Friday, July 31, 2015

Rainbow Lake

“I can’t find Goose Lake Road on the map; all I see is Goose Creek Park Road.” Gracy said, as she looked on her phone to find our turning point.  
“It will be there, this is Roger we are talking about.” I said, as we drove.  When looking for a trailhead, the last thing you want to do is miss a turn and go the wrong way. But we were following Roger Philips's Hiking and Angling McCall book, and I knew he wouldn’t send us on a wild goose chase. I had tripped the odometer to get an idea how far we had gone, and we should have seen the road at any time.
“Oh there it is.” Gracy said, pointing at the road to turn on.  Low and behold it was the same popular road leading to Brundage Ski Resort.
“I knew Roger wouldn’t let me down.” I said as I took the turn...and now only 25 miles to the trailhead.  

25 miles is a long way on a gravel road, but it seemed short with the surrounding view. Gracy and I took our time driving up the mountain and were quickly passed up by my brother, Kris, and his friend Becky, who seemed to be in a real hurry to get there. Naturally we would have all fit in one car, but they both wanted to bring their dogs and that required taking two vehicles. 

Picking the first season's alpine lake to hike to was quite the process. If it was up to me, I would have picked an easy, quick lake to hike to that offered some nice fish to catch. Gracy, on the other hand, was more interested in the hiking than the fishing. She wanted a longer hike, with a nice easy trail to follow. After a little digging through some hiking books, we found that Rainbow Lake in Roger Philips's book offered just what we both wanted. 

The sprinkling rain was enough to keep the dust down, but was not heavy enough to make the trail muddy. The recent rain, paired with the cloud cover, really made the air crisp and the colors of every plant pop with vibrancy.   
“Smells nice out here huh, Brother?” I asked, as I put on my pack. 
“Yeah, it smells really nice.” 
“Hopefully the fishing will be good for us.” 
“I can’t wait to catch a fish!” He said back enthusiastically.
I was all synched up and ready to go when I looked over at Gracy, who looked very cold.
“You will warm up after a quarter mile.” I reminded her as she put on her fleece sweater.
“I want to put it on anyway, because I’m cold now.” She said back.
“I’m putting mine on.” Becky said, as she and my brother joined us at the trailhead with their dogs, Coot, Becky’s French Mastiff, and Oakley, Feef’s Golden Retriever.  Both dogs were happy to be on the trail with no leash, and led the way down the path.

“Okay, stop.” Gracy said. 
“Hot?” I asked, as she unclipped her pack. 
“Yeah...” She said, “I was going to try and make it a bit further, but then I realized I’m not that proud.” 
“I think I’ll take mine off too.” Becky said, also removing her pack.
“Have we even made it a quarter mile?” I asked my brother, who rolled his eyes and sighed very loudly. 
“Shut up!” Becky told him, then slammed her pack in his chest for him to hold. My brother let out a whimper as he grabbed the pack, then acted like he was going to throw it down. In the process of taking her sweater off, Becky missed my brother's joke, and that made us both laugh. 
“All you guys do is laugh at each other all the time.” Becky said, clipping her pack back on. 
“It never ends.” Gracy added. 
“It’s because we are funny.” I said. 
“Yeah, only to each other.” Gracy noted, as we continued walking.    

Although the path was relatively flat, there was still a fair amount of effort involved when hiking it, so the breeze that picked up was a welcomed natural air conditioner to help cool us down. 
“Did you guys hear that bird?” Becky said, excitedly.  
I looked over to my brother, and we were sharing the same questionable look: we hadn’t heard a bird... 
“There it is again!” Becky said looking at my brother then looking at me.
I looked at my brother like I had just smelled something wretched, then he spoke.  
“Are you serious?” He said, as if he was scolding a toddler. “That’s the wind blowing between the dead trees!”
“Oh!” Becky said, laughing with embarrassment.  
“There it is, that wonderful bird call... what is it?!” Feef yelled, doing an exaggerated version of Becky’s excitement.  
“I guess you can take the girl out of the city...” I said, looking at my brother with a drooped head and wide eyes. 

Between my brother and I, we will beat a joke to death, wake it up, and beat it again, which is what was happening to poor Becky. Every time the wind blew hard enough to howl between the branches, we would ask each other what kind of bird that was and if we could see it for a rare photo.

