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Bringing you up-to-date information for fishing around Bozeman Montana. Feel free to Email me anytime at Norbaracer13@gmail.com!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Gardiner River, Yellowstone Park, MT


 Gardiner River, Yellowstone Park
September 21st, 2014

           I kicked the bug I had and recently went fishing on the Gardiner River. It was a great to put my boots on and anticipate that cool water around my legs. This time I was headed to a place I've never been before. These waters I've so badly wanted to fish for many years, the rivers and streams of Yellowstone Park. For some reason since moving to Montana, I haven't taken the short drive there to fish. I've been there a handful of times since residing in Bozeman, and once when I was younger. And have always had a strong desire to come back and try my luck. Well, since meeting a new friend that is as obsessed with fly fishing as I am, I've had the opportunity to learn some outstanding information about the angling. Almost as soon as I met Joe I was invited to come along and spend a day learning how to fish the Gardiner River. Joe has been fly fishing the area since the 1980's. His plethora of knowledge far exceeds mine. When he's not fishing the same rivers that I do, he spends his time chasing bonefish in Central America. Fly fishing and tying are just a few things hes good at, along with a few other hobbies we share. So far its been a great and pleasurable experience fishing with Joe.

Fall colors line the Gardner
           We left at about eight AM from Bozeman. It only took us an hour and and ten minutes to get to the cool little town of Gardner, Montana. Gardner is a gateway town to Yellowstone, so it is simply everything Yellowstone. Elk and mule deer graze on the lawns, and buffalo frequent the tarmac of the Gardiner airport. We stopped at Park's Fly Shop to purchase my three day park permit and a few leaders. Joe introduced me to Matt Minch, a fly tying enthusiast and long time guide of the Yellowstone River. Minch is a great fellow to know. His days of river wading may be over but he can sure tie a pretty fine fly. I would say nobody knows the area better than Matt and the guys at Park's. If you are new to the area and need to be informed or perhaps don't want to hire a guide, stop in and they'll be happy to share with you what they know. Golden stoneflies and the shop's "bead hair and copper" were recommended this time of year. Hoppers were something to keep an eye out for and who doesn't love fishing them? We hustled out the door and made one more detour for coffee. Through the gate, our first pull-off was only ten minutes down the road, near the cliffs where some mountain goats are often seen. The river here is high flowing white water gushing over plenty of flat water, or pocket water. I would say from bank to bank the river spans fifteen feet across at this section. As I got my gear on, Joe came over and gave me a couple of his hand tied golden stones and a few bead hair and coppers. I stowed them away as I had already tied on my trusty girdle bug and BM. I headed off the road down an embankment to a strip of river he advised me to hit first. By my second cast I had caught a hard fighting twelve inch rainbow. The Gardiner holds a variety of fish including rainbow, brown, brook, cutthroat, mountain whitefish, and possibly grayling. It's a fun factor when you dont know what you're going to catch next. I knew the day was going to be excellent.

Very colorful rainbow 
        The plan was for me to keep walking about three quarters of a mile upstream to a parking area where Joe would leave the truck. I would get there, get a bite to eat and then continue upstream to where he was going to be fishing. After walking upstream from my point of entry and around the first bend I netted another small rainbow. I couldn't help but pause after releasing the fish, and take everything in for a moment. "This place just keeps on amazing me", I thought. Another bend revealed a meadow setting, within it beautiful fall colors from bushes sheathing the bank, contrasting against the sky and river. To me this was heaven. I love sections of meandering streams. Lazy quiet and peaceful. Places like this are home to big brown trout. You can hear it in the quietness of the air. Deep, slow water chugging along through each bend riffle and run. The transition into fall sends the hogs ( 2-9 lbs) up from the Yellowstone in pursuit of the spawn. We were hoping the cold snaps this month had convinced some mature brown trout into thinking its time to move up. I slowly walked up on a nice run and took a few photos. I took a minute to read the river and listen for any movement in the water. I still had on a girdle bug and that size eighteen blue midge. I was employing a nine foot, 3x Rio leader with some 4x tippet tied from that, securing my split shot on the knot. I worked the run a few times and pulled from it a respectable sixteen inch rainbow. This fish had colors unlike I've personally seen on a trout before. A quick picture and he was abrupt to swim away, while I just wanted to thank him for his time. By now I was beginning to get a bit parched but unfortunately left my drink in the truck . Although I fished a few good spots on the way, I hustled past a lot of good looking water.

