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THE BEST VACATION TROUT FISHING
John McDonald
August 16, 1954
There is a notion among eastern fly fishermen that river trout of the West are too easy to catch for true sport. "Fat, dumb and happy," they snort. Nevertheless, the best fly fishing in America is in progress right now in a magic 100-mile circle of the Yellowstone National Park area. There, in lovely rivers like the Snake (above), feeding trout may dimple the water like rain, but an eastern expert must bring his skill along to catch them
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August 16, 1954

The Best Vacation Trout Fishing

There is a notion among eastern fly fishermen that river trout of the West are too easy to catch for true sport. "Fat, dumb and happy," they snort. Nevertheless, the best fly fishing in America is in progress right now in a magic 100-mile circle of the Yellowstone National Park area. There, in lovely rivers like the Snake (above), feeding trout may dimple the water like rain, but an eastern expert must bring his skill along to catch them

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FISHERMAN

VARIETY

WEIGHT

WATER

FLY

DATE

Glen Essley

Rainbow

4 lb. 9 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 10 Black Wulff

June 25, 1950

A. M. Lueck

Cutthroat

4 lb. 4 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 Joe's Hopper

Sept. 10, 1950

Jim Dunlap

Rainbow

4 lb. 10 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 Black Woolly Worm

March 23, 1951

Ben Kruger

Rainbow

4 lb. 10 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 Black Woolly Worm

June 23, 1951

Jack Waynard

Rainbow

5 lb. 9 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 Royal Cahill

July 15, 1951

Gene Spilde

Brown

4 lb. 5 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 6 Black Woolly Worm

Aug. 15, 1951

Bill Egeland

Rainbow

4 lb. 12 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 Black Woolly Worm

Aug. 31, 1951

Dan Bailey

Rainbow

4 lb. 11 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 14 Fore and Aft Dry

Sept. 1, 1951

Hank Fabian

Rainbow

4 lb. 2 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 10 Black Gnat

Sept. 5, 1951

Tom Dewing

Brown

4 lb. 13 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 Laramie Spinner

Sept. 11, 1951

Tommy Durden

Rainbow

4 lb. 4 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 10 Grizzly Wulff

Sept. 22, 1951

Bill Altimus

Rainbow

10 lb. 11 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 6 Gray Nymph

March 26, 1952

Jack Aanestad

Cutthroat

4 lb. 7 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 Black Woolly Worm

July 6, 1952

Walter Anderson

Brown

5 lb. 8 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 6 Salmon

July 17, 1952

Calvin Barthuly

Rainbow

4 lb. 7 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 Cahill

July 17, 1952

Denis Brandon

Rainbow

7 lb. 7 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 Black Woolly Worm

Sept. 3, 1952

Lyle J. Burns

Brown

4 lb. 1 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 Lady Mite

Sept. 14, 1952

Walt Eagle

Brown

9 lb. ? oz.

Wade Lake

No. 6 Fleder Mouse

Oct. 18, 1952

Russell Steffen

Rainbow

5 lb. 10 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 March Brown

May 12, 1953

Walter Dewing

Rainbow

9 lb. 8 oz.

Dailey Lake

No. 6 Yellow Woolly Worm

June 13, 1953

Bill Bowen

Brown

4 lb. 13 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 6 Silver Doctor

July 25, 1953

R. R. Rickett

Brown

4 lb. 15 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 8 Joe's Hopper

Aug. 25, 1953

Joe Brooks

Rainbow

7 lb.

Georgetown Lake

No. 10 Gray Wulff

Oct. 5, 1953

Jewel Trower

Brown

4 lb. 1 oz.

Yellowstone River

No. 14 Green May Fly

July 16, 1954

Meryl Williams

Rainbow

4 lb. 6 oz.

Dailey Lake

No. 8 Brown Woolly Worm

July 16, 1954

The greatest temple of fly fishing in America is to be found by the logic of Lewis and Clark: Where do the great waters come from? Follow them up to what the Indians called the summit of the world, which is indeed the summit of the U.S.? Yellowstone National Park. There in the northwest corner of Wyoming, edging into Idaho and Montana, a 2,213,207-acre group of plateaus impounds Gargantuan rains and snows to form the fount of two great river systems, the Snake and the Missouri.

If he likes, a man can fish up there on the mile-and-one-half crest of the continental divide. Actually, though, he need only admire it from a distance, for out of this relatively small and curious prize of American topography come pouring in every direction tons of cold, pure, bubbling water, the natural habitat of trout.

Draw a circle around the park with a radius of 100 miles or more and look at the streams that flow out to form these systems. Here is trout water of all kinds from rivulet to river, fast and slow, flowing through steep canyons and broad valleys, roaring in cascades and falls, murmuring through sunny meadows and along shady forest banks. It flows along main roads and byroads and off in the wilderness. In some parts of it children can fish and can catch fish; there are others no fisherman has ever reached. Here are some of the most beautiful waters on earth, the core of which is a permanent reserve dedicated to flower picker and fisherman, to the Thoreau and Walton in every man's spirit.

And the fish: the native western cutthroat with the red gash between gill and mouth, known in some quarters as black-spotted trout, a hard hitter and an underwater runner; the ballet-dancing rainbow; the brown (or Loch Leven) which sometimes appears in bright yellow and is as shrewd as a poker player and increasingly difficult to catch as it grows older and bigger; the brook, as gorgeous a trifler in the West as in its native East; and the lake trout, a big fish of the mysterious depths. Here too are the whitefish and the elegant grayling, both of which take flies.

The sophisticate of eastern streams will grumble, "wilderness fish," meaning too easy to catch. There is some truth in the complaint, for wild trout that seldom see a fisherman include many that can be caught on a cigaret butt, and many of these can be found in this region, especially in the hundreds of remote lakes.

Angling in the streams is usually rather easier and more rewarding than on New York's hard-fished Beaverkill, say, if one does not count the hatchery trout planted in the latter every spring. But it can be tough and sometimes impossible in the West even for the good fishermen. Here as everywhere a small minority of the skillful take a high percentage of the trout, but there is always chance in fishing, and here the casual fisherman has a better chance.

Thus the expectations are good enough to make the angler's journey worth while but not good enough to assure him good sport without a struggle. He will have to bring along his skill, intelligence and great vigor to master the ruggedness of the terrain and some of the waters where in "the good old days" an angler was said to catch more than his weight in trout.

Lest the modern fisherman despair of his chances to become a raconteur of proportions, he should look at the west wall of Dan Bailey's fly shop in Livingston, Mont. There hang varnished board plaques, covering the entire wall like paneling, each with an ink tracing of a trout of four pounds or better, with the fly it was caught on, the date and the name of the fisherman.

Not all of the big fish caught on fly in the Yellowstone and the waters roundabout have gone on this wall; and those caught by lure or bait are ineligible. Yet since 1941 more than 100 fishermen have hung their plaques there.

Only last season I stood on a bank one late afternoon and looked at one of the many pools on one of the many streams of this region and saw dimples of feeding trout like rain on the water, as Theodore Gordon saw them on eastern waters in the 19th Century. In the Rockies today the scene is still not uncommon though you never cease to marvel at the sight of it. The good fisherman on a good day still may take and release 30 or 40 trout; one or two or three of which may run two to seven or more pounds?and that, as anyone knows, is fish.

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