All genuine anglers have a few top secret fishing spots. I must have a dozen. I don’t take hardly anyone to these places. I fish them alone or with Granny or in the past with my dad. In rare instances I might take a best friend but as a rule I protect my sacred fisheries with every trick in the book – “watch out for poison ivy, the horseflies will eat you alive, there’s a bear at every corner” and the list goes on. And although these may be exaggerations, they aren’t “flat out” lies. Of course sometimes you must “flat out” lie to keep folks away from your hush-hush spot, and in my book, that’s acceptable.
These days, despite how hard we hoodwink other anglers from our treasured places they occasionally find them. Regardless of how hard they are to get to, no matter how far you have to hike, even if they’re difficult to catch fish at, today’s angler digs deeper then ever before to find new and remote places. Fair enough. But these places are clearly special even to the most lackadaisical angler. You would think they would instantly appreciate and respect such a spot the same way you do. Luckily most do, but when one angler doesn’t it’s your worst nightmare.
Today we fished Granny’s number one. We’ve been sneaking into this remote river for over twenty years. This gem is small and full of the neatest looking trout in the Yellowstone area. The drainage is full of wildlife and its only downfall is that it’s grizzly bear ridden. I’d call this river a fragile fishery. It’s so tiny that once a pool is fished it takes hours for the fish to feed again. It’s truly a stream you take turns at with your partner if you want to do well.
Granny and I were suspicious today from the minute we parked the truck. There weren’t the bear tracks we’re used too, but rather a more dangerous critter, humans. We only fish here once a season and last year we missed fishing here altogether. 2010 was the first time we ever saw other anglers. There were two and they hadn’t ventured far from the trail. They weren’t a threat. I made a point to visit with them and make sure they kept the place under their lid. They appreciated my care for the place and swore to secrecy.
Today Granny and I bushwhacked a good three miles deep up the river past the trailhead. We arrived at a pool that always provides a fish on the first cast. This pool might see a person other than us once every few years. Granny had on her favorite, the Chernobyl ant, and she landed the stupid looking fish catching machine where feeding trout hang. Sure enough up came a beautiful 13 incher. Granny got ready to sting him and to our dismay, the trout refused the fly. After many casts the heavily speckled trout never came up again. A sure sign of fished over fish. About twenty feet away there was a muddy area. I walked over and needless to say, more human tracks. Not only were there tracks, but some were old and some were new.
In an instant, Granny and I had one less “greatest place on earth”. Yes, we know we’re spoiled. Nonetheless, when you lose something this magnificent, even if you have eleven more such places, it’s a bummer.
An hour into our difficult fishing day, Granny and I spotted not one, not two, but seven anglers in the distance hiking out of the canyon of our precious stream. I’ll never know for sure, but it looked like a guide and six dudes. What kind of guide would bring six anglers to a stream that can barely handle two anglers at a time? Who knows, but it’s important to know these yahoos exist.
It was about 4 PM and Granny and I were here. Even if we were following other anglers, we were going to give the evening our best. Realistically we both knew that the seven angler army spooked far more fish than they caught. Surely the fish would be re-settled and hungry. After an hour of relaxing Granny started working her way upstream. Like the master she is, she worked every nook and cranny of every pool. She knew the obvious places had been hit earlier so she concentrated on the places a “yahoo” wouldn’t know to fish. During the next three hours Granny caught over twenty gorgeous trout.
Times have changed since Granny and I arrived on the Yellowstone fly fishing scene in 1986. There’s a lot more of us out there fishing. The truth is it’s a good thing. Many are anglers that have converted from taking their limits with worms to catch and release with flies. More anglers are aware of the needs of trout (for all fish species for that matter) and there are more of us to help protect the fisheries. Granny and I were a little upset for few hours today. But we bounced back and added another great day of fishing to the season. After the long day of hiking, tomorrow it’s in the boat on another great river.