FisherMAN'S Best Friend
by Don Cianca
Most of us consider our fishing partners when we dwell on the good times
we've had while fishing. We might recall a particular large fish and in
conversation, mention who was along. "I was fishing the Beaverhead with
Jack " or "Dan and I were fishing the Pipeline section of the Big Horn."
Often, in the case of my human fishing friends, we are almost always
accompanied with still another "friend" . . . Man's best friend!
Jack and I live relatively close to one another. The distance measured
"As the crow flies" is only about eleven miles. However since we live
in western Montana, separated by the Continental Divide, the distance is
over thirty-two miles once you are behind the steering wheel. Jack's
home is just a few feet from the Big Hole River. Like me, he too is
semi-retired. If conditions on the Big Hole look so favorable that they
must be appreciated immediately, Jack will phone and tell me to get there
right away. That invitation is issued with the assumption I will bring
along my Lab "Ellie."
We generally fish the Big Hole by floating. Jack keeps his Avon raft
inflated at his home and is ready to go throughout the fishing season.
Arrangements are made for either a commercial shuttle, or one of our
vehicles has been taken to our "Take Out" destination. While we are
only two fishermen, the boat is always occupied with four bodies;
Jack, myself, Ellie and "Bud."
Bud, who started his life an unlucky pup, is mostly Black Lab. Jack
calls him "A Mutt." Bud was unlucky at first because he was obviously
mistreated and abused. He ended up in the Butte Animal Shelter where
softhearted Jack found him and took him home. Bud's luck changed for
the better. Jack and his wife have spent a small fortune in vet bills to
repair damage done to Bud as a pup. There definately have been no
regrets to say the least.
As we float down the river and flylines are swooshing through the air to
deposite a dryfly to the surface of the river, Bud's eyes are poised in
anticipation. His eyes are fixed on the fly - waiting for action! Once a
trout rises to the fly Bud becomes a participant. Whether it's the sound
of the splash, seeing the rise, or feeling the strike motion transmitted
through the boat, Bud knows there's a fish on. Once brought to the boat
he just has to get his nose on the fish. Ellie, on the other hand, like the
gentile lady she is, simply goes along for the ride. Much of the time she
and Bud will set next to one another and enjoy the ride, sounds and
A long float will that a time for a lunch or snack is in order. That is
generally done when the boat is pulled up on shore at a suitable place.
The dogs sit and wait until they are told "Okay." Ellie springs out of the
boat effortlessly. But sometimes needs a little help owing to his puppy
years of mistreatment. Jack and I will attack our lunch while Bud and Ellie
inspect the area. The dogs have learned how to time themselves so
they are within arms length as we near the end of our lunch. Ellie
was never allowed table scraps at home and eats only the commercial
food she has been given since a pup. Fishing trips are different however.
My lunch bag will contain the usual sandwich or two, but on fishing trips
with Bud and Ellie it also holds a supply of dog biscuits. While Ellie is
normally satisfied with a biscuit, I've seen seen Jack share much of his
lunch with Bud . . . including a part of a banana.
Over on the Big Horn our friend Dan has a male Lab named Coal. Coal's
primary function is to retrieve ducks, geese and upland birds. When we
fish together on the Big Horn, Jack and I leave our dogs home. It's a
three hundred mile trip one way, and quarters are such that it could be
tough on the dogs. However, we have Coal to accompany us. Coal is
younger than Bud and Ellie and is just coming out of his adolesent stage.
We no longer have to worry about having a flybox of streamers chewed, or
seeing a sleeve of Jacks fishing coat travel through Coals aliementry tract.
Coal is an extremely strong swimmer. He has traveled from one side of the
Big Horn to the other, a twenty-pond goose in his mouth, bucking ice floes
both ways and is ready to do it all over again. On our fishing trips on the
Big Horn, Coal is our other partner. He too watches the fly or shivers with
bursts of excitement once a fish is hooked - and like Bud and Ellie has become
one of our fishing buddies.
Wherever we have fished and the day comes to an end, events of the
day are usually relived. Seldom does the conversation ever take place
when you don't get the feeling one of the dogs wants to tell you what
you left out.
Perhaps we don't communicate the way dog and dog might, nor can
dogs really "talk" to humans, it is clear however that either species
enjoys a day fishing together with their best friends. Don Cianca (aka Uncle Don)