yellowstone national park

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Redington Sonic Pro Zip Waders: A Review

When the box arrived from Bainbridge Island-based Redington, I was immediately excited because I knew the contents were a pair of Sonic Pro Waders. I resisted the temptation to put them on right away, instead opting to take my time; give them a good inspection first.

I liked what I saw.

Redington Sonic Pro Waders (front)

The waterproof, breathable material is supple where it needs to be (3 layers), extra thick and reinforced (5 layers) appropriately where it should be: in the knees, legs and seat. Anywhere there’s a seam, one thing you won’t find is stitching. This is by virtue of the Sonic Welding process which uses sound to replace needles and thread.  I held my ear close to the seams and was unable to hear anything. That being said, I admittedly have some hearing loss so I don’t doubt Redington’s claims. It sure makes good common sense to eliminate needles and stitching when fabricating something that will be submerged. And this process also creates perfectly flat seams, reducing wear spots. I won’t take up your time with all the details, but if you’re really curious about the technical features of the waders, read about it HERE. By the way, Redington has a real nicely designed website, so check it out. There’s a lot of helpful information for the new angler just getting started.

Redington Sonic Pro Waders (back)

I am no stranger to zippered waders, having purchased a pair of Dan Bailey EZ Zip Guide Waders several years ago. When I purchased the Dan Baileys, they were really the only viable option for those wanting a quality pair of waders featuring a full-length zipper. Since then, the virtues of a full-length zipper have been obviously embraced by others in the industry, as evidenced by Redington’s entry into the category. I lowered the RiRi® zipper (standard for most zippered waders), which makes getting into the waders a snap. No doubt ingress and egress are what the designers had in mind when designing these. The zipper also adds to the convenience of engaging in certain other activities, though I am sure that this added benefit is likely nothing more than an unintentional side-benefit. Sorry, ladies–it really is easier being a guy.

High density, ergonomically shaped neoprene booties and gravel guards with molded, anti-foul lace hooks are featured to provide comfort and durability. The waders come with an adjustable, neoprene wading belt and feature belt loops to keep it in place. I actually like the fact that the belt isn’t permanently integrated into the waders because I wear a fanny waist pack that serves as both a wading belt and as lower back support. Having an integrated belt would just cause bulk and interference.

External front pockets

Internal pocket, perfect for similar-sized items.

On the front are two vertical, laser-cut exterior pockets with YKK water resistant zippers which measure approximately 7″ H x 6″ W; plenty big enough for a standard size fly box. On the inside of the waders is a slightly smaller pocket suitable for a wallet and digital point-and-shoot, or similar sized items. There are zippered hand-warmer pockets on the outside, lined with micro fleece for warming the fingers. These are essential if you’re known to stand in a river in the middle of winter from time to time, as I’m known to do. Often times I question my judgment in doing so. The zippered closure on the hand-warmer pockets may initially seem unnecessary, but during the months when you do not need to warm your hands, the zip closure allows you to secure any items you may wish to place in the pockets. Two discreet but much-appreciated D-rings, for attaching things that require attachment loops, are featured at the top edge of the waders.

After pouring over the features mentioned thus far, I unclipped the suspenders and slipped into the waders (which was easy, due to the full-length zipper, BTW). Upon reaching back to grab and fasten the suspenders, I thought I might have had the straps twisted. This was easily confirmed by another ingenious feature: Redington has fashioned the suspender clips so that you can only fasten them properly.  The receiver clip on the right front of the waders is a male connector; the same clip on the left side is female. The strap clips are female and male, accordingly.  If your mind is in the gutter this may sound sorta kinky, but truth be told it’s actually a really nice little design feature. This may not seem like such a stroke of genius until you’ve put a pair of suspenders on and inadvertently criss-crossed the straps.

Apparently I need to hit the gym.

After I had the suspenders adjusted and the zipper secured in the up position, I pulled the inner drawstring tight to snug-up the top of the waders. The only thing I’d like to see changed with regard to this feature would be to have two separate drawstrings (one for each side). By the time I got the waders cinched snug, there was a fair amount of excess drawstring hanging down. Not a big deal, and I suppose if you’ve got a stouter chest than I do this won’t be an issue. Maybe this is an indication that I need to spend some time in the gym, on the bench press. Low reps. Heavy weight. Many sets.

Once the waders were in donned and adjusted, the next thing I did was, of course, a vanity test. A brief glance in the full-length mirror revealed that these waders don’t make my arse look any bigger than any other pair of waders. Butt However form is secondary to function, so next up was a quick mobility test: some deep squats and lunges that revealed plenty of room and flex, even with fleece pants underneath. This flexibility is due to articulated seams and less bulk due to the lack of stitched seams. Then I took off at a sprint down the hallway and bounded up the flight of stairs, taking two at a time. Now you may be rolling your eyes at my antics, but this sort of physical agility test can easily be required while beating through the brush, up and down slopes, en route to and from the river–particularly when being chased by a bear, bison or other large animal. Remember, one needn’t be particularly fast–just faster than your fishing buddy. I am confident the Redington waders will not in any way interfere with my ability to outrun Marck when we’re fishing the Firehole River in Yellowstone again this year.

