Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Do you believe in magic?

OK, it’s been a while.  And yes, as I look at the date of my last post here on 52TROUT I’m pretty embarrassed.  But hey, I’ve had writers block and I’ve been pretty busy.  And there haven’t been that many fishing trips this year… and there has been zero new artwork completed (except for the jewelry).  But enough with the excuses.

A couple of weeks ago I had an experience that I never would have dreamed possible.  I went back to Slough Creek after some 49 years (see this post) and I got to share the experience with 5 disabled veterans and their wives.

But we didn’t just go to Slough Creek – no, no, no, we went to the Silver Tip Ranch - the ranch that I’ve always known about but never dreamed of actually visiting!  Situated just outside of the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park, the ranch is around 100 years old and is the foremost, leading, preeminent, supreme, unrivaled, second to none, without equal, unsurpassed, peerless, matchless, unbeaten, optimum, ultimate, incomparable, ideal, and perfect destination for any fly fisher.
The owners of this exclusive private ranch offered the Trout Unlimited Veterans Service Partnership (VSP) a week of glorious, rustic luxury, and five lucky vets from across the land were invited to bring their spouses and enjoy their hospitality and fabulous fishing.  Thanks to our Western VSP Coordinator, Dave Kumlien (who just happened to have a few contacts at the ranch) we got the invite and all of us had a fantastic time.

The Ranch

The native Yellowstone Cutthroats were a bit sluggish from the spring runoff and water temps in the very low forties, but we managed to catch our share of them.  Their sizes ranged from 12 to 20 inches and they were gorgeous.  We found that weighted streamers were the ticket – fished slow and down and across the crystal clear stream.

Yellowstone Cutthroat
Without exception, all of the ladies – none of them with prior fly fishing experience – geared up daily and joined their best friends on the stream, and those occasions along with the evenings around the great log fireplace were special times for all of them.  Dave and I, along with our two other volunteer guides, Jim and Jo Borowski, heard many stories from the wives and the vets of how the experience was truly life changing.  Trust me – the healing powers of the water are real.
Slough Creek
Slough Creek
Me and our vet buddy Bob
Dave and our vet buddy Bill

On a personal note, in spite of the scenery, the fishing, the accommodations, the gourmet cuisine, the camaraderie and lifelong friendships formed, the highlight of my trip was honoring the wishes of my parents.  My two brothers and I were blessed with parents that not only loved to fly fish for trout, but were insistent that their boys developed the same love.  From weekend camping and fishing trips throughout the Ozarks to our yearly trips to Montana, Mom and Dad sacrificed much to see that Tom, Bruce and I developed a love for the outdoors and an appreciation for clear waters and God's handiwork.

Before their deaths a few years back, both of them asked that we spread their cremated remains in the streams of yesteryear, and it was my honor and privilege to do just that in the waters
of Slough Creek

Though we know that each of them are fishing the streams of Heaven and that their remains were just a visible symbol of their lives here on Earth, it was pretty cool to see their ashes drift downstream on a very special Montana morning.