How to salvage your Yellowstone National Park fishing trip

A bevy of trophy trout alternatives to Yellowstone fisheries off-limits for 2022
Photo: Chris Hunt

The historic flooding that has shuttered the northern half of Yellowstone National Park, likely for the season, might have also put a damper on some serious fly fishing plans for anglers who come from far and wide to chase wild trout within the park.

UPDATE (JULY 1, 2002): The National Park Service has announced important updates to closures within Yellowstone National Park.


You don’t wade the Deschutes for six hours without shoelaces and not miss them
Photo: Matthew DeLorme.

The old Subaru’s water pump blows up just outside The Dalles. Our already failing plan to make Macks Canyon before dark is now officially shot, and the whole trip appears to be in jeopardy. Visions of a week spent camping on hot asphalt behind the gas station while waiting for parts swim through my heat-addled brain. At seven o’clock on an unseasonably sweltering September evening in the central Oregon desert, I feel as far from catching a steelhead on a fly as you would in Phoenix, Arizona. Heat shimmers off the asphalt as I step onto the road and stick out my thumb.

Flooding impact on Yellowstone's fish still unknown

The consequences of recent record flooding in Yellowstone National Park for native fish and recovery efforts its still to be determined
Yellowstone flood event 2022: North Entrance Road, Gardiner to Mammoth (photo: NPS/Doug Kraus).

Under normal conditions, trout deal quite well with high water. During the worst of spring runoff, they stake out the calmer edies and the quiet water that might flow over a bottom that’s normally high and dry.

And it’s very likely that the trout dealing with the record flooding in Yellowstone National Park this week – an occurrence that park Superintendent Cam Sholly described Tuesday as a 1,000-year weather event – will be just fine.

At least in the short term. But Yellowstone’s fisheries story is nuanced. It’s not one where trout simply need water to get by. Over the last decade or so, the park’s fisheries biologists have dedicated their lives to improving and restoring the park’s native trout and grayling fisheries – an effort that taxpayers have helped fund and volunteers have helped execute.

This week’s record flooding that has destroyed homes, washed out normally reliable roads and pulled bridges from their pilings could also be setting the park’s native fish recovery efforts back, and it could be setting them back years.

During an online press call on Tuesday, Sholly understandably spent an hour with national media addressing the pressing issues. How is the park going to rebuild? How long will it take to reopen the gates, let alone the washed-out roads? Has anyone died (thankfully, no)? When will power be restored?

These are top-of-mind issues that require immediate attention from the superintendent who, also understandably, looked exhausted as Zoom blasted his image across the internet on Tuesday. These are the issues that need attention now.

Written questions about the park’s fisheries were not addressed Tuesday – the National Park Service has bigger fish to fry. But the time will come when Sholly and the park’s biologists will have to turn their attention to the state of Yellowstone’s native trout and grayling. And when they do, there’s no telling what they might find.

One wader bag to rule them all

Is IKEA's 99 cent Frakta the world's best wader bag?
Photo: David N. McIlvaney.

Random meetings in the woods are usually brief, and satisfied with a simple nod and no slowing of the stride as you walk past each other and carry on to your respective destinations. Not this one.

I was heading down to fish a little-known and unnamed stream near a well-known and aptly named rock-climbing destination when a climber and I met on the trail. He was carrying his ropes, belt, cams and chocks in his equipment bag, and I had my wading and fishing gear in mine.

Okefenokee mine permit revoked by Army Corps

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reversed its approval of a mining project threatening the Okefenokee Swamp
Photo: TimothyJ / cc2.0.

Thanks to the efforts of U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Democrat from Georgia, the fragile hydrological balance of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge will remain intact, at least for the time being. Ossoff, who beat incumbent David Perdue in the 2020 general election, made the protection of the country’s largest blackwater swamp an early-term priority. Shortly after being elected, Ossoff led a team of biologists and scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S.