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