A Fly Fisherman’s Father’s Day in Yellowstone Park

On Mother’s Day, my husband lets me plan my perfect day, which is usually a road trip through Montana’s small towns. On Father’s Day, Dad gets to pick. “I like to go into Yellowstone and walk around in open spaces and see wildlife and maybe catch a fish,” says my husband Dan Vermillion—a.k.a. Tom Sawyer, who with his two brothers owns Sweetwater Travel, a global fly fishing business. Between having three young children and a heavy work-schedule, Dan rarely gets to fish on his own. “This year I want to hike up to Trout Lake and show the kids the spawning cutthroat,” he said.

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Photography by Lynn Donaldson

Dan has chosen to fly fish in Yellowstone every year since his first Fathers’ Day in 2006, when we went in with one month old Charlie and Dan’s parents. We always load the truck the night before and get up to share a special breakfast at the house before pulling out of the driveway armed with binoculars, fly rods, a full cooler and bear spray.

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This year, I’m shooting for National Geographic Traveler on Father’s Day, so we’ll celebrate a weekend later. I always pick up salads at Mustang Catering. (Dan has three favorite Mustang salads: Shrimp & Avocado, Broccoli & Grape, and Couscous). All of these recipes were published in owner Carole Sullivan’s cookbook (for which I was fortunate to be the photographer) Gatherings: Friends & Recipes from Montana’s Mustang Kitchen.

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Because our family loves cheese and charcuterie-style picnics, I’ll also load up with various goodies from Gourmet Cellar. I’ll fill our picnic basket with various vegetable pâtés, fresh olives, jarred baby artichokes, salami, prosciutto (melt-in-your-mouth antibiotic and hormone-free from Berkshire Pork) and coppa piccante (also from Berkshire Pork—cured pork loin rubbed with Spanish paprika). I’ll also add cheese: Taleggio (a beautiful, wash-rind Italian brie-like cheese) and Humboldt Fog (goats milk cheese from Cypress Grove). Top it off with grapes, and we’ll be set!

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When we hit Mammoth, we decide whether we want to head toward Old Faithful and the geysers, or go southeast into the Lamar Valley—the “American Serengeti” as Dan likes to say. When we choose the Lamar, we spend a couple hours winding through valleys, stopping for bear jams, spotting elk, deer, wolves and bison. I love seeing all the baby animals in the spring. We’ll have a picnic lunch on the banks of Slough Creek, and Dan will spend a couple hours fishing while the kids run around looking for bones, mushrooms and other hidden treasures. We’ll finish off the day with milkshakes in Cooke City before heading home.

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When we decide to “go thermal” and head toward Old Faithful (this route is undeniably more crowded), we’ll make several stops to amble around the Paint Pots and geyser basins. We’ll have our picnic lunch at the horseshoe bend on the Firehole River, and Dan will fish for a couple hours before we head to Old Faithful. Then it’s time to watch the world’s most famous geyser erupt and have a huckleberry treat (daiquiri or milkshake) on the Old Faithful Inn’s second floor balcony. We hit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone before heading home. It’s the perfect Fathers’ Day for a Montana Dad.

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Happy Father’s Day, Dan Vermillion—Outdoor Enthusiast, Teller of Campfire Tales, Hunter, Gatherer, Chef…& Devoted Father of Three. We love you!

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