This summer I made my first pilgrimage to the waters of Yellowstone. I had dreamed of going to Yellowstone for many years. But, actually this story starts six years ago when I first fished with Sigge-san. Sigge hosted me to a great day of trout fishing at Yozawa stream, near Tokyo. The story is accessible on the Web in English on the Partridge and Orange Website in Japan at http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~zg7s-nitu/PEOPLE/KENT/kent.htm. My invitation to Sigge to fish in America together was to be realized. Six years later we had made plans to fish together again, this time in Yellowstone. Yellowstone is the Mecca for all flyfishers from all over the world. Sigge, his wife Kinuko, and 3 pals had planned their dream trip to the United States. Sigge is truly an organizer and leader, carefully reading all the literature on the region and strategically planning each day to enjoy all the variety of fishing on the precious week of intense flyfishing. Unfortunately, Sigge had to cancel the trip.
I met Takayoshi, Haruo, and Hisaki together for a day on Slough Creek in the NorthEastern part of Yellowstone. The trip was their dream trip to the United States to flyfish and I was eager to fish with them. I would spend the rest of the week with my wife and children seeing Yellowstone wonders for the first time. Watching a herd of 1000 bison migrating was amazing. Hearing a pack of wolves howling at dusk was equally amazing.
Sigge sent a wonderful gift; he sent me his dozens of flies he hand-tied for his dream trip to Yellowstone. Dozens of superbly tied flies filled the box for every conceivable hatch chronicled in the guidebooks. Only a flytier can know the months that can make up the contents of a flybox. I was overwhelmed. Sigge is one of those flyfishers that want to catch trout with flies they have poured their affection on themselves. Fishing with Sigge's flies in some small way allowed Sigge to be with us in spirit.
We drove from Canyon Campground to the Lamar Valley, enjoying the blankets of wildflowers along the way. The two brazen coyotes right near the Lamar River had us thinking about the other wildlife of Yellowstone, especially the legendary grizzlies inhabiting the Slough Creek watershed. We hiked from the Slough Creek trailhead about 2 miles and 1000 feet elevation to the start of the first meadow. The rain would stay with us most of the day. Very little wind during the day helped along a small hatch. Several fishermen were already fishing up the valley. A dozen anglers would appear throughout that day on the first meadow. The clear and shallow water of Slough Creek requires stealth and a drag free drift. The fishing was slow, but the fish Gods allowed some fish to appease the flyfishing faithful.
I caught, landed, and released a total of four fish that rainy day. The first fish was at the beginning of the meadow. The black foam ant with green grizzly hackle landed a 10-inch fish. The second fish was caught on a gray parachute with a green grizzly hackle and white post. The third fish was a nice fish of about 17 inches. I used a loopwing baetis obtained on a long- ago trip to Manzanita Lake in the Lassen Volcanic Park in California. The fly worked at both places for large fish. The fourth fish was caught on a #14 elk hair caddis with a greenish body. The successful flies were all dark bodied and size #14. I was not surprised that three of the four fish were caught on Sigge's flies.
The sun finally came out as we fished back down the meadow. We found a scattering of elk bones on the riverbed with the chew marks left by some large scavenger. The group talked a bit louder on the walk out to make sure no bears were surprised! We talked to a backpacker returning from a trip to the 3rd meadow. The tales of magnificent fishing (and bloodthirsty mosquito's) had me thinking of a return to Slough Creek to fish a bit further up the drainage. We said our good-byes at the trailhead and I thanked my new pals for being my fishing partners.
I enjoyed talking with my new pals. We had much in common on the river. The Japanese fully embrace the Western style of flyfishing. I sat and watched skilled casts with tight loops being thrown. The enthusiasm and determination to catch these selective trout was common among all of us who are passionate about flyfishing. I noticed a real partnership among the group, fishing close to one another and sharing any successful fly pattern. The 3 flyfishers were headed to the Henry's Fork to take on one of the ultimate tactical challenges in the West.
Yellowstone flyfishing is a mixture of fishing, scenery, and wildlife unsurpassed in the lower United States and probably much of our shrinking world. An excellent ranger talk highlighted the great success of fishing regulations on the Yellowstone over the last 20 years. Sadly, the Yellowstone Cutthroat is now threatened by Whirling Disease and from the illegal dumping of Lake Trout who dine on the cutthroat in the Lake in unbelievable numbers. Deep gill netting of the Lake Trout in Yellowstone Lake has had recent success as declining numbers of the foreign fish are counted each week. The ranger was encouraging the renting boats and catching Lake Trout and killing them by eating or 'knocking them on the head' and returning them to the lake to return the nutrients to the lake. As Americans, we can be proud of the conservation movement to have Yellowstone and other protected areas where people can enjoy wildlife in a natural and sustainable way.
My first trip to Yellowstone was a very special time for my family and me. I am looking forward to going back to Yellowstone to fish again. Sigge will someday join alongside me in the cool, trout-filled rivers of Yellowstone. The dream that I have now is Sigge raising a glass of fine whiskey in celebration of a fine day's flyfishing in Yellowstone.
Photo by Takayoshi Matsui.