Taimen in Yellowstone?

Week 4: I didn't know if there was a fish in Yellowstone's Trout Lake large enough to eat a mouse pattern, but I tied it on anyway.

  • By: Steven Spigelmyer
A nice consolation prize
I woke up on June 15 in anticipation of a monumental day. Not only was it opening day on several lakes and rivers, but it was also the first sunny day I had seen in Yellowstone. My stop for the day was Trout Lake, a small, high-elevation lake whose trout can decipher between a size 16 or 14 Adams better than I can. It's a challenging lake, especially for fly fishermen devoid of a float tube, such as myself. As Sam, my girlfriend, and I came over the top of the hill, the sheer beauty of the lake took my breath away. The sun glistened off the top of the water, the smell of wet wood and pine filled our nasal cavities and schools of spawning cutthroats could be seen cruising the banks.

We walked down and picked a section of lake that didn't have trees willing to snatch flies on a backcast, and as I took off my vest I heard a scream. Not a spine tingling grizzly bear gasp, but a softer screech. Looking over I witnessed Sam jump, and a small brown mouse scurry into a hole off the river. She was frightened and wanted me to do something about the mouse, but all I could think about was a video of giant taimen inhaling huge mouse patterns. I didn't know if there was a fish large enough to eat a mouse pattern, but I tied it on anyway.

I threw my first cast 20 feet out and wiggled my huge mouse across the top, a great imitation but the mouse would have to fall off something for a fish to eat it. Glancing around I noticed that where my girlfriend was setting up the video camera there was a half submerged branch out about 12 feet. I waddled over and threw one cast toward the branch, bouncing the mouse perfectly off the side and in front of the log. Slowly making the mouse dance on top of the water my heart skipped a beat-a huge rainbow was following my mouse pattern. Not just a nice-size rainbow, but also one of the largest fish I had ever seen.

"Hurry get the camera rollin!" I bellowed, followed by a "get down!" as the trout cruised closer to the bank following my pattern. Then in what truly was one of the hardest, most awe-inspiring takes I had ever seen, this monster of a trout slammed my mouse pattern and turned for the center of the lake. Before I could react the fish had taken me down to my backing, and I was in a full-out war with what felt and looked like the biggest trout I had ever seen. Then another scream, but I was locked in, whatever it was could wait, I was not going to lose this fish. But the next thing I heard would be impossible to ignore, "Steven the camera isn't filming!"

In a moment of panic and desperation I grabbed the camera with my left hand, while letting the fish play my rod and me in my right hand. Surely this was a minor problem, but as I tried to get the camera working it became very clear that the cameras unintended dip in the river had fried it. For a moment I forgot I had the biggest fish of my life on the line, until it was gone. It happened before I really knew what happened.

After putting the camera down I simply raised my tip and began reeling in, immediately seeing a shimmer of silver as the fish barrel rolled underwater, and was then forced to duck as my mammoth fly flew off the water forcing me to duck. I was crushed, speechless for once. Luckily my girlfriend was there, not only to insure that I didn't just fall face first into the lake but she also helps me remain levelheaded at times like these. "Don't worry, you were just going to put it back anyway," she said. Sure, I was simply practing catch-and-release, without the catch.

Not the big one, but a nice Yellowstone trout comes to net…

It took me about an hour to recover and realize that losing one huge, monstrous, trophy of a trout shouldn't wreck my whole day.

I was going to continue fishing, even if no other fish would compare or give me the excitement that rainbow had. Half fishing, half sulking I caught two small rainbows. One on an olive scud and the other on a brown-and-black Bugger. I left the lake that day defeated, but eager to check out the other rivers that had just opened.

Unfortunately the first beautiful weekend ensured that runoff would certainly be an issue no matter what river or creek I stepped in. This proved to be true after I went to Slough Creek Campground and witnessed tiny Slough plough through the canyon like it was a portion of the Yellowstone River. Cold, murky and high, Slough Creek was certainly unfishable, as well as most of the rivers in the northern section of the park. Since the park received so much snow this year, runoff is expected to last about two weeks. Although you can fish some rivers, they will be peaking in about three weeks, after they warm up and clear up.

Until then, I'll be trying to find some smaller lakes to fish, in hopes of finding one more fish willing to eat a mouse, cast by this cat.

Steven Spigelmyer is a journalism student at University of Nevada. He's spending the summer in and around Yellowstone Park and reporting his experiences for us online.