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The waters of the park are everywhere and wonderful. All of them are good waters for trout, though the fish themselves for the most part originally had to be brought up by man and planted?they couldn't get up the falls.
In the northeast corner rises the picture-postcard Gallatin; in the south the Lewis and the Snake. The Yellowstone rises outside the park and runs into Yellowstone Lake, the largest lake at its altitude in the world and full of cutthroat trout. Below the lake the Yellowstone River begins its long great run, picking up at the north end of the park the Lamar and the Gardiner, good fishing streams. But the best fishing, and most of the fishing in the area, is outside the park.
On the north, in Montana alone, and well within the 100-mile circle, there follow in succession from east to west, about 25 miles apart and separated by mountain ranges, the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone, the Stillwater, the Boulder and West Boulder, the Yellowstone (on its northward run), the Gallatin, the Madison, the Jefferson and the Big Hole?a concentration of the greatest trout rivers in the U.S.
Although these rivers have been fished with one kind of tackle or another for many years now, and those to the east close to the populous center of Billings are heavily fished, they will not?short of complete drain-off for irrigation?be domesticated. They rise in permanent wilderness and have in their nature the quality of wild water. This quality is inherent in the atmosphere of western fishing, distinguishing it from the pastoral east and England and from that which has been most often described in five centuries of trout-fishing literature.
"The essence of true angling is tradition," says the eastern writer, Sparse Grey Hackle; and there is no doubt that eastern fishing takes much of its inward, intimate charm from its connection with the past. The west cannot now and perhaps never will satisfy this taste and the dogma that goes with it. Fly fishing there is a relatively new sport. The western writer, John Hodgdon Bradley, who has probably fished more western waters than anyone living, says that in 1920, when he first went out there, he saw no dry flies and few flies of any kind for sale or in use in Wyoming or Montana. Yet even with the adoption of the most subtle of traditional ways of fly fishing, the west remains incorruptibly west. It is a country for those whose hearts respond to great shapes and spaces and to a splendor that is forever new and elusive in its constant transformations. The western fisherman carries tradition, along with a few novelties like the Hopper, in his fly box, and by this thread alone is he tied to the past.
The circle described here encloses a country of fish, flies, fishing and fishermen. In the lobby of the Murray Hotel in Livingston the talk is as dedicated to this subject as it is to horses in the lobby of the Lafayette in Lexington, Ky. And everyone has his secret place, a canyon, a pool, a nameless tributary, a lake....
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