It’s that time of year again, when the annual pilgrimage of the Firehole Rangers looms large like a bull bison standing over a fallen touron. Fishing opens inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and for me it is the gateway trip to summer trout fishing, my favorite fishing season of the year. I like to be warm when I’m fishing, and summer offers that.
Late May/early June in Yellowstone is the time of year when, despite the occasional late Spring snow storm, the weather is often quite enjoyable. The herds of cow bison with their calves meander without a care in the world, grazing on new sprouts of tender green grass. The bison seem rather content, as well they should be, for it is a good time of year to be alive.
But it wasn’t all that many weeks ago that winter still had its grip on the Yellowstone area, and winter is a serious matter here: long, and very, very cold. As I’ve stood along the banks of the Firehole River in the past, I’ve tried to imagine this place during the dead of winter.
Even during a Spring snowstorm I can’t quite wrap my head around the severity of winter here. It boggles my mind to think that critters like bison can survive many months of brutal cold, where daytime temps range from zero to 20F and sub-zero temperatures are common, especially at night. And what of the snowfall, that can average 150 inches per year (more in higher elevations)? Withstanding the cold is one thing, finding enough food to keep them energized enough to survive is another. Bison are amazing animals. Their wool has incredible insulating qualities. It has to be in order for them to survive Yellowstone’s harsh winters.
According to The Buffalo Wool Company, bison wool is “Soft enough to wrap a baby in, tough enough to keep a mountain man warm in a blizzard.”
That may be true, but I am neither baby nor mountain man. Just an unaccomplished angler. I do, however, appreciate warm feet during the winter season, and as I’ve gotten older and more “wambly” (according to my buddy Large Albacore), I’ve struggled to find socks that keep my toes warm when standing knee deep in a steelhead river in Fall and late winter. Or how about a trout stream in February, when cabin fever drives an angler to such desperate measures as high stick nymphing for catatonic trout in the dead of winter? Enter the Advantage Trekker Bison/Merino Boot Socks by The Buffalo Wool Company. These babies are like buffalo blankets for the feet, and everything the proprietors say is true:
“Not to toot our own horns, but these are probably the most effective use of bison fiber. The ultra soft, very crimpy bison fiber creates warmth, is extremely moisture wicking, and keeps feet comfortable and dry. Bison offers superior breathability, temperature regulation and natural odor resistance. These socks have a stay-in-place fit, flex zones for added mobility, targeted heavy cushioning, and long-wear durability, making them an ideal addition to any outdoor lover’s wardrobe.”
These socks are super warm for outdoor winter pursuits, but they’re also comfortable to wear sitting around the house during the cold months (the very reasonable cost of the socks—$38.00—sure beats the cost of paying to run the furnace all winter long). And because they are a generous boot length sock, they also look great with sandals.
When The Buffalo Wool Company contacted me to see if they could send me a pair of their socks in exchange for mention of their product on my blog, I harkened immediately back to a scene from Dances With Wolves:
These tatanka wool socks are sweet. Good trade, indeed.
Ironically, as I was sitting down to scribe this Drivel® I happened upon a Facebook (boo, hiss–nobody likes you any more, Zuckerberg) post by my virtual social media buddy Mike Sepelak of Mike’s Gone Fishin’…Again fame and fortune. His commentary I found ironic and timely:
“I’ve always had the uncanny ability to show up for the worst week of fishing anyone has seen in five years. Like most savants with an instinctive skill, I have no idea how I do this; it just comes naturally.” – John Gierach, “Pyramid Lake”, TROUT Magazine (Spring 2018 edition)
Good Lord, can I relate. As usual, John articulates what I can only feel.
Far be it for me to put the Brothers Albacore in the same category as the esteemed Misters Gierach or Sepelak, but they (the Bros) do have a knack for bad timing when it comes to weather, rivers and fishing. Large and Junior Albacore (AKA Sunny Jim and Victor) really do have an uncanny propensity for bringing out the worst in the conditions when we go fishing, and unfortunately they often drag me
along down with them. Lest one should think me exaggeratory for the purposes of sensationalist journalism, allow me to enter into evidence our last four outings.
Yakima River, WA Spring 2016. I remember the day vividly, a day we had selected weeks in advance. Things looked good right up until a day or so before we were to go fishing, when a ton of rain fell. While the weather cleared up, when we got to the put-in the river graphs were going straight up. I recall that the water was off color, turbid and filled with debris, as one would expect following the deluge of rain. I remember that we didn’t touch a fish all day long. What I don’t remember is why I didn’t scribe an entry, because it was a noteworthy skunking.
