I’m sitting at the computer, at the end of a nice day. It’s late, but I still want to share with someone my emotions, the latest and strongest ones being those of a recent trip to the States.
Out of the drawer comes my trip’s diary, the first ever I wrote with accuracy and pleasure, out of the drawer, positioning it next to the keyboard. A few months went by since I came back, and I never opened it again: sweet memories start playing a pleasantly wicked and subtile game.
Instinctively, I begin my writing trying to meticulously remember everything, but then I stop reading, for I don’t want to lie down a catalogue. My mind is subdued by images that she independently chooses, and as in a kaleidoscope, they turn, come back, and merge into one another.
Whenever I forced back memories, or tried to mitigate their unrelenting weakening, I also found myself suddenly saddened by the melancholic feeling of time slipping away.
I’m still sitting next to Claudio, in his comfortable Chevrolet Suburban, while he calmly drives with his forearm relaxed on the wheel, and the ever-present Marlboro slowly burning away between his fingers. In the back, Albert is taking his usual baby nap, as normally does Beppe R. too, when he is not leading the talk. Livio is silent, as often is, but very present, as always.
Music from the Eagles keeps us company, as sweet as the barren hills we’re travelling through.
The same images, over and over… the extraordinary visual impact is due to their repetition itself.
Even the only other vehicle on the road, a huge truck behind us, on which the rising sun dazzle sparkling on it’s gaudy chromes, reminds me of Hollywood, and I realize we’re not on “Duel” only when he passes us without blowing the sinister horn.
Rambling through America has always been my dream, and now that I’m finally doing it, I am almost shocked to find her even more surprising than I ever thought. At least, “this” America, of it’s vastness, it’s infinite and desert roads, so far from the neurotic and omnipotent ego of it’s political, economic and TV leaders, even though it is also the same America so willing to support and legitimize their doing.
In that diary there are miles upon miles, everyone of them “lived” moment after moment, day after day, because there’s always something ready to surprise you out the window, something to ask Claudio, who always has an answer, already written and inspired by his immeasurable love for what, since over twenty years, has became his new land.
This trip is unfolding rapidly, yet enjoyed in its full, ‘til late at night, when we sit outside the cabins, relaxed with a cigar between a sip of Jack Daniel and checking the fly-box. Then, at least this time, I will not open the diary. Winter is already here, and there will be time to do it, to re-leave and let re-leave a great trip, time to talk about every single river and stream, of the trout we caught, how we caught them, and all the details. For now I’ll let the mind take over. I’ll give freedom to words and images, freedom to chase each other and to loosen themselves in the prairies because, aside from the fishing and my friends company, it has been the sense of liberty, and the vastness of the territory that most impressed me. It is a strong magnet, and I already know it’ll be pulling me back toward this land that became an instant friend.
An image that, by itself, holds the essence of an unforgettable experience. To admire with pride and respect that cutthroat, in the feeble evening light, feeling part of a primordial natural context, being surrounded by the same water flowing as it has been doing for centuries, unchanged despite different actors and their rituals, it infuses me with a warm serenity, a sense of peace and well being so intense that I can’t wait to share with my friends at the end of the day.
American scenery. Travelling toward our destination. Empty ribbons of pavement, fascinatingly perturbing, at times straight like arrows aiming at the horizon, then sinuously hugging hills and dunes, along with the barbed wire, are the only man made elements in an otherwise natural ambiance. Set on the ground, without any other cement structure of sort, they are one of the States strongest icons.
Coming back from the Blackfoot River, in the southern part of Idaho, just North of Utah; distances start to broaden, weaving hay fields follows natural earth contours, playing with the sun’s last rays, to create a warm palette of amber colored lights.
From Victor to Driggs, in Idaho, but just East of Wyoming, great scenery amplifies Mother Nature’s strength. To our back the Grand Tetons, vast prairies in front of us, all spotlighted by sunrays furtively protruding between huge, menacing dark clouds. With our heads still resounding the western music from the “Cow boy Bar”, and the palate still excited from the bison “prime rib” at the “Gun Barrel” the night before in Jackson, we proceeded on the trip’s only private fishing itinerary, a ranch (huge, of course) crossed by the Teton River, and for good measure also by a few spring creek, that empty into ponds choke full of trout.
Vast territories covered by sagebrush, delighting the eye and pleasing the nose. In the middle of all this, Claudio’s Chevy, a comfortable and reliable “mule” that we stuffed with five person’s personal luggage, all our fishing gear, rods and fly-tying tools included, cooking stoves, and food and drinks in two separate coolers… did I forget something? Oh Yeah! Two folding tables, chairs, a couple of tarps, charcoal…and God knows what else.
The scenery that suddenly welcomes you, after several miles on a bumpy and dusty unpaved road amid desert lands, alone is worth the ticket. It is the Green River, in its headwaters, in Wyoming. It has been one of the few rivers, along with the Beaverhead, that gratified us with breathtaking beauty and fishing disappointments. We unrelentingly met both of them, perhaps too much in a hurry, without listening or trying to favor their rhythm. But that’s OK: in the land of “fast food” there shouldn’t be “fast fishing” as well.
We searched for them when time wasn’t ripe, we took pictures of them from 500 yards away, wasting time and film, to finally end up, literally, surrounded by them while in the car, then almost side by side on the riverbank, when we stopped fishing to witness an Oscar worthy river crossing. Big, powerful beasts, yet dignified, challenge the river’s current in a row, at times swimming, mightily re-emerging in a fast growing mist and bustling hooves. Not even John Ford would have been able to render the whole thing more majestic.
