Rowan Nyman’s Sweet Sixteen Fishing Tournament, featuring world class contenders in the Greater Yellowstone area
#1 Madison River: The 50 mile riffle, this number 1 seed deserves its ranking based on legend alone. Dry flies, nymphs, or streamers, all day any day of the year, an angler will have a chance at 14″-18″ rainbows and browns. Classic Montana scenery greets both the wade and the float angler. This river brings the full game to the table and has stood the test of time. Multiple championship winner means championship pedigree and caliber. The Madison is a longtime favorite, a workhorse that brings its own style to the tournament.
#2 Yellowstone River: History might deem that the Yellowstone maintain a number 1 overall seed, period. The longest undammed river in the lower 48, the Yellowstone has numerous strengths – unparalleled scenery, native Yellowstone cutthroat, diversity of water and angling experience. Why is the Yellowstone not a number 1? It might be a conspiracy of the selection committee, maybe there can be only one number one, or maybe it is the randomness of the universe. A scary matchup for any challenger, and a legendary winner that can match up with any river or lake anywhere and anytime!
#3 Lamar River: America’s Serengeti (Yellowstone Park) is bisected by this high meadow river that is home to native Yellowstone cutthroat. The Lamar’s strength is its ability to provide great dry fly fishing with large foam and rubber leg patterns in the middle of some of the most wildlife infested gorgeous scenery in the U.S.. The Lamar brings a strong game as long as it didn’t rain the night before. Hint: don’t be too quick on the draw here. You decide what that might mean!
#4 Hebgen Lake: Home of the “gulper”, Hebgen’s challenging rainbows and browns can get under your skin. Large trout sipping dry flies off glass smooth water every morning in July, August and into September can be incredibly addicting. Hebgen is detailed oriented and brings grit and preparedness to the ultimate level. Look out for Hebgen, it has a long history of bracket busting the more infamous blue ribbon rivers.
#5 Quake Lake: Some may consider this fishery too highly ranked, others might consider it too low. Quake is hard to figure out. Rainbows and browns up to 22″ can be enticed to both the dry and nymph. An all summer fishery that shines when the wind is down, tough when it is up. Which Quake is going to show up, might just determine how far into the tourney this fishery can go.
#6 Ruby River: When the Ruby River shows up in the tournament, look out. Capable of producing good numbers of nice size Browns and Rainbows, this little sleeper of a stream has been know, for those in the know, to become a favorite to go all the way. Inconsistency of conditions is the river’s only weakness, as some seasons it wants to underperform, other seasons it shines. A doppleganger of the tournament, this one is going to make it fun!
#7 Gibbon River: A hidden gem in the Park, the Gibbon winds its way under the radar, giving up some nice browns and rainbows down low, and a combination of rainbows, browns, brookies, and even a few grayling in the sneaky upper meadow stretches. Often overlooked, the Gibbon can put a challenge on any river in Yellowstone National Park. This one can surprise you.
#8 Grayling Creek: Blow by this river on your way to Bozeman and you might be missing out on this 8 seed’s ability to provide a day of solitude and dry fly fishing, both characteristics of an upset in the early rounds.
#1 Henry’s Fork: A much deserved number one seeding, no other river or lake in the field can match its diversity. Box Canyon, the Ranch, Mesa Falls, the lower. From canyon deep water nymphing hogs to highly selective spring creek professors, the Fork has all the angles covered. With no apparent weakness historically in its game it will be a tough match up for any prospective competitor. But in all tourneys, you have to show up for every game, is the Fork going to live up to its fabled reputation?
#2 Slough Creek: America’s most infamous backcountry river, Slough is legendary among anglers who want to strap on a pair of hiking boots, a can of bear spray, and a desire to catch Yellowstone cutties that love to inspect every nuance of your presentation. Slough Creek is unassuming yet crafty. Be prepared to bring your “A” game here if you are match upped against the agile Slough.
#3 Firehole River: The most unique river in the whole tourney, the features of the Firehole make this a tough matchup for any seeded fishery this year. Lined by the world’s largest collection of geothermal features, mixed with fantastic hatches, and an abundance of wildlife, the Firehole River is always a favorite among experts. Although its members, Rainbows and Browns, are a bit undersized, they have more hops than just about anyone else in the tourney. The Firehole’s weakness is that it might be a little lethargic during the heat of the summer, but it shows up big, early and late, and the Firehole can be expected to do some moving and grooving!
#4 Gallatin River: If you are thinking classic Montana fishery, the Gallatin plays this game with perfection. Gorgeous mountain scenery, spunky diverse fish that eat year round, and a plethora of rocks, chutes, runs and pools. The Gallatin is a rough and tumble competitor. The Gallatin may be the hardest matchup for any round. Why? Because it plays hard, for the full length of the game, and brings a consistently tough character. But it maintains its joyful youthfulness that make it a delight to be a part of. Watch out for this overlooked favorite.
#5 Gardner River: The Gardner has something unique it brings to the tournament – 6 different species of fish provide the Gardner the ability to shift its game in numerous directions. A nice rainbow on a green drake, a spunky brook trout on a royal Wolff cripple, or stripping a bugger for big browns in the fall. The Gardner brings surprises and unpredictability to the table. Shifty, sly, and quick, the Gardner can become a bracket buster favorite.
#6 Soda Butte Creek: History overlooked this little meadow stream, until the past 10 years, otherwise the Soda Butte would have a better seed. But have no doubts the Soda Butte brings a strong game. From July through October, the native Yellowstone cutties that call this river home love the diversity of aquatic and terrestrial bugs that line its grassy banks. Plenty of holding water, bountiful food sources, and stunning scenery. The Soda Butte brings a delightful and underrated game to the tourney.
#7 Yellowstone Lake: One of the long time greats has fallen. The largest lake in the U.S. over 7000 feet used to boast unparalleled fishing from opening day through August, but the introduction of Lake Trout a few years back has decimated this program. But the lake still has some game left. Gutty and fierce, the tenacity of this selection can still provide the angler some fun and exciting times and make it a tough game in the first round.
#8 Taylor’s Fork: A moody entry into the field of sixteen, Taylor’s Fork can be overlooked easily, but don’t be fooled by its diminutive size, it brings a fun and beautiful game to the tourney. Chock full of rainbows and cutthroat that love to rise, the Taylor’s high rising game plays above the rim. Look for excitement in this selection, and you never know when it might shine above all others!