After record water flows in mid-June, the Yellowstone River has decreased to typical July flows, and the fishing has turned on! We have fielded many inquiries as to the condition of the fishery after the flood, and we can tell you that without question, the fish and insects have survived! The property damage was both tragic and very real, but in the end, this massive “flushing” of the river delivered a “scouring” effect that removed large amounts of silt that had built up with years of lower flows. While the June flows of over 50,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) were record-setting, the fact that the valley opens below the tighter canyons around Gardiner (on the upper river) meant that much of the river came back into shape fairly quickly. The fish had plenty of respites along the banks, backchannels, and flood plans to evade the raging flows and massive debris.
We are still mindful of the widespread destruction to the road system between Gardiner, Montana, and the northern areas of Yellowstone National Parks, which has resulted in long-term and substantial economic damage to numerous businesses in the upper Yellowstone Valley. Replacing roads and bridges or creating a new “high road” to once again connect Paradise Valley to Yellowstone National Park are all on the table, although final plans are still up in the air. Numerous fundraisers and philanthropic endeavors are helping this region navigate this devastating natural event. To donate, please go to PCCF Montana or Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation.
On a recent Yellow Dog trip to Yellowstone Valley Lodge, located roughly halfway between Livingston and the upper Paradise Valley, the water hues have faded from a brownish color to an emerald tint. This is always a welcoming sight after spring run-off. Water clarity has been consistently improving, but last week still delivered right around two feet of visibility. Typically, not the expected mid-summer conditions, but still fishable with heavy leaders, streamers, and larger nymphs. On the first day, our group of anglers fished right past the lodge, finding good fishing for mainly rainbow trout and a few smaller browns and whitefish. The following day the group fished further downstream with their guides. They were rewarded with some truly large brown trout, red-hot rainbows, and a few cutthroat trout which must have had the ride of their life from their typical homes in the upper river. The anglers threw some larger foam dry flies to imitate the nocturnal stones since their shucks (exoskeletons) were prevalent along shore. A few mini trout came up to kiss the dry fly with no serious takers, but dry fly season is just days away!
Yellowstone Valley Lodge provides a strong value, with recently updated rooms and family villas that sit on a bluff overlooking the meandering Yellowstone. The quaint indoor/ outdoor dining area and firepit overlook a working hay field, the Yellowstone River, and the towering Absaroka Range to the east and the Gallatin Range to the west. On your drive to the lodge, you will be clued in to why this area is known as Paradise Valley. What sets Yellowstone Valley Lodge apart from other similarly priced destinations in the area is the friendly staff, the immediate access to the river, and the outstanding culinary experience that the lodge has become known for. The Grill Room offers farm-to-table fare with fresh produce, locally-sourced meats, and seafood plates. The revolving menu allows guests to sample different appetizers and entrees each evening. Whether you feast upon the fresh seafood dishes, local greens in the salads, or the massive Tomahawk streak, you are unlikely to lose weight while staying at the lodge! The cooked-to-order breakfasts are tasty and quick, allowing you to rig up and head out on the water right away. Yellow Dog does offer an all-inclusive meal, lodging, and fishing packages.
Unlike lodges elsewhere in Montana this summer, Yellowstone Valley Lodge does have solid availability due to cancelations from the negative news about the June flood.