Of course the thrill of a bent rod and tight line is on every angler’s mind when they hit the water. But I believe fishing isn’t just about the fish. Don’t get me wrong, the thought of catching a hammer is the only thing I can think about when I’m sitting in class "listening" to the importance of MLA format. But the endless pursuit of fish on flies is really what it’s all about. As the old saying goes, “Trout live in beautiful places”. I believe exploring the world’s most beautiful water with a rod in hand and your foxhole guys next to you is the true thrill.
A summer ago my family and I road-tripped up to Melrose, MT, a few hours West of Bozeman (one of the fly fishing capitals of the world). Now, Melrose is not exactly a vacation hot spot for families, or anyone for that matter. However with one restaurant and a fly shop, the town draws anglers like moths to a flame. But, this trip was one that meant the world to the whole family, including my mom who isn’t exactly one for piecing together a 5 wt. The fall prior to the trip, my grandfather was diagnosed with severe lung cancer. The cancer spread so violently, three weeks later he tragically passed away. He would have loved nothing more than to come up to this mesmerizing fishing sanctuary and spend time with his family, while catching life’s most beautiful gift to the river. Nearing the end of our last day on the Big Hole river, my dad did something none of us expected. He tied on a fly that was tied by my grandfather’s grandfather in the 1930’s, not exactly the recipe we had been using on this trip. As if my grandfather had placed the fly in the trout’s mouth himself, the first cast my dad threw out he had a fish on. After an emotional fight with that magical rainbow trout, the moment we all shared holding up that full net was even more unbelievable.
Leaving the river, I threw in one final cast with the 1930 money fly at a beauty brown trout feeding near the surface. Soon getting snagged on the willow tree behind me, the line broke and the fly was stuck in the bark. Complete heartbreak came over me, as I had just lost a priceless treasure that would have probably gone under glass in our household. But, then my brother Adam said something that I’ll never forget, he said “hey, a piece of grandpa will stay here forever, right on the river we all love".
To many anglers, fishing is all about catching the most fish. But, I believe fishing is about more than catching fish. Henry David Thoreau said, “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after”. The pursuit of trout, the beautiful places you visit, and the memories made with your buddies are the priceless gifts all fisherman can appreciate, even during the toughest days on the water. But, it only takes one bend of the rod to keep us trout junkies coming back.