Fly fishing benefits us all

By Patrick Straub Explore Big Sky Fishing Columnist

“You got to load it up with Zap-A-Gap,” my guide says as he ties my size 14 Hairwing Dun onto 24 inches of 4X tippet. “But before you put on the floatant.”

“Of course you put the heavy adhesive on your fly before you add floatant,” I think to myself. “Every angler knows the glue goes on before the floatant.”

I was preparing for my first day of fishing in the annual Jackson Hole One Fly fishing contest, during which an angler must choose one fly to fish the entire day. One fly, period. For more than 25 years the Jackson Hole One Fly’s mission was clear: To generate, manage and grant funding for projects and education that benefit the future of trout habitat and fly fishing, by annually sponsoring a three-day event. Not a bad idea.

Fortunately for local anglers, we don’t have to travel to Wyoming for a tournament that benefits our fisheries. There are many ways to play an active role in preserving and protecting our local fish habitat, recruit more fly fishers, and increase angling opportunities. Here are some of our area’s most popular – and beneficial – angling-centric events.

Blue Water Task Force River Cleanup and Fly Fishing Festival. BWTF’s main goal is to promote stewardship of the Upper Gallatin watershed. Mark your calendars for Sunday, Sept. 14 for the annual river cleanup. Meet at the Big Sky Community Park Pavilion and be prepared to work on the ground or in the stream. Free barbecue and beer to follow!

The annual Big Sky Fly Fishing Festival is a two-day event in early August and features the FT3 Fly Fishing Film Tour, a dinner with auction items, and music. It culminates with a public outdoor fly fishing-palooza of sorts. There are casting demos and contests as well as shops and retailers showcasing product. BWTF also has monthly outings to monitor river health and get their hands plenty dirty planting riparian habitat. Call (406) 993-2519 or visit bluewatertaskforce.org to learn more.

Madison-Gallatin Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Bud Lilly, Dan Bailey, Pat Sample Halterman, Bud Morris and John Peters – a very well respected group of angling legends – formed this local chapter of the nation’s largest trout-centered conservation organization in 1968. The chapter was instrumental in preserving and protecting wild trout in the 1970s and ‘80s. Today, trout and their habitat have a strong network of allies in more than 600 members.

The annual Lower Madison River Cleanup was Aug. 23 when volunteers gathered up dozens of beer cans, a few inflatable toys, and other items left behind from this summer’s floaters. The chapter’s annual dinner and auction raises thousands of dollars that go directly back into preserving and protecting the rivers we fish daily. Seek out Trout Unlimited Endorsed Businesses in your area and support them. Call (406) 219-7691 or visit mgtu.org to learn more.

Museum of the Rockies Two Fly and Two Fly Family Fishing Day. Celebrating its fourth year, this event raises money for locally themed museum exhibits in a regional yet world-class cultural preservation organization, the Museum of the Rockies. This year’s event kicks off with a barbecue on Sept. 12 and fishing on Sept. 13. The Two Fly is two days of fly-fishing camaraderie filled with the opportunity to explore our local rivers and recruit more anglers. The latter was most evident this year with the museum’s second annual Fly Family Fishing Day, which took place in August. At the event kids tie flies, take casting lessons, identify fish species and learn a lot about bugs and river ecology. Call (406) 994-1998 or visit museumoftherockies.org for more information.

Invasive Species Action Network. This organization was created by a small group of highly dedicated anglers and scientists to educate anglers and government agencies about the threats of aquatic invasive species. Despite few anglers knowing what they do, ISAN’s task is large. Aquatic invasive species pose a serious threat to our trout and trout habitat. This organization deserves your support, so learn more if you care about catching more fish. Their mission is simple: Reduce the human-caused spread of invasive species by promoting behavior change. Call (406) 222-7270 or visit stopans.org to learn more.

My mission in the Jackson Hole One Fly contest was simple: Help my team better their performance from last year. My invitation to the team could have been as the “ringer” brought into to ensure improvement. It worked since the score was better, but we left the event feeling better about the friends we made, the memories we created, and the awareness of fly fishing being something bigger than ourselves.

Pat Straub is the author of six books, including The Frugal Fly Fisher, Montana On The Fly, and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing. Along with his wife, owns Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky and with a partner operates a guide service on the Missouri River.