The third day of my visit to West Yellowstone broke cold and overcast. Dad drove me up to the Firehole and dropped me off about a mile above where I had previously fished – close to Biscuit Basin. I had expected the weather to turn and wore a heavy wool, cable knit fisherman’s sweater and two sets of long underwear. On top of that, were clunky, inflexible boot foot waders that barely bent at the knees. I placed on my head a thick wool pull over watch cap – one of those with horizontal colored stripes that looks fashionable on a tourist in the Andes. I had no gloves or anything else to keep my exposed hands warm and would pay a price for this later in the day.
Rigging a # 22 Dry on the Firehole, October, 1977…
I fished upstream with the same small ( #22) yellow mayfly pattern I had been using. I hooked a few small fish, none over twelve inches. At 11:00 AM the wind began to pick up and the sky darkened further. Soon, drops of rain, then sleet and finally snow began to fall. Within an hour, the guides on the Leonard filled up with ice. I plunged the entire rod and reel into the warm river water to free the ice. In five minutes, the guides were, once again, choked with ice. Then my hands turned blue.
I staggered clumsily out of the river and onto the bank and sat under a tree ( this was pre fire). I rolled my wader top down and stuffed my hands under the sweater and into my armpits. It was now 1:30PM and Dad would not be coming up the road to get me till 5:30 PM. It was so cold. No traffic was moving on the road to or from Old Faithful or the Yellowstone Lodge ( Old Faithful Inn). The snowflakes were getting bigger, piling up on the ground. The world had become utterly dark and silent except for the thick sheet of steam rising from the river and it’s constant gurgling. My head was itching like crazy, I felt totally alone.
I contemplated walking to Madison Junction and on to west Yellowstone just to keep warm. I was miserable.
I walked to the road and headed East towards Madison Junction and town, switching my rod from one hand to the other so my free hand could be stuffed under my sweater. I arrived at the Junction at 5:00PM and saw the approaching headlights of my car in the distance.
” What took you so long?” I asked my Dad as he pulled alongside me with the window partially down. ” I noticed it was snowing when I left the saloon”, he replied, ” so I figured I’d better pick you up early”.
I walked around the rear of the car, opened the door and slid my soaked body into the passenger seat exhaling loudly. Just then, my dad reached under his seat and thrust a brand new hot thermos bottle into my rigid hands. ” Thought you might like some hot coffee”, he winked.
My Dad was an OK kinda guy…
From that day to this, there are five items that ALWAYS accompany me to the water – in my truck or on my person: a soft, warm watch cap, fingerless or flip-over gloves, full gloves, a de-icing agent ( ice off paste), Gore Tex Shell and a thermometer
MORE warm clothing...HERE
That is what I learned that day…
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