Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

January 15th, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers
By Dave Micus

Mike Tolvanen
Like Blanche Dubois, I frequently rely on the kindness of strangers, especially when it comes to fishing. It is my good fortune that fly fishing seems to attract a benevolent sort, and I've often benefited from altruistic anglers.

When I first began fishing for striped bass along the shores of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, I had the luck to meet Mike Tolvanen, who had 40 years of pursuing line siders under his wading belt, and who was more then willing to share his expertise. I got from him an insight into salt water fly fishing that no book could provide, and, more importantly, a friendship that continues to this day.

Ben Hart

I had a similar experience when moving to Montana. Though I had fished for trout in Massachusetts, they were dull colored and dim witted hatchery trout, and the season in my part of the pilgrim state lasted about two weeks or less, depending on how quickly the worm and bobber guys cleaned up after the stocking truck. Montana is a different story; wild trout in clean cold water that would, if trout could, laugh at my pathetic imitations and sloppy presentations. And I would still be whipping the water into meringue if not for guide Ben Hart, who took me off the beaten path to a mountain stream that held big cut throat trout, and taught me about fly patterns and presentation and line mending until even a salt rodder, requiring only a big arm and a small brain, could hook and l and a decent trout.

I like to think that I've reciprocated with my fair share of sharing. I have often welcomed fly fishing guests to my home waters, supplying equipment and kayaks. And one such guest, fishing with me on a foggy morn, even had his likeness grace the contents page of Striped Bass Magazine.

Magazine Photo

Most recently I've been blessed with more kindness in the person of Jamie Rogers. Jamie is not your typical river rat. He is a graduate of perhaps the most prestigious prep school in the United States, and with the option of attending any Ivy League university, chose instead the University of Montana, opting for a life instead of just a living. He's a Presidential scholar, a student in the Honors College, and a hell of a trout fisherman, which is how I got to know him.

Jamie Rogers

I had the good fortune to fish with Jamie before the current cold snap caused me to trade fly rods for ski poles. We drove about 40 miles outside of Missoula (all good fishing is about 40 miles outside of Missoula for some reason), bushwhacked a bit before coming to a spot that was worthy of a Montana post card, that is, if Montanans were foolish enough to share Montana with the rest of the world.

Being new to this fishing for trout, I deferred to Jamie. He gave me a bead headed prince with a midge pupae dropper, and his expertise was confirmed when I caught a twelve inch cutbow on my second cast on the prince. Three casts latter I caught a larger rainbow on the pupae.

Author Dave Micus

We spent the day fishing as fishermen do; talking, each catching fish, Jamie more than I, though he gave me the best runs without being obvious about it. And along the way I caught my biggest trout since moving to Montana, a 19 inch wild rainbow that took the weighted nymph in fast water and leap-frogged through the pool like an aquatic hurdler before finally coming to hand. We fished well into the afternoon, took more cuts out of a fast run and ended by catching browns sipping emergers in the slow flow of a side channel. With the sun just touching the tips of the Bitterroot Mountains, we called it a day, with the promise of fishing together in the spring.

Though I've put away the rod and the reel until the weather warms a bit, I've already gotten an offer from Kelly Palmer, a drift boat guide who has proposed we fish the Kootenai from his boat before he becomes to busy with paying clients to be able to bestow such a kindness on an itinerant fishing bum like me. We've never met, but I know he'll be a wonderful fishing companion.

In fact, I'm relying on it. ~ Dave

About Dave:

Until recently Dave Micus lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He just moved to Missoula, Montana. He is an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor. He wrote a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats) and taught a fly fishing course at Boston University.

Previous Dave Micus Columns

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