The only thing that could take us away from insulting a friend was the possibility of throwing grasshoppers to feeding fish. We came to a log that had a bunch of little green grasshoppers on it, which brought us back to the topic of fly fishing.

“I hope the fish are active for you today, Brother.” I said, as we drew nearer to the lake. 
“Me too! What fly are you going to tie on first?” 
“A pico spider of course!” 
“Good choice!” Feef said, excited to have finally reached the end of our path and see our destination.

“The water looks good, Brother!” Feef said with enthusiasm, and he was right.  Just near the shore we saw a fish rise, and we both looked at each other, smiling.
“Hey check it out, a raft.”  Becky said, and jumped on a fallen tree to balance her way over to it. Coot quickly followed, and was not timid at all about getting in the water.

While Becky and Feef looked around the lake, Gracy and I found a nice place to sit back. I unclipped my pack to start rigging up my fly rod. I opened up my rod case when I noticed there was no rod in it.

“Oh no, Brother. I forgot to put your fly rod in the case.” I said through gritted teeth. 
“Are you kidding me?” 
“Sorry, Brother. I guess you and Becky will have to share.”  I said, looking at Becky.
“I’m not sharing mine!” Becky said quickly. 
“Whatever, yes you are!” Feef complained. 
Gracy just sat back, eating her lunch, while Feef and I bickered about leaving the fly rod at home. It wasn’t long before I had my other rod put together, Feef had hijacked Becky’s fly rod, and we were both fishing.

My pico spider was slammed after a few twitches on the water, and I brought in the first fish of the day.  The little brook trout fought with all its might, but bringing it in was as easy as pie. 

The little fish bolted as soon as I slipped it in the water, and I was back to casting again. I was walking further and further away from where the path ended on the lake, and casting along the way. Blam! Another brookie nailed my fly, and before I let it go I got a quick shot of it underwater. 

“Did you get one?” Gracy asked, as she walked over to see how I was doing. 
“Yep, but they are little.” 
“Okay, I’m going to keep walking.” She said, and started her trek around the lake.  Becky was also walking with Gracy, with both Coot and Oakley following.  Oakley was being very timid about getting in the water, so Becky picked him up and threw him in. They were far enough away from me to not disturb my fishing, but from then on Oakley was not afraid to hop in the lake whenever he wanted. 

Gracy and Becky were walking further around the other side of the lake when a gust of wind blew over, bringing a downpour of rain.

In a matter of seconds I was drenched, and I could see Feef, who was on his way to join me, starting to walk back to the trailhead. Gracy was there trying to call us back, when the rain stopped pouring on my side of the lake. I looked up to see the wall of rain still drenching Feef, Becky, and Gracy, and they were waving for me to come back. 
“There’s no rain over here!” I yelled, and I saw by brother stop to come back my way. 

“How’s it going over there, Brother?” Feef asked me as he approached. 
“It’s good over here. A fish took my pico spider so I switched to the little green beetle. How about you?” 
“I’ve only caught one fish.” he said bitterly. 
“Only one?” 
“Yeah, I didn’t have a pico spider or a little beetle.” 
“Why didn’t you ask me for one?” 
“I don’t know...”
Just then a fish took my fly, and I brought it in quickly.
“Are these brook trout?” Feef asked.
“Yeah, they are cool huh?” 
“Yeah, I have never caught one before. The pattern on their back looks like a tiger trout.”       
“That’s because they are a crossbreed between a brown trout and a brook trout. The colors of the brown trout are all over the fish, while the maze pattern of the brook trout covers their bodies.” 
“That’s cool.” Feef said, as I placed my trout back in the water. 

I handed Feef a green beetle, and we both went back to fishing; however, my beetle ended up in the water, while Feef’s ended up in a tree behind him. 
“Damn it!” He yelled, walking over to his snagged fly.
“Don’t worry, Brother, I caught a fish for you.” I said, bringing in another brookie.   

Feef was able to unhook his fly quickly, and was back to casting. 
“There’s one!” Feef said with happiness. He was using a superfine fly rod, which is a softer rod, so the little brook trout was putting quite a bend in the rod as he brought it in.

