Copyright 2015 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to Soda Butte Creek - Yellowstone National Park
Soda Butte Creek fishes like two completely different streams - the meadow sections and the
fast pocket water sections. Each type of water has to be fished differently. Lets begin with the
smooth flowing meadow sections.
There are a few shallow riffles and some short, moderate flow runs located in the meadows but
most of the water is smooth flowing like you see in the picture on your upper right. This is
where you will find the larger trout. At the first of the season, when the water clears and warms
up enough to fish, the cutthroats are usually pretty easy to fool and will take flies very well. As
the season progresses and the fish see more and more anglers, they become easier to spook
and more difficult to fool. You can do well at times blind casting but we prefer to work upstream
and sight fish. This will give you a better opportunity to catch the larger trout. If you move
slowly and keep a low profile, you can usually spot some nice trout. There's usually more of a
problem with the herds of bison and large number of anglers in the area than with the fish
In the upper, fast pocket water sections of Soda Butte Creek you are better off fishing in an
upstream direction making lots of shorter, blind cast in the feeding lanes. This water is not
fished nearly as much as the lower meadows because the fish average a smaller size. It does
provide plenty of fast action and that is hard to beat sometimes. We have caught as many as
fifty trout in less than a half day without seeing another angler.
There are several sections of fast, pocket water right along the Northeast Entrance Road. You
can just pull off the road, make a few cast and usually cast several trout. When the creek flows
underneath the road its last time prior to leaving the park, you have to fish the water upstream
of there hiking in. This section of the stream is rarely fished by anyone other than right near
The Ice Box Canyon section isn't very easy to access even though it is close to the road. It's
worth a trip down into the canyon during the hot days of late July and August just to see the
stream and to cool off some, but the fishing doesn't seem to be any more productive than it is
many other places on Soda Butte Creek. It is usually more trouble than it is worth.
As mentioned above, at the first of the season, the cutthroat trout in Soda Butte Creek are not
very picky as to flies but you are always far better off fishing imitations of something that is
hatching or getting ready to hatch. When the water first clears and warms enough to fish,
several species of aquatic insects start to hatch as you will see in our hatches section. These
hatches vary depending on the section of the stream you are fishing. Later on during the year
you may be better off fishing terrestrial imitations. If you stay out of sight of the trout and make
a decent presentation, you can usually still fool the cutthroats, even after they have probably
been caught a few times but it gets more difficult as the season progresses.
One quite amazing thing about Soda Butte Creek anytime of the season is that you don't have
to fish nymphs to catch trout. The dry fly works from the time the spring runoff ends until the
early snows begins to interfere with your getting into the area. We have fished imitations of the
late season Green Drake nymphs and a few other nymphs and was able to catch plenty of
trout but we haven't fished the stream when we couldn't manage to catch trout on the dry fly.
Considering that at various times, we have fished the stream just about every week of the
season over the last several years, this is certainly not very common for most trout streams in
the nation. If you have never fished Soda Butte Creek, you certainly should make it a point to
Soda Butte Creek, YNP
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