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Old 06-15-2007, 10:35 AM
aztightlines aztightlines is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: tucson, az
Posts: 2,554
Fishing With Drew and Don and Joe

Getting to be that time of year again...Montana. I start dreaming of the West Yellowstone/Island Park area and images of my first magic trip up there come washing across my field of vision. Phone has yet to begin ringing, the unpaid bills and orders can wait; I want to put this down, after years of procrastinating.
Introducing Joe Nazarro ; one of the guys who first got me into flyfishing back in the Catskills, around 1964. His mentor, Frank Mele, was a neighbor and a classical viola player and teacher, also a flyfishing writer - the only one I knew - of some note. Three men, Frank and Joe and a cartoonist named Jim Mulligan regaled me with stories of this mythical pursuit at my mother's parties. They fished nothing but bamboo, tied their own flys and were drinkers and storytellers of the first order. By the time they offered to teach us flycasting in the local highschool gym in the dead of winter, a few of us country boys were champing at the bit to learn the secrets of this arcane, bohemian pursuit.
I had the good fortune to be a senior at my highschool the only year Joe ever taught English and we fished the Esopus River after school and hunted squirrels, partridge and even groundhogs after school let out - heavenly, as I recall, especially in the fall. His wife cooked a couple of woodchucks in a stew and finally said, "Alright, that's enough of that." He later informed me he never graduated highschool in the Bronx himself and matriculated at Columbia after taking a placement test. Joe was a lifelong bartender in Greenwich Village in NYC and Woodstock, coming from a long line of barmen.
He had dated my aunt Ellen when I was about 5 and I remembered him as a guy on a scooter who was fairly nice to us kids.
Joe had moved to Aspen in about 1975, working as a bartender and wine rep since, and told me, after many years of being out of touch, that he rarely fished in the valley around Aspen any more, too crowded, but loved to go to W. Yellowstone and fish the park once or twice a year. I did not need much more encouragement and made plans to meet him.
I flew in to Salt Lake City and drove up to West Yellowstone in a midmorning , midJune snowflurry , checked into the HoHum Motel and drove up to Madison Junction Campground to meet him.
That first first drive up the Madison Valley inside the park was amazing: buffalo, elk, deer all over the road and hanging along the river. I felt as though I already knew this place, maybe because of all the photos we have all seen of the area. I found Joe in his camper, but he was snoozing, so I went up and checked out Old Faithful, got that out of the way. I thought it would have made more noise.
When we did get to fish, he led me up on the Firehole and introduced to me to his techniques on swinging softhackles on a slow, light rod and catching those gorgeous little trout in the midst of spewing geysers, in the riffles. We moved slowly, leisurely and I realized that was pretty much the way Joe moved those days, having slowed down quite a bit. He was quite fatigued from a driving trip back east, he will not fly, to visit a gravely ill brother.
Driving down the Madison for dinner at Bullwinkle's he pointed out the holes that produce the big browns, up from Hebgen, in the fall. He still had his charm with the ladies and had the waitress smiling and treating us royally.
He was also a bit of a curmudgeon, and as I thanked him for doing what he did to get some of us kids going in flyfishing he said, "I don't think I would do it these days, too many people fishing my favorite waters." Then he said "This place is my tonic" and it was obvious the years had washed away, and he was the Joe of old, his features transformed with a spring in his step.
Those Old Guys can be cranky, but they are generous with their time and knowledge, if you catch them at the right moments.
Next: Fishing with Drew
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