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Travels of a wannabe trout bum

6/16/2009
Gary Giudice

Lifelong angling buddies, Ed Weber of Rochester, N.Y., and Gary Giudice from Norman, Okla., are fly fishing their way up the spine of the Rocky Mountains following mayfly hatches. They started in the White Mountains of Arizona and will end on the Bow River of Alberta, Canada. This blog follows their trip.

About a year ago I was traveling north out of Yellowstone Park. In the back seat sat the ashes of my constant companion, a Labrador retriever named Teal, two beautiful young ladies from the Ukraine, and a single bottle of water.

Girl, girl, ashes, water. I thought it strange the way everything was lined up but Ed, driving the rental car, was mostly worried about the bottle of water.

"What if they don't have any thing to drink," he said. "It'll be a long dry day ahead with only one bottle of hot water."

Ed Weber, one of the best fly fishers and fly tiers from the East, and I were on our way to Depuy's Spring Creek, a place of dreams just off the Yellowstone River south of Livingston, Mont.

We've been talking about fishing it for some 20 years. We're told it's a highly technical stream with the smartest trout in the country. We'd soon find out.

We were as ready as we would ever be. Behind the girls, the dog and the bottle of water was enough fly tackle to open a descent-sized shop. And we had a combined 100 plus years of trout fishing knowledge. Bring those picky, nose-in-the-air trout on.

North we went, the Yellowstone River on the right side, over priced ranches for sale on the other and the Ukrainian girls constantly giggling in the back seat.

John Coulter, of Lewis and Clark fame, rode this very valley on his way to being the first non-native American to see the Yellowstone Country. You've got to wonder if he noticed the rising river trout as he rode solo along the river.

My guess is he was more worried about the Indians than he was the fish. If that's the case he missed a wonderful thing and you also have to wonder what else he missed along the way. Ed didn't worry over the Indians, just the bottle of water.

The young ladies worked in Yellowstone Park cleaning guest rooms at a lodge. They, along with many other young seasonal park employees, hitched rides back and forth to other jobs out of the park. Travelers picked them up every morning for the trip north.

Energetic, those folks from all over the world, with money for the fall tuition to be made. We dropped them off at one of the many bread and breakfast operations north of Gardner.

I had full intentions of spreading Teal's ashes on the upper reaches of the famed Slough Creek the next day. But today, now rid of the giggling Ukrainians, we need to find some more water before checking in at Depuy's.

Depuy's Spring Creek is impressive from the start. You check in at an antebellum mansion. White gothic columns, long spreading staircase and walls cut from actual travertine.

Betty Jo Smith greeted us a whole lot better than Scarlet O'Hara would have. Not a southern belle but a matriarch of the ranch. Sparkling eyes, friendly smile and an attitude that made us glad we were there. We even bought a couple of logo caps.

"You boys are sure to catch them now," Betty Jo beamed. "What with those nice looking new caps and all. Ed that purple looks good on you."

PMDs started hatching while pulling up our waders and didn't stop all day. Sometimes emergers worked best, at other times spinners, but we caught fish better than we'd ever dreamed all those years of waiting. It wasn't hard.

We needed no more than average skill. It was a fly fisherman's Disneyland. Big fish and plentiful, cast after cast. After about ten hours a strong summer storm blew us off the stream. Wet, bone tired but smiling we headed south.

On our way back to Yellowstone Park that night high on a successful day, Ed and I started talking about our next dream trip. We've had several through the years — the cut throats in the Rockies, huge bass in Mexico, the browns in the Catskill's fabled waters, redfish of Venice and the Caribbean bonefish, permit and tarpon trifecta.

But as the next trip starting taking shape it would prove to be one that would take more time and planning than any before. We were going to follow the insect hatches right up the spine of the Rocky Mountains.

From Arizona to Alberta, we'd fish for trout from the time the southern most trout streams cleared up after Spring thaw until we hit the famed Bow River in Canada. A place to start and a place to end, no plans between. Wherever hatches and trout took us.

And now we are finally we are off on our latest adventure. Two old trout bums with no agenda more than to catch some pretty trout in some pretty places and maybe meet some nice folks along the way.

Not all of it would fish as well as Depuy's, we know. But we'd stop off and see Betty Jo on our way through. This time with plenty of water, hopefully no cherished Labrador retrievers to take care of and positively no Ukrainians.