July is the big month for trout fishermen in Yellowstone National Park. July 15 has marked the opener on the famous spring creek stretch of the Yellowstone River, some few miles downstream of the lake's mouth, for years now.
Expectant clusters of SUV's, RV's and mini-vans would group at turnouts or picnic areas to don the appropriate gear for the 'big' day. I was part of that crowd and was up early to find the place I wanted to stake a claim to my favorite spot, so I could cast to those large, beautiful Yellowstone cutthroats with room to spare.
Anglers this year will find a different Yellowstone River than that of even a few years ago. For a multitude of reasons too long to discuss, we anglers have suffered the loss of the native cutthroats but certainly enough reason to lament the demise of a once populous and unique trout. Yellowstone has endured for millennia. Through volcanic eruptions, glaciers and time, the unique place we all love and admire has made adjustments to what nature dishes out. At some point, there will be a balance between lake trout, whirling disease, humans and Yellowstone cutthroats. We all hope it begins soon.
As anglers, we owe it to these yellow trout to do our part via volunteer work, monetary contributions to studies, Trout Unlimited, Federation of Fly Fishers, American Rivers and other organizations dedicated to the same cause. Working together always makes a difference.
All is not doom and gloom in Yellowstone Park. There are many rivers and streams to fish, as well as lakes, large and small. The winter of 2003-04 left about an average snowpack in most of the mountains surrounding Yellowstone. These rivers and streams should have decent flow through the end of July, even early August, before the effects of an early spring begins to show. The trout should have wintered over pretty good, since the fall months were fairly mild.
Hatches will be early this year, so don't be surprised if you see hatches that came after you left the year before. In Cody, where I live, May had stonefly hatches. A month earlier than usual, so this hatch prediction is based on assumption, not fact. You might have the amazing opportunity to fly fish over multiple hatches this summer. Caddis and pale morning duns at the same time. What a dilemma!
Of course we KNOW grasshoppers will be abundant again this summer. Trout bums have been slobbering all winter in anticipation of this summer's hopper 'hatch.' By early August, the trout will be expecting these juicy critters on every gust of wind. Last year was unbelievably good, with all sorts of hopper patterns for fly fishers.
Any huge, bushy bug that wiggled was whacked by eager trout, especially those a few miles further back than most anglers go.
Spin fishers using casting bubbles with a long leader and grasshopper fly tied on nailed trout too. Take care to pinch those barbs down. We don't need other rivers in Yellowstone suffering the same demise as our beloved upper Yellowstone River.
New regulations are out. Licenses can be obtained at gateway entrances or convenience stores and shops throughout the loop roads in Yellowstone. Always practice catch and release. A wild trout is too valuable to be caught only once. Remember that. A sage angler by the name of Lee Wulff.
Tim Wade, owner of North Fork Anglers in Cody, Wyo., has been fishing and guiding Yellowstone region waters for over 25 years. His column appears in every edition of the Yellowstone Journal.