Trip Report: A Youth Adventure into the Yellowstone Backcountry

Written by: Will Lillard, Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions


Max with one of the Yellowstone cutthroats that fell for our foam salmonfly imitations.
All photos courtesy Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions

[Editor’s note: Will Lillard leads fly-fishing trips for adolescents through his Orvis-endorsed Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions. Here’s his report from the recent Yellowstone-area trip. For more information, visit his website.]

It is hard to believe it but our 2014 Yellowstone Adventure has come to an end. The last 15 days have been full of great fishing, new friendships, and memories that will last a lifetime.

After our arrival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we wasted no time, heading strait into Yellowstone National Park first thing the next morning. Our first stop was the Grant Village backcountry office, where we picked up our fishing licenses and backcountry permits. From there, we headed to our campsite on the banks of the Madison River. We spent the next day and a half learning/practicing everything from knot tying to casting while we caught fish on the Madison and Gibbon Rivers.


Stephan caught this gorgeous Gibbon River brown trout.

Keeping in mind what we had learned ,we headed into the backcountry for the first time the next morning. A short, 3.5-mile hike brought us to our beautiful campsite just a stone’s throw from Straight Creek. Over the next three days, we practiced fishing dry flies, nymphs, dry/droppers, and streamers as our group of ten anglers caught more than 500 Fish before hiking back out to our van.

After some showers, laundry, and burgers in Gardiner, Montana, we set up camp at the Mammoth Hot Springs within walking distance of the Gardner River. [Note that the town and the river are spelled differently–Ed.] Our timing was perfect! A salmonfly hatch made for two days of great fishing for large trout with big foam dry flies before we headed into the backcountry for the last time.

For our final backcountry trip, our group split into two smaller squads. One group joined me as we hiked up into Slough Creek, while the other group followed Tim down the Hellroaring Trail to the confluence of Hellroaring Creek and the Yellowstone River. The fishing for both groups was some of the best of the trip! You can read a full blog post about that section of the trip here.


This beautiful Yellowstone cutthroat was one of the first we caught on Slough Creek.

After exiting the backcountry, we made our way back to Jackson Hole for an action-packed last few days of the trip, but not before a stop at Old Faithful and some showers and laundry. Our first day back in Jackson, we met up with guides from Barker Ewing for a whitewater float through the Snake River Canyon.

After our adrenaline settled back down, we met with Grand Teton National Park staff for a day of giving back. Under the direction of the park staff, our group helped to restore a building on the “4 Lazy F” ranch within the park. The ranch sits in the shadow of the Grand Teton on the banks of the Snake River. With our help, the park will use the building to house future volunteers who come to work in the park. Helping to give back to the areas we have enjoyed so much was a rewarding experience that will not soon be forgotten. Hopefully, it sparks a lifelong passion for conservation in our ten young fly fishermen.


Alex painting some windows for future volunteers to enjoy.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Luckily for us, the end of our trip includes a float-fishing trip on the Snake and a banquet dinner at a local restaurant. We met our guides from WorldCast Anglers at the Orvis store in Jackson Hole before putting in for a full day of floating and fishing interrupted only by a delicious streamside lunch. Everybody in the group caught beautiful fish in one of the most beautiful stretches of river imaginable. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip!

After we got back from the float, we enjoyed one final dinner together at Sidewinders restaurant. We talked about all the great fishing and fun times we had had together. It truly was the trip of a lifetime.


Peter and Mac with one of the many fish landed during our float with WordCast Anglers.

5 thoughts on “Trip Report: A Youth Adventure into the Yellowstone Backcountry”

  1. so funny, i ran into those guys last week while hiking in to fish Slough Creek, while they were hiking back out after 3 day camp there. we talked fishing for a minute and what flies were working.

  2. This is the kind of stuff that I love to see young people doing. We need more kids getting their hearts into the wilderness way of life. Learning stewardship today will create the advocates of tomorrow. And we need them badly.

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