Michael and I decided to leave Spearfish and drive to Livingston, Montana a little earlier than planned. This would give us an extra day to fish in Yellowstone Park before the IFFF Fly Fishing Fair.
Before our trip, I bought the book FLY Fishing Yellowstone National Park: An Insiders Guide to the 50 Best Places by Nate Schweber. Chapter 15 written by Jeff Hull describes Trout Lake. He described the fish as Cutthroat Trout averaging 14 to 22 inches with occasional Rainbow Trout to 10 pounds. I knew we would have to fish Trout Lake. On our way to the park, we stopped at several fly fishing shops seeking local information. However, we could not find anyone who had ever fished it. Not to be deterred, we proceeded up the Lamar Valley on the Northeast Entrance Road to a large pull off on the North side of the road (18 miles east of Tower Junction). There were a number of cars already there. We had been informed that this trail was popular with hikers also.
The trail is well marked and it is only about .9 mile to the lake. It’s all up hill until you get to the lake.
The lake is not very big. It is surrounded by sage with a few trees on the South side. The water was very clear and you could see large trout cruising the depths around the edge. We both rigged up and proceeded to cast terrestrials to the cruising fish. No strikes and no real interest shown by the fish. Hull had said that the fishing was better early in the season and earlier in the day. I cast around the entire lake. At one point, I did get a strike while using a hopper. However, I was stripping out more line for a longer cast and could not set the hook because of the slack.
In the mean time, Michael had found some cruising fish at the outlet of the lake. The outlet is crossed by a wood bridge and was partially blocked by fallen timber. There was a lot of debris and a scum line covering the outlet. Several large trout were cruising in and out from under the scum line feeding on the surface. Michael attached a dry fly and tried casting to them. Conventional wisdom tells one to cast in front of cruising fish so they can intercept the fly. This did not work. Finally, out of frustration, Michael was casting his fly on the fishes nose, moving his fly quickly to put it on the trout again. He was casting so quickly that it looked like he was flailing at the water. The fish took his fly!
There were a number of other people at the lake but only a few fishermen. Most were hikers.
I would like to visit Trout Lake again. Early in the season (season opens July 15) is best and Hull advises getting to the lake before sunrise. He also advises to carry bear spray.