Clearwater River, Idaho, October 2016. This is a fairly dry part of the country, where seldom does it rain incessantly. However, it did just that for nearly 4 days straight. So much so that there were no campfires at night, and Gore Tex garments were put to the test. The river wasn’t blown out, but the rain definitely put a damper on things, including the fishing. One fish was landed between 4 of us. It was on my rod, but I was not the angler. Neither was either of the Brothers Albacore. If you care to read about that debacle, be my guest: Weather or not to go steelhead fishing.
Forks, WA, March 2017. While the wounds were still fresh from the Clearwater trip mentioned afore, we headed out to the wettest location in the lower 48. It’s always a dicey weather proposition fishing the coastal rivers of the Olympic Penninsula, as we departed home we knowingly drive head-on into massive storm. I guess we thought it might not be as bad as the forecast called for. We were wrong. If you’re interested in reading about that shit show, have at it: Hopelessly watching basketball instead of steelhead fishing.
Yakima River, March 2018. The most recent excursion involving the Brothers Albacore took place just last weekend. We had planned the day weeks in advance. The river had been holding consistently at typically low springtime levels. Fishing wasn’t red hot (it never is on the Yakima) but fish were being caught, and a few were taking skwala dries (if you believe guide reports). A week in advance of our scheduled trip, the weather looked to be pretty favorable. And then it rained all day two days before. The river spiked 1000 CFS and leveled off. It may have begun a very, very gradual drop, but it was so slight that it did nothing to improve the conditions of the river. I also learned after the fact that there was a controlled release of water from reservoirs to help flush juvenile salmon downstream. Impeccable timing all around.
Clearly, the common denominator is obvious: The Albacore Bros. are a dark cloud of angling despair, and by virtue of association I am very often an innocent victim of their poor timing and luck. But there’s more to fishing than just catching fish, and it’s always great just to get out.
We make sure that we remind ourselves of that repeatedly.
We all strive for success in various ways. For writers, the ultimate feather in the cap is being published in a well-respected magazine or newspaper, or perhaps authoring one’s own book(s). John Gierach, for example, has attained that level of success many times over, and for good reason: he writes real good. In addition to his many books, for many years Gierach wrote a column for Fly Rod & Reel magazine. Artists and illustrators often follow a similar path in pursuit of success, and one notable artist in the world of fly fishing and outdoor sports is Bob White, whose work accompanied Gierach’s words for many years in Fly Rod & Reel. John and Bob were quite a team until Fly Rod & Reel went the way of the dinosaurs in early 2017. Former FR&R editor Greg Thomas wrote of the end in this blog article, Fly Rod & Reel: End of a Magazine Era.
But despite the end of one era, all is not lost for fans of Gierach and White, whose collaboration continues with Trout Unlimited’s TROUT magazine. In July 2017 it was announced that the dynamic duo would continue their joint efforts to provide insight and entertainment for readers of the fly fishing persuasion. I, for one, was rather pleased to learn of this, but when the Fall 2017 issue of TROUT arrived in the mail, I knew something was amiss before I’d seen the magazine. I was out of town when it arrived, but I received a text message from my good buddy Derek Young,
the famous fish painter. Derek wrote, “Is Bob White your new pen name?” Accompanying that mysterious inquiry was the following photo from page 10:
Those of astute observationary ways may note that it appears to be a somewhat outdated photo of Gierach—rarely seen without his iconic hat—but what’s particularly
interesting troubling is the photo of Bob White. Now, I’ve never met Bob in person, but we are friends on Facebook, and we’ve shared many a one-on-one correspondence. I know from photos that Bob is a much more ruggedly handsome individual than the photo above suggests. The photo below reveals the Bob White whose work we’ve all come to enjoy over the years.
So, what gives? If this were an April 1st edition of the magazine, I’d understand. But here we are, 6 months away from April Fool’s Day.
I suppose the editor-in-chief of TROUT, Kirk
Werner Deeter, will have some future explanation. Quite possibly a retraction statement will be published in the Spring issue. In the meantime, condolences to Bob White: I wouldn’t wish this particular case of mistaken identity on anyone 😉
As Bob’s team of attorneys and public relations experts work feverishly to clean up this mess, please take time to visit his website and check out his work: The Classic Sporting Art of Bob White
A recent tweet by Seattle’s KING 5 News shared a story about the Yellowstone Supervolcano, the headline of which is sure to get people to read the article because that’s what a good headline does: it sells news! And once folks have read the article, many will probably still panic. The article suggests that the gurgling volcano under the Yellowstone is expected to blow much sooner than originally expected. And it could wipe out life on the planet.
