Lighter Side
What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your humorous stories here!
July 5th, 1999

Carpenters Goat

Text and art by Don Cianca

A few years ago, my friend Bill Johnson was able to take his dad on many fishing outings on the Big Hole River (MT). Sometimes it was just to drive down to the river, park the pickup and walk into a hole a fish for a while. Bill's dad was a spin fisherman and only fished with Rapalas. His success was such that he no longer bothered fishing with any other lure. Everytime out, whether on a lake or a river, he used his Rapala. Being of Finn extraction made it even easier for Mr. Johnson to show pride in his heritage by using the "Made in Finland" fishing lure.

As the years began to leave their mark on the senior Mr. Johnson, the hiking into a place on the river became a little more difficult. So, son Bill began taking his dad along on his floats, usually on the Big Hole River. It was easy for for dad to sit comfortably and toss his Rapala toward the bank. He would enjoy the scenery, catch a few big trout and end the day of fishing feeling not too tired and of course, pleased.

Springtime in southwest Montana brings hatches of the famous Salmon Fly. Compared to other hatches a Salmon Fly is like a B-29 among Piper Cubs. Trout gorge themselves on both the larva and the adults. Their relatively careless feeding makes them easy to catch and people come from all over the country to take advantage of their recklessness.

During one of the June Salmon Fly hatches several years ago, Bill took his dad along on a float from Divide, to Melrose, Montana. This was back before the fishing access was formally established at Melrose. At that time an area upstream and adjacent to the bridge at Melrose afforded the only place to put in or take out. It also happened to be part of Dale Carpenter's ranch. Mr. Carpenter has never been known to keep a tidy operation, and although a county road passed through his property, machinery and livestock could usually be found scattered everywhere, including where boats and floaters were using a part of his property near the bridge.

Back on the river, Bill and his dad were fishing 'the Hatch.' The notable thing however, is that the senior Mr. Johnson continued to use his Rapala and totally ignored acknowledging that it was time to use flies. Bill and the third fisherman that was along did well on flies and Mr. Johnson managed to boat a few with his big Rapalas. They were now approaching the takeout at Melrose, Mr. Johnson simply reeled up his Rapala so it hung off the tip of his rod and laid it against the tube of the Avon raft. There were other boats there too. Some guides, some locals, some coming, some going. It was a pretty busy place at that time. The raft was put up on the bank and out of the way as Bill went to get his pickup to load up and go home.

When he returned he noticed some commotion near his boat. It appeared his dad was chasing something or somebody.

One of Mr. Carpenter's goats had wandered over to the Avon and unnoticed, bit the Rapala that dangled from the end of dad's rod. Of course, it was stuck in its mouth now and as Mr. Johnson chased the goat to get his lure, the goat kept running away. By now there was monofilament line strung among boats, people, cars and some of Mr. Carpenter's equipment. Laughter filled the air as the other fishermen watched a comic goat rodeo taking place.

Bill was embarrassed but his dad had pursued the goat until he caught him. "Dad, cut the damned line." Bill yelled. "Like Hell!" His dad replied with a death grip on the scared goat. "Not till I get my Rapala back."

To describe how the goat was liberated from a treble hook infested Rapala would stir the wrath of any PETA member and many who are not. So let's just say that Mr. Johnson went home with his Rapala and while his son and other guest were happy having landed several Browns in the two and three-pound class, the senior Mr. Johnson caught a 200 pounder and practiced "Catch and Release." ~ Don Cianca

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