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"It was a striking place with secrets." -- Ernest Schwiebert

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  • "It was a striking place with secrets." -- Ernest Schwiebert

    This is a MUST READ for anyone interested in the NINE MILE HOLE potential solve. Contains tantalizing details about the potential search area.

    Rivers are not static. They change, sometimes dramatically, over the years. This can transform, or even eliminate, once prosperous fishing holes.

    Today, Nine Mile Hole is a legend, rather than a great fishing spot. To appreciate what it was decades ago, you have to hear the words (and passion) of an expert.

    Ernest Schwiebert (1931-2005) was an architect by profession, who became a renowned angler and angling author. He wrote extensively about fly fishing for trout and salmon. Interestingly, he also served in the Air Force.

    The following excerpt about Nine Mile Hole is from one of his voluminous books, which I don't believe many in the chase would have ever gotten very deep into.

    I hope you enjoy reading it, as I did.

    "But the entire Yellowstone was ravaged by a series of wildfires in the drought of 1992..."

    "Gullies were quickly cut into unstable hillsides, and large alluvial fans of gritty clay and ash were formed at many places along the Madison, Gibbon, and Firehole. Such fans were visible immediately below Seven Mile Bridge on the Madison, and there was much worse damage at its famous Nine-Mile Hole, which had been the most popular pool.

    Nine-Mile lay just below the highway, in a beautiful corridor of primeval lodgepoles and ponderosas, where the river came spilling through a swift reach filled with big deadfalls and giant boulders. It was a striking place with secrets. There was a crystalline springhead pond across the water, about a quarter mile beyond the river, and completely hidden behind a dense screen of intervening conifers. Its outlet was an icy rivulet that spilled swiftly through the trees before riffling into the throat of Nine-Mile.

    Large brown trout were known to enter this minor lodgepole tributary in October to mate and lay their eggs, and the fry remained in its limpid sanctuary to prosper and grow while the adult fish eventually returned to the main river. I once caught a good fish in the little pond itself, prospecting its perimeter with a muskrat-bodied nymph. The fish was a handsome five-pound hen that had apparently spawned and wintered, and then elected to stay.

    The cold spillages of the crystalline creek entered the river in the uppermost shallows at Nine-Mile, and its discharges were often pinioned against the opposite bank by the much stronger flow of the Madison itself. Large colonies of elodea and other aquatic weed were usually rooted there, in the quiet seam between the river's primary current tongues and the cooler discharges of the creek upstream. It was a spring-hole worth knowing. Large trout often gathered there in hot weather, basking in its cool temperatures where the ledge rock shelved off into a secret pocket. I could usually count on at least one good fish there, because most anglers simply fished the primary currents of Nine-Mile without covering the pocket below its aquatic weeds.

    But then the wildfires raged across the valley, cauterizing the plateau cornices beyond the river, and left destruction in their wake. The earthquake had dropped immense acreages of its timbered floor just above the Seven Mile Bridge, transforming its lodgepole forest into a marsh filled with derelicts and stumps. These dead lodgepoles had largely escaped the fires, but bigger stands farther upstream had become a fire-blackened wasteland. Unthinkable tonnages of fresh ash and unstable volcanic soil have been displaced from its steep talus slides and slopes across the river, and some of these gritty materials are still leaching into the Madison. The pretty reach that Bud Lilly called Slow Bend had been smothered in displaced sediments when I attempted to fish it two summers after the fires, and other favorite places had suffered a similar fate.

    The fate of Nine-Mile, however, was a terrible surprise.

    Its little tributary creek had been reduced to several rivulets of gunmetal slurry, and most of its discharges were flowing through the trees downstream, plunging into the middle and lower reaches of the pool in several places. The fish-filled secret below the weeds was smothered with silt and trash, and the spring-hole itself was gone. I became curious about the fate of the forest pond, and forded the river to inspect it. Dour rivulets of slurry came spilling through the trees, and I was astonished when I reached the tarn.

    Its crystalline shallows were completely filled with slurry and trash. A tiny paradise had been destroyed. The outlet was clogged with refuse and silt, and the barrage of trash had raised the water in the lake until its overflows were forced into several braided channels farther downstream. No trout could ascend such gritty rivulets to spawn, and no freshly hatched juveniles would use its spatterdock riches to reach smolting size. Nine-Mile itself had been irrevocably changed, and after dutifully suiting up, I found myself angry and unable to fish. I stripped off my fishing gear and decided to explore damage on the Gibbon and Firehole."

