Local Fishing Exposed

(Top photo of Elk Lake's dock courtesy of Aurora Waclawski) Sometimes there is just so much to talk about, one has to pick and choose. That is the way I feel today as I sit down to write my blog. The elk are starting to get serious - serious about bugling and carrying on. The trees and shrubs are starting to get serious - serious about turning the various shades of gold and red which signal the season change is upon us.

Even the fish are starting to get serious, again - serious about biting the various flies and bait and artificial lures which the few fishermen still around are throwing their direction. We are starting to get serious, too - serious about slowing down and taking some time to enjoy this wonderful place we call home.

Nonetheless, now that the season is drawing to a close, I have time to tell you about some of the great fishing we have been enjoying this summer. In fact, courtesy of various guests who have graced our resort with their presence this summer, I not only have information, I have pictures to wet your appetite.

Many visitors to our area do not realize the abundant local fishing options. Of course this is due, in part, to other fishermen who prefer not to share the location of their favorite fishing spot. Take the fishermen one of our guests chatted with last night. When asked how the fishing had been they replied, "These are pretty wily fish. You have to go about it just right to have any success."

Huh? Sounds more like an avoidance than an answer. Our guest thought so, too. However, various vague replies are the norm around here. After all, when you find a great fishing spot with few other fishermen to share the water, well, really, what fisherman in their right mind wants to share that?

So, in keeping with the local ‘tradition' I have waited until the end of the season to share with you information and photographs which prove the local fishing is not only beautiful and private and unpressured but rewarding.

Red Rock Creek may be better known as the headwaters of the mighty Missouri than for being a quality fishery. However, there are a quite a few fishermen out there who are doing their best to stay mum about the place. Nevertheless, this beautiful mountain stream is worth a closer look.

Winding through the scenic Centennial Valley, Red Rock Creek flows from the high mountains into the Upper Red Rock Lake. Because this large, shallow lake is nesting and breeding habitat for various water fowl, the Red Rock Lakes Wildlife Refuge does not open these waters to fishing. However, many of the large Yellowstone Cutthroat and one of the last surviving Grayling populations which spawn and live in this large lake, also enjoy the cool, clear waters of Red Rock Creek.

Thus it is not surprising to find some gorgeous fish in these waters. Take the 17-inch Grayling caught a few weeks ago. Or the large fish skittering out of my way as I rowed up the creek in my kayak a couple weeks back. Not only is this creek beautiful and wild and pristine, it is worth a second look.

Then there is probably one of the best kept secrets - a pond which has produced some monster fish over the years. While the Refuge's new management plan includes turning this pond into more Grayling habitat in the near future, this year has proved to be one of those ‘fisherman's dream' years.

Take it from someone who really knows his stuff. Bob Jacklin, owner of Jacklin's Fly Shop in West Yellowstone, recently shared a little of his knowledge on this pretty little pond with The Big Sky Journal. I'd encourage you to read what he has to say.

While most would assume Elk Lake, because of its more ‘obvious' location (on the doorstep of Elk Lake Resort) would receive a lot of pressure, they would assume wrong. In fact, the Montana fish biologist responsible for the lake's management said the fish density in the lake is extremely high.

Of course, some fishermen turn their noses up at Cutthroat. Yet, I dare you to find a prettier fish, or a trout which fights with more natural skill and physical ability than the Westslope Cuts which inhabit our lake.

Certainly those ‘in the know' would agree. Don Roberts and his lovely wife spent a week with us last summer pursuing the local fish and photographing the area - all in anticipation for the article he wrote for Northwest Fly Fishing Magazine. Published in their July / August 2009 issue, the article on Elk Lake is well-worth reading. Especially if you are looking to fish quiet waters which receive low pressure and yet enjoy a dense fish population.

Hidden Lake, the area's ‘a-little-bit-better known' (to many folks' chagrin) gem, receives more fishing pressure than Elk Lake. Nonetheless, this naturally producing Rainbow Trout Lake (considered one of the finest natural Rainbow Trout fisheries in the state, but don't tell anybody!) regularly yields beautiful fish.

Not a few fishermen have tried their luck at catching another like the one caught by a young man in 2005. This 12-pound lunker was a beautiful specimen to behold. While you may not catch one that size, a 3 to 5-pound rainbow is a common sight.

If that is not enough to tempt you, I'll briefly mention two more little hike-in lakes where the wily fisherman can snag into a lovely rainbow trout. These lakes are not managed fisheries. In fact, I do not believe anyone has messed with them in many years. Combine no ‘messing with' and few fisherman and extremely clear, shallow water and one can understand why the fish in these two lakes are so difficult to fool.

Goose Lake and Otter Lake are two pint-sized hike-in lakes located between Hidden Lake and Cliff Lake. If you don't want a challenge, stick to the easier waters. These fish are extremely suspicious. Yet, if you are a skilled fisherman who enjoys testing your talents against those of your prey, these lakes are worth your time.

Like I said, there is a reason we save this kind of information for the end of the season. Our local waters are special! Located less than an hour from the world famous Madison River or Henry's Fork of the Snake, few fishermen even know to take the drive over the hill. And, while you are now ‘in the know' chances are only a few of you will chose to make that jaunt. Don't take us wrong, but we kinda like it that way.

Lady of the Lake

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