Possibly one of the most famous fly-fishing spots in the American West, Slough Creek in northeastern Yellowstone National Park should be on your life bucket list.
The scenery of the high meadows, the wildlife wandering peaceably along the stream, and the coveted cutthroat trout that swim these waters all make it a must-visit fly fishing destination if you are making a trip out west.
Fly Fishing Slough Creek (second meadow) in Yellowstone National Park
There are a few obstacles you will need to overcome to try your luck on Slough Creek though.
First and foremost, you have to hike your way into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness area for the upper reaches and headwaters of the creek, and you need to get your hands on one of the coveted permits to access the area issued by the park authorities.
Most anglers find they have plenty of luck sticking to the four sections of meadowland inside the borders of the park. There are also sections of pocket water at the bottom of several small canyons along the Slough's run through Yellowstone that are productive.
Should you manage to overcome the primary obstacles that prevent most from making a pilgrimage to Slough Creek, you will still have to contend with the local cutthroat, a species native to the area.
The trout here have generations of experience avoiding the attempts of fly fisherman to hook them.
Slough Creek is said to be among the most challenging fly fishing destinations in the park and you will have to work hard for that cutthroat trophy catch.
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To get to Slough Creek, take the Northeast Entrance Road from Tower Junction 6 miles east, then two miles along Slough Creek Road to reach Slough Creek Campground and trailhead.
Right by the parking area, you can access the fast-flowing lower meadow sections of the tailwater. You can access the lower meadow, where the "VIP Pool" is located, at the confluence of Slough Creek and the Lamar River. It's about a 1.5-mile hike along an old roadbed from the parking area at the trailhead.
The parking area/campground/trailhead is also the "jumping off point" for reaching the upper three meadows.
It's a two-mile hike from the trailhead to the first meadow, 4 miles to reach the second meadow, and 8 miles to reach the third upper meadow.
Bear in mind that accessing the first meadow requires hiking 400 feet of very steep trail, though most can make a day trip of this if they set out early.
Second and third meadow require an overnight stay to get the full Slough Creek experience, as you would need to rush your hike over some pretty steep trail and rough terrain to reach them in time for the daily hatches.
It's tough to fish Slough Creek much before the 4th of July, but fortunately, the season doesn't end until mid to late September.
The reason for the delayed start is the waters don't clear up after runoff until mid-summer, and while blind fishing is possible you are better off with sight fishing conditions when fishing for the local cutthroats.
Additionally, anglers fishing for cutthroats in the upper meadows should plan their trip as early in the season as possible.
Later in the season, the fish grow a bit more wary as fishing pressure increases.
A 9-foot, 5-weight rod is best for Slough Creek, and be prepared to run a 5X tippet with a slightly longer leader than you might typically use.
As for flies, drake patterns are best for the early season, and that hatch tends to be the biggest of the season as well. PMDs and midges also fish well along Slough Creek all season long. Soft hackle patterns are effective for imitating caddis flies that live in the creek as well.
August and September, conversely, are when terrestrials are best, and hoppers, ants, and beetles are the order of the day.
There are a number of area fly shops and outfitters that publish Slough Creek fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
One caveat about fishing in Yellowstone: all native species in the park are catch and release only, but non-native species of trout like browns and rainbows have a daily possession limit of 5 fish per angler. You also need a fishing permit to ply your craft within the park's borders, but these are readily available at all ranger stations.
You have two excellent options when it comes to flying into the Greater Yellowstone Area. Jackson Hole Airport is approximately 4 hours drive from Slough Creek, but you get to drive through Grand Teton National Park past Lake Jackson and the base of the Tetons themselves. On a bright day, they are breathtaking. You can also book accommodation at the lodge near Old Faithful, allowing you to stay inside the park at a reasonable driving distance to Slough Creek (roughly 2.5 hours away).
The second and equally grand option regarding travel is to fly into the Bozeman Yellowstone Airport and drive three hours to the Slough Creek campground. En route to the Northeast Entrance to the park, you will pass through one of the most beautiful places on Planet Earth: Paradise Valley.
On a bright day, you are surrounded on both sides of the highway by snow-capped peaks a verdant rolling hills. As for accommodations, Bozeman has plenty of places to stay in the city, and you can always check out RV parks and private vacation rentals in and around Yellowstone. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, it isn't hard to find a great deal on a stay.
Feature Image by Mike Cline
Looking for more places to fish? Visit our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Yellowstone National Park.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help encourage and assist the average angler to get out and find new places to fish.
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