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The Firehole River

Fly-fishing the Firelhole River
Fly-fishing the Firelhole River

The Firehole River has been called the "strangest trout stream on Earth." This spring-fed river flows past some of the favorite attractions of Yellowstone National Park and through the most active geyser basins in Yellowstone including Old Faithful. The river was named by early trappers for the steam that makes it appear to be smoking as if on fire.

The Firehole River is located in northwestern Wyoming at the heart of Yellowstone and is one of the two major tributaries of the Madison River. It flows north approximately 21-miles from its source at Madison Lake on the Continental Divide to join the Gibbon River at Madison Junction; it is part of the headwaters of the Missouri River system. It is here at the confluence that creates the Madison River that the Doane Expedition of 1871 hatched the National Park idea; there were none before this expedition dreamed it up. Most the Firehole is easily accessed because it parallels the Grand Loop Road, Madison-Old Faithful. The upper section above Kepler Cascades can only be reached by hiking and offers smaller brook trout that were introduced in the late 1800s.

Firehole Falls
Firehole Falls

The Firehole first river to clear from snowmelt in the spring, it's often the only fly-fishing opportunity of the region; it fishes best when it first opens to angling the Saturday before Memorial Day in May until about mid-June. Most rivers and streams of the area are either in full flood from the spring runoff or still frozen. Fortunately for the angler, this river has been blessed by a relatively flat drainage which means that high water doesn’t necessarily mean muddy water as it does elsewhere else. Because of all the hot springs that warm the river, the earliest of hatches are facilitated ahead of non-heated mountain streams. It offers great dry-fly fishing during afternoon mayfly hatches and continues to do so until the end of June. Brook trout, browns and rainbows average 10-14 inches in the Firehole.

By early July, the Firehole, because of the afore mentioned large geyser basins, is too warm to fish, most of the trout move into the upper, cold spring fed tributaries. Good fishing returns when colder weather tempers the region’s thermal influences, sometime toward the end of September and into October; the fall hatches are mostly small mayflies, as well as several caddis species.

Firelhole River
Firelhole River

The Firehole River Swimming Hole is on the southern portion of Firehole Canyon Road. The road is a one-way loop from north to south. There are restrooms at the parking area, which can become quite crowded on a warm day. Parking is immediately above the swimming hole. The main pool is large and mostly shallow. The water is quite warm, in the high 70's to low 80's, but still refreshing on a hot day.

Water entering the river from geothermal features contains dissolved chemicals and minerals. Levels of boron and arsenic have been found to be above the standard limits for protection of aquatic organisms. Despite these levels, brown and rainbow trout live and spawn in the river. There is a lot of science studied in Yellowstone, and here they are finding how organisms exist in the realm of impossibilities.

Excelsior Geyser runnoff
Excelsior Geyser runnoff where thist hot spring dumps 400 gallons of biliing hot water per second into the Firehole River.

As a photographer I find the Firehole a fascinating landscape; it can be compared  nowhere else. It has over three of Yellowstone's major waterfalls: Kepler Cascades south of Old Faithful, Firehole Falls and the Cascades of the Firehole in Firehole Canyon and that is the normal part. Its geothermal boiling waters empty into the river by steaming hot waterfalls flowing through bright yellow and orange thermopile bacteria, a bacteria that was one of the early sources of life on earth; it is beautiful.  Elk and bison around and in the river are an ubiquitous site, geysers shooting into it, the steam of hundreds of hot springs rising above it and the pleasant meandering lines as it winds it’s way to the Madison.  On colder days the steam is unbelievably robust, and winter brings on a whole new ambiance.   People aren’t the only fishermen at the Firehole River; bald eagles and osprey are everywhere. The Firehole River is one of the easiest places to get photos of Osprey diving for fish. The Firehole River is certainly is one of Yellowstone Park’s finest gems.

