Photos and Video: Into the Backcountry for Life Lessons

Written by: Will Lillard, Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions


Big Yellowstone cutthroat trout were the main targets for these high-school students.
Photos courtesy Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions

Teenagers these days, like many of us, are attached to their cell phones. But for 19 days this group of 12 high-school students traded in their electronics for fly rods and a trip through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that they will never forget. After flying from all over the country, they loaded into a 15-passenger van in Jackson, Wyoming, for one of the many backcountry fly-fishing expeditions for teens led by Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions.


Life in the backcountry is full of wonderful surprises.

The group got things off to a quick start, heading straight for the Lamar Valley in the northwester corner of Yellowstone National Park. Their timing was perfect to take advantage of rivers that were rapidly clearing from a heavy spring runoff. The bar was set really high during four days of backcountry fishing up Slough Creek. We split our time between the first and second meadows, casting to some of the healthiest native Yellowstone cutthroats in the park. In the evenings, when all the day hikers had headed home, we enjoyed early dinners at our camp on the river then fished spinners to sipping fish until last light.


Slough Creek’s stunning meadows offer some incredible fly-fishing opportunities.

After exiting the backcountry, we camped in the “front country” of Yellowstone for a few nights. Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River provided endless action until we headed toward Gardiner, Montana, to resupply. We camped at Mammoth Campground, and the Gardner River fished well for big brown trout. We wrapped up our time in Yellowstone with three more nights of backcountry camping along one of the park’s lesser known rivers, testing our skill on some of the largest and most difficult to catch fish in the park.


A backcountry experience creates memories–and skills–that will last a lifetime.

The last three nights of the trip were spent back in Jackson, where we went whitewater rafting on the Snake, spent a day volunteering with the Bridger Teton National Forest, and fished the South Fork of the Snake with guides from World Cast Anglers. The trip absolutely flew by, but the good times we shared will never be forgotten. Below is a little highlight reel from LFFE guide Nathan Mackey.

Will Lillard operates Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions based in North Carolina and Colorado.

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