Eye of the Guide


Tom Travis - Dec 16, 2013

Sysadmin Note
Part 18 can be found here


The Lewis River will enchant the angler and entice the angler to solve the mysteries of the beckoning water. The pool below Lewis Falls holds the promise of large trout and the possible surprise of a hefty lake trout. Yet I know many anglers who have never visited this delightful and complex river especially the section from Lewis Lake to the falls and from the falls to the top of the Lewis River Canyon.

The Lewis River is easy to find as it is only eleven and half miles straight north of the South Entrance and much of the river runs along the highway, however due to the canyon and the rugged terrain this water is seldom fished. At the top of the canyon to the falls the meadow appearing stream entices many anglers to stop and try their luck and Lewis Falls is a major attraction and I have often found myself the subject of many photo when fishing  from the road to the falls. If you are traveling south through the park you will first drive by Lewis Lake and shortly thereafter you will come to the falls and the meadow section of the river.

The Lewis River Channel between Lewis Lake and Shoshone Lake have received a fair amount of press since in the fall of the year brown trout gather to spawn in the river between the lakes and this action has not gone unnoticed by anglers.

The Lewis River drains Shoshone Lake and Lewis Lake and in 1872 the members of the second Hayden Survey called the river "Lake Fork" because of the two lakes and the fact that the Lewis is a tributary of the Snake River. However, by 1876 the river was marked as "The Lewis Fork". The lake and the river were named for Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the river is eighteen miles in length and is completely within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.

For the purposes of imparting information on this grand stream I will break down the water into several sections The Lewis River Channel, which is between Lewis and Shoshone Lake and I will cover this section a later date. The second section is from the outlet of Lewis Lake to Lewis Falls, the third section is from Lewis Falls to the top of the Lewis River Canyon and the final section is the canyon water.

Let us start at the bottom of the River and cover the Canyon water first, you can hike up the Snake River and fish the bottom of the Canyon the Lewis River runs through the Canyon for approximately ten miles. Years ago I fish the bottom of the canyon which holds cutthroat trout along with brook trout and brown trout. I have also fished the top of the canyon and never found the fishing worth the work of getting to the water. If you are going to pursue the Canyon water of the Lewis River, please be very careful as there is limited access and the Canyon walls are steep and dangerous. The canyon is six hundred feet deep in places. Remember fly fishing is supposed to be fun and relaxing not dangerous and stressful. As I was researching information for this selection I read all I could find about the canyon water and review my own fishing notes and everyone agrees that the canyon is just not worth the effect. In my research I came across a passage in Charlie Brook book entitled Fishing Yellowstone Waters and published in 1984,and I would like to share it with you.

"But the section in the deep, steep, rough, dangerous Lewis Canyon does not hold fish worth either the labor or the risk of going after them. I did once, when I was young, strong as an ox and just as smart. But never again. So, we will herein disregard that section of the river."

I wish I had read this passage before I attempted the canyon, unfortunately my trips in the canyon took place in the late 70's and early 80's before Charlie published his book but I agree with his assessment of the canyon water.

However, you can walk up the Snake River about a mile or so and fish the very bottom of the canyon and this water holds brook trout, whitefish, brown trout and even a lake trout or two. In the fall of the year I have taken some good browns in the very bottom of the Lewis River before it enters the Snake River (An excellent fishery which will be covered at a later date).

The third section of the river is my favorite which runs from the bottom of Lewis Falls which is twenty nine feet in height and runs to the top of the Canyon water this section of the river is approximately two miles in length and is easily accessed from the road.

However this section of the river is a cross between a meadow stream and a spring creek, with its smooth water and good hatches the angler will find that sloppy presentations and poor wading practices will lead to frustration. This section demand careful wading, patience observation and good presentation if you wish to take the larger brown trout inhabit this section. You can also take brook trout in this section along with an occasional lake trout. Craig Mathews* of Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone says that this section of the Lewis River is "Major-league fly Fishing". The late Charlie Brooks* said that "This section of the river is the most puzzling and exasperating trout stream in the Country".

Therefore those who wish to challenge the trout of this section of the Lewis River are now forewarned.

The hatches included Green Drakes, PMD's, Flav's, Baetis, Midges, several species of both stoneflies and caddis. During the late summer and fall the terrestrial fishing can be outstanding. Of course streamers can also bring a nice fish and I love to fish streamer imitations in the pool at the base of Lewis Falls. It is catch and release on all brown trout in this section of the river.

The final section that I will cover in this selection is the water from the outlet at Lewis Lake to Lewis Falls to access this section of the river I go to the Lewis Lake Campground. It is easy to find the campground by just following the signs. Once there follow the well traveled path to the outlet and fish from there downstream. Don't try being cute and taking short cuts over the hill; if you do you then you will have an adventure to relate about crossing swampy ground and downed timber!

This section of river can be fished as soon as the ice is off the lake, and streamers, wets and nymphs work best in the early days of the season. However I have encounter heavy midge hatches which will bring the trout to the surface.

As you fish downstream be aware of the increasing current speed as they will turn to the east and descend over Lewis Falls, and here again surfing over the falls would not be my idea of good time.

The time to fish the Lewis River depends on the run-off and although the river never seems to get muddy the water levels will rise and the river will get tea colored. As I said, the outlet can be fished as soon as the ice goes off but the section below the falls is best fished from mid-July on in most years. Always check with local fly shops to find out the river conditions if you are going to try the early season. I have fished the Lewis below the falls when I had to share the river with a number of anglers, and then at other times I have seldom seen an angler all day. As a note of caution; always check the weather forecast if you are planning a trip in late September and October. The fishing can be outstanding, however the snow can also be falling therefore go prepared.

There is a mystery and beauty that keeps calling me back to this enchanting river.

The following is a guideline of hatches and food forms which you might encounter on the Lewis River. The dates of these hatches will vary based on the general overall weather patterns for the area.

Hatches & Food Forms for the Lewis River
Salmon Flies Pteronarcys californica Size 2-6 Late June to Mid-July
Golden Stone Hesperoperla pacifica Size 6-10 July
Yellow Sally Isoperla sp. Size 10-16 July
Green Drake Drunella grandis Size 10-14 Late June to Mid-July
PMD Ephemerella sp. Size 14-18 July to Mid-September
Blue Winged Olives Baetis sp. Size 16-22 Late June to November
Speckled Wing Dun Callibaetis sp. Size 14-18 Mid-July to September
Midges Chironomidae sp. Size 16-24 Throughout the season
Caddis* Various Species Size 12-18 Late June to October

*I have collected Net Spinning Caddis, Various Case Caddis and Free Living Caddis, however I must confess that I haven't keyed them and I need to spend more time on the Lewis River collecting and keying out the food forms available to the trout.

Hoppers Size 10-14 August to Early October
Crickets Size 12-16  August to Early October
Ants Size 14-18 July to October
Mice Size 8-12 July to October

Also various streamer patterns are very effective on the Lewis River, and this is by no means a complete food form chart for this river as I fully realize that I must gather more information.

Enjoy & Good Fishin'

Sysadmin Note
Part 20 can be found here


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