Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Friend From France: Day 1

If there was a way to make my name any better, all you would need to do is add bacon to it. Last year a fly fisherman from southeast France walked into the fly shop at the end of his yearly visit to the northwest United States, solely to fly fish, and during our fantastic conversation I discovered his name was Eric Bacon. Eric’s friend, Christian Guimonnet, was also there, offering up some of his personally tied flies that were and still are the nicest looking flies I have ever seen. I accepted as many flies as Christian was willing to offer, and gave them some of my favorite flies in exchange. They both had a flight back home to catch, but before they left I offered them a place to stay the next time they came back into the United States to fly fish. 
Well one year later, after a long day of traveling and fly fishing, a muddied up jeep pulled into my driveway. A smile grew on my face when I recognized Eric Bacon behind the bug-covered windshield, and he was also smiling like he had just won the lottery. 
“Erik Moncada!” He yelled in his French accent. 
“Eric Bacon!” I replied, and greeted him like we had been friends our whole lives.

“Where would you like to fish tomorrow?” Eric asked as he brought in his suitcase.
“Hmm, let me think.” I said, and then mentioned his favorite river to fish when he comes to Boise.
“I was hoping you were going to say that.” Eric said with a large smile.
“What time do you want to get going?” I asked.
“Umm, what time is good for you?” Eric asked to be polite, but I knew better; if you looked up fly fishing in the dictionary you would find Eric Bacon’s name, and if I had traveled overseas to get to a fishing destination I wouldn’t want to waste any time.
“Let’s wake up at 5:00 a.m., leave by 5:30 a.m. and fish until we can’t see anymore.” I said quickly and confidently.
Eric just smiled…“I was also hoping you would say that!”

My alarm did not go off at 5:00 a.m, because it didn’t need to. I was already up and had silenced the alarm before it had a chance to chirp, and Eric was not far behind. We had packed his car with our gear the night before, so in the morning we were quick to get going.
The sun hadn’t even began to think of rising as we started our drive to the river. In the dark we were stopped at a stop sign waiting for a pair of headlights to pass, or so I thought.  Eric stepped on the gas to pull out in front of the approaching headlights that were too close for comfort.
“Whoa, do you see that car?!” I yelled, as the breaklight of the car behinds us lit up.
“Oh, yes. It’s okay…” Eric said with no worry in his voice, “… I’m French.” 
We sped away untouched, and I started laughing.
“Was that too close for you?” Eric asked.
“I would have waited for the car to pass.” I said, still smiling about his comment.
“Well if you do not like that, then NEVER drive with an Italian.” This made us both laugh, but Eric was not finished. “My girlfriend back in France, she is Italian.”
“Oh no!” I said, still laughing.
“But…” Eric spoke up louder “…but she knows I am kidding.”
“I’m sure.” I said back.
By the time we had reached the river we could see fish rising, and Eric’s face lit up like a kid on Christmas morning.
“This is my river!” Eric said happily, and we quickly geared up and headed down to the water.

We saw fish rising before he had gotten to the water, but it was nothing compared to what came next. Tricos, and they were everywhere! The fish were rising all around, and the slurping sound of the high concentration of feeding fish sounded like a dog lapping up water in 7.1 surround sound.
“I have never, in my life, heard this many fish rising at the same time.” Eric said to me as he stood there in awe, but that only lasted for a second. The trico hatch was anticipated; Eric was ready with one of his favorite tricos, and he locked on to a rising fish just upstream.

The key to fully taking advantage of a blanket hatch is being patient enough to select one fish out of the fifty rising in front of you, key into its timing, and presenting a fly to that specific fish’s feeding lane. That was exactly what Eric did, and the fish didn’t even expect the fly to be connected to Eric’s line.
“There!” Eric yelled as he set the hook, and the fish bolted into action.  

Eric was fishing with a 10 foot 3-4 weight Fishbone fly rod from Belgium, and the fish was bending every inch of it. Eric placed his palm on the reel to keep it from back-spooling on him as the fish bolted across the river.
“This is a nice fish.” He said, as he started to quickly reel in his fly line to keep the tension tight. I started to make my way over to him, and when I got close Eric had tired the fish and was just about to net it.

“This is the first picture of my trip that has me holding a fish.” Eric said, “All the rest of them are just pictures of fish.”
“Today we will get plenty of picture of you holding fish.” I said happily, and took a quick shot of Eric before he sent the fish on its way.

