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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Sports >  Outdoors

NPS 100: Yellowstone National Park is one big fly zone

A bull elk gathers his harem in the Lamar River Valley of Yellowstone National Park, where the mid-1990s reintroduction of gray wolves has greatly reduced elk numbers. (RICH LANDERS
A bull elk gathers his harem in the Lamar River Valley of Yellowstone National Park, where the mid-1990s reintroduction of gray wolves has greatly reduced elk numbers. (RICH LANDERS
By Brent Frazee The Kansas City Star

Roger Booth and John Brick once thought they had to get away from the maddening crowds to catch trout in Yellowstone National Park.

No longer. In July, they stood at the edge of the Lamar River – just yards from the entrance road to the park – and caught cutthroats at the same clip as when they traveled far into the park wilderness.

“The only problem here is that we might hit a car on our backcast,” Brick said with a laugh. “We’re not exactly in a remote place. But I don’t think the trout know that.

“We’ve caught some nice cutthroats today.”

As they stood on a steep chunk-rock bank, they whipped tiny nymph flies into a run and let them drift with the current until they reached the desired zone. That’s often when a trout would dart up and strike.

Both of the fishermen, longtime friends from West Virginia, got a taste of Yellowstone fly fishing at some of its best. As the sound of the wild (the rushing current) and the mild (rush-hour traffic in the park) mixed, they caught trout regularly. And some of those fish were impressive in size. Booth landed a cutthroat that measured 16 inches.

All of this in 95-degree heat.

Booth and Brick weren’t surprised, though. They and other friends have traveled to Yellowstone long enough to realize that the national park and its nearby rivers and creeks are full of trout.

They have traveled to Montana for more than 20 years for a “guys’ trip” to experience world-famous trout fishing in Big Sky Country. They generally explore the abundant rivers, creeks and lakes of Yellowstone National Park, but they also fish famous nearby rivers such as the Bighorn.

Finding a place to fish in the massive national park is never a problem. The park, which is mostly located in Wyoming but also extends into Montana and Idaho, has more than 1,000 streams that total more than 2,600 miles in length. And that doesn’t even include the little, secluded mountain lakes and ponds.

The adventurous can hike or travel by horseback to remote creeks, rivers and lakes. The not-so-adventurous can stop along a pulloff on the road and scramble down the rocks to find easily accessible fly fishing.

“Three years ago, we hired a guide and rode horses up to the high country here in the park,” said Booth, 68. “We hit these small lakes up in the mountains, and we caught big cutthroats.”

But even in the busier sections of the park, the fishing at Yellowstone can be impressive.

Though they were fishing near the northeast entrance to the national park, they were in a wild setting. A bison crossed the river about 50 yards away, and Booth kept a watchful eye on him as he fished.

“You don’t want to come too close to those guys,” he said. “They can get aggressive.”

The park gets flooded with visitors each year, especially in the summer months. But it still keeps its wild nature.

Booth and Brick are dedicated fly fishermen, and they generally use nymphs that they can drift along the bottom.

“Everybody likes to catch the trout on the top, and that’s exciting,” Booth said. “There’s usually a good hopper (a dry fly that imitates a grasshopper) pattern in summer. But 90 percent of the time, the fish are feeding on the bottom.”

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