March weather was a bit rough for us in Gardiner with lots of clouds, wind, and cool temperatures. Nothing unexpected, just tough to bear when spring is so close yet so far away. On one of the few nice afternoons last weekend, I slipped down below our Raft HQ to fish one of my old standby spots on the Yellowstone River. I call this spot Old Faithful because it always produces a fish or two for me and it is so close to home I can be down there in less than five minutes. On this particular afternoon, it lived up to its namesake and gave up several nice rainbows and a couple browns.
I had my cell phone along and when I landed a particularly chunky rainbow I decided to take a quick picture. After releasing the fish back into the water I noticed my cell phone power down as the battery was dead. Not five minutes later, I was treated to one of the best surprises I can ever remember while on the water. Just 20 yards out into the river, a large male river otter suddenly surfaced and gave me a long stare as he drifted by with the swift current! For the next ten minutes, the curious fellow swam back and forth downstream, never taking his eyes off me. Funny thing was, I was doing the same thing…just staring in amazement that I had a river otter so close to me. I still cannot get over how effortlessly he moved in the water and how easily he navigated the heavy current and the strong eddies. What an incredible creature!
Before long, the otter tired of staring at my mug and decided to explore further downriver. I followed for a while along the shore and then sat down on a rock and contentedly watched him disappear around the corner of the river exploring every rock nook and cranny of the shoreline. Of course, my phone was dead so I have no pictures of the close encounter but the memory of this “only in Yellowstone” experience is etched forever in my memory. At least I have a photo of the fish!