Opening Day in Yellowstone Park

Posted in Fishing on June 6th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

Guide Brady Hughes with a brown trout on the Firehole River, Opening Day 2012

Another Beautiful Brown Trout

It was about 5: 30 a.m. on day three of the usual Memorial Day weekend snow storm and once again, Brady and I set out for a long journey into Yellowstone National Park for our annual Opening Day of fishing in the park. Only about four inches of snow remained on Denny Creek Road from the previous night’s snowfall. Conditions might have slowed us down but regardless of the downed tree across the road, bison jam, and the accumulation of snow, nothing would stop us from spending another magical day on the beautiful Firehole River.
As usual, we started out swinging buggers from bank to bank. Action was spotty at first but as the day progressed bites were almost predictable. The correct depth and speed of our presentation was rewarded through each prime trout real estate. By early afternoon trout snouts began to break the surface, sipping down a few different types of mayflies. Brady and I split the difference with Nyman’s Royal Wulff Cripple enticing each fish one by one until we realized it was mid afternoon and our stomachs were leading us back to the truck.
Fluctuating conditions have made for one of the best fishing springs I have ever been a part of. Just when the temperatures start climbing and the local streams start to look like the latte you bought this morning, another shot of cold weather sets in and drops river levels back into manageable fishing conditions. Although hatches might be a couple of weeks ahead of schedule, it isn’t necessarily bad news for our Firehole Ranch fishing season. What it does mean is that the bugs will be in full swing for our ranch opener which is only days away now.

Josh Duchateau
Head Guide and Outfitter

Sandy, Sandy, Sandy

Posted in Uncategorized on May 3rd, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

Well she’s at it again.  Sandy considers herself a fair-weather fisher person.  In other words, she patiently waits in a yoga studio on her days off from teaching, until I arrive home with “big fish” reports.  She then allows me to organize the boat equipment and float her down a fishy stretch as long as the sun is out most of the time and the wind is at a minimum. There is a formula that I have developed over the years “reading into” water levels and weather predictions to satisfy Sandy’s requirements.  Sandy has built this strategy over the years after a few uncomfortable trips spent in gale force winds, downpours, and blizzards.  The dogs appreciate this too, since they lounge in the back of the boat soaking up the rays, sniffing and licking each fish brought to net. I don’t blame her, it’s a brilliant plan and I’m not sure why I insist in fishing through the “Suffer Fest” some days.  I guess I appreciate a warm truck, dry clothes and/or a nip of whiskey much more after fighting through bad weather potentials.  Anyway, Sandy considers herself a bona fide streamer fisherwoman, only targeting large specimens that can’t help themselves from charging out from an overhanging bush or bank establishing territorial boundaries.  Though streamer fishing isn’t considered a delicate and precise approach it is very exciting way to fish.  Even when the fish aren’t actually taking the presentation, they still rush the streamer exposing them just long enough for the angler to receive an explosion of excitement satisfying everybody in the boat lucky enough to catch a glimpse of what might have been.  This is also a great way to target brown trout, since they have school yard bully disposition.

The weather has been mild for the tail end of winter.  Spring like conditions has allowed us to camp and float already.  Bug hatches are already seasoning the water’s surface all over southwest Montana, creating a “buzz” in fair-weather fisherman that are usually spending their time on the slopes charging the last bit of powder skiing available.  In between Sandy’s streamer sessions, I’ve been able to stop the boat and stalk rising trout. This has been one of the better midge hatches that I can remember in the past few years.  Conditions have allowed each pool to present a different challenge.  Some pools have fully exposed trout snouts indicating that they are probably eating midge mating clusters which is my favorite because it actually requires a skating presentation.  Other pools seem vacant at first, until you stare for a bit.  At first you might think you’re just seeing things or you might think it’s just a riffle but when slowed down you notice a bulge accompanied by a dorsal or a tail fin. This indicates that the fish are probably eating emerging midges caught in the surface film.  With limited patience, I like to split the difference, approaching each pod with a dry dropper combination.  Sandy, on the other hand, prefers not to complicate things and crashes her streamer down and rips it directly through the middle of the pod.  I don’t blame her, she usually gets one and it’s usually the dominant fish of the bunch.

All that said its time to head into the attic or gear room and bust out the fly rod.  Summer is just around the corner now and it’s never too early to start building muscle memory in those wrists and forearms.  Practice is the only way to improve distance and accuracy. Trust me the guides will thoroughly appreciate this as well as you will.  Instead of spending our time on the side of the river untying beautiful macramé, we will be netting and hoisting a lot more.  There is only just over a month until the Firehole Ranch season begins so, if you haven’t already, its time to start practicing, making reservations, and booking flights.

