I pulled into West Yellowstone Montana around 3pm. I had left Western Maine four days earlier and it was a relief to be where I wanted to be. I had driven in from Gillettte, Wyoming after a reasonable 450 mile, eight hour drive. I was glad to be there in the afternoon. I had set myself up for the early arrival by driving around 850 miles the day before....leaving Cedar Rapids Iowa before dawn. I had not taken the shortest route. After skipping around Chicago, I had turned right and headed North. I like to drive through the South Dakota badlands so I finally hit highway 90 before heading West again. Driving through the badlands gives me the first real feel of the West, and although I don't linger, I get out of the truck and take a picture or two and just soaked it all in for a few minutes.
I was going to meet up with a fishing buddy, Richard Klemtowicz, who had arrived a few days earlier, after driving from New Hampshire. I had known Richard for a long time. We had been part of the management team for a division of a fortune 500 company and we had found ourselves at the right place at the right time. Circumstances were such that we both retired early and went fishing. Like all my fishing buddies he is generous, has a self effacing sense of humor, and realizes there's more to fishing than just catching fish.
I actually spotted him as I pulled into town. He was leaving a fly shop and on his way to the Best Western. West Yellowstone is in the Southern part of the state and nestles right up against the West entrance to Yellowstone Park. The town is not that much larger than the little Western Maine town that I call home...maybe with a population of 1500 or so full time residents. However, it has scores of hotels, restaurants, gift shops, and at last count, seven fly shops. Back then, the hotel rates dropped by 50% after Labor Day. Now that's not the case. Everyone figured out this post Labor Day deal and now the hotels stay full the entire month.
After checking in, Richard hustled me over to Arrick's Fly Shop to get my license and to purchase the few mandatory flies that he had figured out were working on the Firehole, one of his favorite rivers. I like it too. After a couple of drinks in the room, we figured we would wait to go in the Park until morning. I was a little crispy from the road and Richard had fished all morning and had no problem taking the evening off. We hit a pizza joint where a friend of ours, who was also the town manager, was playing in his blue grass band that night.
The next morning we drove into the Park and Richard led me to an area of the Firehole that he had scoped out and where he had caught some fish the day before. I was moving slowly and, as always, was taking in the beauty of the Park. We had already seen bison, elk, and I don't know how many eagles...a lot.
We rigged up size 16 nymphs and we were both on to fish right away. We started to see a few rises and Richard switched to a little beetle and started catching Rainbows on it...even more fun with a dry fly. And that's the way it went. We usually stayed within sight of each other, except when we went around a bend. Towards dusk, I was walking up the bank with my head down...one needs to be careful when fishing the Firehole. ...there are holes of boiling, sulfur smelling water all up and down the banks. If you step in one , you can break a leg AND get cooked. As I turned the bend and looked up, there was a bull elk not fifty feet in front of me, standing right in the middle of the river . He had a single doe with him and I got the feeling right away that I was interrupting something. He moved his front legs a little so that he was facing me directly, it would have been a simple matter for him to run over me. My life didn't flash before my eyes or anything like that, but at that moment, I wanted to be downstream..."And that's where I went."
If you enjoy these little blogs, please remember that they are made possible by the kindness of Sue and Brett.