Fly-fishing and surfing the Yellowstone

Thursday, August 10

Having driven several miles over the past few days attempting to get out of the smoke from forest fires, this day I choose to relax in our peaceful camp by the Yellowstone River.

Grey Bear Fishing Access Site at Yellowstone River, Big Timber, Montana

Partly reclined in my lounger, I read my Paperwhite.  I pause to observe a pair of gulls over the river or to break up the boys when their play battle intensifies too close to a real battle.

Also my attention is frequently diverted by the parade of fly fishermen and fisherwomen who float past our camp in their boats.

Intently they go about the business of luring fish with their flies, unless in charge of the oars.

One might wonder why folks in boats cast their line a few feet from shore when one could drop a line in the same spot while standing on the shore.  I guess it’s all about luring the fish away from the shore.

The white plume in the next photo isn’t from the boat.  It is caused by a submerged rock.

I hear a vehicle coming up the road to the other campsites.  

Soon thereafter a young man appears upstream from our camp.  He carries a surf board down to the river.  A few moments later he appears in front of my lounger.  I put down the Paperwhite and pick up the camera.

This ought to be interesting.  

The young man allows himself to be carried into the plume.  Then he kicks and paddles with all his might against the strong flow of water until he’s in the best spot for the next step.

He hops into a crouch and then, for a moment, he stands!


He tries again several times.  The crew and I watch his performance.

 Oh, to have the strength and endurance and daring to do that!

Later I talk with the young man when he returns to his car.

He has an open, tanned face with a friendly smile.  After complimenting him on his surfing, I ask him if he’s practiced here before.

“No, I went through here yesterday on a raft and saw that it was next to the campground, so I came back today to see what I could do.”

“Do you have photos?  I have some for you.”

“Yeah, I do, but that would be great!”  He grabs a card from his car.  It has his email address on it.

While chatting I mention how nice it is here.  However, the fee is $18 for me because I’m not a Montana resident and I don’t have a fishing license.

“Go to Big Rock,” he suggests.  “I camp there and never pay.”

“I know where that is!  I saw it on my map.  It’s a fishing access a few miles south of Big Timber, right?”

“Yeah, take Old Boulder Road, just past The Fort [a travel center at the east end of town].”

That’s what we’ll do . . . We’ll enjoy this camp for the rest of today and tonight and . . . .

My thoughts are interrupted.

We’re walking the two-track path to our camp with the river on our left, when a bird in flight catches my eye.  It’s following the course of the river downstream — some kind of raptor or hawk, I can’t tell what — and it carries in its talons a fish as long as itself.

I stop the crew to watch.

There goes another participant in a splendid river parade.

Yes! Tomorrow morning we’ll break camp and move over to Big Rock!



Aww, wipe out!


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50 Responses to Fly-fishing and surfing the Yellowstone

  1. Dawn in NC says:


  2. Robin B (Oregon & Arizona) says:


  3. Diann in MT says:

    How cool, is that!
    Keep on enjoying, Sue!

    • BJ says:

      I might have been first – but I answered the math question in haste and flunked it – LOL 😂 👍 – so being 1st is still on my personal bucket list 😎

  4. Jolene/Iowa says:

    Hi Sue,

    Loving these camps! As far as the fly fishermen and women casting towards shore… sometimes it is the structure along the shore, sometimes fish spawn in the shallows. Sometimes depending on the water temperature they will go deeper or shallower. Many different reasons for it but if you are standing right in front of them it will spook them. With a fly rod it can be tough to cast from shore also depending on the trees and brush along the bank. I have been fly fishing for close to 40 years. Still my favorite way to fish.

    • Fred Trout says:

      All that is true enough. On the Yellowstone River this time of year the fish come into the bank both to keep out of the heavy current and most of all to feed on the hoppers that land on the water close to the grassy banks where they live. It does not hurt that the smaller fish also come in to the bank and are always fair game for the larger trout lying in wait, heh.

  5. Jean in Southaven says:

    I would have never thought of surfing like that. I guess if you like to surf you are always on the lookout for a place. Sounds like you had a great day. I hope your next camp was in a great place with lots to see during the day but nothing that stays close by to disturb your privacy. I really like the pictures of the fishing boats too. I don’t know if I could stand up in a boat moving like that. Especially, trying to hold a fishing pole and watch for fish on it. I would wind up in the water for sure. Thanks for posting and be safe.

  6. Linda Rose, Muffin, Molly & Midgy in Carmichael, CA says:

    oh my that water looks so refreshing. I guess it’s not as cold as our river water here. Hopefully not as rapid either. We have several drownings every year. People thinking they are invincible so they don’t need life vests. Always sad. Your surfer looks very competent and how great he gave you info about where to camp!

  7. Diann in MT says:

    The bird could have been a bald eagle or an osprey. Lots of those around this river this time of year.

