There is so much to learn and teach if we take the time. We show them seams where trout feed or carry them across swift currents. Flip rocks and match bugs from a fly box. Wet their hands before holding the trout you let them reel in. Laugh as they splash and swing the net, chasing a big brown darting on your line in the current.
The river has changed in the winter, but somehow it's familiar. Amplified somehow in every experience. We walk out to the river, but it's quieter. The sound of snow crunching beneath our boots reminds us of that silence. We read water, but the seams and pockets are more nuanced and subtle.
Perhaps one of the more challenging and rewarding trout to chase is the golden. I remember as a teenager backpacking into the Beartooth Mountains and deliberately passing on some of the lakes we knew held goldens. They were brutal hikes to say the least. I am happy Dana accepted the challenge and chased those beautiful fish, and am grateful to her for sharing her knowledge and experiences on the podcast.
We went up the Stillwater River into the Beartooth Mountains. Past Sioux Charlie and Frenchy’s meadow. Beyond Cutoff Mountain. Further than I had ever gone. Until we reached the valley where Slough Creek flows down into Yellowstone Park. Vibrant green pine saplings blanketed the earth beneath tall grey sticks the fires left along the slopes until they reached the high edges of rockslides and steep granite. When the wind blew wildflowers in the grasses swayed and made fleeting purple waves in the pastures. We were alone. I was twenty years old, and thought I knew how special it was. Knew how small I was in the mountains. How precious that time was. Now I understand it was more than I could have known then.
Fishing was slow, but I was optimistic. The East Fork of the Sevier River is more of a small stream than a river. The water rarely widens more than a dirt road, but it is enough. High desert grasses and steep hills make for beautiful scenery and there is easy access along the highway. I had never been skunked in that section and it was rare to see other fishermen in the canyon. So far, I was alone. It was blue skies and when the wind stopped, the sun warmed me. A smile on my face. Why not be optimistic?
Water flows from the mountains to the ocean and touches everything in between. As varied as the waters we fish are the people that fish them, and why. For me, part of the in between is a freestone mountain creek or meandering meadow stream. Here's why...
The first time I fished Mammoth Creek, I drove past them. The fences were weathered grey and white cedar bleached by the sun. Faded and torn, the old coral melded into the tall grass along the river. Part of the landscape. I noticed them just before the gravel road took me up a small hill behind wide oak trees that reached over and made a tunnel for my small white truck. I drove on until I knew that those worn posts had been the landmark. “The Corals”. Then I travelled further through the beams of light that penetrated the trees and strobed off the white gravel until I found a spot where I could make a three point turn and drive back through my dust cloud towards The Corals and access to the river.