This is the trip I have planned for months…~5 months….almost the most planned trip I have ever done. Why? Because Mark is with me. Almost 19 now, my times alone with him in the wilderness have been few and far between in the last couple years. And next year he’s gone; off to college. So, when Kelly opened a crack in the door for a father-son trip to MT as long as we visited MT State where he was accepted, and did it cheaply. There is one splurge on the trip, though, we are floating the Yellowstone River with Paul Bloch. And fishing with a guide in MT is expensive. I have never fished the Yellowstone and it is frequently called the Yankee Stadium of the Rivers in MT. So, we are paying the exorbitant guide fees for this once in a lifetime trip.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
As expected it was tough to get Mark out of Bed. I had to lure him out with the crappy free Marriott breakfast thing.
I talked to paul on the phone and told me to try and find the base layer stuff. there was a Walmart close and I needed to get beer, soda and water anyways so I trecked over there. and I was reminded on why I hate Walmart so much. tons of tons of crap but nothing in baselayers for anyone under 300 lbs. so I bought us xls and cheap sox anyways. and this was expenses out of the budget that Kelly always seems to haunt me about.
That excursion made us another 15 late but that was ok, because it was cold and snowing. Paul picked us up at the hotel at 8:30am and we headed for the shop.
We drove 11 miles up river (grey owl to carters bridge, I think)
In the beginning it wasn’t slow. Mark was in front of the boat and missed 4-5 in a row getting his bearings to drift fishing in the boat. We were catching white fish. Within the hour we both had trout. I was on streamers and just not catching like I should have. Too early in the season. Mark was on the bobber in front. It was bitter cold, though. 30mph winds and snowing at times.
It was never really slow all day except for a 30 minute stretch and at times it was hot. The first major accomplishment was when the weather got so bad we pulled over and landed to pee. Paul took mark into the current out of the boat and he nailed a nice rainbow! Out of the boat! On the “Yankee Stadium” of rivers….the Yellowstone. I was beaming. So was paul. Lots of high fiving.
Mark was killing it. and I let him drink a couple beers in the boat. He is almost 19. He was out fishing dad again which made me so proud. Paul was proud of him too. he taught mark so much about casting and reading the water.
We got back in the boat and then it happened….. in the fast water mark hooked, battled and landed a really nice brown on a dead drifted zonker. Because of the fast water paul couldn’t back row it…so mark did a great job battling and landing that fish.
Then it occurred to me….the grand slam. No way could a rookie get a grand slam on the Yellowstone….could he? From the back of the boat I said to paul and mark: “Mark you have a chance at a Yellowstone river grand slam.” Typically quiet and he was shivering cold, I said, “All you need is a genuine Yellowstone Cutthroat and you have it.” paul immediately jumped on that and said, “we’ll do it!”
Well, the sun peaked out and it couldn’t have been five minutes later when mark was on and in a battle. Paul seems to have the eyes of an eagle because at one point he said, “it’s a cuttie!” Mark landed it. high fives and “woo!”. Paul carefully examined the fish and told mark: “in a decade this fish will not exist. This is as pure a wild Yellowstone cutthroat as there is.” Mark didn’t understand or appreciate that at the time and I’m not so sure he still does. But, one day he’ll tell his kids he caught and released a fish that is extinct.
And there it was: Mark had a grand slam on the Yellowstone River.
Now, there was only one thing left to do….and I knew exactly what paul was thinking…. Looking for risers. We had been catching a lot of fish and with an 11 mile float we had to move so Paul pushed looking for risers. He took us to one of his secrets spots…and it was like tuna feeding in the ocean. I have never seen anything like that. A full on boil in the foam with millions of bugs.
Paul shouted at Mark for what to do and for me. Mark dragged his nymphs through there slowly as instructed by paul and boom! A big rainbow. Then, in typical paul fashion he said, “we have to do that again on dries.” So, he back rowed to it and we anchored up stream of it because of the current being so strong next to it. It was my turn so paul handed me the dry rig and I casted…missed to the left… cast again…miss to the right….cast again…in the zone… paul says, “twitch it.” I do. Paul says, “Pull it back slowly…” and I feel the tug and set and the battle is on and I scream “woo!”. the fish runs to the fast current and jumps. Paul says, “Big Cutty!”…. I’m on 5x and the fish in in the fast stuff below me so I’m panicking… and he jumps again. Paul says, “you are going to have to finesse him out of the current.” And I say, “I’ll ruin the hole.” He says that is ok. So I try and try. But finally I get the fish into the slower stuff about 50 feet below us and pull him up and through the hole and paul nets him, “Woo!”. Late I found out paul had zero confidence I’d land that fish.
We didn’t have bags; we were wearing other people’s clothes, and we didn’t care. Great day. We found out the next day that we were the only ones on the river that did well. That is why I love fishing with paul. He’s so good; and he always wants to do the special thing as opposed to the numbers thing. he doesn’t seem to get the respect from the other outfitters and guides and I think I know why. He’s only been fly fishing for a decade. That is a rookie in that business. Of course he’s only in his mid twenties.
We had a great day and mark and paul got along smashingly just as I predicted.
We took paul to the chophouse in Livingston. I insisted on treating; it is the right thing to do. I love that place. The food is spectacular. Rivals anything Bozeman has that I have been to. I had a buffalo rib eye. Mark had lamb chops. Paul had the biggest steak I have ever seen. Awesome.
The other good news. A long conversation with delta at billings and they overcame united’s screw up on the bags. They were sitting idle in san Francisco where we missed our connection. Even though I asked united on the phone to ensure our bags got transferred they blew it. The delta gal I talked walked over to united and talked to them. She rerouted the bags on two delta flights to Bozeman airport. The only downside was that I had to pick them up at 1130 at night after that long day. mark was so wiped he couldn’t even go with me and I didn’t mind. He was worked. I let mark drink a JD and coke in the room and since I had to drive to the Bozeman airport I passed.
I got all 3 bags at the Bozeman airport that night…thank god. Because tomorrow was our “big day”.