With the fish still rising to tricos, there was no time to waste. Selecting a single fish to cast to with every fish rising was a great problem to have, and by the looks if it, Eric was enjoying the opportunities. Fish after fish were being caught, and we wasted little time taking pictures of each one. I did find time to stop fishing and capture some video of Eric catching fish, in between catching and releasing my own fish.

The fish were porposing like dolphins in front of a boat, doing their best to eat every trico floating downstream. When we had caught the five to eight fish rising within casting distance, we moved up or out into the river to pick off the next bunch of rising fish.  It was like we could do nothing wrong...that was, until the sun hit the water.

The once turbulent water created by rising trout was now a silent, placid flow of lifeless water flowing downstream.
“That is amazing, there is nothing now.” Eric said, as he looked over the water for a rising fish.
For a moment both Eric and I were staring forward at a blank canvas until a small lap of disturbed water jolted our vision upstream. It was the unmistakable sound of a rising fish, and we could see the ring it had left behind.
“They are all rising right near the bank.” Eric said, pointing upstream, past the original fish we had just seen rise. Sure enough, there were five or more fish rising just upstream, and right next to the bank.
“You go ahead.” Eric said, and went to step out of my way.
“I can fish here anytime, you go ahead.” I said quickly.
“You do not need to tell me twice!” Eric said with a smile, and pitched his fly out in the fish’s feeding lane. We could easily see Eric’s fly as it floated ever so delicately on the water, and the fish came up to eat it like clockwork.

“ERIC BACON!” I yelled in triumph.
Eric just laughed at my excitement as he fought the fish until it was tired enough to slip into his net.
“What fly is this?” I asked, remembering that Eric had changed his fly just before he made the cast.
“This is my magic fly! We call the Jacques Dauty fly because my friend, Jacques, liked to use it when he came to America to fly fish. Jacques is dead now, but I like to think he is with me when I tie on this fly. He loved this river, and so I know he would want me to catch a fish for him. It is also the fly that I use when I am not sure what the fish are eating. That is why I call it the magic fly.
Jacques Dauty’s magic fly…” I said, as Eric took it out of the fish’s mouth. “That is very nice of you to honor and remember your friend. Is this fish for him?”
“Yes, it is a very nice fish.” Eric said, as we both admired his fish still in his net before letting it go.

With another fish rising just upstream, Eric gestured for me to take a shot at catching it. I got into position and made a few casts with no luck. My fly was landing perfectly on the water, but the seams in the water were moving at different rates, causing my fly to get swept away.  I adjusted my cast and made a few more attempts with the fish still not interested.
“You go ahead and try the magic fly.” I said, reeling in my line.
“Okay, but just a second.” Eric said, and clipped off his magic fly to readjust his leader before making his cast.
“This trout is in a spot that requires lots of small tippet…” Eric explained, “… so in order to get the right presentation, for me, I need to make a small adjustment to make it perfect.”
The magic fly was the final touch to Eric’s leader, and he got into position to make his first attempt.  Eric casted and his fly landed in the feeding lane of the trout, and so did a large pile of his small 6X tippet.  I would have never presented my fly directly over the head of the feeding fish, because that is a good way to spook the fish.  

 “No way!” I whispered, as the magic fly drifted down in front of the fish and it ate it. Eric quickly set the hook, and I stood there stunned.
“I thought the fish would spook after that tippet fell over its head.” I said.
“Well, that is why I changed it before I casted, remember? This fish was in a very difficult spot, because of all the shifting currents around it. So in order to get the perfect presentation I had to make my leader much longer with very small tippet so that I could cast over its head without spooking it. And with the longer, smaller tippet my fly would not be so easily swept away by the current.”
“Interesting, I was just manipulating my casting in order to get a good presentation on that fish, but it wasn’t working.” I said.
“Yes, but I am not a very good caster, so I have to do it this way.”

“Well it worked better than my casting.” I said, as Eric brought out his net to land the fish.

