As many northern fly anglers are suffering from flyfishing withdrawal, Doc Knoll comes along and struts like a rooster about the great winter fishing in Yellowstone.
By Doc Knoll
Since most angler feel the first frost and the month of November brings a close to this year's angling expeditions, we, those of us who live in the land of the Big Sky, look at winter as the time some supreme being intended us, the fortunate lowly souls who live here, to catch his fish and catch plenty of them. Na -na- na -na -naaaa.
For those of us who live in the temperate climate of North America the falling leaves and government regulations put an abrupt end to our angling season. It isn't quite so here in Montana... and I just returned from the river and it looks like it's going to be a good winter for big fish.
It is for certain that the mountain creeks are closed by decree by FWP (Fish, Wildlife and Parks) at the start of November but that's okay. You most likely couldn't get to most of the creeks on the first of November (Montana's close of the angling season) due to deep snow or frozen waters however, many rivers are left open to avid anglers wanting to wet a line throughout the winter. And, excluding a few random deeply cold days, these rivers yield all the fish any angler may want to pose with. The best thing, even since when I was a young boy, is that these winter fish are truly everything that I ever dreamed of catching and now that I'm here I take advantage of the situation. I think maybe you should too. So let me tell you about winter in the Paradise Valley.
Around the time of Lewis and Clark the Paradise Valley was one of the wintering grounds for the Crow Nation. I've seen some very old pictures (1860's) of this valley and their wasn't a tree in it. The reasons for this treeless condition being; today's man made irrigation wasn't in place and the Crow people would burn the valley off every spring to ensure a lush crop of native grasses (for the animals winter forage). But, the climate was better then the surrounding area and (excluding the wind) life was pretty much easier around here.
The snow which arrives (sometimes) nightly in the winter is normally gone by 9 or 10 AM. and the Yellowstone River runs free of ice for most of the winter. (Except for several days during and after a "Siberian Blast.") Most of us know that we will be on the river within a week even at the worst of conditions. This set back is taken in stride by us and conditions can be planned around by any visitor using a computer to look up long range weather forecasts. By the way, since I have lived in most parts of this country the weather forecasters of Montana hit it right about 98% of the time and even then they are rarely off by more then a degree or two. So, taking a look into the world of weather could open up a window of opportunity for the fortunate angler who can cut him or herself free for a quick trip of great winter fishing.
Now that you understand that the weather isn't quite the obstacle I'll elaborate on our accommodations. Paradise Valley has everything that you are looking for in the sleeping arrangement department.
Within the Valley we have cabins that can be rented nightly or by the week. There are house and "apartment type" rentals that can accommodate a larger numbers of people (desiring their own place for a while.) The B& B's are great and frankly there is one for whatever taste you are fulfilling. Whether it be plush, rustic, quaint or whatever... they're all here.
Our Valley's major source of inside winter entertainment is Chico Hot Springs which also has individual room accommodations and features their famous pools of therapeutic waters, fine dining, a poolside grill and they also have a turn of the century saloon that turns into the "honky tonk" on weekends. So, "Yee-haa! Get in there and kick up your heels and par-tee...dude!"
Okay... I'll knock it off. I know this story is really about fishing so I'll give you the nuts and bolts of how to fish this river in the depth of winter... right after I tell you to look up Paradise Valley's website (which I also have happened to create in lieu of a Chamber of Commerce.)
The Yellowstone's fish are deep and simple to catch once you know how to do it. I know how and so do most of the people who fish here. Large weighted buggers and streamer patterns fished right on the bottom will yield you a winter's worth of memories. I often tell visitors that they have to, "hit the fish in the head... because if you're eighteen inches from its mouth the fish is going to pass on the offering."
The fish, which I caught earlier today (I'm not saying what... since it will most likely rip your heart out) seemed to be moving into their "winter mode". There, just behind a sunken ledge, in a pocket or around a hidden boulder, the large Yellowstone trout will stack up like cordwood. Once contact has been made and your first fish rockets skyward... don't move. Take out a sandwich and mark the spot because your in for a treat until either the sun goes down or the temperature drops to freeze up your rod guides. That's when you'll force yourself to leave the river (yes...with a smile.) You'll hurry to that warm nook and ready yourself for a great hot dinner, or dip in the hot tub or drop over to visit Chico's watering hole.
If you seek more information drop me a line or e-mail anyone listed on the Paradise Valley site. After all, it's our job to make your trip enjoyable. Oh... and if it does happen to get too cold to wet a line... we have this great attraction called Yellowstone Park just up the road. Maybe there you can spot a wolf pack on a recent kill or see some other beast not native to your backyard. I understand the cross country skiing is the best in the west,but what do I know. I just fish.