Fish On!, Josh Duchateau

Mid Winter Fishin’

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22nd, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

With temperatures hovering above freezing, Brady and I planned to take to the water.  Since he was in my neck of the woods in Deer Lodge, a two hour drive from his home in Livingston, I insisted that he chose where we fish.  Without any real dry fly options within close range, a nymphing decision was weighed several times the night before over a couple of beers.  Talking about fishing is one of my favorite things to do besides actually doing it.  There were a few promising options where we could hoist large dripping trout measured in pounds not inches, but Brady chose to fish a colder canyon stretch with smaller on average fish in the Big Hole river.  I was kind of surprised with his decision, but I know I shouldn’t have been.  After all, Brady is the only person that has convinced me that it was a good idea to fish twenty five degree temperatures with thirty mile an hour sustained winds more than once.  We chipped ice away from our guides and rods while watching each other dissect each fishy looking pool.  Conditions were good not great.  The fishing was good not great.  It was still really fun and we didn’t see another fisherman all day.  It was well worth our effort and I would do it all over again.

I know that I don’t have to remind you but it’s only half way through winter….technically.  Even though another year is already whizzing by we still have another two months of sub zero temperatures and blowing snow which make some days stall almost to a complete stop.  On that note, as for Montana winters, this has been a mild one.  It is actually raining, melting snow rapidly in the lower elevations as I’m posting this blog.  The state’s overall snowpack is well below normal and the temperatures have kept most of our surrounding rivers virtually ice free. That said, I haven’t heard anybody even whisper a complaint after last years pummeling.  Considering the overall water content and the carryover in all of our western reservoirs, I have a very optimistic outlook for the upcoming Firehole Ranch fishing season.  With a few good to great water years in a row the fish should be very “healthy”, otherwise known as fat and spunky.  The insect activity should finally be consistent with our historic hatch charts.  I look forward to the Firehole and Henry’s Fork fisahing predictably well the first week we are open, unlike last season.  The rest of the rivers should follow suit as we post it in our Firehole Ranch week-by-week fishing forecast.  I can’t wait!

Best Wishes,

Josh Duchateau

Head Guide

Catch and Release for Cancer Event, August 25 – 28, 2012

Posted in Uncategorized on February 15th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

REPOSTED from the LIVESTRONG blog post - Are you a LIVESTRONG supporter who has a love for the great outdoors and angling? Looking to scratch a fishing experience like no other off your bucket list? You’re in luck! We have just what you are looking for!

Join the Firehole Ranch in West Yellowstone, MT on August 25 – 28, 2012 at Catch & Release for Cancer benefiting LIVESTRONG. Escape to Montana’s historic Firehole Ranch for a rare opportunity to fish the fabled, wild trout waters of the Rocky Mountain West. Guests will fish legendary rivers including the Madison, the Yellowstone, the Henry’s Fork of the Snake, the Gallatin, the Ruby, the Firehole and the Lamar, to name just a few. Enjoy absolutely unforgettable fishing in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

Catch and Release for Cancer will be limited to only 20 anglers and all participants must commit to fundraising a minimum of $5,000 to participate. Those who reach the $7,500 level in their fundraising will also receive an engraved Orvis Helios rod and $10,000 level fundraisers will be invited to the annual Ride for the Roses event in Austin, TX in late October 2012. This is a one of a kind experience and spots will go fast!

The weekend’s activities and fundraising will benefit LIVESTRONG, whose work provides support to cancer survivors globally. LIVESTRONG is a global leader in identifying the needs and concerns of those affected by cancer and taking action.

To learn more or register for this event visit –

Over the Hump

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2nd, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

Over the hump?

I found myself looking out the window at the snow capped peaks above Livingston this morning watching the treetops swaying in the breeze. Inevitably my thoughts turned quickly to the day’s weather, that daily ritual of checking local forecasts and even maybe a quick look just to see what some fellow fisherman is waking up to on the other side of a mountain pass or two. Maybe I’ll just check out temps on the coast:

Forks, WA. High 45, not bad. Friends chasing steelhead out there soon.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. 81, tropical.
Nelson, South island NZ. 75 and sunny, some lucky angler is stalking back country browns in shorts with big dries and applying liberal amounts of sunscreen.

Sunscreen? I don’t think I need to worry about that today. Small chance of sunburn through fleece long johns and 5 layers of Gore-tex. Windburn, now that is a distinct possibility. Neck gaiters and wool caps are tucked in my backpack and vest pockets. Somewhere in the bottom of a dusty boat bag there is a long abandoned tube of the stuff. Fear not friend, for the days are already getting longer by minutes a day. Soon you will be reclaimed from your wintry slumber and find yourself once again in a prime vest pocket easily at hand. After all we are over the hump. The Yellowstone National Park fishing season opens in a short four months and a few days, with plenty of fantastic spring angling leading up to that. Not to mention today, windburn and all. Hopefully a few generous winter trout will come to hand and I will rest easy tonight, thoughts of the upcoming season in my head. Dreaming of sunny summer days spent with friends and getting the chance to lace up the hiking boots and share a bit of the beauty and thrill that abound in our big backyard and it’s amazing waters.

I can hardly wait,
Brady Hughes
Firehole Ranch Guide