No, not that campaign… The Fall Field Campaign!
It’s officially been 350 days since Katie and I were last fishing for migratory Rainbow and Brown Trout in our “secret spot” in Yellowstone. It’s really hard to have that kind of air bubble in the calendar but man, was yesterday worth the wait. The weather was setting up to be bad, really bad (high winds, snow and rain) but mother nature gave us a 12 hour window that was nearly perfect – well, perfect for fishing that is. We started out with overcast skies, a low ceiling of fog, spitting rain, 35 degrees, and absolutely no wind. That might not sound like a sunny day on the beach but it is actually ideal for catching really big trout. By the time we left, the temperature had gradually risen to 47 and the dark weather conditions held steady from 9:30 AM till 5:30 PM.
We put over 20 fish into the net but probably hooked 60. We fooled them with every fly pattern in our box (Streamers, CDC Betas Emergers, Egg patterns, soft hackle wet flies etc.). The water level is higher than we’ve seen in many years but that’s because of the increased rainfall as of late. This is really good news for the migratory fish and they are very big, healthy and strong. The first 4 fish that I hooked were 20” and I managed to land three (a hook to land percentage that would gradually plummet during the course of the day). In the back of my mind, I could hear Dan Larson’s voice screaming for most of the day as I lost several great fish… “AAAAUUGGGGGAAUU!”
With the higher water level comes more weed beds and deeper channels that give the biggest fish an advantage to get hung up during the fight. Katie and I hooked and lost several really big fish but the largest Brown that I managed to net (at 22 inches) gave me a battle that on paper, I shouldn’t have won. After hooking this fish upstream from T.O.’s island, it ran me all over the river before I managed to net the fish 100 yards down river. The abrupt channels and knee deep mud filled weed beds that I had to navigate almost caused me to go for a swim several times. I’m fairly confident that Mr. Monster Brown Trout knew this and thought he had me on several occasions. As I stood and examined the beast in my net, the fish was a perfect, brightly colored – unmarked specimen that had recently migrated about 20 river miles upstream from Hebgen lake. I’m so glad that Katie and I have been able to share this unique nature experience with each other and with our close friends.
Finally, the weather report scared virtually all of the local fisherman away but these adverse conditions are actually rare and something that trout fisherman dream about. We even had a very large Bald Eagle watch over us all day, probably thinking that Katie was going to feed him with an easy meal. With the attached pictures, I’ve tried to capture what Late October in Yellowstone NP is like and what a privilege it is to be isolated in one of the most beautiful places on earth. But what I’ve come to realize is that even the best camera on the planet cannot truly capture the scenery, wildlife and amazing beauty of these cold water species of fish.
Enjoy, share and plan your trips.
Fly Fishing Portraits, LLC.