But before you reach for the antidepressants, remember that this volcanic event would—quickly and efficiently—also take care of Kim Jong Un, terrorism and all the other unsavory world problems, of which there seems to be no shortage.
Here’s a particularly interesting excerpt from the article:
“About 630,000 years ago, National Geographic reported, a powerful eruption shook the region and created the Yellowstone caldera, a bowl 40 miles wide that forms much of the park.”
Odd. I knew National Geographic has been around a long time, but I didn’t realize the organization has been around for 630,000 years!
Again, before you freak out, you should know something that wasn’t stated clearly in the article: An eruption destroying life on the planet will not likely happen any time soon. The article states that “…more research is necessary before definite conclusions can be drawn.”
Here’s a link to the article.
I’ve oft-stated that when the supevolcano does blow, I want to be standing knee deep in the Firehole River, tight to a feisty 12″ trout. I don’t want to be 700 miles away, with time to learn that the blast is fast approaching.
Have a nice day!
About a year ago I received an email from Greg Hardy, President of the Gore Range Anglers (Colorado) Chapter of Trout Unlimited, asking if I would be interested in working on a project he had conceived. I had previously designed a logo for the chapter in May 2016, which is how Greg came by my name. This new project Greg had in mind was of considerable scope, not only from the standpoint from which I would be involved, but as a whole. Greg’s vision, to be called the Blue River Explorer Hike, was loosely modeled after the National Park Service Junior Ranger program. Through a series of interpretive signs to be placed along the Blue River Trail in Silverthorne (Colorado), Greg’s goal was to educate visitors—kids, and adults alike—about the Blue River Watershed. It’s a complex watershed that supplies a vast amount of limited water to not only the local area, but the greater Denver area well beyond Silverthorne.
The signs would include graphic-intensive information ranging from What Trout Need and What Trout Eat, to How Watersheds Work, and How We Measure Water, plus more; all pertaining to the Blue River Watershed. As a Trout Unlimited Life Member, it sounded to me like a very worthy project. Of course I was interested.
And so began many months of phone calls and back-and-forth emails. I was sent information in text form (some of it written on restaurant napkins) and tasked with taking that information, paring it down and communicating it in as visually pleasing and simple a manner as possible, because—as we all know—people like looking at pictures more than reading words (says the long-winded author of this blog).
In addition to the signs, I also designed an Activity Booklet that kids (and big kids) will receive for free when they register for the Blue River Explorer Hike at the Silverthorne Welcome Center. The booklet contains word search games, crossword puzzles, coloring pages and other fun stuff suitable for ages 4 and up, so be sure to stop by when you’re in Silverthorne and register for the hike. Note: Be sure to do this during spring, summer or fall, as the signs will likely be buried under (hopefully) several feet of snow during the winter months.
The entire project, given the scope of it all, went very smoothly. At least it did from my standpoint. As I worked away on the illustrations and sign designs, Greg was busy with adult stuff and orchestrating the entire thing: rounding up sponsors and grant money to cover the cost of production, printing, construction and placement of the signs, etc. This was no small task given the organizations and entities involved.
While I live 1,288.8 miles from Silverthorne and wasn’t able to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony on September 11, 2017, I’m very proud to have been involved in this grass-roots project (and pleased to have Olive the Woolly Bugger participate as a sponsor). I hope that, with the help of Trout Unlimited chapters elsewhere, similar programs will be duplicated on watersheds throughout the country. Every watershed has a great many demands placed upon it, from agriculture and municipal requirements, to recreational usage that includes, among other things, fishing. Anglers certainly are (or should be) aware of conservation issues facing their local waters, but the general public isn’t always as keenly dialed in on such matters. Because water is not an unlimited resource it is imperative that the public learn about the complexities of each watershed so that we may all become conservation-minded stewards as we go about our lives.
Here’s an article commemorating the ribbon cutting ceremony from the Silverthorne city website: http://www.silverthorne.org/Home/Components/News/News/691/26
The article also contains a couple of videos, which I’ve extracted here for your viewing pleasure:
Thank you to all the individuals, businesses and organizations involved the successful completion of the Blue River Explorer Hike project. Especially, thanks to Greg Hardy for your passion and vision, and for reaching out and involving me. Just remember, there’s no “t” in Kirk. 😉