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  • Rusty and Cindy Stimmel

Wyoming, Tribute Fish-Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout

The chosen fish for Wyoming was the Mountain White Fish, which Rusty caught in the Badger-Teton National Forest in August of 2017, while waiting for the Solar Eclipse. Wherever we’ve gone, we’ve tried to stop at a local fly shop to get information on the best fishing, where to go and the type of fly fish like in an area. We stopped in a couple of Wyoming Fly Shops, where we told them that the Wyoming fish was a Mountain White Fish. The response we usually got was, “Why are you being so mean to Wyoming?” Therefore, we decided to add a Bonus Fish to catch for Wyoming. That fish is the Yellowstone Cutthroat.

About the time that we could get around to catching this fish, it was the first to middle of September 2017. Coincidentally, this happened to fall on the time of the 15th anniversary of the passing of Cindy’s father, Marlow E. Freckleton. While staying with Cindy’s mom, Gayla Freckleton in April, she and Rusty found one of Marlow’s old fiberglass fly rods while cleaning out a storage shed. Gayla said that we could keep the pole and Cindy later decided that she was the one who wanted to try to catch a fish on it. This meant that she would have to first learn how to fly fish, so she was committed.

After leaving Glacier Park and their numerous forest fires and smoke, we decided to head to the Island Park area of Idaho. We ended up camping at the Grand View Campground which was above the lower Mesa Falls in the Targhee National Forest. We’d previously decided to try to catch a fish here on Marlow’s pole as this area of Idaho was a place that Marlow liked to fish. After they were married, Marlow and Gayla lived in Rexburg, Idaho where Marlow was taking classes at Ricks College as he pursued a career as a Soil Scientist. During the summer, Marlow took a job working for the forest service in Driggs, ID. He would often fish the Teton River in this location. Gayla remembers an old house, maybe even a log cabin with an old wringer washer, which was used often as she was potty-training 2-year-old Cindy at the time. So, we went to Driggs to try to catch a fish-any fish!

Our first try was on Monday the 11th. The terrain on the river banks was full of vegetation with the bushes and weeds being chest high on Cindy, making it very difficult for her to cast. This meant that Rusty, with his trusty waders, was the one doing the fishing on Marlow’s fly rod. It was rough going even for him. There were fish rising all over the place, but very few hits on his fly. As he made his way over to the boat launch, he got a hit and hooked a fish. He handed Cindy the pole to bring in the fish while he tried to net it. It was an exciting moment while Cindy brought in the fish until Rusty accidently nudged the line with the net and the fish got off! Rusty saw that it was about an 9-10” Cutbow-a hybrid Rainbow and cutthroat trout that is now found in this river. It was a disappointing moment, but we persevered with our quest, trying many other areas and several different flies. With fish rising all around us, we still failed to hook a fish.

The next day, we decided to not try to use Marlow’s rod and maybe count the one that got away the day before as our tribute. We’re sure Marlow had many fish get away and we thought we had to be content with that. But there was one day left-even the whole week if need be.

On Wednesday, September 13th(the actual anniversary of Marlow’s passing) we headed to Yellowstone and camped at the Madison Campground. We arrived a little after noon, and after a quick lunch we decided to try one more time to catch a fish, particularly a Yellowstone Cutthroat, on Marlow’s fly rod. We’d stopped in West Yellowstone at a fly shop and talked to a couple of eager young men who gave us great advice on fishing in Yellowstone. Michael recommended fishing on the Cascade Creek, just below Canyon Village in the park. We also showed them Marlow’s fly rod, which they thought was extremely cool! Another option was the Lamar River and Slough (Slue) Creek. We decided to try the Cascade Creek. We parked at a hiking pull-out just off the road below Canyon Village as had been recommended. We had to cross the road and hike down a narrow path across the street, heading about ¼ of a mile to where we could access the creek. This was through a rough meadow where a lot of dessert type plants made up the foliage along the way. There were very few trees along the way and a lot of evidence of Bison passing, which we could tell due to the many Buffalo chips we had to step around. After going over a slight hill, we ended up at the creek at a place where the Bison had evidently crossed many times. This was a pretty little creek, clear and with a variety of snags and overgrown banks, meandering its way through the countryside. A perfect habitat for fish to live and hide.

The wind was blowing with some gusts, so we decided to use a method called dapping-where we let the wind blow the fly and let it dance on the water. This method didn’t work because the stream was too narrow and the wind too variable. Therefore, we ended up just drifting the fly. This method involved using the wind to get the fly into the right position to float through holes and by undercut banks. Cindy, using Marlow’s fly rod, was doing the fishing.

We slowly worked our way upstream, Cindy drifting the fly. After about 10 to 15 minutes, Cindy got a small hit, but didn’t manage to hook a fish. We could see fish swimming in the crystal-clear water, so we knew they were out there. We continued to slowly work our way upstream, by-passing snags and difficult areas. In one spot, we came around a sharp bend in the river where the water was a little deeper than we’d fished. There were a couple of nice skinny logs and branches lying in the water near an undercut bank-a great spot for a fish to hide. Cindy had on a #12 Parachute Adam’s fly, which Rusty had tied. As she drifted the fly past this spot, she saw a flash as a fish came up from the bottom and took the fly. She quickly pulled up on the rod and hooked the fish! It took off and veered to the left, then downstream to the right. Cindy held the rod steady and slowly reeled in, gently guiding in towards Rusty and the net. Rusty scooped it up and Cindy quickly grabbed the camera. After a couple of pictures of the fish in the net, Rusty brought it up for Cindy to hold as he took pictures. This was a Yellowstone Cutthroat, about 12” in length. We’d not only caught a tribute to Marlow, but the bonus fish for Wyoming! This was an exciting and amazing experience in a wonderful place. Marlow had fished in small streams like this one and loved to fish in Yellowstone, too. It was the perfect tribute!