This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

January 7th, 2002

The Essence of Gary LaFontaine

In Memory of Gary LaFontaine who died January 4th, 2002, from his book, Trout Flies, Proven Patterns:

"In 1991 I fished more than any year since 1959, when I was twelve and my parents let me fish all the time because, in their words, 'That's the only time he isn't getting into trouble.' I fished hard, very hard. It wasn't like any of the past twenty years, when research and work would interrupt. I've always fished between 150 and 200 days a season, but often a 'day' meant a few hours in the morning or evening. In 1991 I spent six to twelve hours nearly every day for myself. Many times friends came with me, but if no one was available, my dog Chester and I went to any water that promised hot action.

The quest was for that feeling every anglers wants but never gets in his fishing. Here I was with a full set of proven flies and enough time to work these flies on familiar waters. My goal was to wipe out doubt - the doubt that makes us stare stupidly into a box of imitations and attractors and mumble, 'Eenie, meenie, miney, mo . . .'

My fishing car ended up with more than 30,000 new miles on it. The wear and tear of fishing destroyed a floating line roughly every four weeks. At the end of every day of dog-crazy flogging there was barely enough time to tie flies, knot leaders, and patch equipment. Telling any of this to friends inevitably made them hum screechy tunes and fiddle imaginary violins.

The log entries, recording successes on Montana rivers or lakes with all sixty-two of the patterns in the trout series, give a warped view of the fishing however. Those experiences are culled from nearly four hundred days of fishing over two seasons. They are the moments when the answers to those trout mysteries seemed simple enough. The other days, the ones that are not here, the mindless flailing for random fish or endless casting for no fish at all, told the truth: The waters are not as great as they seem here; the flies are not as great as they seem here; I am not as great as I seem here - and there are no ultimate answers."
~ Gary LaFontaine

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