I too had hooked into a fish, almost right after Feef had. It was a nice little trout, and I did my best to get another underwater shot of it. 

“Come over here and hit this spot.” I said to Feef.  He gathered his fly line and stepped into the small spot I had suggested. 
“That looks like a nice spot.” He said, looking at the lush bushes that created a nice shelter for an unsuspecting brook trout. Feef pitched out his fly, and WHAM, a brookie nailed his fly as soon as it hit the water. 
“There it is!” I said, as Feef brought in another little trout. 

“Do you know what time it is?” I asked. 
“Well, we better start heading back to meet up with the girls.” 
“Ok.” Feef said, and we started fishing our way back.

“Do you see them anywhere?” I asked, while looking on the other side of the lake. 
“Me neither, but I would have liked to walk across the entire lake to fish near that rock wall.” I said, and that’s when we saw them: both Gracy and Becky had climbed to the top of the rock wall and were waving at us to get our attention.

“Jesus!” Feef said, unimpressed. 
“Is it just me, or does it look like they are jumping around right near the cliff's edge?” I asked. 
“Wouldn’t surprise me. Becky would be the one to get too close, trying to look over, then fall off it. Then we would have to carry her out.” 
“We? She’s your friend...” I said. 
“That’s messed up, Brother.” Feef said, laughing as we made our way back. We all quickly met back at the trailhead where Oakley came up to say hi.
“What the hell... You look like Swamp Thing.” I said, petting his nose, because it was the only part of him that was not dirty.


Before we took off, Feef and Becky wanted a picture by the lake. After we all had our packs on, they got one last picture before we headed back.

The temperature was dropping fast and the wind was starting to pick back up. The howling sound came from the dead tree branches again, and Feef and I looked at each other, smiling.
“Not again, you guys killed that joke on the way here.” Gracy said, but Feef and I still thought it was funny.   

“That rain looks like it’s headed our way.” I said, looking over to the angry clouds on the neighboring mountain top.  

The cars were now in sight. We got to them quickly to gear down and get in before the rain started. We had no sooner pulled the cars around to head out of the parking spot when the rain hit. Large droplets of water pelted my windshield, but now that we were in the car looking out, it wasn’t bad at all. 

As we drove out, we saw alpine lakes just off the road. 
“We should come back here and hit some of these in a day.” I suggested. 
“That would be fun.” Gracy said back, “Maybe we should camp up here.”
“Good idea.” I said, passing Hazard Lake on the road back. I slowed down to get a better look at the lake, but the rain was making it hard to see.  So much to fish and so little time, I thought before rolling up the window, leaving it cracked to take in the fresh smell of the rain on the way down the mountain. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Last-Second Favor

U“I need another boat in order to shoot this Hank Patterson video.” Travis Swartz told me over the phone, “and it’s your job to find me one”. 
“How did this turn into my job?” I asked. 
“When my guy bailed on me.” He quickly replied. 
We had two days before shooting this video, and where was I going to find someone who was available, and willing, to lend me their boat for the evening? It’s awfully bold to ask another angler to hand over their boat, because boats are not cheap and each person has a specific way they like their boat rigged up. In all the years of fly fishing never have I ever seen two boats rigged up the same way, and it was no surprise that I was met with silence when I asked some of my friends to borrow their boats. Hey, I get it... I’m not sure if I would just lend out my boat if I had one. 
By some stroke of luck my buddy, Jason Shepherdson, came through and let me borrow his raft in short notice. It’s a good thing my brother was in town to tow the raft out to Lake Lowell where Travis was filming, and you better believe we brought our rods to do some fishing afterwards.

It was not surprising at all that there were cars and tents set up right on the Lake Lowell boat ramp, but my brother was able to back up his truck to launch the raft between it all. 

“What up Dawg?” Travis yelled over to us, as I oared out to where they were filming. 
“Just performing miracles, as always.” I said back.   
“Here we go...” Travis said, rolling his eyes. Christian and Chris Gerono were there, along with Adam, the camera man, who hopped in our raft to get a wider shot for the new video. 

While they were filming, my brother was casting from the back of the boat. 
“I got one.” Feef whispered to me, and I could see he was keeping his fly rod low to keep from making too much noise. I gave him a thumbs up as he brought it in, but soon after the fish shook free and he went back to casting.  From the other boat, Travis was making all kinds of jokes as Hank Patterson, leading us to believe this would be one of his best videos yet.