 

Fly-fishing Fine Art Prints by Daryl L. Hunter
A beautiful winter day on the Firehole River Beehive Geyser erupting beside the river
A beautiful winter day on the Firehole River
Beehive Geyser erupting beside the river
Montana River Fishing Outfitters
Madison River Outfitters
Madison River Outfitters • (West Yellowstone) Native cutthroats rising for hoppers along a grassy cut bank on the Yellowstone… Big brown trout slashing at emerging caddis in a broad riffle on Montana’s Madison… Wild rainbows sipping tiny blue winged olives in a setting of incomparable beauty on the Firehole… This is just a sample of the action that takes place somewhere in our ‘backyard’ each day of the season! Madison River Outfitters, featuring an impressive selection of quality fly fishing tackle, custom flies, rugged outdoor clothing and hiking and backpacking equipment, is one of the finest fly shops in the Rocky Mountain West. We offer guide service in Montana and Yellowstone National Park and our friendly guides are committed to providing you with a great fly fishing experience on the world class fisheries surrounding West Yellowstone.
East Slope Outdoors • (Big Sky) East Slope Outdoors provides three types of guided trips, all based out of Big Sky, Montana, your Blue Ribbon River fly fishing headquarters. Whether you want to introduce yourself to the sport, hone your skills with fly fishing professional, or simply enjoy a great day on the river, you're sure to appreciate the company of our friendly expert guides.
East Slope Outdoors fishing trips
Anglers West, Paradise Valley Montana
Angler's West Flyfishing Outfitters • (Paradise Valley Montana) Big Sky Flies and Guides Outfitting Co. has merged with Angler's West Flyfishing Outfitters! We continue to offer the same fantastic guide service you've come to know and trust, and the finest selection of flyfishing equipment and quality outdoor apparrel at our Emigrant flyshop location. We are the premier Paradise Valley flyfishing outfitter. Come visit us and do so often!
The River’s Edge • (Bozeman Montana) Bozeman Montana’s premier fly fishing outfitter and fly shop. With the Gallatin, Madison, Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers a short drive away and a store that carries only the finest in fly fishing products including Simms, Winston, Sage, Ross and Galvan, we’re confident we will provide the very best Montana trout fishing experience. Come see for yourself...
rivers edge fishing trips
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Firehole River Hatch Chart

Insects

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Firehole River Fly Patterns

Mayflies
                         
Blue Winged Olive (BWO)     •  •
          •
  • Dry Flies: BWO's, Parachute BWO's, Parachute Adams,
Nymphs & Emergers:
Pheasant Tails, Hares Ears, BWO Emergers. Beadhead Nymphs
Pale Morning Dun             •   •
  •       Dry Flies: PMD's, Parachute PMD's, Light Cahill. Pink Cahil, Pink Sparkle Dun, Parachute Adams,  Adams,
Nymphs & Emergers: Pheasant Tails, Hares Ears, PMD Emergers, Qwiggly Cripple. Beadhead Nymphs
Green Drakes          
            Dry Flies: Paradrakes
Nymphs & Emergers:  Prince Nymphs, Beadhead Nymphs  
Caddis
                         
Caddis             •
  •   •       Dry Flies: Elk Hair Caddis, X Caddis, Stimulators,
Nymphs & Emergers
: Peeking Caddis, Buckskin Caddis, Beadhead Nymphs
                           
Yellow Sallies             •    •   •       Dry Flies: Yellow Stimulators, Henry's Fork Yellow Sallies, Yellow Elk Hair Caddis.  Nymphs & Emergers: Prince Nymphs, Beadhead Nymphs
Golden Stoneflies             •
          Dry Flies: Yellow Stimulators, Irresistible Stimulators. Chernobyl Ants, Royal Coachmans, Madam X's, 
Nymphs & Emergers
Prince Nymphs, Stonefly Nymphs, Halfback Nymphs,
Salmonflies             •   •           Dry Flies: Sofa Pillows, Orange Stimulators. 
Nymphs & Emergers: Black Rubberlegs, Stonefly Rubberlegs, Bitch Creek Nymph.
Terrestrials
                         
Ants           •  •  •   •  •   •     Black Fur Ant, CDC Ant, Foam Ant, Flying Ant
Grasshoppers               •   •   •   •     Dave's Hopper, ParaHopper, Foam Hopper, Madam X's, 
Beetles & Crickets             •   •   •   •   •     Deer Hair Beetle, Foam Beetle, Dave's Cricket, Henry's Fork Cricket
Others
                         
Midges     •   •   •   •   •
  •   •   •   •   • Dry Flies: Griffith's Gnat, Double Midge, Fuzzballs. 
Nymphs & Emergers: Brassie, Midge Emerger,  Disco Midge, Serendipity, Tungsten Beadhead Larva
Egg Patterns                
    Egg Patterns

Insects

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Firehole River Fly Patterns

Photography of Daryl L. Hunter, landscape, wildlife, travel, lifestyle
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