Eye of the Guide


Satoshi Yamamoto - Jun 16, 2014

Sysadmin Note
Part 1 can be found here

Case #2: PMD on Lamar River & Soda Butte Creek – Part 1

In General

First things first; Pale Morning Dun (Ephemerella excrucians & Dorothea Infrequens) are not peculiar in our area but an anticipated hatch that presents joyful actions to both trout and anglers in many area waters. The most famous and notable actions are during the period from late June to early July on Livingston's spring creeks (Armstrong's, DePuy's, and Nelson's). (NOTE: PMD hatches trickle down as summer goes by but it's still a viable hatch that trout rise for. Also PMD actually hatches and is observed all through the year.) In northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park, fishing seasons arrives a little later than the surrounding areas. PMD hatches also come late, of which prime time is in August.

Understanding Cutthroat

Native Yellowstone Cutthroat is well-known and popular for their rises to dry-flies, especially to large attractors. Such instincts of Cutthroat and effectiveness of attractors are true. It's not overly difficult to understand. Cutthroats spawn during early summer (June to part of July). Waters in NE are still in runoff conditions during those days. Once the water clears, it coincides with the time when cutthroat start to feed after spawning, prime feeding time just like other trout species. So, now you get a picture, seeing big dry-fly = big meal floating above, hungry cutthroat are going to grab them!

What's New?

So the hatch is well studied. However this hatch would look peculiar to visiting anglers if they have high expectations and images of big rises on big attractors and if they aren't able to change their views and to adjust the fishing situations. I can't emphasize the fact NE waters are some of the best match-the-hatch fishing among Yellowstone Park waters and also rival many other waters in Montana. When insect hatches occur, these formerly easy-to-rise cutthroats are going to be super selective inspectors. They definitely rival their cousins in the Livingston's spring creeks. If anglers are not prepared to match the hatch with the right flies they will be nowhere close to catching. Indeed cutthroat can ignore anglers and their miss-matched flies without any mercy.

One Day in Lamar

That was on one August day in 2011. The year is remembered as one of the highest water years in the history. Most waters in our area were not fishable until August. The Lamar River was no exception. I was fishing the popular meadow section (Lamar Valley), walking down-stream. When I look back now, after two summers of normal flows, it's still interesting to me. The high water of 2011 created a couple of braids in the meadow sections and kept flows going all through the summer. I don't mind telling you exactly where (though it's hard to describe) as it's been dry for the past two seasons! I guess the high flows kept the water cool and that made cutthroat wake up late and slow. I was fishing and walking till I reached one particular braid, I caught a few cutthroat on small dry-flies but not with big ones. Then suddenly I saw a group of rising trout right at the head of the braid. They were constantly rising and sipping on something. I looked around in the air and on the water and figured out PMD were hatching on good numbers.

Just Like at Spring Creeks

At that time, I was nowhere close to what I am now in terms of knowledge, understanding, and fly selections. I still had a pre-conceived and amateur idea: "even though cutthroats seem selectively feeding, they are still 'Cutts'. They will rise on any well-presented dry-flies that looks like mayflies." I was totally wrong. Though my fly presentations were not bad (down-cross and drag-free), I just couldn't take them at all. I even got on my knees on rocks (which were not comfortable even with waders on) to get a little closer. At least I brought good number of PMD patterns (I recall at least I must have known of PMD hatches on the Lamar). I tried every fly with every two-fly combinations I could think of (dun plus emerger, emerger plus bead head nymph, etc.). Nothing worked. Though I couldn't tell when, the clock was ticking to the end of the hatch. Further frustratingly, a couple of trout among the group looked just like submarines!! I hope my readers get a new picture now, which is just like one typical scene at spring creeks during intense insect hatches. Yes, that's what will happen on the Lamar.

Solution Fly

All the flies I used were generic and locally known patterns. All were my ties and shouldn't have been bad looking. I was getting slightly desperate. Then I noticed that I brought another pattern, which I was just developing at that time.

Yamamoto's Pheasant Tail Mayfly Cripple

  • Hook: Standard dry or Emerger size 16 & 18
  • Thread: Light olive 12/0
  • Tail & Abdomen: Pheasant tail
  • Rib: fine gold wire, counter-wrapped
  • Wing: Synthetic fibers such as EP Fiber, Poly yarn, Widows' Web. White and gray work well. Black can be used for low-light overcast conditions.
  • Thorax: Superfine dub, PMD olive
  • Hackle: Dun

Just as a last resort and without much expectation, I gave a shot with this fly. Believe or not, this was the only fly that was taken by them!! The very first (and finally!!) was a really large one. It broke off my tippet with the fly on. I recall I had one or two more of PTMF Cripples. I tied on the next one and it still worked. I hooked a couple more instantly but all were gone before coming to my hands and camera. That's why there are no pictures here. But I still remember the whole incident vividly. Hatches and rises lasted probably two hours and a bit longer.

I came back to the same spot for a couple more days during the summer. Repeatedly I had both exciting and frustrating feelings. My own PTMF Cripple kept working and developing its own effectiveness and entrusting from me. After the PMD hatches were over, the cutthroat seemed warmed up and started taking large attractors and hoppers through the afternoons.

Planning a Day on the Lamar

"Be prepared" summarizes it all. First have good "match-the-hatch" flies. PMD hatches usually starts mid-morning and lasts for over two hours, so plan where you would be and when you want to have lunch. Then after the PMD hatch you can fish with attractors and terrestrial dry-flies all through the afternoon. As for "where", the Lamar consists of many text-book holding structures. Of course if you spot risers, that will be great. But even if you can't spot them or the likely spots are occupied by others, walk along and look for structure.

Satoshi Yamamoto, http://leftyangler.blogspot.com, is a guide and a professional fly-tyer in Livingston, MT.

Sysadmin Note
Part 3 can be found here


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