Cutthroat, hiking, solitude, stunning vistas, bison, and wolves!
After a fun couple days on the Beaverhead we worked our way towards Yellowstone National Park. YNP is certainly one of the more busy fishing destinations in the world and while we can go to many other places that have great angling and less pressure there is something about Yellowstone that keeps pulling you back. This mystical land has many geological and thermal features plus a wide array of animals including wolves, grizzlies, and bison, not to mention a variety of fishing opportunities. There is no place quite like it that I have ever seen.
This year we opted to save a few bucks and try camping in the park and not slumming it in seedy motel rooms. While this did save a fair amount of money and got the opportunity to see three black wolves along the Lamar, finding campsites in Yellowstone I quickly learned was a bit more challenging than I expected post Labor Day Weekend. We ended up staying at Mammoth, near the north entrance, and not at the preferred northeast end of the park at Pebble or Slough. Apparently travel season is still in full swing and if you are not a campground by 6:30am to claim a site, you're screwed. Mammoth would have to do just fine.
We have visited Yellowstone Park a number of years now and like I told Jen I love the Park, but I can tell you the entire road system like the back of my hand now and would like to get off the beaten path to explore. After a day of "fish whackin" on the Lamar River with euro rods and some usual tourist sightseeing pit stops, we decided to hike into the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
I will admit neither of us are in hiking shape so doing a 7mile hike or something crazy like that wasn't on the menu. We found that the Hellroaring Trailhead gave us relatively quick access to the Yellowstone River and solitude from the road system that I had memorized. The stormy, rainy weather was a welcome relief from the sweltering heat wave for two out of shape backcountry hikers. I'm also guessing the fall like weather scared off most of the fair weather hikers so we pretty much had the area to ourselves.
While we only fished for a couple hours (it was already late afternoon) we managed to drum up some excellent cutthroat, probably the best I've seen in the park. The rainy weather kept the fish down deep, so it was a euro nymphing game for us, but that was fine, I don't care how I catch 'em... as long as I'm catching them! I'm not one of those purist snobs that annoy the hell out of me.
The backcountry inspired us to take another short hike the following day to Trout Lake. A relatively quick hike from the road in the Lamar Valley, one that Jen and others have been telling me we should do for awhile now. We hiked into the lake and upon arrival were greeted by a very nice cutthroat cruising the shoreline. A quick once-around the lake showed us another eight or so exceptional cutthroats. The only problem with all of this... our YNP fishing licenses had expired the day before and we hadn't planned on fishing that day, so no fishing was to be had, it was just a trout safari.
We wrapped up our travels with the speedy tour of the Chief Joseph Highway on the east end of the park. This incredibly scenic highway starts near Cooke City and travels south to Cody, WY. I had toured this route last year with Mike, but Jen had not seen the views so I insisted we try it before making the long trek home. If you have never driven this stretch of road you owe it to yourself to check it out. It is one of the most stunning drives you can do, offering views of Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone Canyon, the third deepest in the Country. It is lightly traveled and of course offers some fishing opportunities along the Clark's Fork.
I hope this inspires you to get out and do some travels yourself in the near future. We have many opportunities nearby for incredible vacations that don't cost an arm and a leg. People from all over the world come to visit regions such as Yellowstone and we are lucky to have it close enough for a short adventure. Enjoy!