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BACK 40: Fly fishing into 2014

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As if you need another resolution, at least this one has to do with fishing

By Patrick Straub Explore Big Sky Fishing Columnist

The start of my 2014 began like any other normal day in our house: my wife and I, in our bed, jockeying for position with our 9-year-old Labrador retriever; the flat light of a slow sunrise over the Gallatin Range; and the thump-thump of our toddler sliding down the stairs in a feet-then-rump-feet-then-rump rhythm.

As my wife and dog slept, I arose and with my daughter stumbled through the first morning of 2014. Then my phone buzzed with a text from a good friend wanting to hit the Gallatin.

Cut to the scene: a light snow falling, muted gray clouds covering the peaks above Gallatin Canyon, and two dads enjoying some river time sans kids, wives or jobs. Did it matter if we caught anything? Not really. But we did catch fish – lots of them.

Since we are both writer-dreamer types, on the drive home we brainstormed our fly fishing-specific list of what we will do different or better in in this new year.

Here is the 2014 Fly Fishing Resolution List (we left out the most obvious one – to fish more – as few of us fish as much as we’d like).

Introduce the sport of fly fishing. More passionate anglers brought into fly fishing means more people dedicated to protecting those special places we fish.

Learn to double haul. Ask an expert, watch an online video, or read a book. It doesn’t matter where you get your information, just dedicate time to learn this very useful skill.

Watch your son or daughter catch his or her first fish on a fly. Make a point to observe rather than be wrapped up in your own fishing. With our busy lives this can be hard. Commit to it and schedule time, but allow yourself to be flexible – forcing a kid to fish is no fun for anyone.

Stalk a bonefish or cast to a permit. For those who have done both, you know the rush. For those who haven’t, find someone who has and invite them for coffee or a beer.

Clean your gear better. Aquatic invasive species are a serious concern to anglers in Montana. When traveling from one river to another, inspect, clean, and dry boots, waders, boats and trailers.

Splurge a few times. Pay the rod fee for a day on a private spring creek. Pay for a guided trip with the obnoxious in-laws – they might be more fun on a trout river. Treat yourself to the hot new rod or reel.

Take five minutes to observe before fishing. This will cue you into what’s hatching or you could see some wildlife you might have missed when sprinting from car to riffle.

Support your local fly shop. We’re lucky in southwest Montana because fly shops are alive and well. They are your best source for local fishing reports and free information, plus specials on closeout models and demos for all the new goodies.

Be friendlier on the river. We fish for various reasons: to be in nature; to challenge ourselves; for exercise; for solitude; for camaraderie. Upon encountering other anglers, offer a polite “hello” or a “how’s the fishing?” You might meet a new angling friend or learn of an effective fly.

On Jan. 1, 2014, my friend and I were lucky. We had good fishing and shared the river with only a moose and a few mallards. When he dropped me off at home, I said to him, “We should do this more often.”

He smiled and said, “Yes we should. 2014 will be the year I fish a lot more.”

I held up our list of scribbled fishing resolutions and offered my buddy a fist-bump. As he pulled away, I said to myself, “It is written.”

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. He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky.

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