After another hero shot for Eric he sent the fish on its way, and it was my turn again. A fish rose more in the center of the river, and although we could still see rising fish near the bank, it was worth pitching a fly over to see if it would eat.
“Would you like to try my fly rod?” Eric asked.
“Sure!” I said, and Eric started manipulating the leader for this specific scenario.
This fish I was about to throw to was not rising steadily; it was coming to the surface sporadically, which meant it was not keyed onto midges. Normally I would tie on a pico spider for this kind of activity, but Eric had something else in mind.
“This is one of my favorite flies that was tied by Christian.” Eric said, taking out a green fly with a small red florescent parachute on top.
“I remember seeing this fly. Christian gave me a few when I met him last year, but it looked too good to fish.” I said.
“You have to fish it, it is a great caddis fly. Christian made this fly perfect, and I use it a lot because I can see the small red top; He said I use this fly more than anyone he knows so he named it after me… it is called the Green Bacon Caddis.” Eric told me with a smile.
“Well now I have to fish it!” I said, and Eric handed me his fly rod.
The French Fishbone fly rod felt like what our American hybrid fly rods were striving for: the long, light-weight rod that can perform both delicate dry fly fishing along with tight-line nymphing with a simple change of leaders. In Eric’s case, he had fashioned himself a leader that required a simple tippet change to switch from nymphing to dry fly fishing in seconds, and you better believe I would get the formula from him before he headed back to France.
It took me a few false casts to get the feel for the fly rod paired with the fifteen-foot leader, but I got it.  The fish had rose once more, so I knew right where I needed to place the fly.
“The Green Bacon Caddis is the type of fly that if a fish wants it, the fish will eat it on the first cast.” Eric said as I laid out the fly.
That means it’s a good searcher fly, or a fly to use when nothing is working or you don’t know what is working."
“Damn…” I said, as my fly missed its mark. The fly was almost a foot too far downstream from the sweet spot. From my past experience, even if you are off the mark, leave the fly on the water because you never know what the fish will do. Out of the depth, both Eric and I watched the fish not only rise, but turn and charge downstream at the Green Bacon Caddis. SMACK!
“YES! The Green Bacon Caddis!” Eric yelled with his hands in the air, and I had set the hook.  
“The fish went completely out of its way to eat your fly!” I said, as the fish thrashed to escape.
“It must like French food!” Eric said with a smile.
“It must.” I said back, and netted the fish to end the fight.

The fish bolted away quickly, and Eric and I took turns picking off fish until there were no more rising. The last fish in that spot was caught with Jacque’s Magic Fly, proving once again that it is a fly worth having. Eric also wanted a hero shot with a fish and his new Fishbone fly rod.

The river was dead. Not only could we not find a rising fish, but 70% of the anglers had left for the day, leaving a large portion of the river available to us. We chose a spot that had been good in the past, but was not paying off today.
“What is that fly you are tying on?” Eric asked, with a hint of wonder in his voice.
“This is a mouse.” I said, as I synched down the knot.
“The fish here eat mice?” He asked, “This I have to see…”
I sent my mouse pattern to the other side of the bank, and started working it back towards me. I quickly explained the theory of mouse fishing, when… Ka-Boom! A fish slammed my mouse, but there was no connection.
“Oh my goodness!” Eric yelled.
“I missed him!” I yelled back, but kept on fishing.
Another explosive take with no connection had me a little discouraged, because I wanted to get a picture with the fly in a fish’s mouth for Eric. Mousing was not happening for me, but it made Eric a believer in using a mouse to fly fish with.
“Never, will you ever find a mouse to fly fish with in France. Nobody will believe that the fish will actually take them.” He said.
“Well, it didn’t work so well for me today, but you can see why I tie a mouse on every once in a while. The takes are so explosive.”

“Yes, I see that now…” Eric said with a smile, and started fishing a small run that looked promising but came up empty handed.

It wasn’t until late in the evening when we started seeing fish rising again. There was a nice baetis hatch popping off, so together Eric and I were switching our patterns to determine exactly what the fish were eating. We each caught a fish or two, but all on flies that only worked once… meaning we hadn’t solved the puzzle of the hatch. Eric hooked into a fish, and after he let it go, he hooked into another one almost immediately.
“Are you still using a midge?” I asked as Eric brought in his fish.
“No, I am using the Magic Fly!”
“Of course you are!” I said happily, and remember I had one attached to the dry patch on my vest. 

I clipped my fly off my line, and held up the Magic Fly to thread the tippet through the eye. The sun had dipped behind the canyon wall a while ago, and it didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t be able to see the small eye of the hook to tie it on. After an attempt or two, I finally got the fly tied on and casted out to the nearest rising fish.