“We’re done!” Travis announced, “and I would like to thank all you guys for helping out: Christian, Chris, Erik’s brother Kris, and Adam. I couldn’t have done this without your help.”  Travis then focused right on me, with a blank disappointed look on his face. 
“Douche bag!” I said, looking back at him. 
Travis then started laughing, “I can’t believe you found someone willing to let you, of all people, take their boat!” 
“My buddy, Jason, came through like a champ!”
“Well, I’ll thank him in the credits.”
“Good idea.” I said, and by now Travis and his crew were taking off for the evening.
“Are you guys going to stick around and fish?” Travis asked.
“You bet your ass we are!” Feef chimed in, and we waved goodbye as I oared away to let Feef fish.   

“It’s about time, Brother!” Feef said with excitement, as he stripped out line to make a cast. 

“Come on fish...” Feef said out loud, as he focused on his fly. I kept an easy cast-able distance from the weeds so I wouldn’t spook any nearby fish. 

“We are lucky to not have any wind out here. Usually it picks up to the point where we wouldn’t be able to fish.” I said, as Feef focused on fishing.   
“That’s nice, but where are the fish?” Feef said, annoyed that he was able to hook into two fish while filming but nothing now. 
“I don’t know, Brother... you're hitting all the right spots.” I reassured.

A bass slapped the surface of the water and Feef turned on a dime to shoot his fly over to it. 
“There you are.” He said, seeing the ripples in the water, and letting his fly soar.       

“That was a terrible cast, Brother.” I said, “Why didn’t you just cast over there...” I said, pointing in the opposite direction from where his fly landed, “...that would have been closer.” 
“God! I don’t fish everyday like you do!” Feef snapped, obviously annoyed he wasn’t getting any fish.  
“Don’t get mad, Brother... Maybe there is a bluegill nearby that you can catch.” I said, laughing. 
“Shut up.” He said, keeping his eyes on the water.   

Honestly, I was not sure what was going on with these fish. They should have been actively feeding at that point, but we were not seeing anything. We used sinking tips, poppers, leeches of all colors, and fish flies, but nothing was working. 
“Well, Brother... If nothing else, at least we caught this beautiful sunset.” I said. 
“That’s stupid.” Feef said, bitterly annoyed with the fish. 

All of his annoyance was making me laugh, which in turn made him laugh.  
“I really wish you would catch a fish.” I said, as we both started laughing again. 
“A bass!” Feef yelled, and we both were looking into the water. Feef pitched his fly in front of the bass, and gave his fly a tug to bring it to life. The action intrigued the bass, and it took his fly. 
“Got it!” Feef yelled, then his fly line went slack. 
“GOD DAMN IT!” He yelled after the fish spit the hook. His words echoed across the still night, which made it hard for me not to laugh.

“It was right there, and I didn't get it.” Feef said, reliving the moment. I could see the disappointment in his eyes, and the frustration that covered his face. The boat was now shaking like a poorly stuffed washing machine on spin cycle, as I laughed in silence. Feef started laughing as well after seeing the humor in misery. 
“It’s getting late; we need to head in.” I said, catching my breath. 
“I’ll keep fishing.” Feef said. 
“If that’s what you want to call it?” I said, laughing a little more. 
Feef was gunning his casts out fast, and in the process performed a poorly timed cast that caused his leader and fly to get all tangled up. 
“Just keep casting, that will get it out.” I said, after seeing Feef didn’t want to deal with a knot right now. 
“Figures this would happen.” Feef said, finally stopping to deal with his knot.

We had reached the boat ramp, and Feef had just managed to untangle his leader.  I stopped the raft from getting too close to the bank, to let Feef cast a few more times before heading in. 
“Well, that sucked.” Feef said, after we tied up the raft to head out. 
“Well, why don’t we plan to hit a high mountain lake while you are in town? That should fish better.” I said. 
“Yeah, that would be cool.”
“Okay then, let’s do it.” I said, getting his spirits up for a better fishing experience. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Quake Lake in the Morning

Having spent almost eight hours floating the previous day, not to mention the two hour drive back to the cabin, I was thankful we got to sleep in on this morning. Although we were in no rush to get home, we did want to fish one more spot on the way back.  After a short goodbye to my grandfather and Lois, both Mark and I got the boat ready for one more float on Quake Lake. 