All as Claudio predicted, but for us, grown with De Gregari songs, that’s another myth we cannot let go. Anyhow, fishing on the Yellowstone River, with bison grazing around you, has been one of the most intense emotions that I personally have ever experienced.
The Firehole flows amidst the green, lunar Yellowstone Park landscape. Colors, contrasts, smells, fumes and hisses of vapors. Dante would have come out of it drunk. The Park is not only fishing, even though it could be. A thousand fishable streams for a total of 2650 miles, over 200 lakes, 75 thousand fishermen per year that try in it at least once.
It is a fishermen’s dream come through. By the same token, it is not possible to omit visiting the geysers, the mountains and water falls, the multitude of wild animals, the pristine territory… all of which make it the oldest and most visited natural park in the world.
The Gibbon, meandering small stream near the Yellowstone River, ideal alternative for a couple of hours relaxing from the big river’s tensions, to pursue small brooks and brown trout in a serene environment. I It is in this prairie that a personal misadventure unfolded, fortunately with a good ending. Jumping a natural ditch, I lost my camcorder. Obviously I found that out almost at dark, and after having walked a couple of miles on the stream’s sides tall grass…
Admirable generosity of my friends, the following day they renounced fishing to help me look for it. Crawling on all fours, combed the tall grass in every direction for three hours, scouring marshes among mule deer, when all hopes seemed lost it was finally thanks to Livio that all ended up well. Although I didn’t digest too well what he said about how he find it: analyzing my piscatorial psychology, he imagined me jumping a narrow spot on the stream to go ahead of a fishing partner. Went to look for a narrow spot and, sure enough, the camcorder was right there! Despite this naughtiness, he earned the lifelong right to a supply of flies he deems needed, every time we’ll go fishing together.
In a country as young as the U.S.A., and especially in areas that started to be thoroughly explored only in 1885, historic memoirs are hard to find. To an Italian, the multitude of land marks designated “historical site”, but made of old wooden barracks along some main artery, are a bit curious, and makes them smile. Bannack, or what’s left of it, but well preserved, deserves an accurate visit instead, as a testimony of the gold rush.
It was 1862, when the shining metal was found on Grasshopper Creek…
The Sunrise Fly Shop in Melrose, Montana. Melrose has a population of 160, there isn’t a single store, but you’ll find two Fly Shops. It says it all. A region that leaves on flyfishing, a culture and a passion rooted in the territory and its people. In the Fly Shops, on the chalkboard, you don’t find what’s on sale, but time and intensity of local hatches. If I could choose a place to be reborn, there you have it: Melrose! It would have to contend with Jackson, Wyoming, and with West Yellowstone. It’d be quite an interesting contest.
This picture doesn’t need comments: past and present in flyfishing. :-)
While the folks in Ennis, Montana, made a monument to the flyfisherman, those in Logan, Utah aren’t less conspicuous about their passion. Here is a metallic monument to the Royal Coachman showing off in front of one local Fly Shop. In the USA one understands why Orvis can afford to spend a million dollars to just cover a new rod’s projection costs, while in Italy folks have to settle on hand made stuff…
Two words on insects. We didn’t find the Trico’s intense hatch we expected, especially on the Big Hole, neither a constant presence of green drakes, but PMD and BWO were more often present than not. Likewise for the sedges: in order to imitate them, and with Livio’s counseling, I ended up creating the “vapurusa”, which resulted very effective on the Madison River and other streams later on.
An eagle captured with my camera from a boat while floating the South Fork of the Snake River. Fishing from a boat with a guide is ad adventure I recommend, especially for the TLT technique lovers. To discover that the strong biceps of an experienced oarsman rowing against the current can much more easily defy drag, aside from complicated casts, gives some intriguing thoughts.
The scenery “lived” from within the river, constantly changed by the continuous moving along, slow paced at moments, meandering in others, to became impetuous at times, will be carved in one’s memory thanks to its overall beauty, along with the emotionally charged descent itself.
Talking about youngsters, here’s one of a moose. We’ve been looking for one for at least two weeks, scanning far away between bushes and marshes, to end up with a very up close, unnatural and dangerous encounter, while fishing the Hoback River. The moose, in America, injures more people than bears do. It’s big and powerful, and it does have a bad attitude.
The adventurous bunch. From left to right, Alberto, Beppe R. Beppe S, and Livio. Why this pictures now? I’ve just finished mentioning bad attitudes and nasty characters… and both, me and the other Beppe falls in these categories. Fortunately, Livio and Albert are used to it!
A tribute to Claudio. A great cook. With the few resources available, when for various reasons we couldn’t go to restaurants, he spoiled us with large pasta dishes and BBQs, even a flambé’ pineapple, and we always had good wine and Italian coffee.
With all the rivers we fished, it is difficult to evaluate them one by one. There hasn’t been time to know them deeply. But sensations are somehow less objective and I feel I can cast a vote, giving the high rating to the section of Yellowstone River in the park, above the falls.
It could be because, with some good luck, I ended up “outfishing” a row of Americans, could be because of the bison, or its beautiful cutthroat or, probably, even more because I’ve dreamed it for a year and then, contrary to what happens to all my dreams, I found it better than my wildest expectations.
A beautiful brown trout from the Big Hole River, the most “European” stream encountered, with its long flat runs alternating swift currents, so often fordable, has been a qualified theater to all sort of fishing techniques.
Claudio "USA" and Beppe Saglia on the Teton River, Idaho, in an obviously reflected image: Claudio would never be caught to the “left”!
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