Yellowstone's Small Streams

Free Fishing Lessons

Small streams are excellent teachers. The pupils catch a lot of trout, so their tactics and casts are rewarded. We'd chuckle when Chase would get into his predatory mode. He would zone out, lean forward, and for hours on end, he'd cast and move, his eyes always peeled for rises and subtle movement.

We had difficulty convincing the two teens that they needed to be scared of grizzlies, that bison can outrun them, not to walk too close to the thermal areas, to brush their teeth, and so on. And when you are in the less-frequented areas where the small streams flow, you have a better chance of encountering wildlife. But at that age, young men have a certain cockiness that defies description or counsel.

But we fished streams so clear the water was invisible, and we did so in the middle of the prettiest section of country in the West. Each small stream was a little different than the previous one but still familiar. The small streams ranged from serpentine meadow streams to pockety fastwaters to riffle-run mini-famous rivers.

We hoped that our explorations of the wilderness that these small streams coursed through showed the boys a genuine affection for the outdoors (even if we ourselves craned our necks, silently watching out for their safety at every grizzly sound we heard crackling in the forest).

Watching a Pro at Work

So there we were, the four of us, not on a big stream, but sitting in a meadow by a little stream, a step-across stream with undercut banks and bend pools, snacking on summer sausage and cold water, laughing loud enough that the wolves could hear us.

Earlier in the morning, on our easy hike along the small stream, while we were catching fish after fish, we ended up at a lake. The fishing in the lake was poor because the wind whipped up, but we got to see something few people ever do.

A huge bird appeared out of nowhere and swooped down on the lake like a stealth bomber. It was an eagle, big enough to carry off one of the boys. Her talons were out, she hit the water and rose quickly, grasping one of the 14-inch trout we'd been trying to catch. None of us said a word, just watched, slack-jawed at the sight.

We finished our lunch, put the trash in our pack, and got back to fishing. The fake sky looked like one of us could reach up and scratch it with a fingernail, and for a moment, as if we were posing for our own postcard, everything in the world seemed just a bit more real by contrast.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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