Trip Report Nostalgia Trip

Here’s an actual hot spot- the Firehole River. According to the USGS water temperatures there have already reached 72-degrees.

Obviously one doesn’t go to YNP over the Memorial Day weekend for solitude. Missoula is a heck of a lot closer to lots better fishing. So why? For a very long time I’ve been meaning to revisit a special stretch of water that I first fished over half a century ago. After returning from Asia and the difficulties of recalibrating to college it was a centering joy to discover fish rising to mayflies and caddis in late May.

Over the next several Springs irreplaceable memories were formed on that stretch of water with several fishing friends. An African kid from a tour bus once walked several hundred yards across the bison- cropped meadow to ask us, “How much are those spears for fishing?”.

This year family logistics finally allowed for a nostalgic return.

I’d been back to the Park many times since the halcyon days of the early 70s. During the 1988 fires got to buzz over the Firehole in a helicopter! With Covid restrictions lessening it was no surprise to see license plates from essentially all the states. For some reason this year the entire subcontinent of India decided to join the rest of Asia for a look-see.

EVs and hybrid vehicles have become common in the Park. Maybe someday the NPS will solve the congestion caused by thousands of individual vehicles clogging the roads in the Park. Opps, sorry, that was a thought from 1970 that intruded into this year’s narrative.

Madison Junction Campground, where tents have twice collapsed on me during late snowfalls, should really be renamed Conspicuous Consumption Campground. Ted Trueblood would weep. Anyway all the campsites there were booked months in advance. Motel room prices in West Yellowstone now rival downtown Manhattan. Foreshadowing- I stealth-camped in the 4-Runner.

The actual fishing?

I had resolved to throw only dry flies- ideally using the patterns from a half-century ago. First up was a little gold-bodied brown spider. That simple fly always worked when the fish were on tan caddis there. It took four casts for the vintage spider to fool my first erratically rising rainbow.

The White Miller caddis (Nectopsyche sp.) showed. I don’t recall seeing them in the old days. Various caddis dries worked well enough on these unsophisticated opening day trout. To my great pleasure the best pattern of all was the one I’ve taken for my handle.

The mayfly emergence was spotty at the pool where I was forced to post all day. Opening day 2021 you just seize a spot and hold it all day. Guys slightly downstream (where I had hoped to fish) reported seeing a big flush of PMDs. A few fish seemed to be eating emergers and I caught a couple on a low-riding emerger pattern slightly tarted-up from the 1970 version. It was mainly a caddis show, though. I never put on waders.

At midnight I was awakened by rude bright blue and white and red lights. A pair of NPS LEOs very politely suggested that I not camp there again. I won’t. Probably won’t fish the Firehole ever again either, but it was intriguing and a very mixed pleasure going back.

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