    -- Nymphs, Stoneflies, Caddisflies and Other Important Insects (2007), by Ernest Schwiebert
    Last edited by Vertigo; 05-09-2021, 01:09 PM.

  • #2
    Below is an excerpt from a book published in 1938, when Forrest was a boy, fishing along the Madison.

    There are some remarkable similarities to what Forrest wrote in Ramblings & Rumblings:

    "They used to lock the gates to Yellowstone Park at 1000 at night. No one could get in or out after that time. So dad would take the car just inside the gate and park it so we could get up at 0500 and go fishing, before the gate opened. The Madison River in the park had three good fishing holes; the Slow Bend (five miles up,) the Nine Mile Hole (you guessed it, nine miles,) and the Water Hole, (about eleven miles). These were our secret names and the great fishing spots were also TOP SECRET. It was important that we beat my grandfather (old Charlie Simpson) to these fishing places, especially the Nine Mile Hole that had room for only one fisherman." - f (Ramblings & Rumblings)

    Compare the story about Forrest's dad leaving the car inside Yellowstone's gates to that of the "local fish-hog" in the excerpt below. Forrest's comment about Nine Mile Hole having "room for only one fisherman" resembles the author's comment below, about "waiting his turn" for an "outgoing tenant" to leave.

    "Among the famous “holes” is one which you will come upon a little further down-stream from the meadows. It is called the Nine Mile Hole, so named because it lies about nine miles east of the west entrance to the Park. Therefore by simple calculation it should be something over four miles from Madison Junction coming in the other direction. You will recognize it by the little promontory of grass with a big round rock standing by itself at the water's edge. There is a steep little run down onto the promontory from the road and another one back onto the road.

    It is the most overfished of any hole that I know, this Nine Mile Hole. Time and again I have run those nine miles, only to find it occupied. I have stopped on my way home of an evening and found anglers settling in on the promontory for the night, so as to be first on the scene at dawn. Yet, despite all the attention it receives, it is still a good bet for a brace of heavy fish. You must try it. On the far side you will observe two patches of floating weed. Start fishing about a hundred paces above the upper patch of weed and fish slowly down, taking care to cast your fly well over to the far side of the hole. You will of course need high waders. Unless you see a fish moving near the surface, which I doubt, use a heavy fly; or, if your fly be light, pinch on a split shot to the leader just above the fly. You will do best if you go down to these fish instead of asking them to come up to you.

    On one occasion, when I was waiting my turn, the “outgoing tenant” came over and spoke to me. It seemed he was a local angler. He claimed that some years back he was “one of the discoverers of the hole,” whatever that meant. He went on to inform me with ill-concealed pride that not so many years ago he had, in one morning, killed in the Nine Mile Hole 15 trout weighing over 74 pounds. “But,” said he, with an injured air, “those days are gone forever.”

    "No wonder,” I replied, with equally ill-concealed irony; but I fear my meaning was lost upon him.

    I got one good laugh out of this hole. Staying in my camp in West Yellowstone was a delightful old angler who much favoured the hole and who loved to get an hour to himself on it. Morning after morning he would rise betimes and, “after being connubially kissed,” he would start out to be the first through the Park gates, which open to vehicular traffic at six o'clock. Yet upon arrival there he would invariably find, up to his waist in the good Madison, a well known local fish-hog, standing like some evil heron in command of the water. Time and again the incident would recur until I suggested to my old friend the explanation, which was simple, for all that the fish-hog had to do was to park his car inside the gates over night, walk in at 5.50 A. M. and get a ten-minute head start. The remedy, I suggested, was equally obvious, a well and truly incised puncture by the dark of the moon, but whether my friend ever resorted to it I did not care to ask. There might be such a thing as being an accessory before the act!"


    -- The Waters of Yellowstone: With Rod and Fly (1938), by Howard Back
    Last edited by Vertigo; 05-09-2021, 12:43 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks Vertigo that's great information. The more info like this I read, the more 9 mile hole fits. Forrest remembers it like Ernest Schwiebert, and its had more time to recover from the damage.

      I was particularly struck by this passage:
      Nine-Mile lay just below the highway, in a beautiful corridor of primeval lodgepoles and ponderosas, where the river came spilling through a swift reach filled with big deadfalls and giant boulders. It was a striking place with secrets. There was a crystalline springhead pond across the water, about a quarter mile beyond the river, and completely hidden behind a dense screen of intervening conifers. Its outlet was an icy rivulet that spilled swiftly through the trees before riffling into the throat of Nine-Mile.

