Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

June 28th, 1999

More on the Fish-In

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!"

Al Campbell at work with JC and LadyFisher

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

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