On Saturday, July 4th, 2015, I couldnt present a fly to the fish gods if all my life depended on it. My rhythm was all flustery, and I was clenching my fly rod in my right hand with a death grip that certainly wasnt necessary. The slender 8 footer vibrated in protest, wronged, as I tried again. No. That was horse whipping. I sighed, and pulled in some line with my left hand yet again. The length of lime green line lay mockingly slack on the water, grazing my legs in wide loops where I stood alone, rather then in front of me floating its little dry treasure down the
I wanted to call, taunt and bait to the beast fish that lived within, not scare
I had lost my cast.
It has been a little over ten years since I went flyfishing. Back then, the last time was in the
Bighorn Mountains, above 10,000 feet
and off-trail, where no one goes but the very brave or the crazy. The fish were generationally wild beasts,
dropped decades ago by Forest Service helicopters and grew such good genetics to
wonderful proportions that it got ones heart thumping when they would rise in
crystal blue clear waters. I remember crouching a lot, using soft footsteps and
no shadow, and once caught a cutthroat so large that when I went to tell Mr.
Foresterman afterwards, I was still trembling.
There was a hatch going on that early August, a blessing from mother nature after a brief snow that had melted quickly in the rising temps. I
could tie on an orange humpy and be guaranteed a strike if I wasnt caught trying
to do so, or if the Sun wasnt directly overhead to reveal the outer magical world
of pure mountain air. Those fish were
tricky but honest. Those are flyfishing memories.
These moments were definitely not.
It certainly wasnt because of where I was, thats for sure. With her waters caressing my thighs, I was standing in the mighty
Yellowstone River, near Pray, Montana.
Her history runs deep and long. She carried the First Nation on her
waters to many places, and she now irrigates those same places for those who
live and work on her banks. The lack of dams to impede her waters aids her
so she can reach all the way to the state of North Dakota with her determination. If I wanted more adventure, I could float all
the way to visit our youngest and her fly fishing husband if I wanted to. He, this native Montanan Son in law of ours, was the reason we were
here in the first place. His love of the Yellowstone
runs as determined as her waters, and he wanted to share this passion
with us. Like a potential new
relationship we too were enamored by her beauty now, but we were becoming frustrated
more and more by our own inadequacy with each cast; will she love us back
somehow, eventually, and reward us with her hidden gifts?
Yellowstone is most
famous for her Blue Ribbon status as a Class I fly fishing stream. She is considered one of the best in the
world, and many cast off her waters for trout; cutthroat, rainbows, browns in
the cold waters, and fish paddlefish, sturgeon, walleyes and bass in her warmer
waters. Shes over 690 gorgeous miles long, flowing north out of, you guessed
it, Yellowstone Lake
located in the famous .
It took over 200 million years to build her;
and it was definitely well worth the wait. Although it took time, She is beautiful from beginning to end. Yellowstone
National Park, Wyoming
Like all things, it takes time.
Like all things, it takes time.
Just like presenting the fly.
It was then I began to get my cast back. With each cast, the line flow was starting to smooth out. It was beginning and then began as part of myself, my fishing soul, ending by landing in the spot I selected, but only if the wind didnt have her way that time. Nature wanted to play. The rhythm was there and it wasnt hard work, it was becoming instinct. The silent swish overhead, once, twice, three and the constant giving of line. There. stare. wait. And then repeat.
It felt so good.
But then it didnt. I was startled by a large splash to my right; a man had come down to the river with his dog, and was throwing a large stick into the cold waters. In his defense he probably couldnt even see me in the river with her thick green willows covering her banks. Everyone needs to give space to those fishing on the river, but the dog leapt into the water as if his whole heart had already done so, and who could begrudge him? And so my time was broken.
Standing thigh deep, I turned to move off of the slippery rocks under my feet to move on, away, and I slipped. Feeling my right shin hit a greasy boulder, I felt the pain make its mark and knew I was bleeding into the river before I could even wade out to the dry bank. I was wet up to my shoulders, and my leg stung, but it was only a scrape and the bleeding soon stopped after a few washings of the
Yellowstone's waters. It was time to go, and I quietly wrapped my
flyrod and reel up, as the others began to show up at the vehicle. No fish were
caught, but it was time to move on to celebrate our Nation's Birthday in a
different way, elsewhere.
And so the mighty
had christened me,
and it seemed appropriate that I had given her my only decent offering I really
had to give that day. Yellowstone
Maybe it will be different next time.