Friday, June 7, 2024

The Doldrums

The Doldrums


I don’t have any use for summer.  Except for an hour after sunrise, it’s too hot and humid to train dogs.  The pasture grass is too high, and the ticks and fleas are nasty. Unfortunately, we have plenty of summer here in Georgia. The dogs get a few months off.  Shaded kennels and a huge shop fan keep them happy and cool.  On really sweltering days, they have “The Condo”, an insulated room with air conditioning and a dog door. But I think that may have been a waste of effort.  They really don’t use it much, and prefer to lie on top of their DogDens, in the shade, and keep an eye out for renegade squirrels.  


A few years ago, our old house started feeling like a prison with the brutal heat and humidity outside.  We decided to take a camper trip out west.  We wanted to try fly fishing, so I bought an outrageously expensive fly-fishing outfit from Bass Pro.  It even had a little tube to put the flimsy pole in.  I was impressed. Rod, reel, and line set me back close to a hundred dollars.  Then, I had to buy fake bait.  I drew the line at waders, boots, vest and all that stuff.  


We headed west and I made a phone call to a guy I met at a few NSTRA trials over the years.  Gary lived in Ennis, MT.  He and Martha were both fly fishermen, I remembered.  Gary said come on by.  He said he’d be glad to take us fishing.  We showed up with the camper, parked it, and stayed in his guest house.  The next two days, he rowed us down the Madison in his drift boat.  We learned so much about fishing!  Gary was the consummate host as he gently instructed us on casting and attaching the flies, etc. At one point, my wife’s Bass Pro Shop reel self-destructed.  Martha took it off and went to the local fly shop.  “I hope they can fix it,” I said.  She looked at me, bemused, and said, “Randy, I’ll get her a nice one, don’t worry. This one can’t be fixed.”  That is when I learned about good equipment.  It’s just like a nice shotgun, or bird dog.  It’s not cheap. About halfway through our stay, I noticed we were using their rods, reels, and flies.  I fell in love with one of Gary’s setups.  I can’t remember the name of the rod (Wilson?), but I do remember it effortlessly put the fly just where I was looking - every time. 


We left our amazing hosts and drove down to the park.  We saw bears, Elk, deer, geysers, steam and amazingly beautiful scenery.  We also saw some awesome rivers.  Fishing rivers. Yellowstone NP has a lot of great fishing.   I noticed, and it appeared I was hooked (pun intended). We drove to meet another Gary who lives in Wyoming.  I met him through a Facebook Group friend of a friend.  My wife calls these meet ups “facebook dates”.  This Gary is also an expert fly fisherman.  He met us at our camp in the mountains and arranged to take us down the Big Horn River in his drift boat.  Again, I noticed he gently took my wife aside to get her a nice Cutthroat using his own setup.  I thought I would get excited when I had a big fish on the line. My wife got even more excited.  Gary knew exactly what he was doing. It helps that he is a licensed fishing guide and a pro. 

BJ with her Cutthroat Trout


Since that trip, we make time to break up the summer with a trip out west.  The Madison, Gallatin, Big Horn, and Missouri Rivers, and numerous smaller trout streams were destinations.  The equipment, of course, got a huge upgrade.  I ran into trout bums from all over the country.  Some that even made their own rods from bamboo.  One year, my wife and I flew out to fish Yellowstone N.P.  We found a wide stream meandering through a broad meadow and put out on the trail that ran along side.  She was very concerned about bears and was uncomfortable about fishing there.  She took two cans of bear spray and settled in not far from the car, while I eased up the stream for a short distance.  I met two old men walking out toting bamboo rods and worn-out fishing vests.  They said the fishing was great. I cautioned them not to act like a bear up around the bend in the trail or they’d get two cans of bear spray in the face.  We all laughed, but I noticed them looking where I was pointing.  A short distance up that very stream is where I stalked and landed my first wild Rainbow trout.  Later, my wife said she heard me whoop!


My first solo Rainbow

Years after those first few trips, I am still a novice fly fisherman but with nicer equipment. And, while the tug to fish might not be as all-consuming as the yearning to be in the field with my bird dog, I will use the heat of summer and fishing as a great excuse get out west again.  After all, I don’t know who said it first, but “Trout don’t live in ugly places.”  It’s true.