Quake Lake easily became my favorite lake to fish. Not necessarily because the fishing is fantastic, but because the scenery is like nothing else. 

I hopped behind the oars to paddle out amongst the tree graveyard, while Mark sat in front with a dry fly on, looking for gulpers. 

“Over there, Mark!” I said quickly, pointing off to his left.  There was a rising fish that had left a sizable ring of water as it ate, indicating that it may have been a big fish. 
“I see it.” Mark confirmed, and the fish rose again. 
“Get it, Mark, get it!” I said happily, and Mark started casting, casting, and then casting some more.
“Lay it down, Mark!” I said.
“Okay, but where did the fish go?”
“It’s gone by now.” I said, “You really have to be quick.”
“Well maybe I should see how you do it.” Mark said, and we switched spots. 

While gulper fishing you need to be fast, and if you do not have your fly ready you can easily miss your opportunity. 
“It’s pretty slow out here.” I said, waiting for a rising fish. The worst of it was that the fish were not gulping; they would just rise sporadically, making it difficult to determine their direction. 
“There! There!” I said happily, and started casting. I could see the fish just under the surface, and it was moving quickly. 
“You have to get the fly in the fish’s path quickly, and not too close that you spook it.” I said, laying out my fly with a splat. 
“There it comes, there it comes!” I said happily, and WACK! 
“Oh, no way!” Mark yelled, laughing.
 The fish took my fly and as soon as it felt the pressure of my hook set, the fish bolted deep.
“Whoa!” I yelled, as my reel screamed to life. 
“Holy cow!” Mark added, surprised to hear the drag on my real come to life. 
The fish could not be stopped, and must have wrapped me around a branch underwater, because after about ten seconds it was gone.

“Ready to give it another go?” I asked Mark, who was updated on just how fast he needed to cast. 
“Yeah.” He said, getting to the front of the boat. We easily spent a few hours searching for fish. When we did see a rise, I did my best to oar Mark into a good casting position. The opportunities were not favorable on this morning, and we never did see another gulping fish.

“I like this gulper fishing. It’s like we are hunting for the rising fish.” Mark said, as we started on our way back to the boat ramp.
“I knew you would, and Quake Lake is gorgeous.” 
“Yes it is.” Mark replied, but it was time to get going.  

We had easily spent four hours on Quake Lake, cruising around in between the dead trees, looking for rising fish. But if we wanted to make it home at a reasonable hour we had to get going.  We bundled Mark’s raft up for the drive back home, and packed our fishing gear away. 
“I would definitley come back and fish here again. I’m glad you brought me out here.” Mark said, as we started driving away from the lake. 
“Well, it was here or Hebgen lake, and judging how slow it was this morning only means it was great on Hebgen.” I said. 
“Well, we will need to hit that next time.” 
“Until next time!” I said, holding up my water bottle. Mark raised his and tipped the rim as solute to our return; hopefully sooner than later.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Yellowstone River Salmon Fly Hatch

After a good night’s sleep, waking up at 5am was no big deal. The sound of the toaster springing up Mark’s pop-tart breakfast meant it was time to go, and there wasn’t a moment to lose. We were traveling through Yellowstone Park to reach the Yellowstone River just downstream from Gardener, MT, and in order to get there fast we had to beat the crowds. One lonely elk is enough to create a traffic jam that could take thirty minutes to get through, and we didn’t have that time to waste.  Heading towards the north entrance we came across a large steam vent. 
“Look at that.” Mark said, noticing the thick cloud just ahead. 
“Oh, I think that is called Dragon Mountain, or something.” I said, as the cold morning emphasized the amount of steam protruding from the earth. The thick air surrounded the truck, and with that came the dense smell of rotten egg that made us cringe. 
“Oh, geez. It should be called Dragon’s Ass.” Mark said, covering his nose. 
“Roaring Mountain.” Mark said, reading the name of the steam vent.
“Well, dragons do roar...” I said, trying to make a connection at my failed attempt to remember.