Eric had already started heading to the car when I had hooked into my last fish of the day. It was hard to find the hook to take the fly out of the fish’s mouth, but I eventually unhooked the fish and slipped it out of my net.

“Sorry, but I had to catch one more fish before I left the river.” I told Eric who was almost done gearing down.
“I understand...” He said quickly, “I do that all the time. You could have stayed on the river longer if you wanted to.”
“I just needed to catch one more fish.” I said, and unclipped the Magic fly and handed it to Eric.
“Oh yes, thank you.” He said, taking his fly and securely fitting it into his fly box. 
“I will be sure to leave you some Magic flies before I leave for France, but this fly…” He pointed to the one I had just taken off my fly line ”…was tied by Jacques himself before he died.
The thought of losing the fly suddenly overwhelmed me, because I was fishing in the dark with a knot I hoped was tied correctly… If I had lost this particular fly I would have felt like crap, but lucky for me Eric had it back in his fly box.
“That’s nice.” I said, relieved I hadn’t lost the fly.
“So what are you going to fish tomorrow?” I asked, after our gear was packed up and we were heading out of the canyon.
Eric just looked over and smiled at me…“I think I will come back to hit the tricos again.”
“Sounds like a plan. I work tomorrow, but will be off for the next two days after that to fish the South Fork with you.” I said.
“That sounds good. Today was a good day, and I truly enjoy fly fishing with you.” Eric said.

“I enjoyed fly fishing with you too, and you taught me to look at dry fly fishing in a whole new way… It’s very good stuff.” I said in return, and we drove home so Eric could get to bed and do it all over again tomorrow.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Float Tube Hike

My old fraternity brother, Justin Shank, and I have been planning to fly fish with each other for a long time now, and after a few years of mismatched schedules the day had finally come. I figured a nice high mountain lake trip would be in order to avoid some of the crowds on the local streams, but when we pulled into the trailhead parking lot we saw four vehicles already parked there, one of which was a twelve passenger van.     

Despite the number of people, today was going be a good day because we had brought our float tubes. Normally I don’t bring my float tube in, because it is big and bulky. However, one of the lakes we were going to fish requires a float tube to get beyond the lily pads that are sure to snag a fly. Not only that, but the effort of carrying a float tube can pay off as far as the number of fish caught for the day. And to make things better, by the time we had our tubes pumped up, the hikers in the twelve passenger van were finished and gone for the day. By the time I had my float tube on my back, another set of hikers had come and gone, so I was certain we might luck out and have the place to ourselves after all. 

Having the tube on my back was very uncomfortable. The boots and waders were shifting my balance with every step, the straps were digging into my shoulders, and under it all was my smaller back pack that carries all my gear, water, and snacks. Justin was no better off; he also had an awkward solution to carrying his float tube that made for shifty walking. 
“It will be worth the extra effort, trust me!” I said, before we started our hike. 
“Oh, I’m good to go!” Justin said quickly, excited to catch a fish.  

The shifting weight of my boots swinging from side to side caused the strap of my tube to dig more into my shoulders. I shifted the weight of my gear by holding my straps as I walked to help ease the digging. The thought of having the accessibility of the float tube kept my spirits up.

We came to a small creek that we needed to cross, and the only thing we had for a bridge was large unstable rocks. I could see that each rock was shifting under Justin’s feet, so I brought out my camera just in case he lost his balance and fell in. Sadly he did not, so we kept on hiking. 

The distance to this lake was short, but the tube on my back made it seem a little further. When we came over the hill and saw our lake the smiles that grew on our faces were bright enough to spook a weary fish, and slipping off the tube made my smile even brighter.

“It’s nice out here.” Justin said, after he slipped his float tube off his back. 
“And the fish are rising!” I said, after a quick glance over the lake before I started putting together my fly rod. 
“I have never caught a west-slope cutthroat trout.” Justin said.
“Well today is going to be your day!” I said happily. 
I had put together my fly rod in record time, and started to get my waders and boots out to put them on. I kicked off one shoe to slip my foot in my waders when I heard the worst sound I could possible hear at that moment. A small hiss was coming from the left side of my float tube, and the color drained from my face. 
“Ohhh noooo...” I said, and opened up the tube to check the air bladder. Sure enough, a small split at the seam was spewing air, and the sound reminded me of a dementor’s kiss. Hauling that tube all the way up with my gear digging into my back just to have it fail on me now...left me feeling like I would never be cheerful again. 

