Farewell to fly-fishing
I quit fly-fishing about the same time as I quit riding motorcycles — when I was in my late 40s. I ceased the motorcycle riding because I began to feel my mortality, thinking I might end up crippled up in an accident. As it was, I managed to become disabled even without a motorcycle accident.
With the fly-fishing I just became bored with catching trout that I was not going to eat. I tired of the tangled leaders, wind knots and other irritations that come with fly-fishing. So this winter I gave away all my fly gear to a young fellow who doesn’t have a lot of money and wanted to get into fly-fishing.
It is not that I didn’t have some fine times fly-fishing. My first experience with it was in the mid-1970s when I lived in Grand Forks and traveled over to Minnesota to catch a few stunted rainbow trout. The most fun I had, though, was fishing Union and Sarah lakes near Crookston. My partner and I would rent a small boat for a few bucks, paddle out onto the small lakes and fish with poppers for bluegills. It was the most fun I ever had fly-fishing.
A couple years later I was living in southeast Wyoming and fished the Encampment River, the North Platte and some small creeks and ponds. I was unimpressed. I found it much easier, less irritating and more productive to use an ultralight spinning outfit with a small spinner or spoon.
Then, days before the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980 I was invited to float the Madison River a half hour’s drive from my current home in Bozeman. My partners taught me how to fish a large nymph, and I was able to catch several dozen trout in that manner. It was great fun. I also caught cutthroat trout and Rocky Mountain whitefish in northwestern Wyoming during those years.
By the time I moved to Alaska in 1983 I owned a Fenwick 9-foot graphite No. 7 weight rod. With it I had a fine time catching steelhead on the Situk River near Yakutat, and sockeye salmon on Windfall Creek near Juneau.
After I moved to Montana in 1986 I fished some of the finest trout water in the U.S. — the Big Horn, Yellowstone, Madison, Gallatin, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Smith, Missouri, Flathead and the Sun. I caught lots of fish. But I still got greater pleasure using a light spinning outfit with a Mepps or Panther Martin spinner or a Dardevle Midget or Lil’ Devle.
I also found it fatiguing to witness the pomposity of fly-fishermen in general, the pictures of morons holding their fly-rods in their teeth for photos while holding up a fish, their desperate attempts to be “cool.” (Gads, I hate that word!)
And then the snobs invaded my territory—the wonderful pike and walleye country of the Canadian Shield. Nowadays you can find brochures and websites for fly-in camps that cater to fly fishermen. You will see smiling yuppies with their flyrods purposely displayed beneath their “Denver dude” hats. They use large streamer flies and 30-pound shock tippets to prevent break-offs. (I should admit that I caught a pike on a streamer in 1978 in Saskatchewan just to prove I could do it.)
I came to the conclusion that God did not intend man to catch northern pike on a fly. If He had, He would not have allowed Lou J. Eppinger to invent the Dardevle spoon.
Fly-fishermen everywhere — have a good day.
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974