Monday, July 28, 2014
Fishing the Yellowstone River - The Bird Float
One of the most popular floats on the Yellowstone River is the "Bird Float", named for the put in at Grey Owl and the takeout at Mallards Rest. This float is about 10 1/2 miles. I have fished portions of this float over the past three years, mainly Grey Owl to Loch Leven which is about 7 miles. This float is characterized by flat bank water with a few riffles and large mostly submerged boulders. This float is an easy float and a good one for beginning rowers. It is almost all class I and II water.
This stretch of water has rainbows, brown trout and lots of whitefish. We experienced a blanket caddis hatch on a cloudy afternoon which really got the fishing going.
The fishing in this stretch is mostly casting to the bank from a drifting boat with shallow indicator riggs or dries once the river lowers and clears and hatches are apparent. We fished this stretch one day this year, when the river was flowing at about 5400 cfs and had about 4 to 5 feet visibility. We fished it with indicator riggs. We got lots of practice setting, hooking and landing fish, mostly whitefish.
When nymphing you will get acquainted with the Montana Whitefish which are aggressive to small nymphs. Many anglers concentrate using dry flies, casting to the bank to stay away from the whitefish. Although I must say that fishing with indicator riggs and hooking and landing whitefish is a fun and memorable experience for beginning anglers. It is a great way to get the hang of dead drifting, setting and playing fish.
Leader - 7 1/2 foot 3x tapered leader
Indicator - Large Thing-a-ma-bobber
Shot - 1 or 2 AB's 3 to 4 feet below the indicator.
1st Fly - 10 " of 3x fluorocarbon Streamer patterns, McCunes Sculpin, Rubber Legs with Marabou tail, Whitefish Minnow
2nd Fly - 20" of 4x flurocarbon, beadhead PT's, beadhead yellow stones, beadhead lightning bugs, caddis nymphs/emergers
The technique for fishing this stretch is mainly casting to the bank and dead drifting your rigg to the color transition area, mostly two to three feet off the bank or to current tongues and nervous water. This technique mainly targets the rainbows and the plentiful whitefish and not so much the brown trout.
When targeting the brown trout it is best to watch the banks for brown trout holding water, undercuts, root wads, boulders, eddy water, just any obstruction that creates a good lie for the trout to get out of the heavy flow and be stationed to look for a meal floating by.
As you drift down the banks and as you lock onto and target holding areas, you fire a cast to the bank or even on the actual bank and start long, quick 12" strips back into the main current. You can get strikes from the second the fly hits the water to any time as you are stripping. If you don't get a strike you throw a quick upstream mend and dead drift your rigg until you see the next likely holding spot. Pick up your rigg and fire another cast back to the back. Sometimes you can see the browns charge after the streamer patterns. This is fun active fishing and will produce the larger fish in the river.
Bird Float Photos
"Bird Float" Bank Water
Boulders Along the Banks
Typical "Bird Float" Brown Trout