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THE EDDY LINE: Frugal fly fishing

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By Patrick Straub Fishing Columnist

Fly fishing’s reputation rests on champagne tastes, but in reality, the sport just requires a rod, reel, line, and feathers on a hook … and an angler and a river.

But fly fishing can be as costly as any pastime, save perhaps flying a fleet of Falcon jets. Often we fish within our means, but sometimes we splurge. I did … having just returned from a week chasing permit fish, a distant relative of the pompano, in the Florida Keys.

Invited to fish in the relatively prestigious March Merkin tournament, I jumped at the opportunity. Total price tag for the trip was more than a year’s tuition and beer money at most state universities. Foolish? Perhaps – 25 anglers, including me, fished for five days and only one fishermen in the entire field caught one permit.

One fish.

Fortunately, our waters in Big Sky are loaded with trout, and fishing them doesn’t require early withdrawal on an IRA. It’s always nice to go on vacation, but sometimes, it’s even nicer to come home.

Here are some tips to get more bang for your buck when searching for our hungry and happy trout:

Leaky waders?
If you don’t need them for a while, fill them with water to find the leaks, then use your factory wader-repair kit.

Hang ‘em up
After every outing, no matter how deep you waded, hang your waders. Never stuff them in a bag and leave them for longer than a few hours.

Soap and water
Rinse your gear after each day of fishing, whether in fresh or salt water, with mild soap and water. This dramatically increases its lifespan.

Rod case
They gave you a case for reason. Always put your rod back in your case when not in use. Not doing so is a recipe for a broken rod.

Domestic tranquility
Even pros don’t try to teach wives, husbands or significant others to fly fish. Why should you? Invest money into instruction, not marriage counseling.

A little lube goes a long way. A few times a season, lube all the moving parts of your reels. Use “reel lube” made for fly fishing reels, not WD-40 or motor oil, which will ruin your fly line.

Write it down
Keep an angling diary to record date, stream and section fished, weather patterns, and the most successful fly. Whatever else you include is up to you, but this is a great resource and offers fun reading in the off-season. It will also save you money, as you’ll know what worked and what didn’t.

It was a high-stakes gamble I took on a near impossible task – a permit on the fly – but money spent on a passion is never money misspent.

As my guide and good friend, Mike Guerin, said at the beginning of day three: “I bet we have better odds at catching 50 fish on the Gallatin today than one permit in these conditions.”

At 4:50 p.m., with 10 minutes left in the angling day, I looked over at him.

“I bet I would have just caught number 49 on the Gallatin.” And before he could respond, I blurted out, “but there’s time for one permit. Just one!”

I pumped my fist into the sky.

Pat Straub is the author of six books, including The Frugal Fly Fisher, Montana On The Fly, and the forthcoming Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing* *but were afraid to ask. He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky.

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