Fishing the Yellowstone in Fall

The wind blows hard and often on the Yellowstone. Only in Patagonia have I fished in more consistently windy conditions, and then I was not trying to keep a boat from growing wings. Usually it blows downriver, and can turn a fifteen mile float into a three hour cruise if you don’t pull back hard on the oars. This trip was no different, but it was worth it. We usually spend a week and float the sections that don’t see many anglers. Fish counts are lower here, but the chance to come up really large keeps us going through the slow spells. We fish big streamers, mostly crawdads and sculpins. We have all gotten a few to the back of the head. Our current favorite we call the lobotomizer for that reason.

I cut my teeth rowing on the Yellowstone. I’ve discovered I like rowing in strong winds, though all day long with no break would be hell. Yellowstone guides really earn their tips. But when we fish, we’ve got three people in the boat, and if you can’t row, you can’t go. (the one exception is my dear old dad, who would surely kill us all)

I don’t know quite what I like about wind….I guess maybe it’s about an inexorable force that I can throw myself against with every ounce of strength I possess. For whatever reason I have always liked getting the bit in my teeth, but now that I’m growing up I don’t get too many chances. It’s more sensible, after all, to go with the flow. If you’re rowing a boat in strong winds on a swift river, going with the flow is not an option. You can scream and cuss and curse, but you’d better keep pulling. And I do all of that.

Yellowstone Slab

I was rowing when Johnny came up with this brown, his largest to date on the Yellowstone and the fish of a lifetime anywhere. We were pounding a particularly sexy bank, a deep cut with lots of structure. Water temps were cold and the fish didn’t seem to want the fly stripped fast, if at all. I was working hard to slow us down so we could get the right drift….and bam.

We’ve been fishing together for years now, Johnny and I, and we’re a well oiled machine. We can launch and pull out a boat like rally teams change tires. There is nothing like a good fishing partner. Before Johnny my father was the only one in that category. Words aren’t necessary, and victories are shared. My heart was in my throat when he hooked that fish. It grew wings when we landed it, and it took days to settle back somewhere in my ribcage. There is no feeling like it; love from a drift boat.