We were nearly out of the park when we passed a bison, about the size of Mark’s truck, laying by the side of the road.  The docile animal looked sleepy and like it needed a friend.  The look on its face almost seemed harmless and made you want to get out of your vehicle to scratch it behind the ear... but that would be stupid.

“Well, the drift boat hatch is happening; that’s got to mean something.” Mark said.  Lucky for us, we had arrived about 20 minutes ahead of the bulk and we were ready to launch the boat for a nice head start. 

I was at the front of the boat first, and Mark jumped behind the sticks to man the boat. 
“Wow, this is a beautiful river.” Mark said, finally able to take a look after our mad dash to gear up. 
“Yes it is, look at the mountains!” 

It was true, the river was rooted within a wide canyon surrounded by mountains, but right now my focus was on the river’s edge where my flies had been perfectly placed. 
“Damn!” I yelled. 
“Did you just have a take?” Mark asked. 
“Yep, but I lost it.” I replied, quickly slapping my flies back under the overhanging brush. SLAP! Another fish came and took, but I missed that one too. Boom, another hit and another miss. 

“What the hell is going on?” I yelled, after hooking onto another fish, then immediately losing it.  
“You saw that I had it hooked?” I asked Mark, who was laughing at my misfortune. 
“This is such rare form for you, Erik.”  
“I don’t know what’s going on. I tried saying 'God bless America' and 'God save the queen' before setting the hook, I set it quickly, then slowly, and I even held the line tight to give it a strip set.” I rambled, trying to find something, other than myself, to blame for missing so many fish. In the mean time my flies were right where they should be when, SMACK!
“Yeah baby!” Mark yelled when he saw that I had made a solid connection with my fish. The fish wasn’t big, but did its best to get away.
“Oh, you aren’t going anywhere!” I yelled to the fish, “you are not going to escape me! Not this time!” I yelled again, keeping the line extra tight.  
“What is it?” Mark asked, as I gave the fly rod one final lurch to bring my fish to the net.
“It’s a white fish!” I yelled, laughing in disbelief.  “My first fish on the Yellowstone River is a damn white fish!”    

I dumped my fish back into the river, and shot my flies back under the bushes.  There was a nice shadow line created by the taller shrubs that looked like a home for a decent fish, and that’s right were my flies were. Bam! I set the hook fast and felt the full weight of the fish, right before it leapt completely out of the water. 
“There it is, Mark!” I yelled with glee. 
“It’s jumping again!” Mark yelled, as he handed me the net. 
“It’s about time I get a nice fish.” I said to Mark, after I netted the fish and handed him my camera for a picture. 
“Ready?” I asked before lifting my fish out of the water. 
“Go for it.”
I brought the fish up, and it kicked hard and right out of my hands.
“Noooo! Maaaaark!?” I yelled in disbelief, as the fish slapped the water and darted out of sight.        

“You’re up, Mark!” I said, after regaining my composure. We quickly switch spots and before I could lift the anchor, Mark was casting.

“I’m glad it’s not just me.” I said to Mark, who was also having trouble sticking a fish. Hit after hit with no connection was getting frustrating, but on the other hand, it was making for a fun day.
“Rising fish!” I blurted out, and dug the oars in deep to stop the raft. I dropped anchor in a little back eddy, as Mark pitched his flies upstream to the rising fish. 
“There we go!” Mark chimed, as he connected with a fish.  

“What is it?” I asked, as Mark went to net the fish.
“It’s a white fish.” 
“Are you serious?”
Sure enough, a large salmon fly was sticking out of the mouth of this little white fish, and you had to wonder how the fish was planning to consume it. 

“Okay Mark, the white fish is out of the way, time for a trout.” I said, lifting the anchor. 
“Oh, right there...” Mark said, casting his flies to the very spot he was aiming for. Although Mark is relatively humble, he never passes up an opportunity to compliment his casting. 
“Yeah baby!” He yelled, as a fish slammed his fly and Mark was ready to set the hook. 

“It’s a Yellowstone cuttie!” Mark yelled. It has been a long time since I have seen a Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and it was every bit as pretty as I remember.

