteness and difficult access, Shoshone Lake receives little angling pressure. Brook trout from Moose Creek and cutthroats from nearby Pocket Lake are found here, but large brown and lake trout predominate.
Fishing begins here in mid-June, right after ice-out. Midges and Callibaetis can provide some good dry-fly action, while scud and leech imitations work well when there's no surface activity. Fishing slows in July and August, as the trout move to deeper) cooler water. Then you'll have to switch to sinking lines and big leech or baitfish imitations. Most anglers prefer to fish elsewhere in the Park at this time, returning to Shoshone Lake when the weather cools in September.
In late September, brown trout and lake trout migrate into the Lewis Channel to spawn. If you like to fish streamers, this is the time to land some truly big fish.
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