On July 20th, I left my place in Livingston just after 4am. I drove through Paradise Valley and then grand scenery of Yellowstone National Park. I reached my destination before traffic jams, caused by tourists & wildlife combinations. A different parking spot but the same stretch as two years ago: Yellowstone River, below Yellowstone Lake (or Fishing Bridge) to Hayden Valley, one of the most glorious waters in North America.
It was only 6 days since the opening (July 15th). I wanted to wet my line to see if I get connected with the true native giant Yellowstone Cutthroat. I knew it wouldn't be an easy task. At least I could tell that water would be lower than average as observed downstream in Montana. Would that affect fishing, trout, insect hatches, etc? Trials and adjustments, learning and observation, then patience, concentration, perseverance.............. I have ruminated these words over and over through the day.......... To me, it was more like to redefine myself "true meaning of fly-fishing" and "why we do this sport" and to understand, or at least try to understand, "Longest free-flowing river in Lower 48".
There were tremendous amount of insects on and around River!!............where are rising trout?
Check and fish likely holding spots with nymphs!..................why am I not getting any bites?
Am I fishing at wrong spots with wrong flies?
Then I started to ask myself stupidly - should be kept within me!! - "Are there any Cutthroat in this River?" "Lake trout, bears, and pelicans wiped them off?"
This Zen Argument went on and on through the day...........
Then I got a bite! It was a Cutt though not super big and was slipped off from my fly.
Technically I avoided the "skunk" for the day........ At the same time, that hinted me something.
I went back to where I fished for a short period in the morning. On the other side of river, I saw 2 anglers out of a group of 3 hooked into Cutt (one was successfully netted and photographed). I was sincerely happy for them and reassured that "they are somewhere around here!!"(again, I should keep this nonsense within me but I just can't help being honest about fly-fishermen's emotions).
Then I changed my tactics and fly presentations. For the first time ever on that day, I felt a solid tug. Considering the current and depth, it couldn't be a rock or boulder. Something flashed!! YES!! I was connected with something BIG!!
Then came next challenge to handle. These brutes know how to utilize the heavy current of Yellowstone River for their advantages. One literally has to play a tug-of-war plus follow the downstream without falling in.
My nerve and rig = fly-knots-leaders = held........
First, I'm sure I can say, though I haven't been fishing or guiding here several decades, that this is the odd year. Number 1 factor would be the water flow, which is one of the lowest in the century of record. As we know the number of Cutthroat have been recovering in recent years. Then as you can see, or as I saw a few others' catches, these big Lake Cutt were fat and healthy. I could only guess that Cutt must have regained after spawning just as usual at average time. Then majority of Cutt would have swum up Le Hardy Rapids to the Lake (or close to) quickly and easily. Also perhaps Lake Cutt = who dwell in Yellowstone Lake rest of the year = wouldn't have felt enough hiding/holding depth and security in the river. Both due to much less than average volume and height of river for this time of year . Then there came insect hatches at the section we would fish at the average time period - no wonder we wouldn't see any rises.
This is only my theory based on my own experience and a few chats with other anglers. I can be wrong. So please take this accordingly. I'm sure there are some angler who claimed to have observed rises and even caught Cutt on dry-flies. That just didn't happen to me on that particular day.
Second, I demonstrated to myself, clients, and even readers of this blog that when I mean trials and adjustments, learning and observation, then patience, concentration, perseverance, I REALLY MEAN THEM!! Easy to say and hard to perform - indeed....... But I did and I believe that was why I was rewarded at the very end of the day.
Will there be another Dawn Treader trip? Perhaps......... Where to? Thinking..........