A matched set of trout
My wife and I live part time in a house on the Yellowstone River at the edge of Livingston, and we arrived for the spring last week. I fished a little in front of the house while getting all the chores done and getting in some work--I'm an artist who furnishes all the covers for the Bass Pro Shops catalogs, among other things, and I had to get a cover done. But yesterday was the first day I had a chance to get on the river for a longer period of time.
This year, the waters around the house are going to be a little less crowded, since they are rebuilding the bridge over the river on Park Street, and the river stretch from Mayor's Landing to Hwy. 89 is closed to floating. Since our house is downstream from the bridge, I figured it would be okay for me to float from the house down to the Pig Farm. I don't know what anybody in authority would say about it, but I'll do it until somebody tells me I can't. I have a Watermaster solo raft, which I can propel and control with swim fins as well as the oars.
Due to unforeseen things happening, I wasn't able to get my wife to follow me down to the Pig Farm, so I could leave the truck there and have her drive me back to the house, until late in the morning. It was about noon when I carried the little raft down to the river and pushed off.
The river, which was at 1300 cfs when we arrived here a little more than a week ago, has risen to 1600 cfs due to the warm, sunny weather we've had, and it was a little murky. The day was warm, light wind, partly to mostly cloudy. I was hoping for some surface action. There have been quite a few midges on the water, though few fish rising to them. With the late start, I decided to row through much of the water down to the 89 bridge, and spend more time exploring the less familiar water below. But there's a place above the bridge, a deep, rather slow pool, where fish are almost always rising along a soft current seam well out from the bank. That's something that's always intrigued me; even on days when not much is happening on the surface, and days when you don't see hardly any bugs on the water, there are always these same few places along the river where you'll see rising fish.
There was a bathtub-sized eddy at the head of the pool, against the bluff in very fast water, covered with foam, and at least a dozen trout rising in the foam. But it was simply too fast to hold the raft to fish it. But I looked downstream where I expected to see fish rising, and sure enough, they were. That spot is easy to fish, because you can just slide into the big eddy and fish the current seam as you drift slowly down the eddy, picking off each rising fish one by one. This time, I got ten takes, hooked seven, and landed five, all of them 11 to 14 inch rainbows. It was a good refresher course in dry fly fishing after a long winter--I always set the hook too soon and too hard until I get back into the swing of it.
After that, the fishing slowed. There were no more risers until I got well below the bridge, where I found another rather similar situation with rising fish. But just as I got into position to cast to the uppermost riser, the sun, which had been behind clouds for a half hour or more, came out strongly, and the fish disappeared. I've seen that plenty of times on the Yellowstone--the sun comes out and fish go down, the sun disappears and the fish magically appear. This time it looked like the sun was going to be shining for a while, and I was running late, so I pushed on downstream, fishing a streamer for a while with a couple of half-hearted swipes at it, finally deciding to go to nymph fishing.
The first riffle corner I stopped to nymph produced a 15 inch rainbow and a couple of whitefish on a Prince and a Soft Hackle. I continued down the river, nymphing as I drifted. There was a spot in fairly fast-moving, deep, brush lined water where I was drifting the nymphs alongside a limb that was a foot above the water and parallel to the current, when the indicator dipped. Afraid that I'd snagged some underwater piece of the tree, I lifted gingerly and felt live weight, and then a big rainbow leaped three feet out of the water on the near side of the limb, over the limb, and landed on the other side of it. Luckily, the limb was smooth and I was able to hold the rod high and let the line slide down to the end of the limb. Then I fought the fish for quite a while before getting it in, realizing that I'd left the net at home. I measured it against the rod, knowing exactly where the 20 inch mark is on my 5 weight, and it was exactly 20 inches.
A short time later in a similar appearing run, I got another take on the nymphs. Another big trout leaped clear of the water, but this time it was a brown. After another long fight, I got that one in...and it was also 20 inches.
A half mile downstream, I stopped to fish a riffle corner, and in the soft current seam I hooked what felt like a heavy fish. This one didn't jump. It bulldogged almost like a big whitefish, but it also made a couple of hard runs that were faster than "whitefish normal". What was it? It took a long time to land, but finally I beached a beautiful, 20 inch cutthroat!
That was the end of the fishing. The wind suddenly came up, blowing hard downstream and making fishing tough. And it was getting late and I still had a couple of miles to go, so I booked it on down the river. I took out in a dust storm at the Pig Pen. It was a fine afternoon on the Yellowstone.