DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Slough Creek in Yellowstone National Park

Possibly one of the most famous fly-fishing spots in the American West, Slough Creek, a tributary to the Lamar River 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.

Slough Creek Trail and Fishing Access Map

map of fishing access spots on Slough Creek in Yellowstone National Park

Get directions to fishing access points and real-time stream flow data with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

How to Access Slough Creek

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.

Best Time to Fish Slough Creek

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.

Slough Creek Fishing Tips

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.

Need Gear? 

Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.

Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.

High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.

Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet.  3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.

Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable.  If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.

Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market.  Excellent foot and ankle support.  Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.

Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!

Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats.  Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish.  Simply the best nets on the market.

Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam.  If you need more storage - you have too many flies!

Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.

Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.

The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes.  Game changer.

Note: DIY Fly Fishing earns a commission (at no cost to you) on sales made using the links above. Thank you for your support!

Slough Creek Hatches and Flies

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.

The best flies for Slough Creek are those that match the hatch. Not sure what's hatching? Not to worry. Just put on a basic nymph pattern or an attractor dry fly, and you'll be good to go.

Need flies? 

Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere.  Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box. 

Dry Flies
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant

Nymphs/Wet Flies
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black

Streamers
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)

Slough Creek Fishing Reports

There are a number of area fly shops and outfitters that publish Slough Creek fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.

Slough Creek Fishing Regulations

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.

Slough Creek Trip Planning Tips

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.


About the author

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.

You May Also Like

Get Directions to the Best Places to Fish in America!

Check out our interactive map of over 30,000 of the best places to fly fish in the US. Get directions to access points, boat ramps, and real-time USGS stream flow data. 

Get App

Install
×