Maybe I'll fish tomorrow

Mother Nature clearly has it out for me
firehole river fly fishing yellowstone national park
Photo: Chad Shmukler

What the …

Is that … ?

Oh. The alarm.

I reach blindly for the phone on the nightstand. I don’t usually set an alarm, but today is different. As consciousness slowly overcomes dreamland, I have a vague memory as to why.

The Firehole. Fishing. One the last shots at it for the year.

I open my eyes. Oh, yes. I remember. I’m at the condo in West Yellowstone. Usually, as I send in my monthly maintenance dues check — the privilege that comes with “owning your own vacations” — I do so with a grudge. But there are times, like this one, where it’s worth it. I’m waking up just a short drive from Midway Geyser Basin, where piping hot water from the heart of the planet pushes up through the travertine and surges into the Firehole’s air-cooled currents and creates maybe the best fall fishery in America.

If only the National Park Service let the Firehole stay open all year long, it might be the best winter fishery in the country, too.

I’m sure I’ll be complaining about the timeshare next month. But not today. The Mr. Coffee, filled with water and loaded with grounds last night, is button-push away from a brimming cup. Then some over-medium eggs topped with some Li’l Smokies on the range.

It’s not exactly heavenly, but it’s nice. It’s not quite posh—I didn’t burn credits on the Presidential Suite this time—but it’s comfortable. There’s a flat screen. A fireplace. The couch is reasonable. It’s a nice little get-away.

I pinch the bedroom blinds open. The Montana morning looks brisk. No. It looks downright cold. It’s not snowing--it’s bright and clear. But it’s so cold, what little water vapor is in the air is freezing and falling to the ground.

How cold could be? It’s still October.

I look at my phone. Seventeen below? What? It’s only a month into fall? I am indignant. That can’t be right. Mother Nature has it out for me, clearly. Curiosity tickles my sleepy brain. Wonder how cold it was in Fairbanks last night? Scroll. Type. Push.

Twenty-one? Above? In Fairbanks? High today of 32?

Damn. I could be fishing the Chena. Well … if I was in Fairbanks, that is.

What’s the high here today? Back to the phone. Scroll. Pinch. Twenty? Seriously?

Ugh. Good thing I didn’t bring the camper. The camper would have been untenable last night. The 6-volt batteries would have frozen solid. It would have taken an entire propane tank to keep it warm.

That monthly maintenance dues check doesn’t hurt so badly this morning.

It’s OK, I tell myself. I need to get my gear situated, anyway. I have lots of time. Wait. When is it supposed to hit 20? Back to the phone. Push. Scroll. Pinch.

Not till 3? Good grief.

Well … there’s always the hot tub. The Wild West is a pretty decent dive bar. What’s the high tomorrow?

Back to the phone. Twenty-four. Low of 6. Things are … looking up. Sort of.

Maybe a day of rest. The hot tub does sound nice.

Or … I turn off the phone, and pull the covers up to my neck.

I’ll fish tomorrow. Maybe.