A Yellowstone Christening

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 Yellowstone. I wanted to call, taunt and bait to the beast fish that lived within, not scare them away. 

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?

The 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 Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.   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.  

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, 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 Yellowstone River had christened me, and it seemed appropriate that I had given her my only decent offering I really had to give that day.

Maybe it will be different next time.


  1. I've been to one of those little pieces of heaven there on the Yellowstone in Pray Montana...pretty hard to put the feelings that come to mind In words, but you've done it...perfectly. Thanks, Feral, for the beautiful memories.

  2. GW Feral Woman,

    What a fabulous post! I was right there with you fishing, I could see and feel the water hitting my legs as I threw my line.
    My husband has fished out west many of times while growing up with his family. I haven't had an opportunity to do so. My husband promised to take me out west to fish and enjoy these beautiful wide open spaces.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful fishing memories.

  3. Beautifully written - engaged all my senses. Your words and my past escapades in the rivers of the Rocky Mountains took me right back there. May you fly fish again soon!

  4. Blooded..........your gift to Mother. That means it won't happen again :)

  5. Was just thinking today how long it has been since I went fishing...... let me think.... 1987?

  6. I love your writing, I wish I could write like this. It is marvellous and needs to be read by many, many, many.......

  7. Wow I finally think I get it.I have read this three times. Your fabulous writing skills have captured me and taken me to the place where you were handling your fly fishing line and the relationship you two had there in the Yellowstone waters. Oh yes now I get it. Great writing. I will have to come so you can teach me the fine art of fly fishing. I want to feel that too.Even the christening sounded beautiful. xo Hugs B

  8. Yes , well written. Enjoyable to read. Hope you have many more opportunities to test your cast against the river and the trout. People who don't spend time out in the forest have NO idea what they're missing. More open space for us.

  9. The Yellowstone is certainly a beautiful place for a fishing adventure, even if the outcome is not what you hoped for. Your story is so well written, wonderfully engaging.


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