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Fly fishing for trout in Yellowstone National Park - part II

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

Backcountry fishing at Slough Creek

sunrise over Slough Creek

I do not camp a lot. In fact, because I have worked for two of the largest hotel companies on the planet for 25 years, I have had little opportunity to consider camping as my accommodation of choice. So, this trip to Yellowstone National Park was an experience that made me appreciate hotel rooms again – starting with running water and plush mattresses. The type of camping we would experience at site 2S1 in the backcountry of Yellowstone was not that of the camping of my youth – replace Dinty Moore beef stew, smore’s and outhouses with freeze-dried meals and digging latrines!

sunset over encampment at site 2S1

Camping at site 2S1 on Slough Creek

The organizer of this trip, my friend Lars, secured a premium campsite for fishing Slough – 2S1 apparently is legendary backcountry camping and fishing among the angler community. The floods that devastated the north of the park, and particularly Gardiner, MT, rendered this portion of our itinerary as ‘unlikely’. But a week before we arrived, we were informed that our reservation of the campsite was confirmed. And because there had been little traffic to this area for the better part of a month, we had high hopes that fishing conditions would be good.

I should begin by saying that this is not the recreational experience of hiking into Cascade Lake. To start with, we would be camping overnight and thus transporting fishing gear, food, cooking utensils, tents and sleeping bags to our destination – which was a five-mile hike in 85 to 90-degree temperatures. We would also have to expect the threat of encounters with fairly territorial wildlife – bear, moose and bison roam these meadows. We made the trek for only one overnight, which was very taxing, so next time I would spend at least two nights in the backcountry, at best three.

to this bison I am the interloper on the trail

Slough Creek trail hike

We set off at 10am from the trailhead near to Tower / Roosevelt – a permit is required to enter and park in this area. The first mile of the hike is the most challenging – mainly uphill – but a good rest / fishing opportunity is presented a half-mile later at the first meadow. Expect to navigate grazing bison at this point and do not expect your bear spray to be a fall back if you get charged – stay at least 100 yards back to avoid a conflict!

Slough Creek cutthroat trout

After setting camp at site 2S1 we broke up into two groups and headed upstream / downstream of our site. My companion and I spent a considerable time in front of two rock walls downstream of our site and had great success with terrestrials – in fact, several anglers we met coming out as we were marching in suggested “Ants, Beetles and Hoppers in that order”. We were rewarded for following the advice.

a Slough Creek cutthroat that took a beetle pattern

A few things that I learned that might be of use if you overnight in the backcountry of Yellowstone. First, carry bear spray and do not fish alone. Second, set up camp upwind of where you cook your meal, at least 100 yards. And thirdly, wear shoes when you sleep in case you have to make a quick escape from your tent!

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