It seems every fishing trip we take is a mixed bag. We (JC
and I) loved the Black Hills. It has been twenty years since we were there,
and the growth centering around Rapid City is mind boggling. There is now
a major mall in 'Rapid' (as the locals call it,) the only one within several hundred miles.
We stopped in at Scheel's All Sports at the Rushmore Mall to say goodby to Al Campbell who
was the organizer for this year's fish-in. Al manages the Fly Shop and Optics departments at
Scheel's. If you are following the instructional fly tying series here on FAOL you are familiar
with him too.
Al (AC to the Chatroom folks) had told us what a great store Scheel's is, but we were amazed
at the quality operation it is. The sales staff is outfitted in canary yellow shirts, with ties for
the guys, and they were friendly, greeting folks (not "Can I Help You?") but "Good Morning!"
Besides being well stocked, neat and all that, there is a large sign over the entrances to the
store which (forgive me if I don't have the wording exact,) says to the effect that everything you
buy in that store, on sale or not, is guaranteed by the store and if you aren't happy with the
product return it for a full refund. Wow! There are twelve Scheel's All Sport stores in the west,
I've only been in one - but I can't imagine the quality or policy is any different in the rest. It was
a treat to be there. Nice going folks!
The base for our fish in was at the Crooked Creek Resort, two miles from Hill City. It's a
nice place, clean and nicely maintained. The folks who run it however, leave more than a little
to be desired. When we made our reservations we were told we had to send a check, they
didn't take credit cards. So we send a check. When we actually got there, we were asked to
pay for the entire week, in advance. And oh yes, they do take credit cards. Not all of our
folks were able to stay at Crooked Creek, a mix-up on their end - but they weren't thrilled at
all to have anyone not a paying guest there be on the property at all. Even tho they were fully
informed this was a group event well in advance. Getting any kind of answers or service at the
office was nearly impossible. Such a nice place and such a poor attitude, too bad. What a
contrast to the wonderful attitude of Scheel's. Too bad the Crooked Creek Resort
owners don't share the attitude of all the rest of the businesses we encountered
in South Dakota!
Last year on the Upper Yellowstone at Buffalo Ford we had a neat picnic. No picnic this year,
but one of our local hosts, Ken Wooten provided a "snack" after fishing one evening that was
delightful. An adult beverage with his neighbor's homemade elk summer sausage and pickled
goose breast. Just how neat can you get? Thanks Ken!
Flying anywhere these days is a bear, and I don't envy those who travel extensively
for their work. We had the OJ Simpson leap and run through the airport in Denver
to make a United flight which ended up being an hour late. That flight was
posted on the teleboards as "on time." That left our host Ken Wooten hanging
out in the Rapid airport for nearly 2 hours with no way to reach him.
The Rapid airport is a really neat building. Sitting out on the prairie it reminded me of a Frank
Lloyd Wright or an Alden Dow building. It also has a very nice restaurant. Our flight in and
out of this airport was on United Express, which is actually Wisconsin Air. Those flights were
on time, and very neat since the fan-jet airplane flies low enough to actually see the countryside.
The gal "flight attendant" Cindy, on the flight back to Denver had a neat sense of humor and
got a round of applause with her description of "in the VEERRY unlikely event of a water
landing your seat cushion -" since there isn't any water big enough to land in between Rapid and
Denver. Wisconsin Air seems to have a different attitude too.
Leaving Denver was another problem - late, packed plane, ran out of food (which was at least
recognizable) which put us late into Seattle so we missed our jitney back home. We live about
2 hours from the SeaTac Airport. SeaTac is going through another of it's re-build and add-on
phases. Parking is terrible, and expensive. Parking at a lot outside the airport runs on the
average 12-20 dollars a day. And you still have to drive in the gridlock Seattle traffic to get home.
We stopped driving to the airport some time ago. The local service to SeaTac is the Kitsap
Airporter, and costs us $38 each round trip. It's another $20 for the taxi to get us to and
from the pick-up place. Expensive yes, but less expensive than driving and parking at Sea
Tac. That all said we got home after midnite Sunday, and still had to do the changeover for
the next week.
A little bittersweet. We hardly had time to savor the joy of the Fish-In!
From some Chat Room comments and email I receive, apparently some of our readers
think JC and I - and those who write for this website are all rolling in dough. Wrong!
We are just normal folks, nobody is rolling in it. We are all struggling to make the
ends meet - just sometimes the number of zero's on the end are different. It costs
us just like the rest of the folks who came to the Fish-In. Wouldn't have missed it 'tho!
A final thought. Last year we had our Fish-In in Yellowstone National Park. We
enjoyed making connections with old friends there, met some folks from the web,
and renewed friendships too. However, the fishing was not as good as in the Black
Hills. That is even considering rain, discolored and high water! South Dakota may
be the unsung hero in fly fishing. There are a variety of places in every price range
to stay or camp and food prices seemed to be considerably less. The locals are
actually glad to see you. And the bottom line? They have fish!
If you are looking for a destination to fish, you might consider the Black Hills first. Other than
our own group, we did not run across any other fisherman on the streams. Well, except for
a couple of kids who were bait fishing and that's another story.
It's beautiful country with great people. JC and I highly recommend it! ~ LadyFisher
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to
post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!