Yellowstone Expedition 1 - 2nd update

Hi families,

Since our last update, we have been based out of Bridge Bay Campground on Yellowstone Lake. We drove in from the West Yellowstone entrance and immediately started fishing the upper section the Yellowstone River. This section of river is especially prized because it contains lake run cutthroat trout. The area had been closed until July 1, so the fish hadn’t seen too many flies before our arrival. It is difficult and technical fishing, made more difficult by especially high water this year. However, the high water due to a delayed snowpack meant better bug life. Salmonflies and Green Drakes were everywhere! Many of the campers (and guides) were in awe of the sheer size of the salmon flies, and we instantly understood why the fish went crazy for them, given their incredible mass and therefore caloric value for a fish. Many campers hooked up to fish over 20 inches.

The next day, the real fishing insanity began. We decided to hike 12 miles round-trip in order to access the side of the river that was significantly less fished. Our decision paid off, and we had the best day I have seen in my three summers with LFFE. Despite the crowds and inclement weather, every camper landed a large fish, which is no small feat for this famed fishery. Not only did we land an incredible amount of healthy Yellowstone cutthroat trout, but we were able to admire the arduous journey they had taken to get to that spot on the Upper Yellowstone River. In an effort to spawn the cutthroat swam all the way down stream to the very redd (spawning bed) in which they were born, through the raging Lehardy rapids and swift currents of the Yellowstone River. As a group, we were lucky enough to admire the sheer willpower of these cutthroat trout, and the sight of these fish alone was enough to make a conservationist out of all of us. 

Slough Creek fished incredibly well. A true American west  trout stream, the stream snakes through beautiful meadows, making for ideal scenery and fishing. Like the Yellowstone, the water was higher than previous years, which resulted in better bug life and less pressured fish. Slough Creek displayed bug life unlike anything we had ever seen there: a variety of mayflies in all different sizes and colors, with the main menu item consisting of green drakes, one of the largest species of mayfly. All three of us guides were in awe of how the fish reacted, watching them chow down all throughout the day and night, trying to capitalize on the incredible variety of food options. Given the plethora of entomological life, the fish were not very picky, and ate a variety of caddis, green drake, and stonefly patterns. In addition to the bug life we saw on the surface, the fish also munched the streamer imitations we used, in just about all sizes. Intended to imitate smaller fish and leeches, streamers are an awesome way to experience a different type of fly fishing, and even better when the fish simply can’t refuse them. We also experienced some of Yellowstone’s natural wonders. We saw an enormous grizzly bear (from the car), black bears with cubs, bison herds, elk, pronghorn, sandhill cranes. We were treated to great sunsets and starry nights (some campers spent the nights stargazing as they fell asleep). 

For the next three nights, we will be based out of the aptly named Paradise Valley . We are going to shower, do laundry, and fish some of the easier accessed rivers near Gardiner like the Lamar, Soda Butte, and Gardiner Rivers.


Tight Lines, 

Ed, Cole, and Burke


Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions was started in 2010 as a graduate thesis for my Master's Degree in Environmental Conservation Education at NYU. The operating premise was simple - by coupling amazing wilderness fly fishing camps for teens with environmental education and service learning we can help inspire future generations of fly fishing conservationists. We have been growing our unique list of trips and experiences ever since.

When it comes to choosing a summer program for your teen the options are endless. For the teen who loves to fish, be outside, and has a strong sense of adventure we have made the choice easy. We are the leader in teen fly fishing adventures and are dedicated to providing the best backcountry fly fishing experience with opportunities for teens to engage in leadership training, community service, and backcountry camping.


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Will Lillard, Founder/Director/Guide

Contact Us

[email protected]

Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions
2540 King Road
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768

(828) 577-8204