If you are looking for a pair of stout, high-quality waders with, among other nice features, a full length zipper, the Redington Sonic Pros look to be an excellent choice.  At $379, they are not cheap, but they’re considerably lower-priced than other waders in the class, which will leave you feeling confident that you made a smart choice. I anticipate enjoying these for many years, and hope to have a chance to get them out in the water soon. I’ll report back after their first field test. If they do happen to spring a leak, I have to wonder–will I hear the telltale hissing sound similar to when a tire, or one’s fishing raft, springs a leak?

Get it?  Sonic welded…using sound? Never mind.

Wow, tough crowd.


Some folks are fishy. I however, am not: Part I

Perhaps you’re one of the chosen few. We all know the type: Those who catch fish when the fish don’t seem to be playing nicely; the ones who cannot seem to keep fish from interrupting their quiet time on the water.  I have a buddy like that.  Let’s call him Marck (not his real name). Marck is a fishy son of a…gun.

I’ll admit that fishing with Marck can be similar to the morbid curiosity that occurs when we seeing something deeply troublesome–you know you should turn away and never look back, yet you can’t help yourself. And so it is with fishing with Marck: I know he’s going to catch fish when I can’t seem to get a look. My little angling confidence I have takes a beating, yet I continually fish with him, far and near.  Maybe I hope to gain the satisfaction of catching a fish that he didn’t. Or maybe I can learn something by observing the Master. I think the reality of it all is that I’m just a glutton for punishment.

Every year on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend we meet at Marck’s house at 4:30 AM and drive to Yellowstone to fish the Firehole River (the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend marks the Park opener).  We do this trip on the cheap, sparing all expenses by staying at the Ho-Hum Motel in West Yellowstone. I doubt, in this day and age when innocent terms from the past have evolved into modern slang with entirely different meanings, that anybody in their right mind would bestow that name upon a motel. But this place has been around for a good long while, named during an era when “ho-hum” meant “boring and dull; mundane” (so get your minds out of the gutter). The proprietor is a unique old gal with a penchant for cats–lots of them, that apparently use the carpet in her home/office to soak up their urine. Low room rates bode well for us because we’re on the water early until late, only enjoying the comforts (exaggerated term) of a hotel bed for a few hours at night. At the Ho-Hum you get what you pay for, which is perfect for us because nice lodging would only be wasted on us (same with good beer).

dscn0221Anyway, back to Marck. He’s been making this trip since just after the park was founded in 1872, and he knows how to get it done on the Firehole. No matter what the fishing reports and fly recommendations at Blue Ribbon Flies or Arrick’s say, Marck uses the same fly every year, without diversion. It’s largely a subsurface game this time of year, and we fish nymphs dead-drifted without indicators. There is a chance for the very occasional blue wing olive hatch, but it doesn’t present itself every year, and sometimes even when a hatch does come off, the fish, for whatever reason, never turn on. So, to this end Marck’s go-to fly is a certain nymph pattern available at only one shop in town, and apparently Marck is the only person who knows how to effectively fish it.


dscn1625Beyond knowing how to read the water he also seems capable of reading their minds, knows exactly where the fish are, and wades aggressively to get to them. I’ve tried following him a few times, but his inseam is about 12 inches longer than mine, so do the math and you’ll discover how water depths affect us differently.  Fishing the Firehole on opening morning will yield fish to even the most unaccomplished angler and I’d be telling the honest truth if I said I’ve caught 25-30 fish on the first day. Well, Marck easily doubles that catch rate. Whenever I look over my shoulder to see if there’s a rogue bull Bison pawing the ground, eyeing me up for a bit of sport, I’ll see Marck with a bend in his rod, or having just released another rainbow or brown, or replacing his ravaged fly; shredded and dull-hooked from excessive action.

Fishing last year was not quite up to previous years’ standards, and just so you don’t think I’m making excuses, we encountered other anglers who proclaimed as much: Experienced fishermen who wore the long faces of despair, having caught single digit numbers of fish after all day on the Firehole. However, in addition to easily catching 30 fish on the

opening day last year (remember, dscn0190this number was way down from years past) Marck also managed an act of mythical proportions by catching a brown on the lower section of the Biscuit Basin area that he taped at 20+ inches. I’ve never touched a fish on the Firehole over 13 inches (most seem to range between 10 and 12 inches) and if I thought Marck was exaggerating the size of the fish I’da called him out right then and there. But you see, Marck’s not a braggart, either. He’s actually a pretty quiet-spoken guy, reserving comments for stellar fish such as, “It was a nice fish.”  So, while one never hears of fish like that being caught on that river, and I myself never saw the fish, I believe him. Mostly. Now, is he capable of having possibly miscalculated the size of that fish?  Anything’s possible when you’re fishing at an elevation of 8000 feet. And who knows for certain what sort of havoc the sulfuric gasses emitted from the thermals can wreak on one’s mental capacities.  But if I accused him of that, he’d just say I was spewing sour grapes.

And he’d be right.


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