Finally, Yellowstone National Park! We are bound for Slough Creek in the park’s northeast corner, home to big cutthroat trout, but also roaming packs of wolves, big shaggy bison and grizzly bears.
Cutthroats can be gullible, but because Slough Creek runs clear and slow this time of year–and gets so much fly fishing pressure–patterns have to be small, tippets light and casts must be precisely placed to fool the older, bigger trout.
We opt to fish a meadow portion of Slough. I cast a small (size 14) Parachute Hopper into a likely seam under the overcast skies of Yellowstone.
My spectators are 1,600 pounds of hoof and hair, young Yellowstone bison that are resting for the upcoming breeding season.
The morning was full of tentative rises and last-minute refusals by clear-water cutthroats. But finally I managed to spy a cruising trout, cast in front of it, twitch my hopper pattern, and bam! Fish on!
Beautiful cutthroat. These native trout are colorful as New England’s fall leaves, the crimson slash under their jaw striking against the azure mountain water.
The minute I returned the fish to the water it gave me a farewell splash and returned to the deep pool where I hooked it.
There hasn’t been much aquatic insect activity, but finally about 1 p.m. a fall drake hatch came off, and I started seeing trout rising to big up-wing mayflies.
A decadent streamside lunch. Last night I ordered a full rack of barbecued ribs from the Beartooth Cafe in Cooke City. I couldn’t eat it all, so enjoyed a sloppy, messy, delicious doggie bag right on the grassy bank of Slough Creek.
Yum! Barbecue sauce everywhere. I’m hoping there are no grizzlies nearby.
The fishing action picks up after lunch. I hooked this colorful cutt-bow (a hybridized cutthroat and rainbow) on a black beetle imitation.
The cutt-bow has rainbow markings along its side but the characteristic cutthroat slash under its throat.
Slough Creek twists and bends on its way to the Lamar River and, just a few miles downstream, the Yellowstone River.
I hook into a trout just as a mid-afternoon squall starts dropping chilly rain. The accompanying lightning prompted me to put down my rod just after Troy shot this photo.
The rain starts gently…
… but soon turns into a deluge. There’s no cover in the open valley, so I just accept the fact that I’m getting drenched. The temperature dropped about 30 degrees in 10 minutes.
We beat feet back to our Ford Flex, where I changed into dry clothes. Only rag I had to clean my feet was my old underwear. Thank God for Simms’ Windstopper soft shell.
We contemplate returning to the stream, but it’s getting toward evening and a cold beer at Mammoth Hot Springs sounds better. Good call. The deluge continues on our drippy drive to Mammoth.
The sky is clear over Mammoth and the park headquarters. We’re headed for a cabin with a hot tub, one of the best lodging options in the park.
Outdoor Life’s trout trip finds gold on Slough Creek.