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As Seen By The Imperfect Human Eye

Freedom From The Shackles Of Everyday Life

A Relative Of All The Trout That Have Ever Lived

A Relic From A Distant Time

If your history as an angler goes back far enough—to the mid-1970s, say—there’s little doubt that you recognize the piece of gear in the picture.  Quite likely, you owned one.  Everyone did.  If you don’t recognize it, consider yourself lucky.  It’s a Flex-Light, a small goose-necked flashlight that was de rigeuer for fishing after-dark.  Designed to be clipped to a vest pocket (back then, everyone wore a vest), its narrow cone of light beamed down with a simple twist of the head.  Sounds good pretty good, no?

It wasn’t.  The Flex-Light had problems, most of which were serious.  For one, it was heavy.  I know it doesn’t look like it, but the thing weighs five pounds, easy.  (It’s seven inches long.)  Okay, maybe not quite five pounds, but even as I heft it now, it’s ungainly.  There are two reasons for the weight.  One, it’s made of metal, just like 1970s cars.  Two, its power source was two AA batteries, which ain’t overly light, either.

In theory, a metal light should have proven highly durable.  And it was, so long as you didn’t spend any time near water with it.  (Who would do that?)  Exposed to water, the Flex-Light had a way of rusting.  On the inside, where you couldn’t see it until it was too late.

A light that turns on and off with a simple twist of the head seems like a good idea, even today.  Problem was that in the course of putting your vest on, taking it off, or, hell, just fishing, the light often jiggled on by itself. Always, this occurred in the daytime. Always, unnoticed.  This you wouldn’t discover until nighttime, when, in trying to illuminate your way, you realized the light was already on, its batteries dead like Zed.  In the unlikely event that you carried spare batteries (even more weight), the bulb of the Flex-Light could then be counted on to die. Naturally, replacement bulbs were impossible to find.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh.  After all, it’s only by comparison to the better alternatives available today that the shortcomings of the Flex-Light stand out.  I mean, now and then the thing actually did function.  I tied on a lot of flies and tippets under the beam of mine.  And I avoided a lot of hazards, like beaver holes, while walking off the water after dark.  Things could have been worse.

On occasion, I find myself pining for certain things from the ’70s—like my youth, or the fishing on the Firehole.  But never, ever for the Flex-Light.  Today’s lights are simply superior.  So rest in peace, (burned out) Flex-Light.  Rest in peace.


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Snow comes to Yellowstone

Snow has been falling in Yellowstone the past couple days.  Been cold and windy too.  But that hasn’t dissuaded diehards like Mike Brady, shown here fishing in yesterday afternoon’s snowstorm.

Autumn Arrives

Flight of the Caddis

It’s caddis time on the Madison River.  There are a number of different species emerging now, including several from the genus Hydropsyche.  One species in particular, H. cockerelli, outweighs the others in significance for fishermen.  If you’ve fished the Madison in the evening, it’s likely you’ve seen cockerelli as they swarm above the bankside vegetation.  These swarms look like miniature F5 tornadoes as the caddis engage in their pre-mating dance.  Arresting their movement with a camera provides an interesting look at the range of motion of their wings, which otherwise move too quickly for the human eye to see clearly.

Sunset on the Firehole

Considering the Weather

I never go fishing without first considering the current weather conditions and the forecast for the remainder of the day.  The best anglers I know do the same.  That’s because the weather plays such a vital role in the timing and degree of insect activity.  And insect activity, of course, controls the feeding patterns of the trout. Yesterday provided a rather classic example of this.

The morning dawned cloudless, windy, but reasonably warm (35 degrees, warm by West Yellowstone standards).  The forecast called for a high around 70, sunny skies for much of the day, and strong winds. Now, in these parts the weather forecasters may not be much for overall accuracy, but when it comes to predicting wind they’re almost always right on.  I knew the wind would likely pose a problem, especially when it was already breezy at 7:30 a.m.

I wanted to fish the Firehole River, since it’s prime time there.  I knew that if the winds weren’t too strong, a warm morning held the promise of a Pale Morning Dun spinner fall.  This early in the season there was also a chance of an emergence of same, despite the bright sun.  But if there was to be an emergence it would probably be minor, and it too would likely occur in the morning, before the day got warm.

So in thinking about where, exactly, to fish, I planned for light insect activity and strong winds.  This would require a reach of water with banks that offered good cover for fish but that were also exposed to the west wind.  If the insect activity was indeed light, the wind would serve to drive to the bank what few bugs there were, effectively increasing their concentration.  Hopefully, that would be enough to bring some trout up to the surface.

I headed for the Park at 8:15 a.m. and was on my selected water an hour later.  I was pleasantly surprised that the winds weren’t as strong as they had been in town.  Breezy, yes, but not enough to keep spinners from falling, if they chose to do so.  Around 9:30 a.m. I saw the first spinners gathering above the water. Pale Morning Duns they were.  Shortly thereafter, a fish rose.  Then another.  They were on a windward bank, and looked as if they were feeding on spinners.  I wasted no time in covering them.  I managed to hook both, but lost them during the fight.

As the morning progressed, the wind rose.  However, it never got quite strong enough to prevent the spinners from carrying out their mission.  It wasn’t a great fall, but it was enough.  A light sprinkling of duns started mixing in around 10:30 a.m. (it could hardly be called a hatch).  As I had hoped, the wind did indeed pile the insects along the bank, and that’s where I found fish rising.  Never once through the whole morning did I see a fish rise on a leeward bank or in the middle of the river.  All activity ceased around 11:30 a.m., and I called it a day. Later, in the fly shop, I talked to several anglers that hadn’t arrived onstream until close to noon.  They found no insect activity, and had minimal success blind fishing.

I felt fortunate for the fishing I had, and I attribute it to simply paying attention to the weather and understanding its influence on insects and trout.  I’ve written about this many times before, but still I think it’s a subject to which visiting fishermen should pay more attention.  You don’t have to understand all possible permutations of weather and insect activity (who does?, who can?), but if you’re willing to ask, and to learn by experience, I think you’ll have much better fishing.


Notes on the pictures:  The first shot shows the riseform of a bank-feeding trout.  He was in a perfect spot to pick off the spinners and duns driven there by the wind.  The second photo shows the fish after capture, a beautiful, pristine 14″ Firehole brown.