My father traveled with us on our recent Yellowstone trip. In the days leading up to the trip, I was pleased to see him becoming honestly excited about the fishing. You see, Dad is a serious bass fisherman. The type with a high-speed bass boat, heavy rods, one ounce lures, and a schedule full of competitive tournaments (in fact, he won a bass boat in a tournament this past weekend). Trout are sissy fish. This is a man who has, to put it kindly, owned me in the fishing game for my entire life. But who’s keeping score, really? I mean, I don’t care that he outfishes me with everything from red worms to tuffie minnows to half ounce chartreuse spinnerbaits. I’ve always just enjoyed our time together. No matter how many more and bigger fish he catches.
Well, we all know that’s complete BS, so I’ll just state the obvious and say that I was looking forward to giving the old man a lesson in the finer points of fly fishing for trout. He would be on my turf, for a change. Finally. Oh sure, I wanted him to have a good time and catch a few nice cutts, but what I was really interested in was showing him how a real fly fishermen did things by netting a few real behemoths.
What actually happened wasn’t quite that. To put it bluntly and quickly, so as to ease the pain, Dad caught the two biggest fish of the trip. The included photos are the proof. I’m certain the first is around 19-20″ and the second isn’t much smaller, although we measured neither. Both came from Slough Creek and both were nice cuttbows. I wasn’t completely belittled. In fact, I caught so many trout that, in the end, I began to feel bad about it. Honest. This was the first time in my life where I caught enough, and even enough more than enough that I began to feel ashamed. A fisherman ought not just catch fish after fish, as I did a few times, from waters receiving as much pressure as those in Yellowstone. A lesson I intend to take to heart.
I’m certain we were among the first to toss dries on the Lamar River in the particular stretch we happened upon, and the fish blasted our flies with a gullibility that almost made me cry. It was the same on Slough. By the end of our ten days in the park, I had landed around ten times the number of trout as my father. I even hooked a few real monsters. One, a rainbow or cuttbow, was without doubt the largest trout to which I’ve ever been attached. It looked to be around 4 lbs and well over 20″. I chased it up and down the stream until finally, despite the valiant performance of my 8.5′ Phillipson and Bill Ballan reel, the hook simply popped loose. It felt as if he took a part of my soul with him. It appears I am the type of fisherman who must land his fish as opposed to the type satisfied with soliciting a rise. Another, a large Lamar River cutthroat, struck at an inopportune moment and came loose after I worked it down 40 yards of bank toward my net, which I had stupidly left behind while scouting ahead to a section of pocket water. I landed several nice fish in the 16-18″ range. But, you know what? It felt like the old man still won. Despite all the fish I caught and fought. Big fish do matter. And actually coming through does matter. I’m not saying it should. I’m just saying it does. Insane likes to joke that he is my daddy. The truth is, my daddy is my daddy, and always will be. I guess I’ve finally made peace with that.
I will take many things from this trip with me to my grave. The most vivid will be Dad holding that big cuttbow in the middle of Slough Creek with the mountains receding in the background. He might be a bass fisherman, but I’ve never seen him more happy with a fish than he was then. And I’ve never been more proud of him. Great job, Dad.