      So it's changed since then, but this could be our "water high" - a hidden pond. You can't really see anything on GE, but that could be because of all the "heavy loads" fallen lodgepoles that cover it up. In any case, this seems like the place. He says it was a quarter mile back - that is 1320 feet back, but descriptions like this tend to be inaccurate on exact distances.

      thehomeofBrown.com If I was going to Yellowstone, that's where I would be going and looking for some possible "water high" upstream from the spring.

      Great information Vertigo. This certainly describes a place worthy of being Forrest's special place and its certainly worthy of being the Home of Brown.

      Comment


      • #4
        I would add that the description of the secret pond is EXACTLY what I was looking for at this spot for the poem to make perfect sense to me. It seems that anyone that went to this secret spot some decades ago was completely awestruck.

        Comment


        • #5
          wow, this is really great information that further makes it look like Nine Mile Hole is the correct location.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Crazy Midwesterner View Post
            wow, this is really great information that further makes it look like Nine Mile Hole is the correct location.
            It really does. I don't have anything vested in this being the spot, but this spot checks off just about everything. Only a couple of "yeah buts".

            That description is so much like something that I think Forrest could have written himself about his special place.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Must Listengood View Post
              Thanks Vertigo that's great information. The more info like this I read, the more 9 mile hole fits. Forrest remembers it like Ernest Schwiebert, and its had more time to recover from the damage.

              I was particularly struck by this passage:
              Nine-Mile lay just below the highway, in a beautiful corridor of primeval lodgepoles and ponderosas, where the river came spilling through a swift reach filled with big deadfalls and giant boulders. It was a striking place with secrets. There was a crystalline springhead pond across the water, about a quarter mile beyond the river, and completely hidden behind a dense screen of intervening conifers. Its outlet was an icy rivulet that spilled swiftly through the trees before riffling into the throat of Nine-Mile.

              So it's changed since then, but this could be our "water high" - a hidden pond. You can't really see anything on GE, but that could be because of all the "heavy loads" fallen lodgepoles that cover it up. In any case, this seems like the place. He says it was a quarter mile back - that is 1320 feet back, but descriptions like this tend to be inaccurate on exact distances.

              thehomeofBrown.com If I was going to Yellowstone, that's where I would be going and looking for some possible "water high" upstream from the spring.

              Great information Vertigo. This certainly describes a place worthy of being Forrest's special place and its certainly worthy of being the Home of Brown.
              Yes, the crystalline pond, hidden from the main hole, sounds idyllic. I could imagine young Forrest fishing at Nine Mile, then deciding to follow the icy rivulet up toward the "tiny paradise" through the lodgepole pines.

              Originally, I thought "end is ever drawing nigh," "no paddle up your your creek," and "heavy loads" worked perfectly with that little rivulet. The problem was I didn't see any water high that way. Knowing now that there once was a shallow, crystalline pond there, it all fits.

              Begin it where warm waters halt (where the Firehole and Gibbon rivers end)
              And take it in the canyon down (Madison Canyon)
              Not far, but too far to walk (Drive)
              Put in below the home of Brown (Nine Mile Hole)

              From there it's no place for the meek (Crossing the Madison)
              The end is ever drawing nigh (The rivulet that drains into Nine Mile Hole)
              There'll be no paddle up your creek (Because it's a tiny rivulet)
              Just heavy loads and water high (Lodgepoles, deadfall, and a crystalline springhead pond)

              The pond does not exist today, and has been gone for nearly 30 years. This makes it tricky to locate its precise location.

              And finally, of course, there's the blaze. I'm still thinking about that one.

              Comment


              • #8
                Must Listengood, thehomeofBrown.com, when I first homed in on Nine Mile Hole and that little rivulet, I saw something on Google Earth that caught my eye. Maybe it's nothing, but given what's been uncovered about the long lost crystalline pond (a quarter mile away from the river), let me ask you something:

                What do you think the white object in these Google Earth images is? The spot is 1200 feet from where the rivulet dumps into Nine Mile Hole.

                Click image for larger version  Name:	BlazeWide.png Views:	0 Size:	2.54 MB ID:	285103

                Click image for larger version  Name:	BlazeClose.png Views:	0 Size:	985.5 KB ID:	285104

                Question to consider: Was anyone within 200/500 feet of that white object? I would think that's unlikely.
                Last edited by Vertigo; 05-09-2021, 04:56 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Fenn would never put the treasure in a place or story you could google.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I would be surprised if Dal has been within 100 yards of that spot for sure. I don't know what the white dot is, but I think it's just a bright reflection off a stump or log, but there is no way of knowing. It is unlikely to be anything significant.