  8. AZ Jim says:

    Another great adventure. Nice young guy to tell you about Big Rock. Detta really enjoys your blog and crew news, she reads each new addition. Take care Missy, you are having a great summer…

  9. pookie and chuck in Todd Mission, tx says:

    awesome pictures

  10. Dawn in MI says:

    A very eclectic river!

  11. Pam from Wisconsin says:

    What a pleasant, interesting view! I enjoy people watching from a distance too, unless they’re drinking, rowdy or have kids running around. Doggy kisses to the crew from my pack, Xander, Willow and Toby.

  12. weather says:

    That’s a beautiful place and it provided you with some nice entertainment. I’m glad you spent an extra day and night there to relax and rest. I imagine your daily moves and drives in search of internet signals and smoke free air become stressful and tiring.

    Here’s my take on why some folks fish the shoreline from within a boat. Standing on land limits the places one can reach, in a boat it’s easier to try several spots until the one where the fish are biting is found. Also, casting toward shore while keeping the boat at a distance is often done to protect the boat, motor and the propellers on the motor. Unless it’s a very familiar body of water one can’t predict where potentially damaging rocks and debris are in the shallow parts.

    Reggie and Roger are fortunate to have you as a referee that calls time-out when need be. They love each other and love playing. You make sure they can continue to do both. Sweet!

    • Cinandjules 🌵 says:

      Did you have crazy weather yesterday?

      Jules had a tornado “watch” as soon as it went to a “warning” the power went out so no internet. I called her via cell…as the radar indicated “rotation”..accuweather specifically named the lake….she said it was wild! Thankfully nothing formed..but she needs to clean up branches.

      • weather says:

        It was pretty wild here for a while, too. 60+mph winds tossing the lake and rain around. I thought about Jules as I was watching the news. I’m glad she’s alright! A tornado touched down near Colgate University in Hamilton about a mile from a friend’s home.No injuries but quite a mess for the folks whose trees and buildings were damaged.

        Thanks for checking 🙂

        • Cinandjules 🌵 says:

          Oh good!
          Seems like the weather is quite different…from what she remembers as a kid! She said the lake had whitecaps and if the boat got loose she’d find it whenever.
          They have had microbursts before but this tornado stuff is alarming. Unless you are peeled to the weather channel one would never know. Not like they have a warning system….
          Enjoy your evening, cozy up with the fur children.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thanks for the explanation, weather.

  13. Dave Stewart (in missouri for now) says:

    Great way to find another camping site. I learn so much from you. Thanks Teacher ” just cant get it outa your Blood”

  14. Surfing the Yellowstone! Never would have imagined that.

  15. Mark Greene says:

    19th, that’s almost like first for me, haha. Enjoyed the pictures. things are slowing down here. the girls are back in college and it is just Becky and I. Went made a weekend trip to see the Eclipse in Fairmont Nebraska, what a sight. This is about the time of the year I settle down to some good RV Sue adventures and dream about next summer. Enjoy the river it looks inviting.

    Salina Ks

  16. Barbara (Nashville) says:

    I agree with Lisa W. Never heard of trying to surf on a river. You just never know what will happen while camping along a river. How nice of the young man to refer you to a free camp ground. Nice things happen to nice people.
    In that regard, I have to tell you this. When I took DH to his doctors appt. 2 weeks ago, we decided to stop at McD’s to get a small burger since it was getting late in the afternoon. While sitting in line I was admiring this lady’s Porsche SUV, and she was the car ahead as we went through our respective lanes. When I got to the window to pay, the cashier said my order was paid for. I looked at her like she was nuts since I hadn’t paid and she said the lady ahead of us paid for our order as she thought my dog was cute. That is another first for me. Kind of funny to boot.

  17. Cinandjules 🌵 says:

    That water looks wild! Glad you were able to share your photos of the gentleman and his ride! Amazing, all but two fisher-people choose not to wear PFD’s. Crazy!

    Hope your travels and sites remain smoke free! Enjoy your day!

    How often do you have a hot meal for dinner? As in cook….

    Tonight’s meal is salmon and cauliflower…anyone want to join me?

    • Diann in MT says:

      It’s cool for the tour guide float trip leaders to not wear protective gear. They offer the option to their guests, but in their back pocket is the signed freedom from liability clause agreement.
      Apologies to Sue and the Blogorinos for what appears to be cynicism. My son worked for a couple of rafting companies in Colorado. Same thing, different rivers.

      • Cinandjules 🌵 says:

        Not cynical at all!
        I tend to be on the cautious side…I want to leave in the same exact condition I arrived. We went horseback riding in Yosemite with a group…I was the only one who wore a helmet. Didn’t phase me looking like a goon! I didn’t know the horse…and he certainly didn’t know me. What if some critter spooked him?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Cinandjules,

      How often do I cook a hot meal? In summer I don’t cook meals other than turkey burgers or turkey hot dogs. I eat fresh veggies and fruit, cottage cheese, yogurt, cold sliced chicken or turkey and, of course, rotisserie chicken. Lately I’ve been on a watermelon binge.

