I loved fishing as a kid. There are plenty of pictures of me staring down my 4 foot, bright yellow, fiberglass fishing pole at the water. Every summer our family would take an RV trip. Along the way I fished any lake, stream or tidal pool deep enough for a fish. I didn’t really fish again until my late twenties when I dated a hunter-gatherer. In that year or so I: bait and fly fished, hunted duck, dropped crab pots and learned to clean and cook them all. I have wonderful memories and gained some lifelong skills.
Fast forward 20 years. I had the good sense to pick Roger, another hunter-gatherer. We’ve been in in Montana fishing the Missouri River in his Skiff, shooting compound bows and enjoying yummy fish and game dinners at his cozy cabin.
Here’s Roger with Rick Pasquale. Rick is 79 3/4 years old, fit and able (notice he’s rowing the skiff). He attributes his good health to guiding the Missouri for 40 years. I think he’s onto something.
Floating the river with these guys feels like cheating. Fishing with them, I enjoy a world-class fishing experience. They know all the best ‘honey holes’: sweet spots that usually have a half a dozen fish or more. Each area and set of conditions need a different set up. I asked Roger how he prepares for a day on the river.
“Look at the weather and the time of year. See if there’s a hatch of bugs, what the water is doing? Are there bugs eating at the surface? Cloudy, no wind and bugs out it’s a dry-fly day. The clouds give the fish protection. When it’s sunny, the fish are deeper because the predators can see fish on the surface. You need to use an attractor fly with a nymph (hopper-droppers) for when the sun is out. Wooly buggers come out for rainy cloudy days when big fish chase smaller fish into the shallows.” Roger G
During a five-hour float, we follow water seams: currents in the river that form lanes of water easy for fish to swim. They spend the float looking for fish and give me plenty of fishing pointers.
I’m able to catch a fish on a dry-fly, with coaching. That’s pretty good but Roger and his friend Rick are expert fishermen. They’ll downplay that and say they learn something everyday on the river. But, watching them is magical. They tune into the water and world turns off. You can see it on thier face: it’s all about the fish. Hardly a sound comes from a good cast. If Roger or Rick are casting the only sound is a light thrumming of the line passing back and forth. The line sneaks right past, tiny rivulets of water catch the light and mist my cheek. Those two can cast a 5 mm fly 20 feet into the tiniest eddys and catch a huge fish… like a rabbit from a hat.
A mini lesson: “Casting a fly line. It’s throwing the weight of the line using two stops. When you lift the line, you’re bending the rod. Stopping the rod at the 12 o’clock allows the rod to return to its normal resting position throwing the line back. Bring the rod forward to 10 o’clock and the loop is formed. An important point is wherever you point the rod tip during the stroke, that’s the direction the line will take. To finish a cast, point the tip of the rod where you’d like to place the fly”. The goal is to obtain a good drift. “Its necessary to decide, ideally ahead of time, where and how to lay down the line to get an ideal ‘drift’. A good drift follows a small current where fish are feeding. If you don’t hit the target, you’re better off casting short.” Rick Pasquale
Fly fishing is magical. It’s also a pain in the a**. Along with all the lovely time I spent catching fish, I also caught myself, the boat, my fishing rod, Roger and Rick. Equal time was spent undoing the macramé my line managed to make several times. Why bother doing all the fussy stuff to fish? I’ll tell you. It’s amazing when you catch a fish. And there’s plenty of ‘got away’ stories to tell until the next trip.
- Do what you loved as a kid. It’s likely to make you happy.
- “If it’s a big fish it’s easily spooked, that’s why it’s a big fish.”-Rick
- Find something that you can enjoy but have to work at. That’s where the magic lives.