Yes, the Yellowstone River is still pretty colored up from last week’s heavy rains. But don’t despair. There’s currently about 6 inches of visibility at Carter’s Bridge, and that’s plenty to catch fish. You’ll just have to be a little creative. Small dry flies aren’t likely to do it for you. Instead, think nymphs and streamers. Bigger nymphs are more likely to be seen and eaten than the itty-bitty stuff. So tie on a largish stonefly nymph, such as a size 8 Rubberlegs. Alternatively, you could deaddrift a Wooly Bugger or other streamer (Zonker, Conehead Sparkle Minnow, Sculpzilla, etc…) under an indicator. When the water’s a little muddy, I prefer dark colors – blacks, browns, dark olives. I just think they’re more visible in the dirty water.
Want to strip streamers? Go ahead. Streamers can be very effective when the river’s brown. Again, I’d at least start with a dark-colored streamer. Some of our current favorites are Sculpzilla, Hansen’s Meal Ticket, Conehead Sparkle Minnow, Space Invader, and Beldar Rubber Legs. All of those are light and small enough to cast with a 5- or 6-weight rod. Or break out your 7-weight, perhaps with a sink-tip line, and go after the big boys. Big, articulated streamers tend not to catch a whole lot of fish, but the ones they do are likely to send you home with a smile on your face. Try a Bottoms Up, Silvey’s Sculpin Leech, Gonga, Peanut Envy…. All of these have good swimming motion in the water, which is key. You can just cast and strip, but you’ll be more likely to have success if you use your rod tip to impart a more fish-like motion as you strip your fly. A “jigging” retrieve can also be effective. The more your fly looks like a wounded minnow, the more likely you’ll hook on to one of the river’s trophy denizens. Be sure to carry a tape measure, or pick up one of Sweetwater Fly Shop’s ruler decals for your boat, if you want your friends to believe you when you tell your fish stories later on.
So laugh at the mud, get out there, and catch some fish. And stop in at Sweetwater Fly Shop and check out our Big Fall Sale, which ends tomorrow. It’s your last chance this season to get great deals on waders, boots, clothing, packs and bags, and much more. See you this weekend!2