  18. Geri in the FL panhandle! says:

    What fun post! Surfing in a river no less! Ha! We see a lot of surf boards,riding in rooftops, but I have never seen one actually surfing off the island! No big waves here! See more paddle boarding than surfing!
    Such a nice spot to sit and relax a few days. So wonderful the young surfer dude gave you directions to another nice camp! We will meet you there! (Don’t I wish we really could?) Hug the boys from us! Happy trails!

  19. Donna Hight says:

    There is a booklet you can download with all sites.. there is a cool one on creek at fishtsil. Free ones off of 212 by red lodge…

  20. ValGal (westernWA) says:

    I love that spot. Such a pretty place with the river rushing by. How soothing. And it comes complete with entertainment from the river folk! Sweet.

    I hope the boys enjoyed it there, too.

    I’m eager to hear about the next camping spot. I hope it was just as nice!

  21. Rover Ronda (WA) says:

    Wow never seen river surfing. Can’t help but worry, remember what you pointed out in the picture previous, there’s a rock under that white water! My husband reads your blog. Hopefully he’s not getting ideas. He probably won’t try it. He doesn’t like to surf La Push because it’s too rocky. I think he’s more concerned about injuring his boards than injuring his body. He is invincible you know.🙄

  22. Stan Watkins says:

    Wow . Surfing on the Yellowstone . Kowabunga !

  23. Helen L says:

    Sue, Just a few of the items I ordered lately Tent, Cot, Air Mattress, Shoes, Mop. Should I always tell you when I ordered?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Yes, if you want me to check, otherwise I have to load pages of reports and hunt through hundreds of items. There isn’t a search function on the reports. I’ll see if I can find any of those things you mention.

      LATER… I skimmed through 8 days of reports going back from yesterday and I don’t see those items, but I could have missed them as they are listed according to brand name rather than generic name like “tent” or “mop.” Shoes are a popular item so I don’t know if yours are any of those I see.

  24. Terri hoping for rain from the hurricane in Texas!? says:

    What a great post! I love to fish and I love to see Ospreys fish, too!
    I would love to sit in that river. With all the heat this summer, anything cold looks good to me! We are currently watching the hurricane status right now. Corpus Christi looks like it will be hit, and while I hope nobody gets hurt, we can’t help but be happy we are finally going to get some rain. We have had about an inch this summer with temps over 100. I know folks in AZ are used to this kind of weather but we aren’t. Okay, done with whining. 😁 Neat- I just noticed my new tablet came with all those smiley face icons! TAKE CARE RVSUE AND CREW!
    FUN 😎😂😀

  25. ReneeG from Idaho says:

    Wow, Sue! Isn’t life wonderful?! To see that young man surfing in the river and to visit with him, a complete stranger whose path you would not have crossed were you not living this life. I love the last photo of him. I bet he’ll enjoy seeing it too! We have a couple of river parks here in the Boise, ID area (one up in Cascade, ID) setup for river surfers. Back in the early 70’s my brother in law used to tie a rope to the Broadway Bridge and surf the Boise River. Some still do it, but more go to the new river parks. Looking forward to your next posting.

  26. Cynthia from San Clemente says:

    I’ve never seen or heard of anyone surfing on a river – that is just awesome. I did worry and wonder a bit about the rocks, but I guess he survived! I laughed out loud about R&R’s play sometimes escalating to battles … it reminded me of my brother and me when we were little. Things would start off innocently but it didn’t take long before one of us was crying foul. This spot look so inviting and the entertainment value is a 10 – too bad it was so expensive. Can’t wait to hear if you made it to Big Rock, if it was really free, and if it was a good place for you.

  27. Jan NH says:

    Hi Blogorinos….I think it was noted in a post earlier this summer that the lifetime senior pass price was going up in October. I just saw where the price increase will be on August 28….in case you qualify but putting it off…now’s the time to purchase :). The new price of $80 for the lifetime pass is still a good deal but hey, who doesn’t like to save a few bucks when they can 😉

    • Barbara (Nashville) says:

      I decided ti get mine today, But one of 2 places in the Nashville area is sold out, as I imagine most places are with the deadline being Monday. Decided it was worth the extra $10 processing fee to get it online, even if it does take a little while to get it in the mail. You can use your receipt as a pass until it arrives. It is still a heck of a deal.

  28. I wasn’t expecting there to be actual surfing! I love that he has a surfboard with him in Montana 🙂 The Boulder River is so pretty, we really like the Big Timber area.

  29. Lisa, Tommie and Buddy in NJ says:

    Hi all,
    such pretty sights and sites you have found. Thanks for sharing these bright spots. I am happy to tell everyone that my new trailer is built! It should be delivered by mid September, Hoorah for me!

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