Firehole River fly fishing

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.

 

Change comes to the Firehole

The annual pilgrimage to Yellowstone is a trip of traditions where very little changes year to year and we generally wouldn’t have it any other way. In most cases, change is bad: nothing wrong with a little status quo. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, this year there were some notable changes to the program and change isn’t always bad.

 

2013 Firehole Rookie Ranger

For 2013 the Firehole Rangers were joined by a new Rookie Ranger and 3 guests. This year’s Rookie Ranger was Sir Lancelot—a gentleman someone I’ve known for many years and have fished with and written about previously. In fact Lancelot was the first guest blogger to grace the pages of the UA. Lancelot was a welcome addition to the ranks; he’s the type of guy that makes you feel better about yourself.

Robert and 2/3 of the Trifecta

Our 3 guests included two of the Trifecta: Rachel and Aileen (Rebecca was unable to make it). They were joined by Aileen’s fiancee Robert, who had never before angled (he can’t say that any more). It was great to finally meet folks with whom I’d previously had only the occasion to meet via the internets. No unsavory surprises here, though I am not sure they can say the same.

No, really—it’s not that bad.

Trifecta of cats.

Speaking of unsavory…a big surprise was the office lobby at the Ho Hum which, while still heavy with the smell of cat, was actually tolerable this year. Aileen and Rachel may not have agreed, but they had nothing to compare it with. Take our word for it, ladies—it smelled nearly like potpurri this year (get it? purr-i?).  Sorry, that was lame.

 

Jimmy’s Jordans.

Another change for 2013 was fashion. Not something that has ever before been a consideration, clothing and accessories actually played a significant role in this year’s trip. First up: Jimmy’s shoes. Not really sure what would possess a grown man to purchase shoes like this even if they were free. Rest assured Jimmy took a ration of crap over it, but perhaps not as much crap as was dished out for Lancelot…

Cantaloupe was in plentiful supply.

Lancelot’s shirt made Jimmy’s shoes seem not all that bad. What may have looked good on Rachel cannot the same thing be said of Lancelot and it was the conclusion of the Ranger Disciplinary Panel that there’s absolutely no reason for a man to wear a shirt that color. Or powder blue for that matter although I regret that I did not take a photo of The Gooseman and Morris sporting their powder blue shirts—you’ll just have to take my word they they made a cute couple.

Facial fashion.

The final Firehole fashion frenzy came by way of Aileen’s and Morris’s matching Buff things. Note that they each selected shirts in a shade of blue to compliment their Buffs: Aileen sporting a royal blue while Morris rocked the powder blue referenced above.

Unrelenting blue sky.

And while we’re on the subject of blue, the final and perhaps most significant deviation from previous years came by way of the weather.  We’re accustomed to fishing in intermittent snow and driving rain. Last year and the year before have seen the worst of what Mother Nature can muster for this time of year. Sunscreen was required as we fished in our shirtsleeves under sunny skies on Saturday this year. Sunday featured a few more clouds but temperatures remained comfortably in the 60’s.

Change—sometimes good, sometimes bad, is what it is. There was plenty of it this year.

 

 

 

 

Thar she blows!

 

May 18, 1980

On the 33rd anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, I harken back to where I was and what I was doing. I was 17—a junior in high school. It was a Sunday, so I can tell you for certain I was not in church. I was living on the west side of the Cascades in a Seattle suburb. To be quite honest, the eruption was a non-event if you lived on the western side of the state. But if you lived on the other side, in central or eastern WA, it was a different story altogether.

Ash plume moves east.

Ask Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler and she’ll recall a vastly different day. She was in church, and the sky turned black as the ash plume drifted over her hometown of Yakima, WA. Ash fell from the sky, blanketing the ground. There was widespread panic and anxiety. Nobody knew if the ash was harmful to the touch or toxic to breath. There was no internet for disseminating information. Kids were out of school for nearly two weeks. Deliveries were halted to area businesses so grocery stores depleted their inventory. It was serious business.

St. Helens from the visitor’s center.

Mount St. Helens: the crater

But there was no destruction per se—it was nothing like the devastation that occurred in closer proximity to the mountain itself. In the years since May 18, 1980 I’ve seen videos, films and countless still photos but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually visited the scene of the crime first hand. To stand at the observation point looking directly at the mountain and the course of the mud flow that followed the eruption is to be blown away by the magnitude of the scale and the shear destructive power of mother nature.

Mt. Rainier: “Hey, Tacoma—You’re toast, dude!”

Still the power of the St. Helens eruption is child’s play compared to the devastation that would will likely occur if when Mt. Rainier blows its lid. I hope that doesn’t happen in my lifetime—it would change the course of life in western Washington, very likely making Spokane the second—if not THE largest economic center of the state. Tacoma stands a very real threat of being buried under several feet of mud, for sure. Seattle as a whole probably won’t crumble physically, but some reports suggest that even parts of Washington’s largest city could be devastated as the lahar (mud tsunami) hurtles rapidly down Rainier’s many river drainages toward Puget Sound. The damage to the local economy would have its effects. Like I said, I hope this happens long after I’m gone.

