This is fish tale No. 2
His railroad cronies called him Catfish. His best fishing buddies were nicknamed Minnow and Rainbow. My dad was the quintessential Montana fisherman. He knew rivers, lakes, and streams in every part of the state.
Our dinner table most frequently included some kind of fish: rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, perch, steelhead, and whitefish to name a few of the 85 species of fish that swim in Montana waters. Even though his nickname was Catfish, I never remember eating a catfish.
My dad was born in 1911, so his casting a line into Montana waters was pretty much over by the late 1980s. He did live, though, to see Robert Redford and crew come to Livingston to film “A River Runs Through It” in 1992. (An aside: My maternal grandfather’s church was used as the set for Tom Skerritt’s Presbyterian preacher character.) However, my dad fished for food. The idea of “catch and release” always stuck in his craw, and he ranted as more and more landowners disallowed access to the river’s edge. Times they were a-changin’.
There was no shame in those days in catching a fish with bait, spinners, or hand-tied flies. My dad would take me with him to catch trout flies and salmon flies when the hatch was on by the Yellowstone River. My mom (and me!) caught nightcrawlers for my dad and to sell to fishermen in Yellowstone Park. But, the absolute favorite place to trail behind him was Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop.
Dan Bailey first opened the fly shop in 1938. Mostly women sat at the tables (in dresses, mind you) and tied flies all day long. My dad had some favorites. I don’t remember them all, but I’m sure the caddis fly was one and the wooly bugger.
The iconic fly shop was recently sold. Dan Bailey’s son John, a classmate of mine, had been running it since his father died in 1982. John served as the fly fishing adviser on “A River Runs Through It.” He said, “Brad Pitt brought women to fly fishing like you can’t believe.” I don’t doubt that. At that time, Brad Pitt was the new Robert Redford!
Our Methow Valley Fly Fishing Club has a solid group of about 60 fishermen and women. Exclusively fly-fishing is not a prerequisite to be a member. Longtime fisherman and club member Duncan Bronson said, “Many members use spinning gear. There is one member who carries at least six rods of which half are spinning gear.”
The club has been active in funding improved access to the area lakes in one way or another. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is no doubt most appreciative of their efforts as, with limited resources, sometimes it’s difficult for the WDFW to have the human power to even keep the public toilets clean – now an essential task during the grip of the virus. Still, Bronson commented about the “great job” the state does in planting rainbow trout for the various lakes. The club helped out the fish and the DFW again by putting an aerator in Big Twin Lake. The aerator pumps air into diffusers on the bottom of the lake, which, in turn, gurgle crucial oxygen for the fish.
Both the Yakama Nation and Colville Tribes are committed to keeping fish and fishing healthy and vibrant. Numerous biologists for the tribes continuously strive to monitor the number and strength of the fish that populate the lakes, rivers, and streams in their jurisdiction for the enjoyment of all fishing enthusiasts.
Connecting some dots: Duncan Bronson has a long relationship with Montana fishing since his wife, Carolyn, is a Montana native (in fact, my friend since kindergarten). This month, he and three of his fishing buddies planned a trip to fish the Missouri River out of Craig, Montana, where there is an average of 5,500 wild, catchable trout per mile. What a disappointment when the evil virus claimed another victim. Due to a two-week quarantine for anyone coming into the state, the Methow fishermen had to postpone their trip to yet a better time.
All local fishers are thrilled that the Stay Home, Stay Healthy restriction has been lifted on fishing. Fresh air, sunshine, a fish on the line – what could be better?
Some good news: the Mazama Store re-opened its doors to the public this week. In addition, Taco Bahia (the yellow food truck) will be opening for take-out next Wednesday (May 20) in the Mazama Corral parking lot between the Mazama Community Center and the newly constructed North Cascade Mountain Guides building. Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Memorial Day weekend Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Hip hip hooray!