Perfect Moments in the Lamar Valley

September 2023  |  Yellowstone National Park

I am a seeker of perfect moments. Those moments when you are 100% present, yes, no cell phones and no external interruptions, but more importantly and much harder, no interruptions from that voice inside your head. You're not thinking about what happened yesterday, what you'll do tomorrow, who's doing something elsewhere, you''re all in, in this very moment in time. Its beyond focus, its flow.

I can eliminate the external distractions, but that voice inside my head talks way too much. I relish the times where it goes away and I just experience the Now. Perfect moments usually are good or even great, not always though, but they're always times that you feel completely, utterly alive, and present.

This day was a collection of perfect moments.

We started the day with a drive into the Lamar Valley after a quick coffee and breakfast run at Cooke City Coffee. Our plan was to hunt for animals to photograph while we waited for the day and the water, to warm before going fishing.

The Soda Butte

Almost as soon as we got the Lamar Valley, by the Soda Butte, we were greeted with a coyote out hunting voles in the sage brush.

Coyote beginning his vole hunt.

Coyote beginning his vole hunt.

We were gifted with well over an hour of observing this coyote follow a simple set of steps:

Look and listen. He seemed more listening than looking but definitely using both senses.

Then leaping...

and leap he did!

Check out his belly in the picture above. This is after at least 10 voles.

Apparently Montane Voles make a yummy lunch!

This hunt continued for well over an hour. They coyote roamed back and forth methodically working the field. I'm sure there were more voles to be had, but eventually he seemed to have enough and needed to lie down and relax.

And then take a nap.

Take a look at those teeth!

We followed that coyote for over an hour. It was a unique but simple experience. Nature at its most primal. Watching an animal hunt for food, how it found, stalked and ultimately took its prey was actually quite enthralling. For that hour, the focus was just the coyote, well, and the voles.

This experience itself would of made the day, but now it was late morning and time to go fishing.

Photo courtesy of Paul Stillmank, @pstillmank

A sporadic green drake hatch was coming off. I went up river and Paul went down. For the rest of the day, we fished. It was one of my more spectacular days of fishing. Not because I caught a huge fish or a ton of fish, but because I observed, I attempted to match the hatch, caught a few fish on flies I have tied, and yes, lost quite a few fish. Even the fish I lost, were a great experience. I made mistakes, but I recognized the mistakes I made, and I learned from them (well, hopefully).

Paul holding one of the many cutthroats he caught.

One of the Yellowstone Cutthroats I caught. I only a landed a few fish that day, but each one was hard won and gorgeous. I struggle to articulate how catching a fish can bring me so much joy, but it does.

We left as the sun was beginning to set. Somewhere throughout the day, I ate the one granola bar I had with me and had refilled my water bottle a few times. I took a few breaks to sit on the bank and watch the clouds or the passing bison herd, but other than, we just fished. I was shocked how long we were on the river. I had utterly lost track of time and that is the best indicator of a perfect moment for me.