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