Monday, August 08, 2005

I ain't wastin' time no more, 'cause time goes by like hurricanes, runnin' after subway trains, don't forget the pourin' rain.

Saturday, I went fly-fishing for the first time. I met some friends from Wisconsin (who we will call Double B and DKNY) who had been fly-fishing in Yellowstone all week. Double B and DKNY work for the school district for which I served as board president until the end of May.

Double B is a fly-fishing fanatic, and he takes a trip to Yellowstone every year to fish. He is one of the few people I know from the BDC who has spent significant time in the Bozeman area. When I informed him that I was moving out here, he wasted no time letting me know that, as far as trout fly-fisherman are concerned, I was moving to the Mecca for cutthroat trout, Shangri-La for rainbow trout, and Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for brown trout... that is, if Willie Wonka made fish, instead of Everlasting Gobstoppers.

They filmed A River Runs Through It near Bozeman, despite the fact that the movie was set in Missoula. People pay thousands of dollars to travel here, stay in lodges and have guides take them fishing. Apparently, living here is the equivalent of living in Pebble Beach if you’re a golfer; or, if you are Bob or Doug MacKenzie, it is the heavenly equivalent of drowning in a vat of beer.

Being a knuckle-dragging snowboarder, I really only had a vague notion of the concept of fly-fishing. It looked fairly cool, as it involves a lot more action than regular fishing, which in my limited experience involves a lot of sitting around and a cooler full of beer.

After I moved here and started nosing around the sporting goods stores for camping gear, it started to dawn on me that fly-fishing is a highly gear-intensive pastime. Waders, boots, gaiters, shirts, hats, vests with a million pockets, boats, rafts, nets, a myriad of rod, reel and line choices, and the flies, oh the flies. It borders on fetishistic, really. One could spend thousands and thousands of dollars, if one were so inclined. I suspect, however, that such expense is not necessary. Just as Tiger Woods could smack a Kmart golf ball 300 yards with a $ 20 driver and beat everyone at your local course with only a seven-iron, I suspect Montana trout will not detect the difference between the $ 1000 custom rod and the $ 20 rod....

I got up early Saturday morning and headed west out of town on 191. I passed the Gallatin Canyon, and eventually turned south along the Madison. It was a gorgeous morning, and the drive was beautiful. I couldn’t resist stopping to photograph a group (flock? gaggle?) of white pelicans that were chilling on the river.

I had another interesting experience along the way... Having spent a lot of time in Wisconsin, I have run across countless “deer crossing” signs. They are just part of the scenery. You drive by; you see them; you think, “Oh. Deer crossing.” But you don’t change your driving one iota. As soon as I turned on 287, I saw a deer crossing sign. I thought nothing of it. Ten seconds later, on the right side of the road, I saw a doe and two fawns. “Interesting,” I thought. “That is the first time that has ever happened.”

Then, another twenty miles down the road, I saw another “deer crossing” sign, and about ten feet away, another doe and two fawns were hanging out. Wow. What a coincidence. Later on, near Ennis, there was another deer crossing sign, and, yes, there was another doe and two fawns. I began to wonder if the chamber of commerce set this up. Or, I was being followed by some very speedy deer. I almost called Mulder and Scully.

After about ninety minutes, I rolled into the Kirby Lodge, where I met Double B and DKNY. It was great to see them. I had spent a lot of time working with them over the last five years, and it was nice to see them in a different, relaxed setting. They had rented a raft, and Double B had a rod, reel, and all the flies I could lose ready for me to use.

Beginner’s Luck was on my side, and fifteen minutes into our float, I caught the fish of the day, a 20 inch rainbow. Being an utter novice, I had no idea it was a nice fish, but I caught on after DKNY explained to me several times that one would never catch a fish like that in Wisconsin. I did think it was a pretty fish, and that was about it. (If you’re wondering, it is catch-and-release only on that part of the Madison, so I didn’t get to eat him.) Of course, I took the opportunity to talk some smack.

It was a slow day for fishing, due to the high temperatures, I am told, but we had a great time. I caught a couple rainbow and a whitefish, which apparently is considered a “garbage fish,” like carp. We fished from the raft, which had comfy swivel chairs at the front and rear, and a middle seat for rowing. We also stopped along a few islands and fished some promising holes. It was a gorgeous float, and we passed high cliffs, grassy meadows and tall mountain ranges. We also saw an osprey, which is a bird of prey that feed exclusively on fish. He was a big boy, with close to a 40 inch wingspan. (Unfortunately, I didn’t take a lot of pictures, because water is wet, and digital cameras are not, plus I was too busy fishing.)
Here is Double B, exhibiting proper technique:

Thanks to the guidance of Double B and DKNY, I got the hang of fly-casting, and learned a lot about where to cast, how to “present” the fly, etc. Nothing to it, really. It was a ton of fun. I can certainly see how it could become a passion, or even an addiction. After one time, I can say that it beats the hell out of golfing, as a way to spend a summer day. In fact, on Sunday, I went hiking with India in the Hyalite area, along a stream, and I found myself eyeing various holes and banks, thinking, “I bet there is a fat fish hanging out there.”

I am going to have to get myself some a rod and reel....

DKNY, me and Double B: