I spent Tuesday afternoon on the Firehole river in Yellowstone National Park. It was reputed to be “on fire” (yuk yuk) by the West Yellowstone fly shops, and I’ve long wanted to fish the stretch where geysers are steaming away stream-side.
I walked and waded for about five hours, but the afternoon started with me realizing I’d left the box of flies (that I’d bought specifically for the Firehole) in another jacket’s pocket. The number one plan was to fish dry flies for a particular hatch, but the wind was whipping downstream and preventing any decent casting to the fish that were rising. Plan two was to swing soft hackle wet flies downstream… the flies I’d left behind.
So I went with what I had which were larger flies intended for the bigger browns and rainbows of the Madison river. The Firehole has a series of cascades that prevent those fish from migrating upstream, so the resident trout are more or less in the 12″ range (of which I saw plenty). I had a few bumps at the end of my swing, and I tossed one little four incher across the stream as I set the hook. Later, the wind relaxed some and I was able to cast dry flies to some eager fish but was unable to score.
At the end, the fish were mocking me, leaping out of the water while I was disentangling my windblown line and cursing without any reverence for the place in which I was standing.
Back at the parking lot, A hiker asked me how it went. I told him that I had some bad mojo today and it didn’t go well.
“A bad day of fly fishing is still better than a good day at work”, he exclaimed.
Harrumph. I said, “I don’t know what you do for a living, but I like my work.”
A good day at work… let me see. The end of the day on the dyno when the printout is being reviewed and the motor is ticking as it cools, a 1925 Bugatti that made good power and didn’t blow up. I derive much more satisfaction from that than from five fruitless hours casting into a cold wind.
Having my driver get out of the car after a great race, safe, happy, smiling; telling tales and shaking hands… that’s a good day at work.
Seeing the end of a major project, shepherding a car or a motor or a pile of parts through to a happy conclusion… that’s a good day at work.
I have had many days on the water where I cursed myself and the water around me, despite my good fortune at having the opportunity to do so, and despite the often stunning scenery around me. Occasionally it feels as though I am being punished by the gods for my blasphemy. The time I sat at the edge of a lake and almost cried (OK I cried) after breaking ten knots in a row. I literally could not tie the same knot that I’d made a thousand times, ten thousand times! WTF? Or spending 15 minutes tying a complicated nymph rig, only to have it tangle into a ruinous clump on the first cast. Twice in a row.
A few days ago on the Madison I had an experience that could have been maddening if it had not been so funny. I spent a long time casting and swinging my pair of flies without any interest from below the surface. Suddenly the line came tight and as I lifted the rod into a heavy weight, I grinned and thought, “that’s a good fish!” But it was only a moment until I realized it was another average whitefish, and I had snagged it in the adipose fin with my #4 streamer hook. I unhooked the unlucky whitey and cast again… boom! Another heavy tug… that turned out to be another foul-hooked whitey, this time in the belly. Two casts in a row! What are the odds? Later that day, while fishing little nymphs under a bobber, I hooked a substantial fish, a big rainbow I realized as it jumped, but then came off. The hook had a scale neatly pierced in its center, another foul-hooked accidental snag! Three in one afternoon, the only fish on my line. Ha.
Wading the Firehole on a cold, cloudy day in October is by itself not better than a good day at work. I admire those people that have the ability to tune out negative emotions and be at peace with their surroundings. I have not yet acquired that life skill, but I do remain hopeful that someday…