Finding Solitude, and Trout, on Yellowstone’s “Less-Fished” Waters

Written by: Brian La Rue


The Lewis River below the falls offers fine fishing, but with quite a few spectators.
All photos courtesy brain LaRue

I love Yellowstone and all it offers. Before starting a family, my wife and I would go to the park early and late in the season. Now with a couple school-age kids, vacation windows are more limited, so we find ourselves joining the herds of summer vacations each year. But you can still find plenty of “less-fished” waters if you think out of the box and put on a pair of hiking boots.

After eleven days in the park, I found myself on numerous out-of-the-way or even popular waters, but I put a little tread between myself and the campsites and pullouts and found myself alone on some of the park’s best waters.


Pebble Creek is not far from the oft-crowded Lamar River.

My family and I camped a couple nights at Pebble Creek on the northeastern end of the Lamar Valley. I passed the Lamar and Soda Butte and saw numerous anglers trying their luck, but the smaller, more secluded Pebble Creek turned out to be a great alternative, allowing me and my 8-year-old more than 30 fish in about two hours of fishing. They couldn’t pass up a Yellow Rubber-legged Crystal Stimulator or a tan Elk-Wing Caddis. Nothing was very big, but fishing from the Pebble Creek Campground to the junction with Soda Butte was entertaining, to say the least.

Another spot a lot of folks target is Slough Creek. Again, we passed the trailhead loaded with about 20 cars, whose occupants surely hiked over the hill to the first or second meadow. I like to fish the campground stretch to the boulder-filled valley to not only put my youngster on fish, but to have the place to ourselves. Same story here, lots of smaller fish on the Stimulator, including a 17-incher and a few 12- to 14-inch cutthroats. There was no shortage of takes, with 30-plus fish hitting in a matter of a couple hours.


Yellowstone cutthroats are usually willing to hit a Stimulator or Elk Wing Caddis.

One day, we planned to go swimming at the Boiling River along the Gardner near Mammoth. Same thing: tons of cars and a river full of swimmers. So we simply decided to have lunch below some Rocky Mountain sheep and I threw the big yellow Stimmie for about an hour. I managed numerous grabs, including a couple 14- to 15-inch browns.

Finally, my son joked about being in everybody’s vacation photos because I took him to the Lewis River. We managed lots of little trout there, as well. They couldn’t pass up the Elk Wing Caddis, with fish hitting multiple times in every pool that was deeper than your knees. As we fished under the bridge and up to the waterfall, we felt like all eyes were on us, as numerous spectators had a bird’s eye view of each strike on the proven pattern.


A big cutthroat eats a stonefly at LaHardy Rapids on the Yellowstone.

To round out the fun, we also looked for huge cutthroats at LeHardy Rapids. There is no fishing in that stretch, but we always hope to see running cutthroats going up the rapids. Though I’ve seen plenty of pictures, I had personally never seen one jumping up river here. But from the boardwalk, we saw about six 22- to 25-inch cutts eating stoneflies. What a treat to watch them eat!

Brian La Rue is the former Store Manager of Orvis Reno and Sales and Marketing Manager for High Country Angler Magazine. He now does social media for Outdoor Sportsman Group.

8 thoughts on “Finding Solitude, and Trout, on Yellowstone’s “Less-Fished” Waters”

  1. 25 years in the military traveling the world….one day I will fulfill the dream of taking that fly fishing trip to Yellowstone. Thanks for posting the story….keeping the dream alive!!!

    Respectfully,
    Jim

  2. Brian, terrific… just as your previous posts about Yellowstone. If I ever get a chance to go back out to the park, I would contact you for pointers first..When we toured Yellowstone this past June, it was difficult to break away from our group plus the very heavy snow melt pretty much prohibited fishing in the park. But your tips on where to find wildlife were dead on.

    To any other reader who has a trip to Yellowstone in your future – Brian knows the park – from places to find wild life to places to fish. A trip to Yellowstone should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is truly sensational.

    1. Painted Yellowstone for 7yrs lived in Gardiner mt. Hired an avid fly fisherman showed me the park, never forget it. Started fishing there in 1955. Only missed 3 yrs for war.

  3. Another tip. Fish early in the AM or at dinner hour. This past July I found the hordes at Yellowstone to be rather pedestrian–sleeping in and honoring happy hour. If you forego these traits of the leisure class, you’ll have popular places like Grebe Lake and the first meadow up Slough Creek all to yourself. Honest-to-God truth.

    1. At least two to his right and one at the top of the pool as well it looks like, looks like heaven to me!

  4. Great subject and I share the view on the topic’s points.
    An old sage in Yellowstone taught me to “Fish for the dumb fish!” back in ’88. The single best advice I’ve ever had, encapsulated in 5 words. He said all the nice fish you see around the park, and corresponding habitat are fished for by 90+% of the anglers. If they’re big (or stubborn), it is because they are learned and SMART. They’ve survived to mock your efforts, from all their experience and exposure to anglers that are lazy, or awestruck by the ‘prime’ fishable water and visuals of big trout …’right there!’. He stressed that I should “invest in hiking at least 45 minutes(!) from any road access before you even start looking for your runs, sloughs and holes”. And you will absolutely be rewarded with 1) constant action beyond your dreams, and 2) scenery/wildlife that is incredible, and privately, your own Yellowstone wildernesss experience. Think about it: You can easily spend that 45 minutes by prospecting on the first 2 beautiful, yet deceptively dead-action, stretches adjacent to the access. And like everyone else that came before, during, and after you – come up short or skunked. That said: Don’t be naive about preparedness, awareness of terrain (landmarks, forks taken, looking back to note what the return-trip view is), your capabilities, and monitor the time passing. You don’t want to be out late on the return trail. It is always serious and dangerous in the wilderness! GPS, maps, rudimentary supplies to hold up overnight (k-bar knife, headlamp, cord, space blanket, candles, first aid, signals/noisemakers and attack deterrents) can all fit in a daypack with your tackle. Be prepared for the worst (weather, injury, disorienting, darkness falling). You’ll have a lifelong experience worth the trip – in both fish and by holistically taking in America’s greatest National Park. You’ll be planning the NEXT trip, while still on your first one. I did/do. Remember: “Fish. For. The. Dumb. Fish.” !!!

  5. Have fished the park for over 20 years; your suggestions are spot on and there are many, many more. I know I have not hit them all, yet 🙂

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