Yellowstone Park

The Firehole Rangers: Day Two

As was hinted at in last week’s Drivel®, day two on the Firehole River brought with it some change. The locals had been looking nervously over their shoulders and whispering under their breath about a weather system due to arrive overnight and bring with it 6-10 inches of snow. Our biggest concern was that the Park would be closed and we wouldn’t be able to fish. Fortunately there wasn’t even a trace of snow on the ground Sunday morning and we entered the gates without so much as a verbal warning about winter driving conditions. Well, come to think of it I guess there was a small sandwich board sign that cautioned drivers of potentially slippery roads, but there was no grand warning of any kind. Yes, snow was forecasted, and the sky had a grim demeanor about it, but how bad could it really be?  Afterall, it was late Spring. May 29th to be certain.

The streets of West Yellowstone: May 29, 2011

We’ve witnessed many a wintery squall while fishing the Firehole over the years but they’ve always blown in and blown out, never sticking around for more than an hour or so. The weather changes quickly in Yellowstone, and that’s something that never changes. But as we pulled into the parking lot at Fountain Flat, the snow began to fall. By the time we had geared up, my fingers were numb. They hadn’t been this cold since I’d gone steelhead fishing 8 months earlier during a snowstorm in Catatonia.

Goosemeister, Jimmy, Marck, Nash, UA

 

After a quick team photo in which The Goosemeister appears particularly uncomfortable, Jimmy appears particularly happy, Marck appears much shorter than he really is, Nash can be seen with his jacket tucked inside his waders, and I appear much taller than I really am thanks to my Lucky Fishing Hat, we hiked upstream in the blowing snow. There was nobody else fishing on this particular morning, and with the snow driving into our faces or piling up on our backside (depending upon which side of the river we were on), it was easy to understand why we were alone.

But once you got past the blowing snow and focused on the fishing, there was cause for celebration: the fishing was good. It always slows down a bit on the second day, but this year that didn’t seem to be the case. At one point while standing mid-river and catching my 7th trout in 9 casts, I literally laughed out loud. The fish seemed a little bigger on average, or maybe they just looked bigger through sunglass lenses obscured by droplets of melting snow.

We fished our way downstream, past the falls toward the bridge. The snow continued. It was more like winter than late Spring. The Bison seemed unimpressed with us for having braved the weather. What do they know? They’re just stupid animals.

After 4 hours of this, we did something we’d ever done before on previous years: we changed plans–called an audible. It was decided that we would take a mid-day break from the weather and go have lunch at the Old Faithful Lodge Inn (thanks to RJ Berens for catching my error). This radical suggestion was met with enthusiastic response from all members, so we hiked back to the rig, in the still-driving snow, stowed our wet gear in the back of the snow-covered suburban, and drove the short distance to the Lodge Inn. I’d never been there before and was impressed by the number of cars filling the parking lot and the shear size of the structure.

While we enjoyed the respite from the weather and feasted on a fine, warm lunch, it continued to snow outside. We were fairly comfortable with our bellies full of grub and our fingers finally thawed. Lesser men would have opted to skip the afternoon fishing session, but we are not lesser men. We were here to fish, and weather be damned, fishing was what we were going to to.

Parking at Biscuit Basin, we enthusiastically geared up once again. This time it seemed more painful than ever and before my boots were laced my fingers had once again lost all feeling. The good thing about the Firehole River is that if your fingers do get cold, it’s not hard to find a thermal with a nice temperature of, say 80 degrees, in which to warm up. Just be careful not to pick a thermal that’s considerably closer to the boiling point. I didn’t, but mind you that can be an easy miscalculation.

On average, fishing was slower this afternoon than it had been earlier that morning, but the Firehole continued to give up plenty of fish, including some nice risers during a brief hatch.

Anyone who spends any amount of time recreating outdoors knows the importance of being comfortable, and you’re all probably wondering about Nash, whose waders had taken on water the previous day. Did he get everything dried out properly? Was he suffering miserably on this second, cold and dreadfully wet day? Well, thanks to an extra pair of waders that Jimmy had brought along, Nash was dry and comfortable on day two. At least he was until late in the afternoon when he noticed that his legs felt damp. It was at this point he acknowledged that wearing one’s jacket on the outside of one’s waders is the preferred method of layering in precipitous weather. Lessons learned, we hiked back to the parking lot and bade farewell to the Firehole River for another year. It felt good to be inside the rig with the heater on. As we drove off, a miserable herd of Bison passed by in close proximity. How do ya like us now, huh? Stupid animals.

That evening from our lavish suite at the Ho Hum, a beacon of comfort and Southern goodness shined in the distance and beckoned us to feast in celebration.

As we did, we rejoiced in the splendor of the two days we’d spent on the Firehole River. We had caught many fish, as we always do. Sometimes the weather is as expected. Other times it is not. That was definitely the case this year.

To read about the next day of our trip, which was written about previously, go HERE.