Tight Lines in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park

I lay in my cold tent at 5 in the morning willing myself to get outside of the sleeping bag. I think ‘What kind of person makes themselves get up so early on vacation?’ On vacation! At least maybe we would see some animals on the long, early morning drive through Yellowstone. This was our third day in America’s first and largest national park, famous for its wildlife. Yet we hadn’t seen anything except than chipmunks and squirrels.

As we left the Grant Campground, we saw a gorgeous sunrise over Yellowstone Lake. But Hayden Valley, where the animals like to roam, was socked in with fog. If there were animals out there, we couldn’t see them.

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Yellowstone Lake at Sunrise

We met our fly fishing guide, Brogan, at Tower Junction. We had scheduled an all-day float trip down the Yellowstone River, but heavy rains the day before left the river cloudy. We learned fish don’t bite what they can’t see. So instead we hiked into a nearby stream, through tall wet grass, over fallen trees, past pink and purple wildflowers, to a secluded spot in a beautiful part of Yellowstone. The sun was shining and the birds chirping.

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Yellowstone near Tower Junction

But most importantly we were the only people around. No hordes of tourists. Just us. Most places in Yellowstone can feel like a scene. Disneyland in the wilderness. So many people, lines, cars, selfie sticks. This little stream off the Yellowstone River was the perfect respite from it all.

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Our fly fishing spot

As Brogan helped me with my first cast, teaching me about ‘tight lines’, I wondered when he was going to get to the part about how to reel a fish in, but then thought maybe it was premature. Just then I had a bite! 5 minutes into the day!

I was told that I had to kiss the first fish before throwing it back. Something about good luck. So as I kissed a beautiful brook trout, my lovely significant other, shaking with envy that I had the first catch of the day, captured this beautiful moment. This is why I’m the family photographer.

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Kissing the first catch of the day

Fly fishing is a more fun and active form of fishing, the constant movement allowing us to practice our technique. I was told I had excellent aim. We caught brook and rainbow trout, all about 6-8 inches, with beautiful colors. In fishermen’s terms, that equates to about 2 to 3 feet long. We were using barbless hooks, so it was a snap getting the fish off and sometimes they jumped off themselves.

Throughout this gorgeous sunny day, we worked our way upstream as we exhausted different fishing pockets. It was like hiking with some pauses along the way to catch fish. I got to hike off trail, climb up and over rocks, through cold streams (that felt wonderful later in the day once it heated up). As Keith was bragging to the guide that this is my happy place, what I do best, I was feeling great. And then, climbing over a fallen tree and jumping down on wet rock, I twisted my ankle.

As I said ‘I’m ok, I’m ok’, I didn’t really believe it. The searing pain in my ankle made me sweat. I sat for a bit on that stupid fallen tree to recover. But a little ouchie has never slowed me down before, and I wasn’t going to let it slow me down this day.

Brogan went back to his truck to get better shoes for me. “Better” but 4 sizes too big. Have you ever tried walking in water in boots 4 sizes too big? It does weird things to your depth perception. But it’s way sexy.

Fly fishing was the highlight of our Yellowstone trip. We got to see another side, the less crowded, more peaceful side of Yellowstone. It was special that neither of us had been fly fishing before and that we got to learn together. Not that it’s a competition. But I did catch 9 fish to his 8.

 

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