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The southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park is one of the most remote areas in the continental United States. The only roads are along its north and west boundaries. It's over 40 miles as the crow flies from Fishing Bridge on Yellowstone Lake to the Thorofare patrol cabin in the southeast corner of the Park, and there isn't a road anywhere. Throughout this region, travel is mostly by foot trail and boat.

The Yellowstone Lake-Thorofare region contains Eagle Peak, the highest point in the Park, at 11,358 feet; Two Ocean Plateau, where streams drain to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; and Yellowstone Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in the United States above a 7,000-foot altitude. It's also the headwaters for the Yellowstone River, the longest undammed river in the U.S.

The region contains the largest concentration of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, as well as elk, moose, wolves, and wolverines. But for fly fishers the big draw is the Yellowstone cutthroat, the only trout native to Yellowstone National Park. This is the worlds largest natural cutthroat fishery, and many mammals and birds, like the grizzly bear and bald eagle, rely on the life cycle of this crown jewel of American trout.


Beaver Creek -  Cutthroat
The cutthroat trout in this good-sized tributary to Heart Lake run big, averaging around 16 inches. Access it by following the Heart Lake Trail for 7V2 miles to Heart Lake, then skirting the north shore of the lake on the Trail Creek Trail for another 2 miles. The long hike and the marshy conditions mean few anglers fish this creek. The cutthroats here are never selective; almost any fly pattern resembling food will work.


Clear Creek - Cutthroat
This major tributary to Yellowstone Lake is located 3 miles south of Lake Butte on the Thorofare Trail. Clear Creek is a beautiful stream that provides thousands of cutthroats with a safe place to spawn until late in the season (August). Check the regulations each year, as opening dates change with the spawning seasons and grizzly bear closures. Wherever you find spawning trout, we recommend leaving them be so that they can propagate without the added stress of angling.


Cub Creek - Cutthroat
A 1/2-mile hike south from Lake Butte on the Thorofare Trail-found 10 miles east of Fishing Bridge on the Fishing Bridge-East Entrance Highway-will take you to this heavily fished cutthroat spawning stream. Intense grizzly activity forces an opening date in August. Check regulations before making the short hike to this creek. We recommend giving the spawning trout a rest.


Heart River - Cutthroat
This 4-mile-long outlet of Heart Lake enters the Snake River on the north edge of Big Game Ridge. The Heart is best reached by following the Heart Lake Trail 7Vi miles south to Heart Lake, then 4Vi miles east to the Heart River Cutoff Trail, a total distance of 12 miles. The river leaves the lake just south of here for its 4-mile trip down to the Snake River. Fishing is good for cutthroat trout that run 8 to 14 inches. The lower end of this river is quite marshy, so we prefer to fish it near its outlet from the lake with Callibaetis mayfly imitations.


Lewis River - Brown-Lake Trout
This river leaves Lewis Lake 11 Vi miles north of the South 
Entrance, on the West Thumb-South Entrance Highway. 
(Another 4-mile section of the Lewis River, known as the Lewis River Channel, located between Lewis and Shoshone Lakes, is detailed in section 4, Southwest, of this book.) The first H mile of river as it comes out of Lewis Lake is easily reached from the Lewis Lake campground and offers good fishing for browns and lake trout, which move in and out of the river. Be sure to bring your bug repellent, as mosquitoes and biting flies are fierce. Below this point and for about a mile downstream to the falls, access is difficult because there's no trail. Downfall timber and steep cliffs make this a place to avoid; it offers poor fishing for small fish.

From its falls downstream to the canyon, the Lewis follows the West Thumb-South Entrance Highway for a little over 2 miles. This stretch is reminiscent of a spring creek, with slow-moving meadow water and large, wary Lewis River Canyon brown trout. Hatches of Pale Morning Duns, Green Drakes, and Flavs, along with several caddis species, will bring these fish to the surface. In the late season, terrestrials also account for some big fish. This is major-league fly fishing. Long leaders, fine tippets, and stalking skills are necessary for success in this section.

When the Lewis River enters its canyon, access is nearly impossible due to the steep canyon walls and rock faces. The river remains in the canyon for several miles, until it joins the Snake River near the South Entrance. Despite repeated attempts, we've never found good fishing in the canyon. The dangers of climbing in and out mean its best left alone.


Snake River - Brook-Brown-Cutthroat-Lake-Rainbow-Whitefish
This remote river gets little angling pressure because of the long hike and its inconsistent fishing. Although a number of trails reach this river, the easiest route is to follow the South Boundary Trail 9 miles east to the Snake River Trail, then follow the latter, which runs along the river's entire length. The trailhead for the South Boundary Trail is located at the South Entrance to the Park. Brook, brown, rainbow, and lake trout are found here, but cutthroats and mountain whitefish make up the majority of fish caught.

Access to the river is more difficult than it appears on a map; much of the stream is in a canyon, with no bridges or trails to get you there. You're on your own. The Snake River Trail from Harebell Creek to its end near Crooked Creek is a series of ups and downs, switchbacks, and seemingly endless river crossings that will test your mettle. Buy a good compass, a topographical map, and a first-aid kit. Get yourself in good physical shape, then consult a backcountry ranger about this hike.


