Yellowstone Bound

Yellowstone Cutthroats and Moose
Text and Photos By Allen "Flysoup" Crise

The sun was just breaking through the trees as I made my walk around the campground circle. Here at 7,000 feet plus it takes a few days for this ol' man to be able to breath. I was sure that the tourists had used up all the air. To build my lungs and decrease my need for lots of Oxygen, I would slowly make the trip around the camp circle each morning. Yellowstone's Canyon Campground was our central headquarters for the week. From here all the great sites are within striking distance with the motor home.

I am and always have been a morning person. The rising sun charges my internal battery for the day. As the night leaves and things start moving, I feel alive and eager to see just what the day will bring. Each sunrise will shine on something new, is my way of thinking. This day was no different. The mountain coolness under the tall pines was muffled and the breeze just a carrier of the smells of old camp fires and pine wood smoke. The squirrels and jays seeking some breakfast were the only chatter so far.

I was not feeling like I had run for 200 yards, as I made my way back to the RV. I decided to head down to Cascade Creek. This was the closest water to the campground that might have some area to fly fish. Last night's bedtime reading gave me hope that the little creek would have some Grayling in it, near Cascade Lake. This creek feeding from the lake that was only about 1 mile west of the Canyon Junction. That was an easy walk downhill of about three-quarters of a mile.

So packing my day bag and donning my fly-vest, I selected my 4-piece, 9-foot, 3-weight custom rod, the one with all the Concept single foot guides. I chose my 'Flylogic reel' loaded with DT-4F line, I felt that I would want to make short casts and quickly load the rod with a short line. I had glanced at the creek the night before as we returned from a West Yellowstone shopping trip. There were no overhead trees to worry about, just low brush in the valley.

I walked along carrying my waders, day bag, rod tube and wearing a smile sure to stop any bear, just like Davie Crocket's. My breath left a small cloud as I traveled along in the morning cool, enjoying the birds and small varmints that lived on the edge of certain death by the wheels of the passing cars. In the motor home I never noticed the small wildlife that so covered this land.

There were small ground squirrels and some other type of furry flash that I never got a good look at before they would disappear into their tunnels. Whistling as I walked I covered the mile without even thinking of all the troubles in the world. Here I was enjoying Nature, as it should be. I would be brought back to reality, as park workers would drive past hurriedly as if late for work.

I got to the crossing where Cascade Creek flowed under the westbound park road. I slid and hopped down the north road embankment, to the valley edge. The valley is bordered by stands of trees about 200 yards apart with the creek winding its way from the north. I could look to the north for maybe 3/4 of a mile. What I thought was low gray sagebrush was to be almost shoulder high in places. The sage had paths and runs all through it. The leaves were still holding the morning dew causing a damping of my jeans and shirt.

Cascade Creek, YNP, just above the westbound park road from Canyon Junction. Sun has dried the sage.

I picked a place off the road about 100 feet that I could recognize later, to stow my hiking boots, wader bag, and rod tube. I put on my waders. I have learned over years of fishing that hiking in waders can make the rest of the day a bit moist, due to the sweat that seems to settle around your feet by noon.

The bottom of the valley was not the most stable ground having underground water with open holes the size of basketballs. I had to watch my footing all the time. I found I could not stand in one place too long, as I would start sinking into the ground. There were gravel and rock outcroppings that offered firm footing in places.

I found a path to the small creek. I mean small creek. In July Cascade Creek was only 1 foot to 3 feet at the widest; I could have jumped across it in most places if not wearing waders. As you know neoprene waders with felt soles are not made for jumping.

This is the narrow creek which held the cutthroats.

I studied the water for signs of the local trout. The water was clear and moving well over the rainbow, colored, graveled bottom. I turned over a few rocks to find some natural foodstuff. I found that the undersides held some scuds and that was about all. The cobwebs along the creek banks held a few duns. I'd guess they might be pale morning duns. So I chose a PMD on a #16 as my first try. I was working my way up the creek as I cast to likely looking lies. The sun was up and strong in a bright blue sky; what a wonderful day I was having. I picked up my first cutthroat in about 15 minutes. She was a fighter about 8 inches long. Not what you would call big or even a large trout. What it was to me was a big step in my fly-fishing life. Yellowstone Cuts were one of the things I wanted to mark off this year. Now it leaves only the Grayling. They were somewhere upriver, as I had read.

