On Thursday, October 13, 1977, the sky was again overcast and there was the threat of more rain or snow.The night before, my Dad and I had decided, over a steak dinner, to travel over to the Yellowstone River to try for some West Slope Cutthroat trout.
After a quick breakfast, we left West Yellowstone at 7:30 AM and drove to Norris, Canyon, then South to Buffalo Ford several miles North of Fishing Bridge. On the way, we passed The Gibbon River which I would not fish on this trip and endless miles of lodge pole pines no longer there as a result of the 1988 fire. As we drove South from Canyon, several herds of buffalo grazed in the Hayden Valley.
Arriving at Buffalo Ford, I rigged my Leonard and remarked to my Dad about the pleasurable effect of being able to fish with no one else present. We were the only people there. At the end of my tippet, I tied on a # 14 Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear and stepped into the water. Even at this late period in the fall, the Yellowstone’s current was strong.
I fished quartering upstream, using the “high – stick” technique that I had been taught on the Roaring Fork. My body was constantly being pushed down river by the flow. I felt my feet slipping on the gravel bottom as I made an effort to dig in. ” Hey”, my Dad called out as he observed from the bank, you’re moving!” After an hour of this, with no trout to hand, I ambled out of the river and sat with Dad in the grass to rest. ” Why don’t you try that streamer again”, he suggested. I reached into my vest and pulled out the streamer wallet, fingered through its’ pockets and removed a # 6 Bucktail Coachman. This time, I left the wing unclipped – thinking it would make a difference( it didn’t), cut the leader back to 2X and tied it on with a Duncan Loop.
I stepped back into the river and cast out into the current quartering downstream. As the fly swung below me and the line tightened, I twitched the rod tip back and forth and gave the rod a slight pumping action. I retrieved the line back to myself first slow, then fast. It started to rain.
My Dad walked back to the car. Just as he called out to tell me where he was going, I looked down into the water at my slipping feet and noticed, to my amazement, three 16-18 inch trout holding at knee level. I was breaking the current for them. Each time I moved downriver after fishing out my cast, the three trout would slowly fin backwards and remain in position.
After thirty minutes of no fish and with the rain now becoming a steady downfall, I became REALLY frustrated. First, I tried to kick one of my trailing companions in the head. I nearly lost my balance. Then, holding my rod in my left hand, I leaned over with my nose almost touching the water’s surface and tried to grab one of the trout. I succeeded in getting soaking wet. By now, my Father had returned to stream side and was watching my antics.
I heard him call out to me, “Hey, I think you ARE losing it son…Let’s go!”
It was 3:00 PM. The wind was blowing gale force and the rain was coming down sideways. Once again, I was frozen. I stomped up to the bank, heaved myself into the grass, got up and went back to the car. I was muttering under my breath, ripping off my waders and drenched clothing. We drove on to the Old Faithful Lodge, where next to the fireplace, over B&B’s and water my Dad tried, but could not keep a straight face.
I was to hear, for many years to come, a recounting of my first experience on the Yellowstone River….
This story continues here:
4. South to Bridgeport