Subject: Planning a Trip to Yellowstone
My name is Sam H, I am a college student in California at a small school called Occidental. I enjoy watching Saltwater Experience on the Sportsman channel, and I think the blog posts you've got on your website are great. I've always been a big fisherman; my goal is to fish all over the world as I come across it in my travels.
I'm emailing you because my friend and I are planning a backpacking trip in Yellowstone for late August 2015. I've read about the time you spent working in the backcountry there, and I was hoping you could recommend a few good spots to hit that time of year, or perhaps even to ask for a route you think would be good to take. We are making a five day trek and want to traverse the best fly fishing and sight seeing that we can. Any general advice you might have about the trip is welcome too.
I am super jealous! Yellowstone is one of my very favorite places on Earth. You are going to have a wonderful time there.
I worked in the Park at Lake Hotel in 1989. It was the year after the fires and the Park was rebounding. I was a room attendant which means I was a maid. It is still the best job I ever had. That particular year, TW Services was overstaffed with room attendants at Lake Hotel so they asked if anyone would rather take 3 days off instead of just two. I volunteered immediately as did a few of my friends. We would work 4 days and take 3 days off. The work days were spent cleaning rooms quickly then fishing or hiking in the afternoons. We would talk to the people who had worked there much longer than us and the Rangers at the station about hikes to take, backpacking trips, mountains to climb and places to fish. We would find one that we liked, make a plan and take off on the 4th day around noon.
Luckily, we were able to backpack every area of the Park. There is no way that I could have covered every trail or explored the whole park, but we were able to spend time in each little section giving us a great experience.
Yellowstone is a different place today. The wolf reintroduction was only a possibility and the bear activity was much lower than it is today. When I was in the Park for an entire summer, we only had 13 bear sightings. When I took my family there 2 years ago, we saw almost 30 bears in a week. The Park also has a large population of wolves that did not exist when I was roaming through. These are serious things to consider. Do your research, talk to the Rangers and learn about how to hike, fish and live in the backcountry without incident with Grizzly Bears and/or Wolves. The Rangers are your best resource as they will steer you clear of areas with high bear activity. Make sure that you file a plan with the Ranger Station and that the Rangers and other people know where you are going and when you are supposed to be back.
With this being said, there are lots of places that are close to my heart and that I would recommend.
Make sure to stop at a lot of the “big” things (despite the tourists). The view of the Lower Falls is classic and a trip to Yellowstone is not complete without spending some time Artist Point looking at the canyon and falls. There will be tons of people eating melting ice cream cones around Old Faithful, but the same holds true there. Make sure to see it and make sure to go into the Old Faithful lodge which is one of my favorite man made structures in the world. Mammoth Hot Springs, West Thumb, Lake Butte, The view of the Tetons, and the Lamar Valley pullouts are all worthwhile and you should try to find time to see them. Be a tourist for a day.
Firehole River- The Firehole River is home to lots of fish. You will be able to catch some nice ones but I have never seen any real giants up there. I think it is a must do because it is just so classic Yellowstone. You can fish in areas where thermal features bubble next to the river, smell the sulphur, watch 100 bison cross the river in front of you and experience prolific caddis and mayfly hatches. To me, it is worth doing even if the fishing is not great.
Yellowstone River- From Fishing Bridge you can see the Yellowstone River and fish both sides of it at the point that it becomes legal (check the regulations). The Yellowstone Cutthroat is an iconic fish and you need to catch one in the Yellowstone River while there. The river used to be amazing for cutthroats and it still may be. I have not fished it in a long time (unfortunately) but I do know that the fishing has changed because of the Lake Trout in the Yellowstone Lake. Best bet is to contact Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone for conditions, fishing reports and advice on where you can find some decent fishing.
The Bechler Region- This is my #1 pick for an extended backpack and fishing trip. It requires 2 cars or arranging a shuttle. Start at the Ashton entrance (the least used entrance in the Park) and walk to Old Faithful. There is an easily navigable, well marked, but little used trail all the way. You have to plan this trip with the Ranger Station and set your camping areas. Along the way you will walk past rivers and the most waterfalls in the entire Park. This was one of my favorite places that I have ever been. Remember, when I was there, there were no wolves and fewer bears. MAKE SURE YOU DISCUSS THIS TRIP WITH PEOPLE WHO KNOW (Blue Ribbon Flies, Rangers, other fishermen). I have not been to this area in over 20 years (sadly). You will be in the heart of Yellowstone’s backcountry. You will not run into any tourists and will probably not see anyone.
Lamar Valley/Slough Creek. Another of my favorite trips ever started at Pebble Creek and went up and over Bliss Pass to Slough Creek. You don’t have to do it this way. There are much easier ways to get deep into Slough Creek, but we thought it would be cool to go over the pass and it was. The view of the winding Slough Creek from Bliss Pass is something I will never forget. Once in the 3rd meadow, the fishing was spectacular. I have been back since and it did not disappoint. Make sure to get reports as my info is dated and that area is one of the wildest areas in the whole Park. Lots of wildlife there. Be careful. Oh yea…lots of mosquitos if it is wet…but it is all worth it.
The Thoroughfare trail- This is the wildest, most bear infested area of the Park, but it takes you along the Yellowstone lake deep into the backcountry. I had several trips planned here but all were cancelled by the Ranger Station because of intense bear activity. We did get into that area but were not able to do the whole trail. This trip requires a lot of planning and preparation as well as good communication with the Ranger Station. I don't know if the fishing is as good in that area as it was when I was there, due to the Lake Trout in Yellowstone Lake, but I know that it has not lost its beauty or wildness. I remember someone telling me that you can get more than 20 miles from any road. I googled it and found this online:
"...In the contiguous United States, the point that's furthest from any road is in coastal Louisiana, where swamps deter the construction of any type of road, even narrow dirt roads. The most remote landlocked spot is in the southeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park, 20 miles from the nearest road. "That shocks a lot of people," Watts says. "If they don't know the western part of the U.S. very well, they imagine that there are these vast areas where you can ride your horse for days."
The area they are talking about is the Thoroughfare.
Those are definitely my top 6 although I am leaving out SO MANY more things. Yellowstone is such a huge place that one week, one month, one summer or one lifetime doesn't do it justice. There are tons of people who have more experience than me and more recent, up to date fishing and hiking reports. Find those people and ask them lots of questions. There are other spots than any of these that I have mentioned…these are just a few of my favorites.
Good luck and send some pictures. I wish I was going with you!
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