Last evening I fished the Yellowstone River for the first time this season. Around 6 o’clock I jumped into my waders and drove to the section of the river just above Sweetwater Fly Shop, downriver from the confluence of Depuy’s Spring Creek. The side-channels next to highway 89 had decent water clarity (not great, but above average for this time of the year). I started by throwing a black Hansen’s Meal Ticket streamer. I fished the streamer close to the road-side bank and didn’t turn any fish. I fished past the diversion dam and waded to the group of islands near the main channel of the river. After throwing Hansen’s Meal Ticket along the banks of the islands I switched to a stonefly nymph rig. I used a big black stone as my top fly and an olive Pat’s Rubber Legs as my dropper fly. The action heated up as the evening wore on. I ran the nymph rig in relatively shallow water (2-3 feet) along the island seams. I set my indicator roughly 6-8 inches above my top fly which allowed my flies to float in the upper third of the water column. Midges were prevalent in the air and I began to notice fish rising around 7 o’clock (the rising fish were relatively sporadic to start but seemed to become more consistent as the sun continued to lower in the Big Sky). I caught roughly 7 rainbows on my stonefly nymph rig and missed perhaps a half-dozen more. And, as always, a few whitefish found their way to the bank as well. I set into what I like to call a thick-shouldered fish at one point, saw the trademark yellow belly of a healthy brown trout, and lost him into the depths.
Long story short, last night on the Yellowstone fished better than I expected and these next few days should fish equally as well. If you want to get some fishing in before the crowds of people show up for the summer I’d suggest getting out there! Look for fishy seams where trout hold in slower water and work them thoroughly with a shallow nymph rig. NOTICE OF CAUTION: the water is still high and it is on the rise. Runoff is predicted to peak Saturday and start a slow decline after that. The wading is tough and the minimal water clarity can be dangerous and tough to navigate at times. BE CAREFUL and USE DISCRETION (I tripped on an invisible rock below the surface last night and went for a bit of a swim… luckily in slower water). Stop by the fly shop any day from 8am-6pm and stock up on big stoneflies and everything else you may need for your day on the river!