April 30th, 2001

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Gold Ribbed Hares Ear
By: Ron Eagle Elk

After I retired from the Army in 1988, my wife decided there was half the money and twice the husband around the house. Shortly after her decision, I launched a new career as a Wolf Ecology Educator at Wolf Haven America. It was a great job. I got to be around wolves all day and I taught classes to people from Kindergarten kids to senior citizens groups.

In late July of the same year, my boss asked me if I had any plans for the next two weeks. Since I never plan that far in advance, I honestly answered "No, what have you got in mind." That's when he told me to pack my bags, I was taking a wolf to Yellowstone to assist the Defenders of Wildlife gather signatures for wolf reintroduction to the Park.

When I told my now ex-wife I was leaving for Yellowstone in the morning, she started helping me pack. I guess twice the husband underfoot was more than she could handle. With my entire collection of wolf T-shirts and several pairs of jeans in a backpack, I grabbed my trusty forty-nine dollar PX Special fly rod and reel and all my accessories.

Yellowstone in the summer of 1988 wasn't the crowded, beautiful park I remembered from my youth. It was, well, smoky. With the forest fires raging, smoke and ash filled the air around our presentation site at Fishing Bridge. During the first day we got the wolf a place to stay and plenty of road killed elk for meals, got the display area established and settled into our quarters.

The following morning the show was on. Every hour that poor little wolf had to get out of her private resting area in our van to greet her adoring audience for ten minutes. At least most of them were adoring. Some were Montana and Wyoming cattlemen who were making some veiled and not-so-veiled threats against our wolf's life. At five in the evening we put the wolf in her quarters, fed her a fresh hunk of elk and went exploring. That's when I found the Yellowstone River, a couple of miles down from Fishing Bridge. In a two-mile stretch of river there were only two fly anglers, and more trout rising than I had ever seen before. These were hungry trout, slurping every thing that even resembled a bug in the remotest way. That night I dug out my fly fishing gear and drifted off to sleep with visions of trout dancing through my head.

The next morning I stopped in at the fishing bridge store and bought two each of the only flies they had. A Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear and an Elk Hair Caddis. After putting in the slowest day of my life, I got to slip away to the river.

I found a large stone to sit on while I geared up. No neoprenes or breathables then, I had a pair of those green boot-foot things that looked like a really ugly pair of overalls. You remember those. If you fell in they would hold about fifty gallons of very cold river water and then never dry out. As I ran my line through the guides on my rod I watched the river carefully. I wasn't much of a fly fisherman, but I had read Curtis Creek Manifesto and I had an idea of what to watch for. The first thing I noticed was the lack of rising trout. After last nights vision of rise rings all over the river, this was disappointing. I also noticed the other three fly fishers on the river casting their dry flies everywhere, with no hookups. Not so much as a refusal. That's when I decided to tie on one of my two Gold Ribbed Hares Ear's. I'd read Curtis Creek Manifesto, remember.

I picked a spot with plenty of back cast room, and started to fish. Well, almost fish. I had to retrieve my fly from several bushes before I got it into the water. I finally managed to get a cast out a respectable distance and watched my line drift down river. A decent line pick-up, and another cast out to about mid river. As I watched my line drifting down stream, the end of my line started going up stream. I started to strip line in, foolishly thinking I was in an eddy. Instead the line went taut, and a beautiful cutthroat leaped into the air with my hare's ear firmly embedded in his jaw. I landed him as quickly as possible, admired his twenty-four inch length and released him. After that I needed a breather.

3# pound Yellowstone Cutthroat
It was then I started to hear the voices. No, not those voices. The voices of the other fly anglers up and downstream of me yelling out those famous fly angler words, "Whatcha got on?" I was the new guy on the block, the guy with the cheap rod, no vest, no glasses, no net and a pair of really baggy, leaky waders. I was the one catching trout. To be helpful to my fellow anglers I hollered out, "Elk Hair Caddis." Yes, I lied. I even smiled when I did it. I liked catching fish when the guys with the fancy outfits weren't. So sue me.

After I landed two more prime examples of Yellowstone trout, the guys with the fancy outfits figured I was stretching the truth. They were throwing everything they had in their fly boxes. Everything that floated that is. Right about then is when I smelled the smoke. Not forest fire smoke, but pipe tobacco smoke. Cherry blend, I think it was.

I turned to see where it was coming from, and there sat a guy in his sixties, hip waders, basket creel, and a gorgeous cane rod. He was puffing on his pipe and smiling. He said something about my funny looking caddis fly. Summoning up my best Drill Instructor voice, I hollered out "My mistake, I'm using a Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear." The fancy outfit guys scrambled through their fly boxes to switch flies. That's when the elderly gentleman pointed at the river and said, "That's a caddis hatch." Sure enough, there were bugs all over the place and there were rise rings as far as I could see up and down the river. I switched flies and cast again. I caught trout all evening on those two store bought caddis flies. They were so beat up I had to replace them the next day.

For the next two weeks I fished at the same spot every day, and as luck would have it, ran into that pipe smoking fly fisher almost every evening. Sometimes he'd give me pointers on my casting, share a few flies with me and help me drink my thermos of strong coffee. He taught me a lot about fly fishing, reading the river, and helping out other anglers.

Now, when I'm the only one on the river catching fish, I always tell the truth about what I have on. I always have an elk hair caddis on my vest fly patch. That way I'm technically not lying. ~ Ron Eagle Elk (aka NoahsBoyz)

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