“We will share my float tube.” Justin chimed in to make light of the problem.
“No...” I said gloomily, “...don’t worry about me, I’ll fish along the bank.” 
Justin finished putting his waders on, and I handed him his fly rod before he floated away.
“GOD!” I yelled, while looking down at my float tube... and gave it a swift kick before I walked away to fish.  

I couldn’t escape the thought of having to haul that damn float tube back to the car, and when my fly got stuck on a lily pad after a cast I got even more mad. I didn’t want to deal with a snagged fly right now, so I pointed the fly rod at the snag, and snapped my fly off. 
“Stupid ass float tube.” I said, blaming the flat float tube on my lost fly. 
Really... the worst thing about the day was that I was going to make a small video for my dad. I had my Go-Pro ready and had already filmed the first part of our hike to get lots a fun footage for a great video, but no, my float tube had to go out.  I sighed and made another cast out, and a fish took. 
“Alright!” I said, as a bit of happiness sprang out of my voice as I brought in my trout. 

I remembered the Go-Pro and turned it on to get some footage of the fish underwater. Perhaps I could still make a video after all.  

I was looking out at Justin, and I had yet to see him hook a fish. 
“How are you doing out there?” I yelled.
“I keep missing them.” He answered back. 
“Set your hook a little slower; they don’t take your fly as fast as a rainbow.” I suggested. 
Where I was fishing, I had caught a few more fish, and suggested to Justin that he continued fishing it while I hiked around the lake.  

In the distance I could see that Justin was hooking into some fish, and I was also doing well around the edge of the lake. By the time I had walked the entire lake I had plenty of footage for a video and plenty of fish caught. 
“Justin. We better get going if we want to fish that other lake.” I yelled out to him. 
“I almost don’t want to leave this lake. The fishing has been good.” “We can stay if you want, but you will miss the opportunity to catch a grayling.” I said, like it was no big deal. 
“Seriously! You would give up your grayling spot to me?” He asked with surprise. 
“It’s the real reason we brought our float tubes.” I said, and Justin kicked his way over to me, we packed on our backs, and headed to the other lake.    

“I can see why we need float tubes.” Justin said, as he looked out into the lake. Surrounding the bank was a fifty-foot border thick with lily pads that would snag any fly that came close. 
“That sucks about your tube.” Justin said, after gearing up to get into this. 
“You know what...” I said with determination, “I’m getting in it anyway!” 
“Yeah! There is plenty of air in the tube, and the seat is a big flotation device.” I said, as I put my waders on, and kicked out. 

I felt like if I leaned too far forward the tube may dump me out, so I stayed way back on it and everything seems to be okay. Justin had already hooked into his first grayling, so the pressure to get him into one was no longer on my mind.  Right near some lily pads, a grayling came up and ate something off the surface. I flicked my fly over to where it had rose, and waited for it to come back. A small twitch was all I needed and WHAM, the grayling took.

The grayling were kind of small, so they put up very little fight. The blue fin glistened under the water as I held the fish to let it go. As soon as it was ready, it bolted from my hand and out of sight.
“Woah! I got a nice one over here!” Justin’s voice echoed across the glass water as he spoke. I saw that he netted his fish and was kicking over for a picture.

The best part about all of this was that I had my Go-Pro with me.  The grayling would be an added bonus for my dad when watching the video. I was sure to get as much footage as I could before I had caught and released my last grayling.

We had stayed a little longer than expected, and it was time to head back.  Justin did his best to stall on his way off the lake, but eventually made it out. When we arrived back at the trailhead, my car was the only one left in the parking lot. 

“I still can’t believe my float tube went out on me after I had packed it in all that way.”  I said, stuffing it back into the car. 
“It ended up working for you in the end.” He reminded me. 
“Yeah, and I still got some footage for a video.” I said. 
“You will have to let me know when it’s available to watch.” Justin said. 
“Yeah, I’ll let you know.” I said, and we got into the car and drove home. 

Not having a working float tube altered what I had originally planned for the video, but what I came up with was still fun. You can’t even tell I am upset about not having my float tube!

Enjoy the video!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Save the Best for Last: Yellowstone Park Day 4

On the last day of our trip Gracy’s dad was headed back home, so it would be just the two of us today. Gracy had told me the day before that this was my day to plan, and plan I did. The best thing about my planning was that it included something for everyone: a drive somewhere we hadn’t been, a hike up to an alpine lake, fly fishing, and scoping out the hillside for the chance to see a wolf. 

