November, 2015. Durango, CO During my year on rivers, I had been told both that Whitefish were an insignificant catch and that they were a sign of a healthy river.
This month’s Hatch magazine has a great article on Whitefish and their importance. As they say in the article, ““If you don’t have a healthy population of whitefish, you don’t have a healthy population of trout.” They really are a rather “cute” fish with their puckered mouths. You can’t help but want to kiss them… kind of.
The one thing I really don’t like about catching Whitefish is how difficult it is to take the hook out of their very soft mouths. I’m not skilled enough or quick enough to avoid causing the fish to have a very bad day.
In the end, I’m just happy to catch a fish, and to be honest – I can’t really control what goes on under the surface of the water at this point in my fishing career.
September 2016. Telluride, CO. When fishing with our friends Marshall and Richard up in Telluride, we decided that the perfect match for some freshly caught trout would be some chanterelle mushrooms. So, with local guide John we hunted down mushrooms and learned about all kinds of food to eat and not to eat in the woods.
As everyone knows, some of the most beautiful mushrooms are the most toxic.
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We were fortunate to find some chanterelles and catch some trout in the West Fork of the Dolores and had a wonderful evening with these wonderful Telluride folks.
+ A nice hike on the Yellowstone
Δ Some don’t make it
Yellowstone River. Yellowstone National Park. August 19, 2015. When I checked in with our guide Joe Moore about an excursion to the Yellowstone, he was clear that the hike that he had planned was not for those without stamina and strength. Even though all of us were 64+ years old, we didn’t think twice about it. Age is a funny thing. It sort of creeps up on you until you’re forced to recognize it because of stiffness or shortness of breath or really sore muscles the next day.
To reach the trailhead, we drove a couple hours in the park starting out in West Yellowstone and heading east past Towers Junction so we could approach the river from the east side instead of the easily accessible west side. It was on the east side that we would be in one of the wildest sections of the park and where we would find the most hungry and undisturbed fish. The hike to the river took about 90 minutes – not bad time wise – and although our guide seemed to bounce down the trail like a white-tailed deer, we edged our way down on loose gravel. Riverside, we scrambled over large boulders until we approached the northernmost point of the river before the Tower Falls.
My husband fished some dries by the edge of some granite cliffs coming up with a beautiful 20 inch Yellowstone cutthroat. I fished to a riffle in the middle of the river and came up with some 12-inchers. This fishing spot was so beautiful with water the color of that in the Caribbean, that we stayed for a long time joined by beautiful Harlequin ducks. After several hours, we made our way back until we found a large pool behind a huge boulder and the fun began. There must have been dozens of fish held up in this hole because one after another succumbed to the delicious allure of my foam pattern that resembled a Chernobyl ant. (Clear for all your non-fly-fishers??) The fishing was fantastic, the sky a royal blue and being in the back country was a thrill.
In the middle of this fishing frenzy, a couple on the other side of the river started waving at us. We thought they were cheering us on because of fishing success but we later heard that they had spotted a badger up on the cliff behind us! We missed seeing it, and I’m sure he was plenty scared of his encounter with us.
But, the charge for the day was an encounter with a Buffalo that caused quite the episode with Connie, who had been peacefully casting her fly in the middle of the river and didn’t notice this monstrous creature approaching her. With a frantic warning from the guide, Connie turned too quickly, fell and injured herself creating a hematoma the size of a baseball on her leg ending the day for her and making her climb out to the car extremely arduous. We didn’t hear about her mishap until we met up with the other folks on the hike out, but we did watch the buffalo cross the river like it was a small brook in the mountains.
It was a day to remember and I hope to continue my yearly trek up to this amazing national park. Summers bring a mass of people, but the park is well-managed although you need to be patient with traffic that oftentimes occurs when someone spots an elk or bear or wolf. That’s actually what people come to Yellowstone to see. Personally, I like the fish.
August 2015. West Yellowstone, MT.
I’m three for three now. That is, I’ve taken at least a week every summer for the last three years to fish in West Yellowstone. This year, we rented part of a house with friends Scott and Connie Voss and Carl and Linda Curtiss. On the first of five days, we arranged to do a float on the Madison, and the river didn’t fail to disappoint me… again. I know this magical, heralded, icon of fly-fishing is a fantastic river, but I have yet – after four floats – had a good day on it, both because of weather and mediocre fishing. On this day, the temperature had dropped to the low 40’s in the morning and never really warmed up, especially because of the north wind coming straight at us. And me in flip-flops. The guides worked really hard for us, but the fish were not going to cooperate come hell or high water. And so, I didn’t convince either Connie or Linda that fly-fishing was the amazing sport that it is.
Fishing on the Gardner
The next day, Florian and I headed off to do a section of the Gardner River in the Park. Again, it was a blustery day, but I suited up with waders and several layers of fleece, etc. We were determined to fish on top of the water, and we did for most of the day, except for one exceptional spot about a quarter mile up stream near some modest-looking cliffs in a pool that had formed after a little waterfall. Joe Moore, our guide for the third year in a row, tied on a dropper and with a few precision casts next to the cliffs but not in the fast water, I caught a beautiful brown that had obviously been hiding out there for quite a while. Shortly afterwards, Joe took off to scout up stream, and as soon as he left, I had another nice sized fish on. I was standing among large boulders by the edge of the river and didn’t have a net with me, so I had to try and maneuver the fish over to a landing spot a bit downriver. Fortunately, in the middle of all this, Joe returned with his net and yelled over the cascading waterfall for me to swing my line around to him so he could bring the fish in. Unfortunately – or rather fortunately because he didn’t see me – I stumbled on a boulder and couldn’t for the life of me get myself up! I did all I could to hold my rod up in the air – for the health of the rod… and the fish. When Joe finally looked around and realized I was on the ground, trying to get up, we lost the fish. But no worries – it was a great catch on a relatively small river. Two days down, but it was the next day – on the Yellowstone in the Park, that we had the best day of our vacation.
Breckenridge, CO. August 6, 2015. A little over two years ago, I fished the Blue River just below the Dillon Reservoir in 20 degree weather and caught some of the most beautiful rainbow trout I had ever seen. I learned about mysis shrimp and cold hands and sharing the scenery with an outlet mall in the background.
Today I am fortunate to have been invited to share my journey with a crowd at the Breckenridge branch of the Summit County Libraries at 5:00. An old colleague, Monica Owens, invited me to speak and insisted on giving up her place for me to stay for the night. She is one example of many folks that continue to keep on giving to me during this amazing journey.
I won’t have time to throw a line in the next day, but look forward to a week in West Yellowstone, MT with Florian and friends Scott and Connie Voss and Carl and Linda Curtiss. We’ll float the Madison and Yellowstone Rivers and hike up in to Yellowstone NP for some back country small stream fishing. Can’t wait!!