                    It's hard to see where the secret pond could be (or could have been). I'm not seeing anything that would give its location away. Here is another aerial:

                    Click image for larger version

Name:	12 9 mile hole ESRI clarity.JPG
Views:	1863
Size:	501.5 KB
ID:	285133

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Must Listengood View Post
                      I would be surprised if Dal has been within 100 yards of that spot for sure. I don't know what the white dot is, but I think it's just a bright reflection off a stump or log, but there is no way of knowing. It is unlikely to be anything significant.

                      It's hard to see where the secret pond could be (or could have been). I'm not seeing anything that would give its location away. Here is another aerial:

                      Click image for larger version

Name:	12 9 mile hole ESRI clarity.JPG
Views:	1863
Size:	501.5 KB
ID:	285133
                      It may not be necessary to reach the location of the lost pond. Water high can possibly be the water of the rivulet streaming down from higher ground. So we can start at the mouth where it drains into Nine Mile Hole and walk up, searching for the blaze in or beside the rivulet. If the 500 feet comment relates to this location, then the max we would have to walk up the creek is probably 400 feet. Where the rivulet goes through taller pines looks most promising.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Vertigo View Post

                        It may not be necessary to reach the location of the lost pond. Water high can possibly be the water of the rivulet streaming down from higher ground. So we can start at the mouth where it drains into Nine Mile Hole and walk up, searching for the blaze in or beside the rivulet. If the 500 feet comment relates to this location, then the max we would have to walk up the creek is probably 400 feet. Where the rivulet goes through taller pines looks most promising.
                        I agree. I hope I get to see it someday either on video or (not likely) in person.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Must Listengood View Post
                          Thanks Vertigo that's great information. The more info like this I read, the more 9 mile hole fits. Forrest remembers it like Ernest Schwiebert, and its had more time to recover from the damage.

                          I was particularly struck by this passage:
                          Nine-Mile lay just below the highway, in a beautiful corridor of primeval lodgepoles and ponderosas, where the river came spilling through a swift reach filled with big deadfalls and giant boulders. It was a striking place with secrets. There was a crystalline springhead pond across the water, about a quarter mile beyond the river, and completely hidden behind a dense screen of intervening conifers. Its outlet was an icy rivulet that spilled swiftly through the trees before riffling into the throat of Nine-Mile.

                          So it's changed since then, but this could be our "water high" - a hidden pond. You can't really see anything on GE, but that could be because of all the "heavy loads" fallen lodgepoles that cover it up. In any case, this seems like the place. He says it was a quarter mile back - that is 1320 feet back, but descriptions like this tend to be inaccurate on exact distances.

                          thehomeofBrown.com If I was going to Yellowstone, that's where I would be going and looking for some possible "water high" upstream from the spring.

                          Great information Vertigo. This certainly describes a place worthy of being Forrest's special place and its certainly worthy of being the Home of Brown.
                          Some of this does look interesting, although i'm still not convinced that an 8-year old could safely cross the Madison River.
                          I wasn't aware that there were ponderosa pines in the area. The word ponderosa means heavy.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Redneck Girl View Post

                            Some of this does look interesting, although i'm still not convinced that an 8-year old could safely cross the Madison River.
                            I wasn't aware that there were ponderosa pines in the area. The word ponderosa means heavy.
                            Well this guy (see link) didn't have the guts to go across. He basically had the same solve in 2017. But clearly fishermen do go all the way across sometimes, so I don't know what to think. My working theory is that this is what kept it from being found, but that at the right place, it's less dangerous than people think. The cold reinforces the feeling of danger. Again, its just a working theory. It seems hard for an 80 year old and an 8 year old, unless you find the right place.

                            https://imgur.com/gallery/7xffN

                            Here is the Fenn Rock. I wish I had a picture of myself in front of it.

                            Click image for larger version  Name:	13 fenn rock.JPG Views:	0 Size:	122.5 KB ID:	285204

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Redneck Girl View Post

                              Some of this does look interesting, although i'm still not convinced that an 8-year old could safely cross the Madison River.
                              I wasn't aware that there were ponderosa pines in the area. The word ponderosa means heavy.
                              A river crossing isn't required if you park down by the bridge. It's less than 2 miles away. I'm not 100% certain on the south bank on parts of of the river heading to NMH though.

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