This little guy was about the average.

By 8:30 a.m. I was about a mile upriver, having taken and released over a dozen trout, ranging up to about 11 inches. In this area the Creek would almost close over and I would have to get out of the creek bed and walk around. I found one slot that was only 12 inches wide and 20 ft long, to cast up. Drifting my light Cahill back down towards me I could entice some good hits. I even found some that kept the fly in their mouth long enough for me to set the hook. What fun I was having.

Here you can see the rise forms.

I kept pushing upriver past the maintenance building and over the logjams of the upper part of the creek. Here the trees came right to the edge of the creek bank. The valley was now narrow and more vertical on both sides.

I came up out of the water to get my bearings and see just how much farther it was to the lake. Ahead was a large open meadow or swale. I had come up in a grove of small trees and could see over a half-mile upriver to the northeast.

There on the edge of the swale were two moose. They were belly deep in the rich summer grass. Here in this high country the summer comes fast and does not last long. They have to feed all they can. I dropped back down into the water and worked my fly upstream again. I was still searching for the grayling. I had a rise from a cut and missed the take as my mind wandered off enjoying the great area of Yellowstone Park. I had traveled about 50 or 60 feet when I thought I would check on my surroundings again.

This time I did not have trees to break my silhouette. The closer of the two moose, I think the younger, raised his head and started my way. I have seen some funny looking things in my time. The moose was like a young foal trying to run the first day, or a camel racing across the dessert. (I took a couple of pictures, unfortunately you can't tell the moose from the trees.) Now I was half laughing to myself as this young bull quickly moved 50 yards of the 200 yards that separated us.

"Hey ol' man this is his country, time to leave," I said to myself. I dropped back down out of sight and started down river. Not running but checking each tree as to be climbable in waders. I moved off at a very good pace in the open areas. I got to a ridge that I could cross or go around. I chose to cross it, as on the other side was the Maintenance Building.

I glanced back and did not see my big-nosed friend. With a sigh of relief, I thought to myself, "Of all the dumb things I have done in my life including bull riding and bicycle racing solo offshore sailing... Here I am over a mile from the highway. A mile and a half from anybody else. No one even knew where I was. This is Yellowstone, you know, where the Buffalo and Bears roam. What are you doing out here with just a flyrod?.... Now each bush and outcropping was something to check twice. "Ok there is a tree I could climb" I am thinking to myself or saying to God. I pulled my rod into two pieces so as not to hang up in the brush.

I did find one of the deep holes that dropped me to my armpits. "Take it a little slower you ol' fool." I told myself.

I did not slow down much until I was close to the crossing of the roadway. Here I paused to try for some of the raising trout under the roadway. Funny how they can be so calming on this ol' man. My breathing was back to normal so I could again enjoy the creek. Just my socks were a might damp from the exertion.

While I was re-tying my fly that had been lost in the escape, a large gray wolf came trotting along. The wolf was on the eastside of the valley, about 75 yards from the treeline. He was just trotting along as if it was his very own backyard, as well it was. He glanced at me and kept going as if to say, you are not a bother and I have places to be. He easily made his way over the roadway embankment and before I could get my camera out, he was gone.

Now I have out run a moose, out thought a trout, and kept out of the way of a large wolf. Still I have not caught a Grayling but there is next year...I might drive a little closer. You know so I do not have to carry my stuff quite so far.

I guess I can say I was 'fishing with the wolfs.' ~ Allen Crise (Flysoup)

About Allen:

Allen Crise is a FFF fly casting instructor from Texas and an active member in the Ft. Worth Fly Fishers a FFF club. He teaches fly-casting and builds custom rods in his small shop in Glen Rose.

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