Back-country Rainbows

Get off the beaten path for some of Yellowstone's best angling.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

It's axiomatic that the farther you hike in Yellowstone, the better the fishing. That truism is proved on tiny headwater streams where native cutthroats compete for your fluffy dry fly. It's equally evident on larger back-country creeks, such as Grayling, Soda Butte and Thorofare, where rainbows and cutts slash at grasshopper imitations. Willow-lined beaver ponds, such as those up Slough Creek in the park's northeast corner, produce bigger fish.

These remote streams get just a fraction of the fishing pressure of the more accessible waters. That means more consistent rewards for the hiking angler. Don't expect gargantuan fish, but on a good day you'll hook dozens of hand-sized trout as bright and stunning as the water that produced them.

Bring basic gear. Productive fly patterns include standard attractors such as small Royal Trudes, Humpies and Stimulators. Or try a high-riding mayfly imitation such as a Parachute Adams or a Quill Gordon. By late July and through August, grasshopper, cricket and black ant imitations are deadly. If you fish ultralight spinning gear, keep your hardware small. Size 00 and 0 Panther Martin and Mepps spinners are great for tight, brushy creeks.

If you prefer to fish still water, hike into a back-country lake for a shot at a larger trout. Lakes in the remote southwestern corner of the park produce pounder cutthroats and rainbows, or you can hike into Heart, Lewis or Shoshone Lake for lake trout that will whack larger spoons.

Be sure to buy a fishing permit and complete back-country permit information. Leave bait and lead lures at home, but bring bear spray. The streams that attract anglers can also be popular with grizzlies.