A Land Unchanged

Yellowstone National Park draws in millions of visitors from all around the globe every year.  People from all walks of life come to view the incredible geothermal features, abundance of wildlife, and picturesque landscapes that Yellowstone is so well known for.  With that said, there is plenty of solitude to be found in the park if you are willing to put in the time and effort.  One of the most popular tourist sites is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  At over 1,000 feet deep and a mile wide, it is a site to behold. IMG_1078

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

For the past several months, Brent had been speaking of a place where there are hundreds of wild cutthroat trout, each one willing to rise to a dry fly without hesitation.  The end of July is when the river is in it’s prime, and Chris, Brent and I were able to find the rare occasion that all of our schedules aligned.  Like any phenomenal fishing location, there is always a catch.  What’s the catch to “Seven-Mile Hole”?  Hiking down into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  A 1,200 foot descent in a mile and a half is not an easy task, even for an avid hiker. IMGP5487

Hiking In

From the head of the trail, the hike in to the canyon is approximately five miles.  The trail begins at a relatively easy gradient, with only the occasional hill.  It’s the last mile and a half that keeps most people from making the descent into the canyon.  It’s extremely steep, and the ground does not provide very solid footing.  It’s not a matter of “if” you slip and fall, it’s a matter of “when” you are going to slip and fall.

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Fishing a Productive Run

Upon arriving at the river, I immediately thought about how beautiful the water was; a deep turquoise color that is only seen in the purest of rivers.  It was only a matter of seconds before we were casting into the river.  It was immediately apparent that the fishing was going to be phenomenal when Chris and I each hooked into fish on our first two casts.  What a rush it is to see a beautiful cutthroat trout rise from the depths of the crystalline water, swimming so slowly that time seems to stand still.  Eventually they would eat the fly, and then slowly descend back to the depths of the river, without even realizing they had eaten a big piece of foam.

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Vivid Cutts

It took a little while for me to get the hook sets down, but once I figured it out the fishing only got better.  We spent the next several hours working our way down river, picking up multiple fish at every spot that looked promising.  It is not often that you can pull a fish out of every single run, all day long.  Most waters are too pressured, but not the Yellowstone.  The few who venture out to fish its mighty waters are greatly rewarded.  The further we walked downstream, the better the fishing became.  It also became more treacherous and difficult to navigate.  Boulder hopping and balancing acts on top of logs became the norm.

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Salmon Flies Were On the Menu

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Chris With a Beautiful Cutthroat

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Pocket Water

IMGP5515 Yellow BellyIMG_1660Sparsely Spotted
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IMGP0024Beautiful Gill Plates
IMGP0029One of My Favorite Runs
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Watch Your Step

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Chris Demoing the new RIO Perception Line

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Bear Spray is a Must in the Yellowstone Backcountry

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Grizz!

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One of My Best Fish of the Trip

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Beat up and Battered

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Heading Out

Around 4:30 in the afternoon, we decided it was time to hike out.  We were all a little sad to leave such an incredible place, but we wanted to get back to the vehicle well before dark.  Hiking in Yellowstone National Park in the dark is a terrifying experience and not one that any of us wished to do.  We had the unfortunate experience last fall when we made the mistake of leaving too late.  We made sure not to make that mistake twice.  After a long and grueling hike out, 14 miles roughly, we were all relieved to make it back to the vehicle.

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Ominous Storm Moving In

Spending time in such a remote area was both an incredible and humbling experience for me.  I cannot think of another time in my life where I have ever had such an epic day of dry fly fishing.  There is no where else in the world quite like Yellowstone.  The Yellowstone backcountry offers a whole other experience that most people who visit the park never get.  Despite the level of difficulty it took to get in, I am already looking forward to returning next summer and creating more life long memories with great friends.

Finding Time For The River

Monday of last week marked the beginning of another semester of school.  The past four months off have provided some incredible fishing opportunities for me, but it feels nice to be back in class again.  The first week of the semester is always one of the most stressful times.  I’m always rearranging my schedule.  Doing homework takes a little bit of time to get used to when you haven’t had any for four months.  With that said, I think I’ve got it all figured out and look forward to another fun semester.  I’ve opted to take more online classes this semester than I usually do for a couple of reasons.  Reason number one: I have A.D.D. and I have a hard time sitting in a class room for more than an hour or two.  I get antsy and my mind starts wandering elsewhere.  Online classes let me do the work from the comfort of my apartment.  Reason number two:  Less time in a classroom = more time on the river.  Who wouldn’t want more time on the river?

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Rewarded For Being a Good Student All Week

I’ll be the first to admit that Saturday is my least favorite day of the week to fish.  There are usually a lot of people out, and I prefer a little bit of solitude.  Brent and I had planned on fishing Friday, but we each had things come up that prevented us from doing so.  I also ended up having way more homework than I was expecting to, so it worked out for the better.  Fortunately I love to hike, and hiking is one of the best ways to get away from the crowds.  Brent and I met up Saturday morning around 10:00 AM and headed out in search of some hungry trout.  It didn’t take long to connect with my first fish of the day, a solid cutt that would have went over 20″ but somehow managed to shake the hook.  Brent and I worked our way downriver, picking up the occasional hybrid, but overall the fishing was pretty slow.  In hopes of quicker fishing, we decided to pack up and head elsewhere.

