Trout Tips: Lessons from the Firehole

Editor's note: For great fishing tips and tricks from TU staffers and volunteers all over America, you can buy TU's new book, "Trout Tips" online and have it shipped overnight. 

I spent an afternoon last week on the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park. It's one of the West's iconic rivers, and it's also one of the most unique. Fishing among steam vents and geysers, accompanied by the occasional bison or elk grazing off in the distance, is a special experience found only in the park. 

It was cold the day I visited—temperatures hovered in the upper 30s and low 40s. When I got to the river, I was greeted by an epic blue-winged olive hatch. The river's surface was carpeted with these dark-day bugs, and the Firehole's trout were enjoying the buffet.

With so many naturals on the water, my fly had no chance. After about the third time watching a trout sip a dun within inches of my offering, I gave up on the idea of catching a fish on top. Instead, I put on a small soft-hackle and fished the fly on the swing, just under the surface film. On my second cast, I brought a nice, 14-inch brown trout to hand. 

The lesson? Sometimes, something a little different works better than trying to traditionally "match the hatch." It's always a good idea to have the right bugs for the water, but when a hatch is so proflic that your offering gets drowned out by the chorus of naturals, switch it up a bit and give the fish a choice. You might be surprised at the results.

— Chris Hunt

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