There were drift boats everywhere now.  Most of them were not back-rowing to slow themselves down, and were shooting past us quickly.  Despite the number of people fishing, it did not hinder our fishing at all. The further down river we went, the better the fishing got. Time was flying, and hunger snuck up on us fast, so we pulled over and under some shade to rest before hitting the water again.

As we sat back and enjoyed our sandwiches, drift boat after drift boat was soaring by. 
“I can’t believe the fishing has been so good, considering how many people are on the water.” Mark said. 
“Even when there are three boats fishing the same side ahead of us, we are still picking up fish.” I remembered. “It hurts, Mark... It hurts to be so good.” 
After a few more minutes of praising ourselves, I was back at the front of the boat. 
“Nice cast, Erik!” Mark said boldly, after my flies hit inches from the bank. “That’s why you are you!”        

“I really want a Yellowstone Cutthroat.” I told Mark. The last time I had caught a Yellowstone cuttie was over 15 years ago, when my grandfather first brought me and my brother to Yellowstone Park. That was certainly a fun trip that I’ll never forget, but ever since I have wanted to catch one on my fly rod. And I was about to get my chance. 
As slow as ever, a Yellowstone cutthroat appeared right under my fly. Though the water was not super clear, the bronze body paired with the dark copper head gave it away.  It opened its mouth and consumed my fly. Everything about this fish’s approach was so slow, it’s no wonder people often pull the fly out of their mouths before they have a chance to bite down. Not this time. Years of screwing up had prepared me for this specific fish, and when the opportunity came, I nailed it!

“Want a picture?” Mark asked, after I had the fish in the net. 
“No.” I said, after I snapped a picture of it in the net. As much as I did want a picture, I had played the fish a little too long and figured it wasn’t worth taking it out of the water. I held the fish under the water for a while, waiting for it to kick away.  The details of my grandfather taking us fishing all came back to me as I held the yellowstone cutthroat. Finally, it kicked away and swam back to its home. I washed off my hands and looked back at Mark, who was smiling so bright you would think he was sending a message to the moon. 
“That’s your Yellowstone cuttie BABY!” He said to compliment my achievement. 
“Feels good, Mark!” I said quickly before returning to fishing.  

Fly fishing with salmon flies is the best, and it’s always an anomaly as to when they will be hatching, and if the fish will be keyed on them. Today could have not been planned. So many times the salmon flies will be out, but the fish will not be eating them. To be here and fishing when everything is happening perfectly is an experience most anglers can count on one hand.

Mark was back up at the front of the boat, and casting to the bank.  With an undercut bank, the fish can be hiding right under the shore; which means you need to get your fly right at the edge of the grass, touching the water. In order to perform this, while giving the fish enough time to select your fly to eat, you need to mend your line in mid-air before your flies hit. By air-mending, you will ensure a nice long, natural presentation, leaving your flies touching the grass near the under-cut bank for as long as possible. 

“Right there...” Mark said after performing the cast perfectly, and it paid off. A fish came out and ambushed the unsuspecting fly, unbeknown that Mark was at the other end waiting. 

It was another little shaker on the line, and Mark brought it in fast. 
“Did it take the salmon fly?” I asked. 
“Yep, they don’t seem to be interested in my caddis anymore.” Mark said, looking at the size 14 caddis he had dropped off the back of his salmon fly.

“Salmon fly again!” Mark yelled, bringing in another fish. 

“That one looks a little bigger.” I said, as Mark netted the fish.  After you catch so many fish, you get tired of taking pictures of all of them. Mark was just about to let it go before I stopped him. 
“Hold on, I want a picture of that one.” I said, holding up my camera. Mark just reached the fish over in time for one shot, before he dropped it back in the water. 

As we switched spots on the boat, we noticed there was hardly any boats left on the water. 
“They all shot by us so fast.” I said, tying on some new flies. 
“I know, it’s like we have the river to ourselves.” Mark said. “What are you tying on?” He asked.
“A salmon fly.” 
“Don’t you already have a salmon fly on?” 
I simply held up my new rig, showing Mark that I had not only one salmon fly on, but a second one tied off the back of the hook about two feet.
“Oh my God, is that legal?” Mark yelled, laughing at my rig.
“Have you never done this before?” I asked. 
“Well, prepare to be amazed.” I said, and started casting.