Gardner River brown trout, size ten girdle bug
       The day was turning into a hot one. The skies were clear and the sun was shining down on me. Despite the intense sunshine, the bite was a good one. I hadn't seen any other fishermen. I did however run into a part of the river with lots and lots of people.  Upstream from the truck there's an attraction that brings a lot of tourists to this part of the park. Here, thermal springs come up out of the ground and mix with the cool mountain water of the Gardiner. On cold days this is a lot of fun but even on hot days the water from the Gardner is so cold it can still feel pretty refreshing. It was a strange feeling fishing so close to people in their bathing suits. Did I say there were a lot of people? Every other back cast I had to check over my shoulder as not to snag grandmas one piece. I managed to meet up with Joe and we chatted. I decided to head way up past the hot pots and find some solitude again. Joe said good deep water was up there, and I was itching for a big runner (spawning brown). I walked and walked until I finally looked up and saw a site to be had. River like I've never seen before, unspoiled by anything made by man. The only path along the bank was used daily by a heard of resident elk. Just about every big mammal in the country was somewhere out there in front of me. I was alone and it was awesome. I kept pushing to get around the next bend, to see what was out there. I released a nice fish here and there. My last fish was a decent little brown trout, maybe fifteen inches. It certainly wasn't the runner I was looking for but nonetheless a nice fish.

One of four braids with meadows all around
        I agreed to meet Joe back at the truck around three and needed to get back. On the way I had some fun with a few fish on hoppers and found a few pieces of black obsidian glass. It was a great day. I was fairly exhausted on my return. The sun was harsh but I could have easily stayed for the rest of the day. I was hungry and thirsty and even a little bruised from a spill I had. Joe and I had a sandwich and swapped a few stories with another fly fishermen. We relaxed next to the river for bit and then packed up. I was one hundred percent satisfied with the day. It wasn't easy to leave, but not as hard if I had ended up skunked. I'm definitely going to have to make it back in a month or so for the fall brown run. I also wouldn't mind exploring further in the park. This trip, the fish were holding in pocket water and near the tails of deeper runs. There was a little bit of algae on the rocks, returning a few fowled hooks every now and then. I could imagine an egg pattern would be devastating during any spawn. With the remoteness and lack of other fishermen, at least to me, is something to be cherished. Not knowing when the last time someone fished a particular stretch of river rivals the waters people fish everyday. Untouched and unknown are two huge factors I have hard time finding, even in Montana. Yellowstone leaves all of that open for anyone to enjoy.

   *Top photo is about 1.5 miles upstream from the boiling river "hot pots".


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Just an Update From the Author


          Hey trout fishermen and women! Mike here and I just wanted to say I have once again been busy with work lately. I apologize for the lack of articles and updates. I will continue to do my best by providing weekly reports of the rivers in SW Montana. The few times I have been out this past month I did not do so well. My ego was torn but I will shake it off with the upcoming fall bite. I learned a few things this year but what I realized most was how difficult fly fishing can get in the late summer period. The fish that so eagerly took my Elk Hair Caddis and Adams Parachutes in the early season wanted nothing of them mid to late summer. The high sun and low waters, even though this year had good summer flows, usually make fishing difficult enough as it is. I hope everyone had an excellent summer and caught plenty of memories.

       Give me a week or two to shake things out with work and I'll be back at it, fishing three to four times a week. Tight lines everyone and be safe out there! Spawning browns are right around the corner ;)