Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Miles way, but right at home

Paula PiattIt took five airplanes, thousands of miles, some food that was pretty bad for me and 10 days on a soft mattress, but I finally found it.

A trout stream that looked like the one 200 yards from my backdoor.

While Steve and I have been blessed to travel to some pretty neat places, I guess I still like my “home waters” the best.

Driving through the moonscape that is Montana, I really wasn’t comfortable until we hit Soda Butte Creek, a tributary of Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar River. We slowly made our way through the sagebrush and tumbleweed, past the wolf paparazzi who sit for hours on end and watch black specks in the distance, past the meadow section of the creek, up into the mountains (no, real mountains, not the Adirondack High Peaks), and down over a steep bank.

I never felt as close to home during my vacation as I did then.

Steve and I always look forward to fishing Soda Butte. The mountain stream is full of cooperative cutthroat trout that will, literally, rise to the occasion. On this night, the slurps were few and far between, but we still managed to snake plenty of fish out of holes we just knew held even bigger specimens.

Having floated the Madison River the day before, I’d had my share of clipping along in the riffles. I would be lying if I said the 18-inch wild brown trout weren’t a blast to catch, but shuffling along on my knees on gravel under deadfalls is really my idea of fun – the possibility of hooking a grizzly on my backcast aside.

The dark water just had to hold fish, and it took all of my fishing skill to clang the yellow Adams off the downed tree without snagging it. After about the third or fourth try, there was success. The Adams danced on the water for maybe a second before the feisty cutthroat took a stab at it.

Fish on… if only for a second. (While my casting is improving, I’m still working on my hooking abilities.) I practice distance catch and release and it’s on to the next pool. Steve’s having just as much fun around the next bend; I hear a whoop as he’s coaxed another one out of the slight bend that many fisherman – perhaps those without his small stream experience – would simply walk through, scattering fish in every direction.

The moment was fleeting, however. A coming rainstorm – the first of our trip – threatened to cut the evening short, if the setting sun didn’t do it first. The similarity with our Eastern streams ends when it comes to packing in bear spray to ward off a potential grizzly encounter, so you don’t want to be caught out there after dark.

But there was time for one more cast… and one more cutthroat to take a look at the fly.

There’s no place like home.

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