Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

June 19th, 2000

Life is Good

We usually fish until dark, but the wind was really blowing a gigger, and the fish were off somewhere else. We headed home. It's just a two-lane blacktop road, very few houses, not exactly remote, but well timbered. Ahead on the shoulder of the road was something. JC slowed down. We finally made it out. A doe and a very, very small fawn. I don't know that I've seen one quite that small.

One of life's little miracles.

We've fished the Upper Yellowstone in the Park and had buffalo cross the river behind us, in fact we finished lunch in the car one time when the 'buffs' decided to have their lunch next to where we were having ours.

Elk on the Madison or Firehole in the Park are common, as are moose around Yellowstone Lake. Later in the fall, elk and sometimes bear are seen on the Gallatin as well.

It's an amazing nature show available to the fly fisher.

My first trip to Montana left me staring at this bird. I had never seen anything like it! The silly thing walked right into the water. It wasn't a 'duck-like' bird, just a small regular bird. Except it walked into the water. And walked around. It's a water ouzel or dipper bird. It just doesn't look right! What great fun to watch for a mid-westerner. Even better it has a lovely song. Two for the price of one.

One summer on Flathead Lake in Montana we had a mother merganser with her flock of babies. She would float by, babies in tight formation behind her, some riding comfortably on her back. Priceless.

Then there was another late evening fishing on our beach here when the local rookery of blue herons decided we were invading their territory. They didn't attack us, but flew overhead several times making a weird high-pitched call. We named them pterodactyls . . .not their real name of course, but imagining what it must have been like for large creatures be to flying overhead in prehistoric times.

I'm sure you've seen muskrats or mink or beaver along the streams in your fishing travels. They are getting to be a rarer treat, but an important part of the eco-system where they are still found. There is something very neat about fishing where it is still wild enough to support them.

I've only encountered a few deer while fishing over the years, occasionally swimming across the river or catching a drink. But the tracks are evidence of their presence.

Racoon Tracks

Even in the Bahamas on one of the small islands where we stopped to have lunch, I wandered down the beach just to see what there was to see. I came across a set of tracks - which looked very familiar. When I got back I asked our guide about these tracks, and described them as racoon tracks. The guide smiled, laughed, and said they were racoon tracks.

Then of course I wondered where the racoons came from. I don't think they are a native species there since it was my understanding the only native critters were the lizards (curly tails) land crabs and the multitude of birds.

I have no doubt that being observant has helped me as an angler. If I can see the insects, and hopefully identify them, I should be able to see the larger, more obvious stuff. And all of it really enriches my life.

Large or small each of them are part of the miracle of life, one that connects us with the very source of our lives. Perhaps that is why fly fishing becomes such an important part of our lives. It's not that a river runs though it - it is the river. ~ LadyFisher

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