This plan of mine was presented a few days ago, but was shot down due to the distance and because I had mentioned fly fishing. Sadly, anytime I had mentioned fly fishing in any of my plans for this trip it was shot down... until the last day.
“I think that’s where we pull over.” Gracy said, as we approached the trailhead for Trout Lake. 
“Alright!” I said happily, and parked the car to gear up. 
Gracy was ready first, and went over to look at the signs that were posted.   

I walked over to Gracy after I had locked the car, and she turned and gave me a concerned look.
“What’s the matter? Are you bear-anoid?” I asked. 
Her look quickly changed from concerned to annoyed. 
"Did you just make that up?” She asked. 
“Yep, because it’s funny!” I smiled. 
“It was stupid.” 
“What do you mean, that was good stuff!” I said. “Do you get it? It’s like you are paranoid, but about bears.” I said, still smiling.
“Yes, I got it.” She said. 
“I have my bear bell, my bear spray, and I can run faster than you.” I said, to reassure our safety.   
“Whatever, I’ll just trip you.” She said back with a smirk, and we started our hike.       

The hike was short and sweet, and as soon as I saw the water I started gearing up my fly rod. 

The wind started blowing a bit to give the water a little chop, and clouds rolled over to threaten rain. Though the sun had been covered it was still a nice warm day, and so we started our hike around the lake.  I followed behind, casting my fly into the lake in search of a fish.  There was no surface activity to be seen anywhere on the lake, so I was just shooting my line everywhere. Suddenly a burst of color rose up to my fly just inches under it, and my eyes widened as I waited for the take. Then... the color slowly faded back into the deep; the fish had just refused my fly.  

We were almost across the lake with no more interested fish, so I switched to a streamer. I did have one good follow with the streamer, but that was it. The first part of the day was over, and now it was my turn to get some time on Soda Butte Creek. 

We pulled into a parking spot, and I geared up quickly and hit the water with little farewell to Gracy. She was prepared with a book to read and binoculars for animal watching; She also let me know, before I escaped, that I only had three hours to fish before we had to get back to our dog, Kiwi. 

A smile grew on my face as the sound of rocks crunched under my feet on the banks of Soda Butte Creek, and I approached my first spot to fish with little expectations... There were anglers everywhere, and I had passed up many other anglers that had fished this spot already; in fact an older gentleman had told me that he had already caught three fish in the hole I was headed for, but they had stopped rising to his fly. I thanked him for the bit of information he gave me, unhooked my caddis from the fly rod, and gently presented it on the creek. WHACK! A fish took my fly as soon as it hit the water, and I set the hook fast. I quickly looked over to see if the the gentleman was still close enough to talk to, but he was already too far away to share what fly was working. The fish bolted deep, which jolted my rod tip down hard and recaptured my attention. I quickly regained control, and brought in my first Yellowstone cutthroat trout of the day. 

Perhaps with my fish caught so quickly the next one wouldn't come as easily... I was wrong. After applying some dust on my caddis, it hit the water and another fish took. 

I set the hook and smiled, because I knew this was going to be one of those days.

I could do no wrong; the fish gods were smiling upon me, and I was already hooked into my third fish on my third cast. 

My brother would love this river, I thought to myself as I fought my fish. We would take turns catching fish, and make a fun video for my Dad to watch. But right now I was by myself, and the best thing about that was that I didn’t have to share any of the fish.

I try to make it to Yellowstone Park as many times as I can because there is so much to discover.  Everytime I return home a fellow angler named Thad always tells me about Soda Butte Creek. “It’s my favorite river in Yellowstone. Skip all the other rivers along the way, and you won’t regret it!” He would tell me, and now I finally understood why. 

After releasing another fish, I flicked my fly right back out and a fish didn’t take. 
“What the heck!” I yelled, having to recast.  
The fly hit the water, and I saw the yellow eye of a fish as it came up and refused my fly. 
“Oh, you want to play that way huh?” I said to the fish. I brought in my fly and clipped it off... only to replace it with a smaller version of itself. 
“Refuse that!” I said, laying it back out into the creek.

