Friday, November 4, 2011

End of the Yellowstone Fishing Season

November 3, 2011

Yellowstone National Park officially closes its gates the first Sunday in November. Some years the first snow causes this closure to occur earlier but this year we’ve been lucky. Today Weldon Jones (my Bass on the Fly partner) and I headed up to Lewis Lake to say goodbye to another great year in Yellowstone.

There’s absolutely no sense in leaving early anymore. Heck, it’s still pitch dark at 7:30 AM. Furthermore, it’s been a whopping 16º the last three mornings in a row. I have the hands of an old Wisconsin ice fisherman so I can tolerate that, but the ice that clogs your rod guides takes all the fun out of casting. Therefore, first cast didn’t come till about 11 AM today.

Lewis Lake is an old fall favorite of mine. I’ve been chucking streamers here in the fall for over twenty five years. In fact, this is one of my dad’s favorite places too because of the memories we have fishing together here through blizzards, windstorms, ice and great fishing. Luckily today’s weather was mostly sunny skies, temps in the 30º’s but a little more wind than we’d of liked.

We didn’t just end up going to Lewis Lake; we went all the way to the famous Lewis Channel. This is a two mile slow moving river that connects Shoshone Lake and Lewis Lake. The channel is on the complete opposite side of the lake of the boat ramp. With our drift boat and a 3.3 horsepower motor it’s a 30 minute boat ride. On the way back the wind is almost always in your face and then the ride takes an hour and even on a summer day can be dangerous.

The channel was worth the trip today. Motors are not allowed in the channel so I cut the motor several hundred yards of its mouth and we drifted into it casting. It took a whole five minutes to land two handsome brown trout and a 20” lake trout. Even with our midday start our guides were freezing and it took an hour before the hands got used to the cold.

When we got into the channel itself fishing got even better. Yes that means we caught more than three fish every five minutes! It was truly unreal. One thing I noticed is that the browns are larger than the norm for Lewis Lake. By and large these guys average about 16” but today I’ll bet most were 17” to 19”. My best fall flies up on Lewis are rubber leg type flies in yellow. I caught a few lakers on this fly today but black was even better. In fact the only fish I caught on the yellow yummy were lake trout.

We wrapped up our day at around 4 PM. The temp was plummeting with the setting of the sun and we were getting barked at by five very unhappy otters. We made the long ride back to the ramp with the icy cold wind directly in our face as expected. With no chances taken we hugged the west shoreline all the way back and had the boat on the trailer at sunset.

2011 was another great one in Yellowstone. As always Granny’s and my wildlife trip in May was one of the best. But so was the one we made in October with my parents and the big griz we got so close too. But this year’s favorite was Heart Lake. Heart was an unplanned unexpected trip and those are always tops.

There’s plenty more cold days on the water and big fish to be caught in November. But first a couple days with the paintbrush and then we’ll see where the rods end up next.


  1. I love that whole area. Especially around Jackson. Your really fortunate to have it in your back yard. If you don't mind I have a couple of questions regarding the Lakers Jeff..Are you marking these fish on a graph or just targeting high percentage areas? What kind of set up? Stoked to get it done out here in the Sierras with them. Thanks

  2. David, I am so lucky. It hurts my work productivity but I'll live! I use a finder when I don't know the water. Its crucial. But I know these lakes here so well because I ice fished them with the finder for 20 years. Don't get overly excited about points and humps. Those are for walleye. Lakers love flats. you just need to learn the ones they love. This time of year and spring they aren't terribly deep. My Stillwater on my 6 with 12 foot 0X flouro level leader with two flies. I like a heavy yellow streamer at the point and a white or chartreuse five feet up the leader. Slow strip. I jig it sometimes. If they are deep(summer here) I go 8 weight and 300 grain. Good luck. Feel free to email me anytime

  3. Great post...I'm a Pocatello resident bringing a group of scouts up to the park for a 4 day canoe trip across the lake and up the channel next week. I'm and avid fly fisherman but never fished for lake trout...any pointers would be much appreciated. How much hell would a guy go through to row a drifter the all the way to shoshone...way rather fish out of it than a canoe?