THE FLY FISHING CHRONICLES OF YNP (part 17)
|Part 16 can be found here|
Do you want to catch an Arctic Grayling in Yellowstone National Park? If so your destination is Grebe Lake which also happens to be the headwaters of the Gibbon River.
Grebe Lake is a 156 acres set on the Solfatara Plateau at 8028 feet, from the trailhead off the Canyon Road it is easy three mile or possibly three and half mile hike through the meadows and the lodgepole pine forest, this area was burned over in the massive fires of 1988. On the same plateau sets Wolf Lake which is two miles west of Grebe Lake and Cascade Lake which sets three miles east.
Prior to 1907 there were no fish in Grebe Lake as a point of interest during the exploration period of Yellowstone Park which went on from 1870 to 1890's is was discovered that there were no game fish above Gibbon Falls. Grebe Lake was named by J.P. Iddings a geologist working with the Arnold Hague Geologic Survey in 1883. He chose the name because of the Western Grebes he found on the lake.
In 1907 rainbow trout were introduced into Grebe Lake and was followed by the introduction of cutthroat trout in 1912 and in 1921 Arctic Grayling well introduced to the lake. As a point of interest the original stock of Arctic Grayling came from Georgetown Lake in Montana.
From 1931 to 1956 there was a fish culture operation run at Grebe Lake due to this operation the Lake was closed to fishing until 1944 during the operation of the hatchery 72,000,000 Arctic Grayling eggs were produced and used to stock grayling in many other park waters. Like other hatcheries in Yellowstone this hatchery was closed in the late 50's.
Over the years I have made many trips into Grebe Lake and I always bring my float tube with me which make fishing the lake much more efficient.
I almost always see Moose at the Lake and on occasion a Black Bear or Grizzly Bear will wander through the area around the lake there a four Backcountry camp site to use them you must contact the Backcountry Office at the Park Headquarters at Mammoth. Over the years due to the Arctic Grayling Grebe Lake has become very popular and seldom do you have the lake to yourself if you don't wish to carry a float tube you are able to fish a great deal of the shoreline around the lake just be aware of the Moose and give them their space.
Years ago I was on the lake in my float tube and I noticed a pair of anglers working around the shoreline and they were approaching an area where a rather large Bull Moose was bedded down. I called to the anglers and warned them that they were approaching the moose, they chose to ignore me.
Within a short period of time the moose chased them into the lake where they were standing in neck deep water and then when they tried to move to shore the Bull Moose would stand and move towards them. They ended up having to move a third of the mile through chest deep water before they could exit the lake, as they were not wearing waders during this encounter they were soon on the trail back to their vehicle and their day was over on Grebe Lake.
The lake opens for fishing on Memorial Day weekend and closes on the first Sunday in November however in late May and into early June the trail may still have considerable snow on it therefore you should always check with the Backcountry Office for the latest conditions. I generally make my trips into Grebe Lake in July and August the lake has good Callibaetis, midge and damsel fly hatches. Also because there is a good meadow around much of the lake the terrestrial fishing is also excellent.
Now I will share with you the items that I take with me for a day trip into Grebe Lake I will discuss tackle and other items that you need to ensure your safety. From a safety point of view I always carry a small compact first aid kit, bear spray and whistle if I am taking my float tube then I will need my air pump and a PFD and don't forget you will need a watercraft permit to use your float tube in Yellowstone National Park.
With a float tube you will need fins and warm garments to wear under your waders the water is never all that warm. A few bottles of water or a purifying unit and some lunch, I suggest food items with high protein as you will be hiking over six miles and then waking around the lake or kicking in a float tube all endeavors which requires lots of energy. You will need a good backpack with a good frame I always pack everything in the backpack including the float tube.
Now for the tackle, I will put together boxes of flies which I feel that I may need on the lake the first is nymphs; My nymph box will include scuds size 14-16, besides the gray/olive scuds I also use pink scud Size 12-14, damsel nymphs size 10-12, dragon fly nymphs size 8, Callibaetis nymphs size 14-18, midge worms size 16, midge pupa size 16-20, Assorted soft hackles size 12-16, hare's nymph size 12-16, bead head prince nymphs size 12-16, dark olive woolly bugger size 8-12, pink woolly bugger size 8-12 and a selection of leech imitations.
I also put together a dry fly box which contains foam pink ants size 14-18, happy face black beetles size 12-16, pink beetles Size 12-14, Dave's hopper size 8-10, Dave's cricket size 10, blue damsel fly adults size 12-14, Callibaetis duns, emergers, spinners sizes 14-18, midge emergers and adults sizes 16-20, Goddard caddis size 14-18 and an assortment of attractor dry flies sizes 12-16 and muddler minnows size 8-12.
I always carry a third box of flies which is a mixture of many things, which at time help me solve problems that I might encounter the contents of this box is varied and contains wets, nymphs, emergers, dries and streamers sort of a junk box of flies.
I carry an Orvis Frequent Fly Seven Piece Pack Rod which is an 8½ foot for a six weight and I carry a floating line and extra spools loaded with a sink tip and uniform sink full sinking type III line. I carry nine foot 3X and 4X leaders and various tippets. The tippets, floatant, nippers and all the rest of need tackle items are attached to my lanyard which always goes with me.
I also carry Bull Frog Sunscreen/Insect Repellent the sunscreen is always needed and the insect repellent will keep you from being a Yellowstone National Park blood donor when the mosquitoes show up and they will!
Now l will discuss the fish of Grebe Lake and I offer you some insight into fishing this delightful lake. Now I have fished for grayling in Alaska and in various streams in the United Kingdom and I have talked to many anglers from Europe and Scandinavian who constantly fish for grayling and with the reading I have done on the subject of grayling fishing I have developed some methods that are not often used in the lower forty eight states when fishing for grayling.
One thing that I have learned is that grayling are suckers for Pink Flies at certain times when there are no hatching insects on the water, this addiction to Pink Flies is just not for surface flies but also with subsurface patterns that is why I carry the pink scuds, woolly buggers and soft hackles.
During the hatches the grayling will rise freely to surface flies however the angler will often miss the first few fish or they will strike to hard and rip the hook out of the grayling's mouth. Their mouth is very soft and a hard strike will often rip the fly loose.
Also their mouth is shaped differently than that of a trout and with a quick strike will often take the fly away from the grayling. Many of the grayling caught in Grebe Lake will run between 10 to 13 inches but grayling between 13 to 15 inches is not uncommon and on occasion I have landed 16 inch grayling.
Besides the grayling Grebe Lake also holds rainbow trout and the angler needs to be observant as to what type of fish is rising so the hook set can be adjusted. Like any lake there are times when the angler will need to use a sink tip or a full sinking line. Those are the situations that any angler can encounter on any fishery and these problems can be solved by the angler who keeps an open mind and is observant.
However, in my experience Grebe Lake is an excellent good time fishery where most anglers will catch grayling and a few rainbows and have a good time.
Years ago Neil (FAOL Editor) and myself took a friend of ours named Old Joe into Grebe Lake, Joe had never caught a grayling and had never been in a float tube and by the end of the day he had accomplished both goal and we all had a great time, it was one of those trips that will live in the memories of those involved forever. Joe has long since gone to fish those trout streams in the sky but every time I drive by the trailhead or start down the trail to Grebe Lake I remember that memorable day and smile at the memory.
So if you want to catch a grayling without traveling to Alaska or Europe give Grebe Lake a try I am sure that you will enjoy a day on this beautiful lake located in the center of Yellowstone Park.
Enjoy & Good Fishin'
|Part 18 can be found here|