I arranged my float with Tony Valeriano on the Yellowstone with the Sweetwater Fly Shop in Livingston, Montana. They kindly let me park my camper on their property for several days while I drove over to Wyoming the previous weekend to fish in the Bighorn Mountains.
If someone had asked me what river I most looked forward to fish, I would have said the Yellowstone. The time had finally arrived to float this legendary river on a beautiful September morning with one of the best guides available. We motored down to the Carbella boat ramp about 30 miles south of the fly shop. Tony offered me lots of information about the river having fished here for over 20 years.
I had no desire to fish with nymphs and so Tony set me up with a double dry fly rig using a drake pattern and a modified Dave’s Hopper. Like a few guides in my past, he coated my 5-weight line with some mucilin to help it float better.
I really wanted to catch a Yellowstone Cutthroat, which can be identified by the bright red/orange slash under the mandible, the larger black spots that are concentrated near the tail, and by their gray, gold or silver hue. I didn’t catch many fish on this beautiful day but I did catch a Yellowstone Cutthroat.
Perhaps I anticipated this day on the Yellowstone too fervidly because I had a hard time doing anything right fishing-wise. My cast fell apart; I set the hook too slowly; nope too quickly. It was humbling, but a true test of an angler.
The sport does that to everyone at some point or another and it was my turn. It reminds me of a time when I was young and dumb and went swimming on a deserted beach in Hawaii. It was deserted for a reason – the undertow, the steep drop off and who knows what else made it dangerous. I nearly drowned and was so freaked out by the experience I wondered if I would swim in the ocean again. I actually forced myself to go back in that evening so I didn’t hang on to the fear.
Well, there’s no fear involved here, but I did make myself go fishing the next day in Yellowstone Park and caught several dozen fish albeit under 6 inches! It felt good to feel that little tug on my line.