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Camping in Yellowstone August 2018
Gerhard Schroeder  

This year we made an honest attempt to play snowbirds. Left the valley right when it threatened to get too warm and headed for the northwest. In Washington and Montana they had plenty of snow last winter, and some decent rains in May. That resulted in rivers running high and muddy. Trout fishing was handicapped. But a few in the Little Spokane River found my Rooster Tails and landed in the frying pan. Later we went camping by Big Meadow Lake. More Washington fish for supplementing our meals. And check out that campfire, our contribution to climate change.

A few weeks later in Montana it was a similar situation, but the river waters were receding. There I had access to a smoker, and all trout cooperative enough to bite and stay on my lures got that smoking deal. I had brought plenty of mesquite saw dust.

Friends Ed and Linda, whom we had canoed down the Missouri with the summer before, came up with a new invitation. For this year they had applied for and obtained a camping permit on Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone Park. Sounds simple until the details are explained. Put in is at Lewis lake, then paddle across its three miles of open water. Then paddle up the small stream that flows out of Shoshone and into Lewis. Note that this is against the current. And finally paddle along and across Shoshone for a good 5 miles to reach the camp site we had reservations for.

Wind is a canoe’s worst enemy. Meaning, we wanted to get onto Lewis Lake very early before the daily breezes get into action. Even before that we needed to get our canoes inspected / disinfected, buy Yellowstone fishing licenses, and get to our campsite the day prior to canoeing.

It all went according to plan. Crossing Lewis Lake went fast, and without wind whatsoever.

Paddling up the connecting stream at first was just like being on a lake. But after about a half mile we could ‘feel’ the flow, and moments later the current was too strong. Lewis and Clark were idiots. Sooo, step out and walk, dragging the canoe behind. Water was never worse than knee-deep, but after a good mile of this dragging and staggering against the stream I was happy to finally see and get to Shoshone Lake, and back into the canoe.

Fishing Shoshone was a little disappointing. Aside from dealing with the midday wind, paddling against it, then fishing while the breeze blew me back, absolutely nothing was biting the spoons I offered. Yellowstone regulations demanded that lures be lead-free, which ruled out my beloved Rooster Tails. The next morning, with calm waters, I could see the trout on occasion. When I offered my golden spoon nearby, one lake trout showed immediate interest. But not enough to devour it. So, I slowed down the retrieve, and then sped it up. I watched that trout pursue the lure, open its large mouth, and “fish on”! It did not fight too much, despite its 19 inch length. It was also the only one I could catch before the winds returned. Doesn’t matter, it was the first ever lake trout for me.

Before going to bed for the night, and really any time the camp is left unattended, the Park requirement is to bring ALL food items out of reach for the bears. The Rangers have made provisions for doing so.

That evening, once the lake was calm again, fishing improved. We released them all because it was after dinner, and we did not want to wrestle with lowering and hoisting the ice chest just to put a few fish inside. It was then, of course, that I hooked my largest trout so far. The fight lasted several minutes. When the exhausted fish finally surfaced, it was a large brown. For sure larger than that 19” lake trout. But I had nothing to measure him with. So, I can’t count it towards my objective to catch a 20+ inch trout.

The next day, just after lunch, Ed was on the lake to try for trout. I was just being lazy in my camp chair.

That’s when a bear showed up. An odd feeling, seeing it 14 steps away from me (I stepped that off afterwards). To warn the girls I yelled “BEAR!”, which made him run, only to stop right near our tent. So I yelled “Mary, he’s right by our tent!” But she wasn’t in there, instead yelled back from somewhere near the shore. Then Linda, in their tent, also yelled something. All that commotion, from three different locations, I assume made the grizzly hightail it out of there. He did depart running. Then, only then, did I get a clue, did the smart thing, and retrieved the bear spray from inside the tent. And yes, from then on that spray was always close at hand .

The next day we packed it all up and made our uneventful return trip. It sure was way easier to float down the connecting stream.

Back near Bozeman they have rivers! This time the favorite was the Madison. It has one section where trout fishing is simply fantastic. But, like everything in life, nothing worth having comes without some sort of struggle. You can get to that fantastic river section only by boat. By a boat that can make it through this:

Called “The Kitchen Sink”, apparently because just about everything ‘goes in’ (here showing only the beginning section; it got wilder quickly). Do not even think about a canoe here. Ed’s 14ft inflatable almost flipped in those rapids, rated “4” that day because of the increased flow. I had asked him ahead of time what “4” meant. He responded with “5 is a waterfall.” In hindsight, it was surely stupid to have done that without helmets. Just prior to those rapids the trout were indeed biting like you’d want them too. In all the excitement we took no pictures. Or we had the phones sealed away. Anyway, a few miles downstream the Madison is rather mellow, and so was the fishing there. But beautiful indeed!

Finally, here is a sample of the fruits of Linda and Mary’s hike, viewing the Gallatin River. Did I go up there? A man has got to know his limitations! But I’m seriously considering another Montana visit, in September. Haven’t been there at that time of year.

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