Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

July 25th, 2005

Getting There

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of columns on Stouff's recent trip to Browning, Montana to fish for trout on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation for an upcoming episode of "Fly Fishing America" to be aired next spring.)

Of course, Montana is nearly 2,000 miles away, you realize. This means I had to fly. In a plane.

I had a few email contacts with Joe Kipp, the Blackfeet Indian who would be my host and fishing guide. His initial question to me, "Can swamp Indians fish?" was followed by the notation that he hoped I was afraid of grizzly bears because he was afraid of snakes and alligators. This would become quite a banter between us later on.

I did my best to get around flying. I looked at driving it but 36 hours in the truck just seemed exhausting and I'd probably burn more fuel that the stupid airplanes. I considered train or bus, but both of those are prone to accidents too. I figured if I was gonna go out, might as well go out with a bang. I have flown six times before, and my discomfort and fear of it has grown steadily with each trip, I don't know why.

Grumbling about the price of fame and the logistics of flapping my arms fast enough, I set about getting ready to go. The night before, I packed my roll-on and carry-on bags. I was told by those who know such things to pack a couple changes of clothes and toiletries and bring them with me in case Continental Airlines lost my luggage. This was fine and dandy, but my fly rod and tackle was in my luggage, so if Continental Airlines lost it, I'd be quite well-dressed to stand around looking nice in Montana when I'm supposed to be fishing.

I was flying out of Lafayette, with layovers in Houston and Seattle before I reached Kalispell, Montana which is west of Glacier National Park. I needed to be east of the park, across the mountain range so somebody from the film company would be there to get me. I also looked up the types of planes I would be flying on the 'Net. This is a peculiar kind of morbidity for people who are terrified of flying. It's kinda like, if you're afraid of heights you look up pictures of skyscrapers, or if you're afraid of dogs you look up pictures of pit bulls, that sort of thing. I was flying a 737 to Houston, a 757 to Seattle and sadly enough, a prop-job from Seattle to Kalispell. At this point I began to wonder again if I had taken leave of my senses.

I read a lot about it, changed my mind about a dozen times, and finally the day came and with a little help from my friends, got on that big ol' jet airliner in Lafayette to ride the friendly skies.

First, however, I had to go through security, where I was forced to empty my pockets, take off my alligator tooth necklace (a matter of great curiosity to the Transportation Safety Administration employees) belt and shoes, all of which were put through security devices. Meanwhile, the loudspeakers in the airport - every airport, for that matter - are announcing that it's not funny to joke about bombs, guns or nuclear weapons, and not to leave your baggage unintended as it could be confiscated and destroyed. I was careful not to let this happen, because then I'd be standing around with no rods, tackle or clean clothes when I am supposed to be getting filmed fishing. Then, once through security, I had to return all my personal belongings to my person and proceed to the plane.

White knuckles does not begin to describe the flight to Houston, which took less than an hour but seemed to end somewhere near my reaching social security age. I was also extraordinarily motion sick, despite the Dramamine I had taken. I always get motion sick, even in cars, unless I'm driving. I don't get motion sick when I'm driving, but somehow I doubted the pilot would let me behind the wheel of the 737, so I just sat there feeling my stomach churn and gripping the seat arm, staring at the back of the seat ahead of me and reading how, if we crashed into water, I could use the seat cushion for a flotation device. Comforting, very comforting.

"Ladies and gentleman," the pilot announced, "we have now reached our cruising altitude of 21,000 feet and I have turned off the seat belt light."

This, you can imagine, was more information than I needed to know and I promptly passed out for the rest of the flight. Or at least until the pilot started descending. "Stair-stepping" down they call it, dropping a little at a time. Each time the plane dropped my stomach remained at the previous altitude and the pilot refused to go back and get it for me. The guy sitting next to me handed me a bag and I wasn't even offended.

Then it was on to Seattle, and on that flight they had a movie but I didn't want to pay the $5 for the headphones because I was afraid I'd need the cash for Pepto-Bismol. The nice attendant offered me a chicken sandwich that looked similar to a bagel that had been run over by a herd of buffalo and smelled suspiciously similar to something buffalo herds leave behind, so I declined, got a Diet Coke and concentrated on keeping my stomach somewhere below my heart.

From Seattle it was time to get aboard this narrow prop-job airplane to get to Kalispell, Montana. I have nothing against prop-job airplanes, and I'm sure they're quite reliable, but I could not help glancing out of the window now and then to make sure those puppies were still spinning, you know? That's the bad thing about jet engines, you can't look outside to see if they're still spinning.

But at last the plane was on the ground in Kalispell and the props were spinning down to a standstill and I got off the plane and you know, Montana could have been Baghdad and I still would have been thankful to be there.

But it wasn't Baghdad. Montana was something wonderful. I looked around, expecting to see someone holding a handwritten sign reading "STOUFF" or "ROGER" or "CHITIMACHA BOY" or even "HEY, SCAREDY-CAT YOU MADE IT TO MONTANA!" That's what they do at airports in the movies when the people meeting there don't know each other, right? I did get excited when I saw a guy holding a handwritten sign with a name that started with "S" but when I looked back it was "Schwitzelgruber" or some-thing like that, not me. So I'm standing there waiting for my luggage - still fearful that I'll be without my clothes and fly rod - and looking around, wondering if they forgot to send someone, or if they called the office right before I left canceling the whole thing and nobody from the office let me know, when I see this guy walking with a buncha papers and a book under his arm. I glanced then glanced away, then glanced back, and noticed that the book was Native Waters by yours truly. At first I thought, "Wow, what's the chances of that? Someone flying into or out of Kalispell, Montana brought my book along to read on the flight!" Then I realized the chances of that were actually infinitely improbable and that I was getting a sign, after all.

So then I was in Montana, shaking hands with Mick, the show's writer and my transportation across Glacier National Park to Browning, Montana and the Blackfeet Reservation to fly fish for trout. Oh, and yeah, my luggage made it, by the way, though it was at least half a day before my stomach caught up with me. ~ Roger

It's out! And available now! You can be one of the first to own a copy of Roger's book. Native Waters: A Few Moments in a Small Wooden Boat

Order it now from www.iuniverse.com, Amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble.com. Roger will also be giving away three autographed copies to readers. Stay tuned, for an announcement on the Bulletin Board on that soon.


Previous Native Waters Columns

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