Both of the salmon flies plopped on the surface of the water, and floated there looking like little birds. They hadn’t been there more than thirty seconds before I saw the slow rise of a cutthroat trout. 
“Boom!” I yelled, as I set the hook. 
“Oh, no way!” Mark yelled, as I brought in a nice Yellowstone cutthroat. 
“I want a picture with this one.” I said handing my camera to Mark, and I held up the fish when he was ready. 

My fish kicked away hard, and I was back to fishing. Mark pulled up the anchor, and I flicked my flies back into the water.  WHAM!
“Already?” Mark yelled, back rowing like mad. 
“Don’t worry, Mark, it’s a smaller one.” I said, bringing in the fish fast, and letting it go just as fast.

“That rig seems to be the trick.” Mark said, as I slapped my flies back down again. 
“What’s going on? Where are the fish?” I asked, jokingly, needing to recast before a fish took. Mark laughed as my flies hit the water again, right near the bank.
“Oh right there, Erik!” Mark said, happy with my cast.  
I had my eyes on the flies, when SPLASH! 
“Whoa!” I yelled with surprise. Whatever took my fly, took it super aggressively and was putting up a great fight. 
“This is a nice fish, Mark!” I yelled while applying the torque to my rod. 
“Pull up the anchor, it’s running!” I said, and my reel started screaming. Mark didn’t waste any time hoisting the anchor and following the fish. I was reeling in as fast as I could, and when I had the leader near the rod tip, Mark handed me the net.  The fish darted away to make another run, but Mark was already pressing forward on the oars.  The extra boost put me right over the fish and my net right under it. 
“Gotcha!” I yelled, finally able to get a look at the size of my fish.

“What a nice brown trout.” I said, as I dipped it back in the water. 
“Okay, Mark, one more fish.” I said, as I stood back up to cast. 
“Sure...” Mark said, wanting to get a chance at this miracle mile of river. 
I pitched my flies out, and SMACK! 
“OH, NO!” I yelled, “Not another one!” 
“Oh my God, seriously?” Mark laughed, as he dropped the anchor. 
“Look at this one, Mark. I think he likes you!”   

It was Mark’s turn, and he just used my fly rod with the same setup.  
“Oh, that looks good.” Mark said, complementing his cast. Bam! His fly was hit.  Mark brought in his fish fast and let it go before I could pull out my camera. Again and again Mark hooked up, and brought the fish in so fast that there was no need to anchor up. 

Just upriver a couple of guys in a drift boat were rowing forward to snake our water from us. 
“Are they seriously going to cut us off?” Mark asked, as the boat got right in front of us. 
“Catch a fish, Mark!  Catch a fish in front of them!” I said, forcefully. I back-oared a little harder to get some distance between the other boat.  I glanced downstream to see how they were fishing. 
“Look at them, Mark. The guy can’t even cast, and the other guy is nymphing... during a salmon fly hatch no less.” I said bitterly. Mark just laughed at my annoyance, and then he did exactly what I wanted him to do.
“YEAH, MARK! THAT’S HOW YOU CATCH A FISH!” I yelled, as loud as I could.   

Mark stayed quiet while he brought in his fish, but I kept on.
“I guess you just have to know what you’re doing!” I blurted out.  
“It’s nice to have a fish coming to the boat!”
“Oh look, it’s a fighter!”
“It’s definitely a fighter, Mark!” I kept on. Mark was doing his best to hold back his laughter.
“Okay, okay, Erik, we get it, you hate when people cut you off.” Mark said, as he netted his fish.   

“Oh, I’m just having fun, Mark.” I said, laughing. We came around the bend and saw the bridge just downstream. 
“That’s our takeout point.” Mark said, and caught one more fish to end the day. 

“What a fantastic day.” I said, “There is no way we could have timed it better.” 
“I think this was the best day of fishing I have ever had.” Mark said, as we took out the boat. 
“I may have to agree with you, Mark. I have fished some good salmon fly hatches, but nothing like this.” And it was true, we had spent almost eight hours on this river that felt like three, and if there was enough light left in the day we would have done it again.
“I hear the terrestrial fishing can be good on this river.” Mark said, getting in his truck. 
“Well, we will have to come back and find out, won’t we?” I asked, as we drove home reminiscing about the day, and planning on returning sometime soon.