The Yellowstone Expedition has been fishing hard in Yellowstone, with tons of fish caught since our last update. We have done a lot of fishing and exploring the last few days and are just as excited for our final few days on the water as a group.
After our last update, we started preparing for our second backcountry while we stayed at the Bridge Bay campsite and fished some of the road-accessible rivers in the park. As the backcountry neared, we kept an eye on the weather. In unusual fashion for the greater Yellowstone Region in August, the forecast was for several consecutive days of rain with some thunderstorms mixed in as the week went on. On a normal backpacking trip, we would hike through the rain, but on a fishing trip, we had to consider the fishability of the rivers. With zero rain in the last 2-3 weeks, the ground was dry. We knew that even the smallest rainstorm would leave the rivers full of sediment, muddy, and unfishable. So instead of hiking into a river for 2 nights and not being able to fish, we called an audible.
The group split in two, as usual. The first group made it down to 7 Mile Hole in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River for one night. It is hard to imagine a more uniquely Yellowstone place to fish. The hike down starts with 3 miles along the canyon rim with stunning views before it drops suddenly into the Canyon. As we made our way down the steep canyon walls, we hiked passed geysers, thermal vents, and boiling mud pots along the trail. When we finally reached the river we set up camp right on the bank beneath the towering yellow rock cliffs which inspired the name Yellowstone. As expected, the rain came and the river blew out, but not before everyone was able to catch some beautiful Yellowstone Cutthroat from this memorable stretch of river.
The other half of the group tried to avoid the blown-out rivers altogether and switched their backcountry to Grebe Lake. Grebe Lake is the headwaters of the Madison River and is the only drainage in the park with Native Westslope Cutthroat and Arctic Grayling. They couldn’t escape the rain, but they did manage to catch some beautiful fish before hail and lightning forced them to retreat to their tents.
With all the rain and muddy rivers in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, we made another audible, hiking out of the backcountry yesterday and heading east toward the Bighorn River. The Bighorn is a tailwater (controlled by a dam) and therefore fishes much better when other rivers blow out. The group all reconvened in Mammoth Hot Springs before heading out of the park to dry out gear and get some well-earned pizza in Livingston, MT. Instead of one-day float fishing on the Madison, they will now all enjoy three days on the boats fishing the Bighorn, home to some of the biggest trout ever caught on with LFFE.
The trip is flying by, and before we know it, we will be driving back toward Bozeman where we will have our final banquet dinner and spend our final night together soaking in the Bozeman Hot Springs. We will send our final update with the link to the photo album on 8/11.
Max, Burke and the crew