Fishing Light on the Firehole River

Fly fishermen tend to be a rather prideful lot with respect to the acumen they claim for their sport.

Leading the way: the art of tying – and fishing – with tiny flies for ultra-selective trout.

It has been whispered by locals to Yellowstone fly fishing that if the Henry’s Fork River in Idaho provides a graduate education in fishing small flies for selective trout, then the Firehole River in Yellowstone Park seals the deal for a Ph.D.

Such is mostly the case in the fall, when tiny baetis mayflies (size 22-24) hatch in droves on days where the weather is on the wrong side of atrocious.

On one such day a few weeks ago, I was fishing with my Dad in Biscuit Basin. It’s an annual ritual to pack a fly rod and hit the Firehole on what is hopefully the worst weather day of the year.

When I arrived, I sat in the meadow and watched another fisherman. He was incredibly skilled, and must have caught and released a half dozen trout over the course of 25 minutes. I spoke to him later in the afternoon and he said he caught thirty two trout.

Going against you: flies you cannot see tied on tippet fine enough to break if you sneeze, trying to fool fish in ultra-clear water that have seen five months of “everything in the book”, casting in a gusty wind in freezing rain, and hoping that your little imitation can be picked out among the millions of little morsels of real protein that are hatching in waves amongst trout that are feeding, how shall we say, at a leisurely pace.

Going for you: the hope – and reward – of catching one and returning it, reverently, so it can enjoy a Wyoming winter in a nice, warm spring creek.

American society says: More is better. More rods. More reels. More flies. More guides. More fish!

The Firehole River teaches a more valuable lesson: one is enough.

AND TO THE GUY WHO CAUGHT THIRTY FISH THAT DAY: I’m wondering if you took the time to remember any of them?

Photo: Firehole River brown trout, taken on a #22 baetis cripple dun on 7X. September, 2007.