A couple of obvious things come to mind when you hear the word anticipation: Waiting for ketchup to emerge from the bottle, and Carly Simon. Another matter of anticipation is the sense of thrill one experiences as the day of an annual fishing trip draws near.
I’m talkin’ Montana and Yellowstone. This is the trip you’ve heard me talk about ever since starting this blog, and my first and second entries were about this very trip last year. 2009 saw just Marck and myself making the pilgrimage, but this year the Goosemaster is back, and Jimmy is coming along for the first time. We’ll also be meeting up with Erique, who will have flown to Bozeman the week prior on business. I feel a little bad for him because he’s missing out on the 12+ hour road trip.
Every year the trip is a little different and that keeps it from growing stale (as if a trip to Montana and Yellowstone could ever become mundane). This year is no different in that it’s slightly different from years past– 2010 marks a departure from the norm, from the very day of our departure to the time itself. Normally we leave from Marck’s house on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend but this year we’re departing a day earlier than usual, and not so bloody early in the morning (we leave at 5 AM instead of 4AM). But we are creatures of habit to some degree, and our first detour will very likely be at the Elk Heights rest stop between Cle Elum and Ellensburg to empty our morning coffee. We’ll fight morning rush hour through Spokane and then stop in Couer d’Alene, Idaho for breakfast and gas. We’ll also fuel up the vehicle while there. Proceeding east through the panhandle and into Montana, we’ll remark that the St. Regis River looks like a stream we should fish someday, and as we crisscross the Clark Fork several times we’ll note that it is, as it is every year at this time, thick and wide and the color of a mud puddle. As we pass through Missoula we’ll see our last Subaru for the next four days, and in a few more miles to the east we’ll make our next pit stop at the Rock Creek Lodge to monitor the cleanliness of the facilities and ponder the acquisition of another Testicle Festival t-shirt (with Father’s Day just around the corner, such an item makes a wonderful gift). If all goes as planned, in the late afternoon we’ll pull into Twin Bridges, where we’re planning to stay at the Stonefly Inn & Outfitters. Hopefully we’ll find something hearty to eat and something cold to wash down the dust from the long trail ride.
The reason for the Thursday departure becomes clear now, as we’ll be fishing with Joe Willauer and Brett Seng from The Stonefly on Friday. We’re hoping the Big Hole will be fishable, but if not Joe tells me there are ample contingency plans. In addition to the Big Hole, the Madison, Jefferson, Beaverhead and Ruby are close at hand so there’s no shortage of water in this neck of the woods. Hopefully some of it will produce some good catching, though I already know the fishing will be great. None of us have ever fished the Big Hole or any of the other rivers in this immediate area, so we’re giddy over the prospects of simply seeing some new water. A significant part of obsessing planning for this trip has been to check the weather in Twin Bridges on a daily basis. As one might expect it has been hit and miss, with snow recently. Upon last inspection Friday calls for upper low 60’s and less than 50% a 60% chance of rain thunder showers. The forecast has been changing daily – we’ll plan for weather much worse than that, and hope for better. We’ll also accept whatever comes our way.
After a day of epic fishing, on Thursday evening we’ll drive to West Yellowstone and check in at the Ho-Hum Motel. As always, I’ll wait outside because my lungs don’t function inside the office (the overwhelming odor of cat urine literally takes my breath away). Another slight deviation from previous years is the fact that there will be no drawing of straws for room assignments this year. It has already been decided that Marck is bunking with Stan (although Marck hasn’t yet been informed of this). Once we’ve stowed our gear in our rooms we’ll pay a visit to a couple different fly shops to arm ourselves with the Secret Weapon of the Firehole, buy our NP fishing permits, and grab some dinner. Maybe a beer or two (maybe). As a general rule I’ve never found the food to be all that great in West Yellowstone, and I just hope we remember which places are better than the others. Last year we had some lousy Chinese food one night, and some even worse pizza the other night (only because Wild West Pizzeria was closed for remodeling last year, and we usually eat there).
Saturday is the opener of fishing in the Park, and we’ll spend that day and the next striking fear into the rainbows and browns that inhabit the Firehole River through the Midway Geyser Basin. We’ll walk a long ways to get away from the majority of the other anglers who tend to fish with the road in sight. We’ll see plenty of bison, and some may get a little closer than comfort dictates. While the fish may not be very big on average, the Firehole always fishes well and Marck will post twice the catch numbers that the rest of us do. But everyone will catch enough fish to boost their egos. The days will be long but I’ll be well rested because I’m not bunking with the Goosemaster.
On Memorial Day Monday morning we’ll depart West Yellowstone and hit the Madison at Three Dollar Bridge. I’m not running wind sprints to play Marck’s Personal Photographer this year – I plan to be too busy catching my own fish, and I anticipate this truly being a memorable day. After the day on the Madison we’ll drive to Ennis for dinner, then push onward to Butte for the cheapest overnight lodging we can find. No matter what we pay for a hotel it will seem like too much because all we’ll do is sleep for about 7 hours before rising early and hitting I-90 westbound. We’ll arrive back in North Bend late Tuesday afternoon where we’ll probably greeted by rain. Another 25 miles and I’ll be home. Once there I’ll have to clean up my act and my language, shower and shave and head to my daughter’s high school senior awards night. If I’m late for that I might as well not come home at all.
I’ve cleaned my fly lines, restocked my supply 4x and 5x leaders, waterproofed the Lucky Fishing Hat, and gone over my checklist several times. I’m pretty stoked about putting my recently acquired Sage DXL Typhoon Waist Pack to the test. I got the big one so I can carry enough stuff to weigh me down and give me better footing on slippery rocks. I’m reasonably confident I’ve got everything packed and ready to go. I’m trying to think with a clear head so I won’t forget anything, but honestly I won’t know what I forgot until it’s too late.
One never knows exactly what to expect when one goes fishing, but when going fishing in Montana this time of year, Mother Nature has many surprises. We may suffer frostbite, heat stroke, or both in the same day. We’ll get either wind burned or sun burned, so chap stick will be in order no matter what. We’ll fish in driving sleet and under warm sunny skies– likely a combination of the two (and all within the same hour). Rivers may be clear (likely not), high and off color (safer bet), or something in between (wishful possibility). But there are fish to be caught no matter what. We’ll be in Montana, afterall (and Wyoming, technically, when fishing the Firehole inside the Park). Assuming I’ll never get to Chile to fish in my lifetime, or even to Alaska for that matter, Montana is my Promised Land for trout fishing, and I can’t wait to get there.
The only part of the trip I’m not anticipating is the drive home, which always seems to be painfully slow. Like waiting for ketchup to emerge from the bottle. But even that will have it’s benefits, as I’ll be able to spend some quality time writing quality material for several new blog entries while the events are still fresh in my mind. You see, this trip isn’t the selfish endeavor that it may appear to be– it’s field research and an opportunity to benefit my loyal readers.
All 7 of you.