Thorofare Creek - Cutthroat
Located at the utmost end of the Thorofare Trail, 30 miles south of Lake Butte in the southeast corner of Yellowstone Park, Thorofare Creek is a major tributary to the Yellowstone River. There's excellent fishing for both spawning and resident cutthroats that average I $ inches, and its located in the most wild and remote country left in the continental United States. The 60-mile round trip through the Thorofare's grizzly country deters most people, but if you have the time you'll be rewarded by sights and sounds few others will ever know.


Heart Lake - Cutthroat-Lake-Whitefish
The Heart Lake Trailhead is 71/2 miles south of West Thumb, on the West Thumb-South Entrance Highway. For the first 5 miles the trail winds at a gentle pace through lodgepole pines. It then descends to Witch Creek and through a meadow for its last IVi miles. This 2,150-acre lake holds cutthroat and lake trout that average 18 inches. Mountain whitefish are also present, but they aren't as large. Anglers willing to pack in a float tube will do best, but you can also wade from shore. Sight casting to cruising or rising trout can be effective when the cutthroats are feeding on caddis or Callibaetis mayflies. If you're after lake trout, we suggest a sinking line and a size-2 streamer that imitates a cutthroat. The largest lake trout ever caught in the Park- 43 pounds-was landed here.


Riddle Lake - Cutthroat
Legends say that the waters of a lake on the Continental Divide flowed to both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, but its location was unknown-a "riddle." The location of the mysterious lake remains a mystery, so this lake, lying just east of the Continental Divide, was named "Riddle Lake." Its outlet flows in just one direction, however-east to the Atlantic. With this the riddle was solved, and the outlet of Riddle Lake became known as "Solution Creek." This 274-acre lake is reached by a 2^-mile hike east on the Riddle Lake Trail, which begins a little more than 2 miles south of Grant Village, on the West Thumb-South Entrance Highway. The lake offers catch-and-release fishing for cutthroats that average 14 inches. The 45-minute hike to this beautiful lake is through grizzly country, so take precautions. Callibaetis mayflies bring fine rises of trout in July and August.


Sylvan Lake - Cutthroat
Twenty-eight-acre Sylvan Lake is accessible right off the Fishing Bridge-East Entrance Highway, 10 miles west of the East Entrance. There's heavy fishing pressure here, but anglers can do well on this narrow lake by wading out and casting Callibaetis imitations to cruising trout gulping in the naturals. The lake opens to catch-and-release fishing on July 15, just about the time the Callibaetis hatch begins each summer. Cutthroats averaging 16 inches are easily caught on this shallow, 55-acre lake located deep in the heart of grizzly country. Trail Lake is reached by following the Thorofare Trail 20V2 miles south from Lake Butte to the Trail Creek Trail. Take the latter west for 2 miles and you'll cross Trail Creek itself. You'll have to hike the creek upstream for a mile until you reach the lake.


Yellowstone Lake - Cutthroat-Lake Trout
If you can't find this 87,430-acre lake on a map, you might consider politics as a career. Only the 31 miles of the west and north shorelines have road access. More than 80 miles of shoreline are accessible only by boat or by hiking one of the two trails that provide access. The Thorofare Trail runs along the east shore of the lake and is located 10 miles east of Fishing Bridge, on the East Entrance Highway. The Heart Lake Trail, located 7Vi miles south of West Thumb, on the South Entrance Highway, provides access to the south and southeast arms of the lake. The Heart Lake Trail meets the Trail Creek Trail at the southeast corner of Heart Lake. Trail Creek Trail then meets the Thorofare Trail at the southeast arm of Yellowstone Lake; this completes a loop around the lake.

Yellowstone Lake is the worlds largest wild cutthroat fishery. This fishery was in jeopardy prior to 1975, when the population reached an all-time low. Then a limit of two fish, a minimum of 13 inches long, was instituted to protect spawning-sized cutthroat. Now it's difficult to catch a cutthroat of under 13 inches; most of the fish are larger. This foresighted management has returned cutthroat numbers to historic levels, providing a quality fishery that will last for years.

The lake opens to fishing June 15. Cutthroat trout are found in the shallow water along the lake's shoreline, where aquatic vegetation and insect life flourishes in this otherwise deep, ice-cold environment. Anglers can fish either from shore or from a float tube; there's no need for a boat.

The most popular place to fish is the Bridge Bay-Gull Point area-about 2 miles of shoreline next to the road on the west side of the lake. The other 29 miles of highway access receive little attention.

Gull Point is one of our favorite places to fish the lake. Callibaetis begin hatching around July 4. Since they seldom emerge before 10 A.M., we can have a leisurely breakfast at the Lake Hotel and still arrive at the lake in plenty of time. We get our tubes ready to go, but we begin by fishing nymphs from the shore to trout patrolling the shoreline. These fish know when a hatch is imminent. Initially they feed on Callibaetis nymphs, but they switch to duns as the hatch progresses. Once the fish make the switch, we climb into our tubes and follow into deeper water, where the fish tend to take the duns more readily. Tubes help us take advantage of the best morning and early-afternoon fishing.

As with tubing on any lake, be conscious of wind direction and speed to avoid being blown away from shore and having to fight your way back in.

The fishing is as easy as it sounds for the adventurous angler. With 31 miles of roadside access from which to choose (and another 80 backcountry miles), you don't have to see another angler unless you want to.

 

 

 

 


For more information on Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding communities visit these sites:
YellowstoneNationalPark.com - YellowstoneFlyFishing.com -

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Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park - SouthEast