Wasn’t That Just Like Bill?

From the essay “The Short List” in A Fly Rod of Your Own, the new book from Fly Fishing Hall of Famer John Gierach:

Forty-eight hours later there was two feet of immaculate snow on the ground at the lower elevations and more than twice that amount in the high country to the west. And it was that dense, heavy, spring-like stuff that turns shrubs into moguls, builds precarious white hats on fence posts, and makes a snow shovel heavier than you care to lift too many times in a row. In Minnesota, where I grew up, they called this “heart-attack snow” because every winter it would spell the end for any number of elderly midwesterners. They’d trek out to shovel their driveways at age eighty-nine to avoid paying the neighbor kid a dollar and come back feetfirst. At the funerals people would say, “Wasn’t that just like Bill?”

Reviewing this one for the Indy next week. I’m halfway through, and I love it. Gierach is proof that the best fly fishing writing is barely even about fly fishing.

Another quote of his I love: “Fly-fishing is solitary, contemplative, misanthropic, scientific in some hands, poetic in others, and laced with conflicting aesthetic considerations. It’s not even clear if catching fish is actually the point.”

I took last year off from fishing. If I find my way back stream-side this year, Gierach’s book will be a big reason why.

Gratitude Monday

Julia and I woke up Saturday morning knowing we were going to go fly fishing, we just didn’t know where. Up until recently, most of the rivers have been blown out due to run off, so the fishing hasn’t been very good, especially if you don’t have a boat and have to wade fish. We were reading the fishing reports, and couldn’t decide between going to the Blackfoot River or Rock Creek. Decisions, decisions!

Julia paused, and said, “You know, right now someone in France or somewhere is probably dreaming of how they can manage a vacation to get over here and fish either one of these places, and we can get to either one whenever we want.”

Which is true. These streams are world renowned. Years ago, when I left Montana to live in Ohio, I was angry for not having taken full advantage of where I was living. Now that I’ve been back, I’ve done all I can to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’ve said it before, but I continue to be very grateful to live here.

We went to Rock Creek. It was the best day fishing yet, even though I ended up breaking and losing my rod, not to mention my hat and sunglasses.

Rock Creek
Rock Creek

 

One Week Removed

I’ve been meaning to get this post up since last Sunday. Given that my friends out east are getting dumped on with snow, I figure it’s only fitting that they see what February in Montana — a state people usually cringe over when they imagine what winter delivers — can look like. At least a week ago it looked like this, at least via iPhone.

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It was a rare, sunny, nearly-40 degree weekend. Dudes were out fly fishing on the Clark Fork. I even saw one guy cruising up and down on a SUP. Saturday night the guys from Strongwater were out on the waves just beyond Higgins on their surfboards until dark. Sunday I snapped a shot of this dude about to get after it. He commented on the FC cap I was wearing; I forgot I had it on. I scored it when I visited the shop in Ventura last fall.

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Saturday night I parked the truck in the lot beside the river, right next to the Boone and Crockett Club, then walked over the bridge to the Wilma, as Julia and I had tickets to see the Fly Fishing Film Tour. I couldn’t believe the line! It wrapped a full block down the street, around the corner, and another half block. And this was twenty minutes after the doors opened. One would expect lots of guys in ball caps — and there were — but there were also a surprising number of women (Missoula draws the most women of any event on the tour, the MC said; yeah Missoula!). A guy I follow on Instagram named Dan took this shot from his position in line.

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I got in about 6:45, and it started at 7:00. Julia worked until 7:00, then joined me. Given there were still people filing in, the festivities started a little late, which was fine with me. The event was sold out, which means maybe 1000, 1200 people? It was fantastic. Great films (“Over a thousand drunk dudes screaming for fish” I heard one woman describe it), great enthusiasm, a raucous crowd . . . just a lot of fun. I will definitely return next year. If you are a fan of the outdoors at all, the event comes highly recommended by me. An excellent, inspiring evening of a beautiful weekend.