But it could be worse.

image courtesy http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/caldera.htm

One night several years ago while drinking beer in a bar in West Yellowstone, a local “character” (who appeared to be medicated) began to tell of the Yellowstone Supervolcano and the effects it would have on not only the greater Yellowstone area, but the entire region and in fact the world. I’ve no doubt he was medicated but his words were not far from the truth. It’s no surprise to visitors of the park that Yellowstone is all about volcanic activity.  Check out the general information provided by our friends over at Wikipedia. Of particular note is the paragraph that includes Seismic Hazards and Hydromthermal Exlosion Hazards.

Bubbling pot of hot water.

Warming one’s, um—hands—by a steam vent…

A good place to be.

My intent with this blog post is not to scare you. No, that’s what THIS ARTICLE is for.  Nor do I want to deter you from visiting Yellowstone and fishing the Firehole. In fact, put it on your bucket list because it’s a fascinating river to fish for reasons well beyond the fishing.

But if you’re like me, when the Yellowstone Supervolcano does blow—and eventually it will—you do not want to be sitting at home several hundreds of miles away, where you’ll have time to hear about the eruption on the news and panic before you’re wiped out.

No, I want to be standing knee deep in the Firehole—essentially right on top of the caldera—when she blows.

I hope it doesn’t erupt next week, but if it does I’ll be there.

 

 

 

Up the Firehole: Through the eyes of a Rookie Ranger

One thing nice about having a Rookie join the ranks of the Firehole Rangers this year was that we had us a submissive member along to do our bidding. Not only did he provide the plush mini van in which we traveled comfortably (and in shame) through Washington, Idaho and Montana, but once we reached our destination we had someone naive to check us in to the Ho Hum. Those of us who know from experience the risk associated with stepping foot inside the motel office always resist having to do so–a task administered only after drawing straws. But having a new guy along gave us veteran Rangers a much-deserved reprieve from the cat-fest. It seemed appropriately ironic that the Rookie, whose name may or may not be Morris, was ordered to stand in the face of the olfactoral assault, something he did bravely and without throwing up in his mouth. He also fetched us beers on demand, strung up our rods, bought our meals, and cleaned our gear at the end of each day. Well, 1 out of 4 ain’t bad.

Another benefit of having a Firehole first-timer along for the journey was the reminder of what it’s like to experience this amazing place for the first time. After several years of making the trip I find myself, while still in awe, more focused on the fishing than the bison, the thermal activity, the scenery. Those fixtures are always impressive, but after you’ve been there and done that a few times, it becomes somewhat commonplace. It shouldn’t be that way.

From behind the lens of his pink camera (to match his pink, v-neck Firehole Ranger Rookie t-shirt), Morris captured the magic of fishing this special place. Almost as if from a child’s innocent perspective, I give you the wonderment of the Yellowstone (thanks for the photos, Rookie).

Ho Hum Sweet Home, for a few days.

Day one brings a dusting of Montana powder.

The Goosemaster trudges past the crowds toward vacant water and gullible fish.

Late Spring in Yellowstone, Midway Geyser Basin.

Alas, the mighty Firehole. Let the lines become wet!

The weather would get worse before it got better.

The fishing could not have been any better: The Goosemaster and Marck doubled up.

Marck with the first of 273 fish for the day.

Blah, blah, blah. Whatever, Marck.

The weather broke just in time for lunch.

After which we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon of plentiful catching.

Everyone caught many fish, though some are by nature less accomplished.

Oh look, a hole in the ground filled with water. Wonder if it's hot?

Wait, Marck, this thing's going to erupt in just a second. Don't move.

Streamside attraction.

 

And then it would rain hard, and BWO's would hatch. Many fish eating real bugs, not ours.

 

That night, back at the Ho Hum...

Gooseman pontificates on one of many subjects before we head out for pizza and more beer.

Day two: There are many large animals in Yellowstone.

On this second day there was less snow, more cold. Biscuit Basin, YNP.

Catching was slower than the day before, depending on who you asked.

Jimmy didn't much complain.

The UA would complain, but still managed a fish.

Between naps, The Goosemaster got in on some action.

Marck only caught 167 fish on day two. Ha! Take THAT!

Lunch, under blue skies.

Thus concludes day two on the Firehole.

 

Thanks, Rookie Ranger, for the reminder of what it’s all about. See you next year, if I’m invited back.

Firehole Rangers 2012: dressed for success

There’s so much I want to tell you about this year’s Firehole Ranger road trip, but I’ve got a lot of photos to edit and thoughts to gather before I can post anything of significant eloquence and refinement, as you are all accustomed to here at the UA. So while you wait eagerly until I get something together, I wanted to share with you our 2012 team t-shirts provided, by Marck, for the recent trip to Yellowstone. By the way, fishing was good.

For the veteran Rangers, black t-shirts. Very outlaw, manly.

 

For the Rookie Ranger, a pink t-shirt (V-neck, no less).

Stay tuned for more, and thanks for stopping by.