This post is from contributing author, Pat Burke.
Back in August I was moping around the house for weeks straight belly aching about how much I missed Grobe. I made a point to bring it up at least a couple times a week to my wife. My whole surreptitious plan was to bait my wife into letting me go visit him. Unfortunately it always seems like she is two steps ahead of me and she saw right through the plot from the beginning. Regardless, she talked with Matt and arranged for me to go visit him as a birthday gift. With family obligations, the earliest I’d be able to make it out was late fall. November can be brutal weather wise in Montana but when your wife gives you the go ahead to pack up and explore a few of the best western rivers, you GO! And at times the weather was brutal. Driving through the park one morning we watched as the thermometer on the dashboard bottomed out at 0 degrees. Luckily the coldest temperatures we dealt with while fishing was low 20s.
So everything was in place and I arrived in Bozeman early afternoon on Thursday. Matt had to work until around dinner time so I picked up a rental car and went to the closest fishing access. The action was pretty consistent for both nymphing and throwing streamers. One aspect I really enjoyed about the fishing out there was the fish would take a streamer confidently. This was a big difference from our central PA waters where you often get one short strike after another.
Matt and I met after he got off work for dinner and drinks at Bridger Brewing. It’s a laid back brew pub offering craft beers and custom pizzas. With bison pepperoni, to lamb sausage pizzas, there is a unique pizza for just about everyone. The pizza was only a small part of the attraction though. The craft beers were among some of the best I’ve ever had. Grobe got me hooked on their Lee Metcalf Pale Ale on this trip.
On Friday morning Matt lined up a float for us with his guide friend Don McCue on the Yellowstone River. Don is actually a central PA native who moved to Montana years back. He shares the same passion for the central PA limestoners that we do and still regularly visits them during the runoff season in Montana. It was a huge advantage spending time on the water with an experienced guide like Don who knew the river intimately. If anyone is looking for a guide in the Livingston area, I highly recommend looking up Don.
As I’ve come to learn, the Yellowstone can be a tough fishery. It is a large river, and for whatever reason the trout don’t seem to want to take nymphs all that well. The whitefish on the other hand were more than willing to take a well drifted nymph over and over again. So despite the on and off sun, we threw streamers a large portion of the time. Numbers weren’t great but the scenery was fantastic and most of the fish caught were impressive.
The only Cutty of the trip taken on a streamer.
On Saturday we relocated to another drainage to hopefully get better numbers. Air temps were bitter to start out and we had to deal with ice build up in the guides and on our leaders. Luckily it burned off quickly and we started getting into fish. We had to jump over a lot of nondescript water but the fishing was consistent when we got to the better holding water. The fish topped out around 20 inches. Most of the larger fish were bows, but we did get a few solid browns.
Just a brutal drive in with drifting snow…
When we arrived there was a bull moose with a cow directly adjacent to where we were going to cross. I approached gingerly to get a picture. This is exactly what you are not supposed to do! I got told reportedly that moose are some of the most dangerous big game animals out there and they are more aggressive in the fall. We were in close range of the car and I felt confident I could scramble back to the safety of the car before being stomped out by the moose.
While the water was nice where we were fishing, we really wanted to drive upriver further to one of the places known for large brown trout. It was a good choice to move and the fishing was so good there that we also returned the following morning to fish the same section again.
Just as we were about to end for the night on Sunday, Matt hooked into an all out beast. It was easily the most significant fish of the trip — a big, mean, hook jawed brown.
On our last day we floated the Yellowstone again with Don looking for an alligator. We had dreary overcast skies most of the day making for great streamer conditions. The fish came in spurts and we once again ended up only boating about a dozen fish. However, the fish were large and the takes were memorable.
That evening we finished up by going to Montana Ale Works to celebrate the last few days of fishing with a few Lee Metcalf’s. Thanks again to Matt and Mindy for letting me stay. You both were incredibly gracious hosts. The biggest thanks of all goes to my wife and boys for encouraging me to enjoy my passion. I’m looking forward to the day when I’ll be floating down a Montana river with all of them in the boat with me. Man I’m going to miss it out there.