May2014

Same old, same old Firehole.

As the departure date for the annual pilgrimage to Yellowstone nears, anticipation builds as it does every year. This is a trip of traditions, and not surprisingly I’ve written of it many times before:

2009
2010
2010, again
2011
2012
2013

This blog entry is a preview as much as it is a review because this trip is nearly always the same. 

It never fails—the drive is always long. We’ve yet to figure out a way to change that. But the destination is always worth the 12-hour drive.

We always stay at the Ho Hum Motel in West Yellowstone.

The cats are always there to welcome us.

No two years see the same assembly of Rangers, although it’s largely the same core group. I was a Rookie Ranger in 2006. Couldn’t make the trip in 2007, but haven’t missed a trip since. One year it was just me and Marck (talk about a blow to one’s fishing ego). Marck is always there. Goose has been a constant since before my time. Nash is there more often than he’s not. Jimmy has been a reliable Ranger since 2010. Morris was a Rookie in 2012 and  has enjoyed his non-Rookie status ever since. Erique was there a couple times but hasn’t been seen since 2010. Lancelot seems to have been a one-hit wonder. No matter the headcount, it’s always a great group of guys. Always.

Firehole Rangers circa 2010

Firehole Rangers circa 2011

Firehole Rangers circa 2012

Last year we were even joined by some girls…

Firehole Rangers circa 2013

…and a guy wearing a girl’s shirt.

No matter who shows up, we can always count on one thing: the weather. It is always unpredictable. Some years it snows a little.

Other years it snows a lot.

Sometimes the weather is decent.

Less often it’s downright pleasant. This much is certain: the weather is never the same, even within a 2 hour window.

Another thing that we cannot change is the flow of the river. Some years the Firehole runs a bit high with runoff while other years the flows are perfect. But either way, there are lots of fish in the Firehole and it fishes very well. After getting to know the river, one can be guaranteed to catch rainbows in certain areas, browns in others. And in some spots you will catch either, or both.

Most of the fish are typically in the 10-12 inch range.

Occasionally a larger fish is found.

The bigger fish are always browns.

No matter the size, the fish are always cooperative. And Marck always catches the most. Always.

It’s a risky proposition the mess with tradition, and being creatures of habit the Rangers generally avoid varying our habits. But this year there’s one significant change: we’re going back a week later than usual. The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, when fishing opens in the Park, has always been motivation. What can we expect to be different this year? Hopefully not much, other than smaller crowds and maybe—just maybe—a better chance at some nice weather. Reports from those who fished the Firehole on opening weekend this year indicated high water and slow fishing. Unusually and previously unseen slow fishing. Glad we’re going a week later–hopefully things will have improved by then.

In reality it will probably  just be more of the same. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Fly Fishing Idaho’s Secret Waters

Idaho may be best known for its famous potatoes, but it’s beans that are being spilled in author Chris Hunt’s recently-released book, Fly Fishing Idaho’s Secret Waters—or so one may think, based on the title alone. When I first heard that Hunt’s book was hitting the shelves my first thought was, “Sweet, he’s dishing out GPS coordinates.” My second thought was,”Oh, crap—sh#t is about to hit the fan!”

I’m lucky enough to fish Idaho a couple of times each year, but like many other visiting anglers I gravitate toward better-known rivers: after all, it’s not always feasible to do much prospecting when you’ve got only a few days at your disposal. In particular I love fishing the upper St. Joe and each time I’ve visited this gorgeous part of northern Idaho I’ve pondered the lesser-known backcountry streams—hidden gems that are tucked away, off the beaten path, in this part of the state (and elsewhere). I figured this new book would point me exactly where I need to go; maybe even tell me which rock to stand on. And so it was that I opened the book, hopeful the author had done all the legwork for me. After all, with a name like Hunt, certainly it was his job to track down the info and provide the goods. Conversely if you happen to be of the tight-lipped position that nobody should enjoy these resources other than yourself or maybe a scant few locals, you’re likely to cringe when you read the title.

Your own priviate Idaho?

The author breaks the state into 4 general regions: Eastern, Southern, Central and Northern Idaho. Despite offering some very good general information about several rivers and creeks and even some helpful information on where to find these reclusive waters in a Gazetteer, I was largely disappointed to discover that I will still have to do a lot of legwork should I seek them out. Finding these gems on a map is one thing; leaving the road and hiking a few miles to explore them is another. Most won’t go to the trouble and that alone should come as great reassurance to the territorial Idahoans who may not be quite as enthusiastic about having  a few of their secret streams shared with the world. Furthermore, Idaho is home to an awful lot of river miles—clearly the author has only put a small dimple in the surface of all the water Idaho has to offer. 

Follow the blue squiggly lines.

The author is a passionate conservationist—that comes across in his writing—and anyone who cares about a resource understands that rivers and fish need supporters. To keep these little gems of backcountry streams under lock and key would be a disservice to the waters themselves. If few people are aware of a particular hidden treasure, when that treasure needs advocacy who’s going to take up the fight? Those that care; those who have been there. By offering a glimpse at a few of Idaho’s “secret waters” the author is actually inviting readers to care. 

Hunt writes real good and he weaves personal experiences and a bit of colorful history into his description of the backcountry streams mentioned in his book. This makes for a very enjoyable read and I found myself eagerly pouring over each chapter. At 128 pages I was left wanting more—not necessarily more insider information into the backcountry streams of Idaho—but more of the good stuff that makes this much more than just a ‘where and how-to fish’ guidebook. Like the state of Idaho itself, this book is a gem. 

Fly Fishing Idaho’s Secret Waters (History Press) carries a retail price of $19.99 and can be found at many of popular places where people buy books on the internet.