“If fishing is like religion, then fly-fishing is high church.” ~ Tom Brokaw
Another day spent on the banks of the Tongue River (north Fork) in the Prune Creek Wilderness Campground. We woke to a forty-degree morning and the sound of brown trout calling Len’s name. There was heavy condensation inside the trailer on the windows and doors. This happens when the temperature drops, much as it does in a tent with two people breathing all night. We just pull back the curtains and it evaporates quickly enough. Two nights feels right for a relaxed stay. Next trip we’ll make sure to book more double nights and make it the norm more than the exception.
We’ve had great neighbors here, quiet but friendly. Most of the conversations revolve around fishing, especially since Len walks around with a fly rod everywhere he goes, because you never know when the fish will be biting. And I hate to brag too much because he’s a modest man, but virtually everywhere people have told us, “the fish aren’t biting” he’s been pulling them out left and right (and releasing all but a few). Of course, there are lots of people here fishing for trout with spinners and worms (artificial and real) which seems weird but I guess some people do it that way.
The woman at Medicine Lodge Creek who ran park maintenance (and told him the fish weren’t biting there) asked Len what fly pattern he was fishing with and when he told her (Ausable Bomber—and how many fish he’d caught) she said her favorite lure for trout was a “Number Nine Pink Nightie” then waited expectantly. When Len asked what that looked like she laughed and said, “That’s gets the fly fishermen every time. It’s a number nine hook with a rubber pink nightcrawler stuck on it.” We laughed and she seemed pleased to have found another sucker to fall for the joke.
I’m now trying to use up fresh food in the fridge so I made our first hot breakfast of the trip: turkey sausage and western-style (but, of course!) scrambled eggs with garlic, red pepper, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese topped with hot sauce. And of course Len’s delicious coffee which I’m thinking he may need to start making every morning, given that he is retired now, after all. The trout kept singing their siren call and Len kept heeding it. We are right on the banks of the river and every time a fish jumped or the light on the water changed he’d go for his fly rod.
We snacked through lunch (while fishing and hiking) and cooked a big dinner on the Coleman stove (which I’m making peace with, by the way—either that or it figured out we wanted to send it to the scrap yard and decided to start working better). A mush of ground beef, garlic, cornmeal (or polenta, if you want to be fancy) and black beans. I added a little milk toward the end of cooking to give it some creaminess. When I asked Len if he wanted a second helping, he said, “No, thanks. I’ve had polenta.”
I opened a beer with dinner and my Yeti-Dad message was a winner. (For those who missed the story of the Yeti-Dad, two days before leaving on our journey, I received a very mysterious package addressed to Frank Tyler Akers but using my address in western New York. Now, Frank Tyler Akers was my father’s name, but he’s been dead for 27 years now and never lived in New York State. My brother is Frank Tyler Akers Jr, but he lives in Hawaii and when I asked Tyler about it he said he didn’t send it to me, nor has he ever ordered anything from Yeti that would have put his name in their database.
I stared at the mysterious package for a long time before opening it. Inside I found a very cool, very sturdy bottle opener that I decided to accept as a message of encouragement for my trip from my long-dead father and made sure to pack it in the trailer. When we got to Colorado, I bought a six-pack of Coors in the stubby bottle (because they would fit easily in the cooler). Lo and behold, the first night I opened a beer using my Yeti opener, there was a message in the bottle cap. The first one said, “What you’re made of matters.” Now that sounds exactly like something Frank Tyler Akers would have said, so I decided to take an artful picture of it. The next night the bottle cap said, “Get your hands dirty,” another perfect message from Dad, hereafter known as Yeti-Dad. And that brings us to tonight’s message, another really fine one for this trip and for life in general.)
After dinner we made a fire in the fire pit, watched deer cross the creek into greener pastures, and enjoyed the children from a large Mennonite family as they rode scooters and biked around the campground in overalls and black newsboy caps (for the boys) and aqua dresses and hair caps (for the girls). Our favorite was a little barefoot boy who couldn’t have been more than five. He circled the campground on his sister’s pink scooter at least ten times, very seriously. His focus and energy made me remember (fondly) the days of my kids circling the block in a troupe of neighborhood scooters—and it made me long to hop on a scooter and give it a spin.
Next up: A quick stop in Ucross and then on to Sheridan for our last two nights before heading home.
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