(C) Jack Ballard
Some locations hint of fine angling, but not all of them deliver. Fish Creek in central Wyoming is not only devoid of finned residents, but waterless most of the year. Others aren’t so deceptive. Trout Lake, in Yellowstone National Park, is aptly named. A modest lake reached by a steep, but short, hike in the northeastern portion of the park, Trout Lake boasts native Yellowstone cutthroats and rainbow trout in fine numbers. It’s also a reliable place to encounter critters that find fish an appealing dinner item, such as ospreys and otters.
Trout Lake perches on a bench above the Soda Butte Creek canyon, east of the confluence of Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River. To reach the lake, hike from the trailhead on the Northeast Entrance Road, 19 miles east of Tower Junction. From the trailhead on the north side of the highway, a short but steep hike of about a half-mile leads to the lake. The trail reaches the lake at its outlet, then continues completely around the tarn, offering fishing access at all points. The shoreline opposite the outlet is treeless, offering easier casting for ground-bound anglers. Many dedicated folks pack a float tube to the lake to reach deeper water, especially in mid-summer. A special permit from Yellowstone National Park is required to use float tubes on park waters.
The lake boasts sizeable trout, fish most commonly caught range from 14 to 20 inches. The inlet stream and adjacent area in the lake is closed to fishing until July 15 to protect spawning cutthroats. If you happen to hit the park at that time, the spawning spectacle is worth a hike to the lake, even though you won’t find as many targets for your flies in the portion of the lake open to fishing. Better times to tempt the trout are in the days immediately after the lake opens for fishing on June 15 and in September.