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Snakey Hybrid

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Underwater Shot: Photo Credit- Brent Wilson

As we pulled into our next stop, I felt good about our choice to move elsewhere.  There was much more water to cover, and water clarity was much better than where we began our day.  Brent worked a nice ledge on the far bank of the river, while I stuck to the bank closest to where we parked.  After a few casts, I watched a dark shadow come out of the depths and chase down my fly.  In its attempt to hit the sculpin pattern, it missed and made its way back to the deep pocket.  I continued working the run for a few more minutes and eventually pulled out a decent hybrid in the 18″ range.  Rainbow-Cutthroat Hybrids fight strong and they are one of my favorite trout to catch.  We snapped a few photos and sent the fish on her way.

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Chrome Hybrid

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Terrible Photo But a Decent Cutthroat

Over the next few hours, Brent and I continued to work every run that looked like it would hold a fish, and in turn continued to catch or hook into fish on a regular basis.  Most fish were in the 12″ to 16″ range, but we’d occasionally hook one in the 18″ to 20″ range, and even were lucky enough to catch a couple in the 22″-23″ range.  I’m terrible at keeping track of how many fish I catch, but my best guess would be that between Brent and I, over two dozen were brought to hand by days end, not to mention all the fish that shook the fly loose.  Not a bad day at all in my book, especially for a Saturday.

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Vibrant Colors

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Shoulders

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Big Headed Cutty

Today, another week of school, homework, studying, and everything else that goes along with being a full-time college student begins.  A great weekend of fishing always makes it easier to get through the long days of school.  In the mean time, I can day dream about the tailing carp and streamer pounding smallies that I’m going to chase this coming weekend.

New Year, New Week

The first week of 2013 has come and gone, but not without leaving its mark.  Some of the coldest temperatures we have had all year came through this week.  The temps dropped well into the negatives.  The coldest I saw was  -20, and the highs seldom reached out of the single digits.  Ice fishing in such cold weather is not for the faint of heart, but it can be very rewarding.  I had the opportunity to fish with Chris and his boys a couple times this week.  We tried a few different places around the area and none of them were disappointing.  Lot’s of fish were caught and a good time was had by everyone.

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Love Those Cutties!

One of the best outings of the week was on New Year’s day.  We hit one of my favorite spots that doesn’t normally freeze until a little bit later in the year.  We didn’t get there until the afternoon but that didn’t seem to slow down the fishing at all.  Within 30 seconds of dropping the ice jigs down, it was fish on!  It stayed this way most of the evening until we left.  The highlight of the day was when Chris and his son were able to catch a beauty of a brown trout.  I had never seen such a nice and beautifully colored brown come out of the ice before and I was pretty stoked about it, even if I wasn’t the one catching the fish.  Chris does a great job of passing on his love of fishing to his children.

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Chris and his son with a Beautiful Brown Trout

A little bit later in the day I also hooked into what felt like a pretty good fish.  One of the things I love about ice fishing is feeling the hit when jigging and knowing that you have set into a good fish.  The fish ran me all over the place and I eventually worked him up and out of the whole with some help from Chris.  It wasn’t a monster by any means, but it was a dandy cutthroat and was sporting some beautiful colors at that.

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My Best Cutthroat of the Day

The next day, Chris and I decided to venture a little further south in hopes of catching some big ‘bows.  When we left Idaho Falls, the temperature was well into the negatives so we knew it was going to be a cold day.  On the drive in , the lowest the thermometer read was -20.  I made sure to snap a picture because it was the coldest weather that I had ever gone fishing in before.  We made it to the parking lot and the temperature had gone up a whopping 2 degrees to only -18.  Undeterred, we went and set up the ice house and heater so that everyone could be nice and warm.  The first three hours of fishing were very slow.  Chris had a few light bumps and I had not even had as much as a nibble.  We moved around a few times until we eventually started to find some fish.  Chris caught the first nice fish of the day, a solid slab of a ‘bow.  That fish had restored our faith and we stuck it out a couple more hours and we even caught a few more fish.

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Brrrrr

My best fish of the trip came about an hour after we had set up shop in our new and more productive location.  I was jigging the ice fly when I felt that familiar tap.  I set the hook and nothing was there.  I was disappointed I had missed the fish but quickly noticed one of my other rods was getting hit.  I ran over to it, with my jigging rod still in hand.  As I reached down to pick the rod up and set the hook, my jigging rod started getting hit again so I set the hook.  The fish immediately came right up to the hole and I could tell it was a nice fish.  As soon as it saw me or the sunlight, I’m not sure which it was, it decided to take off and fight like a fish its size should.  My drag got a good workout and it was a blast.  Chris reached down and helped plop the fish out of the whole and we were able to land it.  It turned out to be one of my best fish this season (ice fishing).  We never did pick up any more big fish after that, but we did manage a handful of planters.  As we worked our way back to Chris’s van, it felt like it was finally starting to warm up and I even shed a layer because I was getting too hot from pulling the sled.  To my disbelief, the van said it was still only -3 outside.  On the way home we made a quick stop at one other location but it wasn’t even worth the time.  We saw a few fish on the underwater camera but they were just chubs and they weren’t even big enough to eat my small ice fly.

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Subzero Temps and Chunky ‘Bows

I fished almost every day this week and was not disappointed at all.  I have a feeling that 2013 is going to be another awesome year of fishing here in Idaho.