The very fish that had refused me just a minute ago was now dancing on my line. It felt good, not just because I caught it, but because I was also educating it... And a good education is nothing to waste. 
I released my fish and dried off my fly to catch another fish, and I couldn’t help but wonder how much time I had left to fish. I looked back to where some cars were parked, and didn’t see Gracy flagging me down so I went back to catching.

Do I seriously need another picture of a fish? I asked myself as I brought in another one. Yes... 

Okay, I told myself, one more fish and it’s time to walk to the next spot. That’s right.  I hadn’t moved since I had spoke with the older gentleman who told me the fish at this spot wouldn’t take his fly. As much as I wanted to stay, the next fish didn’t take long to catch, and it was time to walk on.

While I was fishing, the thought of a bear walking up on me hadn’t crossed my mind, but now that I was away from the water for a minute I was sure to ring my bell a little extra as I walked. 

I approached a nice deep section of the creek that looked to have good potential. I quickly unhooked my fly and sent it, ever so gently, on the creek. Smack! 
“Aww too easy.” I said in a deep Darth Vader voice. Sadly there was no one around to hear my terrible impression, or was there? A couple came walking by as I was fighting my fish, smiling at me. 
“Are you guys catching fish?” I asked, willing to give info if they needed. 
“Oh yeah, it’s a great day!” The guy said, as he continued walking. 
“Great!” I said back, and went back to bringing in my fish.    

My time was definitely coming to an end. The thought of Gracy being upset at me for spending extra time on the water was not even a concern, because the fishing was so good right now that her wrath would be worth putting up with. Of course, I was bringing another fish in when I had made that decision.

With my lacking time, I stopped taking pictures of fish. I couldn’t keep them off my line, and as soon as I let one go I had on another. All good things must come to an end. After releasing a fish, I glanced back at the cars and saw Gracy standing there. I quickly looked away, pretending I didn’t see her, but I knew that wouldn’t last. I hooked into another fish and let it go before I looked back in her direction to find her pointing at her wrist indicating it was time.

“Just give me ten more casts!” I pleaded as I got within casting distance. 
“It’s passed 4:30, so I have already giving you an extra thirty minutes.” She let me know.
“One!” I said, making a cast onto the fast water sweeping into a deep hole that looked like it could hold a fish. Nothing took.
“Two!” I said, making another cast with nothing taking. 
My fly landed in the fast running water and ended up right on the edge of the bank. A mouth came up and took in my fly, and I made sure I ripped it out of it before the hook could get ahold. 
“DAMN!” I yelled. 
“You’re on four!” Gracy reminded me.
Cast five, six, and seven went by fast, with another hook up and loss on seven.  
“Eight.” I said, making a cast. 
“No, that’s ten!” Gracy disputed. 
“No, those other two were bad casts and didn’t count.” 
“Mm-hum...” Gracy just rolled her eyes at me.      
“Nine, Ten...” I called out each cast. Despite my incredible day I was now pleading for just one more fish, and it didn’t happen. I quickly made another cast. 
“Hey!  That’s eleven!” Gracy yelled, but I wasn’t listening. I watched my fly drift swiftly down the stream, and a fish came up and ate it. I set the hook fast and ripped out the smallest fish of the day.         

Small or not, all I wanted was a final fish on my last cast at Soda Butte Creek, and I got it. We both made our way back to the car, and I geared down to drive back to the cabin. On our way out we came across a bunch of cars stopped near the road. This is a typical sight in Yellowstone, but as we drove by, Gracy yelled, “Bear!”  

Sure enough a grizzly bear was no more than thirty yards away from where I pulled in to park, and I couldn’t believe there were people out of their cars to get closer. It was great to see the grizzly walking along, but then I looked a bit further over the hill to see the very couple I had spoken to on the river. There was a small hill between the bear and the couple, so they had no idea everyone was watching a bear approach them. I opened the door and stood on the seat so I could be higher than everyone, and flailed my arms like a drunk airline marshal trying to stop a plane from going the wrong way. The guy waved back eventually, and I started directing him away form the bear.  He and his wife must have understood my urgency, and quickly got down into a ravine. The bear popped over the ridge where the couple once was, but by then I saw them come into view and out of harm's way.   

We watched the bear walk further and further away, and when it was out of sight we started heading to the cabin. Thanks to the bear, the worry about getting off the river late was not even a concern. Instead we talked about seeing the bear, and how stupid the people were for getting so close to it for a picture... Although... it would have been cool to see a mauling.