Friday, September 27, 2013

Fifty Friggin' Yards on the Lamar

The Lamar Valley is one of the prettiest spots on the planet. In the right dramatic light, with bison, elk, and proghorn swarming the valley floor, you'd swear you had been taken back centuries in time (Aside from Maude from Des Moines asking you for the third time if those fuzzy dots are bears).

The Lamar

At the floor of this valley winds the Lamar River and while it's less than a mile distant the walk is harder than it appears. Sea level lungs, bison mashed mud and dozen of rivelets conspire to dissuade one from continuing, but one does. Cause it's worth it, right?


I'll not be catching fish out past those aspens.

The walk of shame
Unless someone lures me with tales of superb angling, I'm never taking that walk again. It's a pain in the ass. And the fishing was lousy both times I took that walk. I saw one other guy while I was down there and saw him catch one fish. I saw a lovely drake hatch. I saw no fish. I touch no fish. I scour my gear-laden self for some talisman that will draw trout. I am foiled.

You would think some fish live here.

After two rain showers, incessant winds and no fish I marched back uphill to my vehicle for a rest and some coffee.

On the way out I met a guy walking in with a fly rod. 0X leader. Large, green wooley bugger. Shorts. sneakers. Not a piece of legit "gear" on him. Totally less prepared than I for any eventuality. We talk about eating Rainbows for dinner though I am fishless. I bet he caught fish.

There's a black speck in there somewhere that is my truck

Fifty Friggin' Yards
So I'm having my JetBoiled, french-press coffee (one mustn't compromise, no matter the locale) when I look downstream about a mile to where the Lamar enters a canyon and decide that's a place where fish might take a streamer.

At the pull-off there's a car with New York plates. Three guys are working the water below. The guy one pool up looks like he's rooted in spot slowly working his way through his fly box. Two guys downstream are a mystery. One is working up a pool and the other seems to be working down a run. They're clearly together. Below me is some questionable water but I had time to kill while these guys got a sense of direction, so I scrambled down with a 150gr sinking line rigged on my 5 weight.

Probably closer to 75 yards now that I look at this diagram.

After twenty minutes or so, the two anglers below start moving upstream, each taking one of the two runs below me. The lower one leapfrogs the upper and walks my way.

He was moving with purpose. The body language hollered "passive aggressive" though I couldn't figure out why.

Instead of just letting it pass though I gave him a hearty "How's the fishing?".

He muttered something incomprehensible though through the rambling I got the message: I had "high holed" him.

"Excuse me?", I said.

"You saw me coming this way and you hopped on water I was going to fish."

After a few days of fishing and soaking in the beauty of Yellowstone one would have thought I was at peace with man and beast. That perhaps, as a karmic offering, I would offer an apology for the misunderstanding.

I guess it takes more than two days to wring out the stress. Instead of ignoring the statement or muttering something and wishing later I had said something smarter, I said exactly what was on my mind.

"Are you f#&king kidding me?  High holing?! You were fifty f#*king yards downstream! You and your buddy weren't moving one way or the other. If I'd dropped in 10 yards from you, you'd have a beef, but fifty f&*king yards? Give me a break!"

He kept moving. Probably best for both of us. His buddy came by a few minutes later. Neither of us said a word.

I get that in this wide open country fifty yards is probably the equivalent of three feet in other places but his argument was a specious as the water we argued over. At best we were ignoring that fact that, by his definition, we were both low holing the guy upstream. We didn't discuss that finer point. Maybe he was just a jerk. Maybe I was too. But if I drop in fifty yards from you, and you call me on it, we may have words. Or maybe we won't.

I worked downstream through the water they fished. The runs were fishless but the slower sections, home to large boulders, produced fish reliably. I was glad I brought the sinking line. There's something about sinking lines that makes me feel like I'm going overboard; over-gunning when a simpler rig would do. But in this case I was able to get into the deep pockets and draw fish to my olive wooley bugger.

Most of the trout were in the 10-12" range but two were nice fat specimens. They were all Cuttbows, at least to my eye, though I secretly hoped that I was catching native fish. None lacked throat slashes so none came home for the pan.

While I hoped to fish the next morning, I had an appointment to get to two hundred miles to the south and the day was consumed on the road. No regrets. There was a stout beer and good friends at the end of that ride. And there are worse ways to end a fishing trip than a friggin' day on the Lamar.

Finally, a fish picture. A fine specked Cutthroat or a Hybrid? Probably a hybrid.


  1. Great post Steve, I travel alot for work too and always bring my flyrod. I can understand the pressure and pain of getting to hit a bonafied destination, new water, and then it not producing. I tend to resort to a heavily weighted double-nymph rig to produce when I can't wait for the hatch. And I fish where I see other fisherman to increase the chance I'll get lucky. 50 yds was generous. So kudos to you for unlocking the Lamar.

  2. I am glad to have stumbled upon your blog. Fifty yards? I would consider that a wide berth and I mainly fish the rocky mountains...... Surely etiquette can't be different based on zip code.