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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 15...UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP

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on Monday, 28 August 2017
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   I have been taking John and Betty White fishing for years and years. After a long and successful career as an executive in the business world, John retired and along with Betty they began a wine business in their home town of Santa Barbara, Calif. “White Vineyards,” as their chardonnay is called, has become a big seller nationwide.

   Twenty years ago, the Whites built a summer home here in Montana and now spend the entire fishing season here. Their regular guide used to be my pal Skeeter before his accident but now they book me to guide them fly fishing every Tues. & Thurs, all summer long. After a day of fishing, you could usually find John and Betty hanging out with the locals tossing down a few cold ones at the Wagon Wheel Bar. They were among Smitty the bartender’s favorite customers, always leaving a generous tip.

 

   Every year at Christmas time, a case of White Vineyards chardonnay would show up at my door.

   The Whites are active in our local community donating their time and money to the hospital and town library as well as the local Trout Unlimited chapter. You really couldn’t ask for nicer people and I always look forward to our fishing days together.

   One day, as he always does many times each summer, John White paid a visit to Wally’s Fly Shop on Main St. He likes to keep his business local. Walking through the front door he saw a notice on the chalkboard. Beneath the usual “Fishing Report” and “Hot Flies” printed in big letters it said “Under New Ownership”. Needing some fresh tippet and a few flies, he entered and began browsing.   

   Unfamiliar music played through the shop sound system. A slender man in his early twenties sat on a stool behind the counter chatting with an attractive young lady dressed in black, skin tight spandex stretch pants, Teva sandals and a blaze orange form fitting gym workout shirt. Her tongue was pierced. A faint trace of white powder was visible between her right nostril and upper lip.

   The guy wore a faded cap that said “Yeti”. He had a neck tattoo showing a rainbow trout jumping through a ring of fire, stud earrings in both ears and one pierced eyebrow with tiny fish hooks all in a row. A man-bun was visible,  protruding from the back of his cap.

   His groomed, dark facial hair was perfectly trimmed, as if he had just walked out of a Vidal Sassoon men's styling salon.

   John White wandered down the rows and racks of flies, not finding the size 18 olive-body comparaduns he was looking for to match the hatch on the spring creek he had fished the day before.

   The kid behind the counter ignored him.

   The chick in spandex also ignored him.

   After several minutes, Mr. White walked up to the counter.

   “Excuse me, would you happen to have any size 18 olive body comparaduns?”

   The young man snickered.

   “Size 18? You gotta be kiddin me bro, we got big trout around here, no need for little pussy flies like that. Go find the size 2 Sculpzillas at the end of the aisle and catch yerself a real trout”

   He went back to chatting up the babe.

   John White, who had been fishing the Madison for thirty years, also had access to some prime spring creek water in the area. Large trout in the 18”-22” class could be found routinely sipping small dry flies. Just the other day he had landed two twenty inch browns on the #18 comparadun and broke off two other big fish.

   “No, that’s ok, if you don’t have the comparaduns, I guess I’ll just buy some 6x tippet and be on my way.”

   The kid behind the counter looked up with disdain.

   “6X tippet? Hah! The fuck, bro...do you know where you are at? This is the Mighty Madison…this is the NFL of fly fishing, my man…6X tippet, that’s pansy…you don’t need no 6X tippet…use this.”

He handed over a spool of "OX Super Strong Carbon Fiber Wire Nylon Nuke” tippet material in 16 pound test.

   “No thanks…I’ll just take these and be going."

   John White laid out a few plastic baggies of fly tying materials he had picked out, a dozen size 18 Parachute Adams dry flies and two spools of 6X tippet.

   Unimpressed, the shop kid rang up the total sale.

   “That’ll be $55.60 for yer total”

“That’s fine, could you just put that on my tab? John White, Jeffers, Montana…I should be in your system”

“Tab, what tab? No more tabs, bro, We gotta new owner, new attitude, new sheriff in town. From now on, it’s instant payment. The new owner is all business, can’t afford to deal wit da deadbeats, ya know what I mean?”

   “But I’ve had a tab here for twenty years. I always pay up at the end of the summer. This is my favorite fly shop. I do all of my business here.”

   Indeed, if you totaled it up, John White had spent over $75,000 in this shop through the years.

   “Sorry brah, Mr. Prescott sez no more tabs and he's the boss. Will that be cash or credit card?”

   John White peeled of a $100 bill, completed the transaction and walked out of the fly shop into the bright Montana sun, glancing briefly at the “Under New Ownership” sign.

   He wondered.

   “Clocks” by Coldplay was playing through the fly shop speakers, wafting out through the door, following John White out on to Main St.black_mask_guy

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 14

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on Monday, 10 July 2017
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      bobbers_2   Ran a trip with T-Bird the other day. We were at the boat launch at the wrong time ‘cause everybody else was there, too. Must have been fifteen rigs there gettin’ ready. People everywhere.

   The guide next to me in the parking lot was setting up fly rods for his anglers. He was youngish, slim, early twenties, groomed facial hair, stud earring in the left ear. In the right ear, a hoop dangled with a miniature gold fly reel attached. He had the paisley face mask around his neck even though the day was cloudy and gray. Had the bonefish up-downer hat that said “Belize Is For Belizians”and a canary yellow hoodie that had "Baddass" printed in black letters on the back.

   I wasn't sure if he was going fishing or auditioning for "Dancing With the Stars."

   He was yakking it up to his clients, an elderly couple in their seventies; a white-haired gentleman and his attractive wife dressed mainly in khakis and subdued tones.

    They were watching their young guide rig their rods standing next to the boat on trailer behind the guide's brand new black Toyota Land Cruiser SUV with enough rod racks on the roof to outfit a 30 day fishing safari up the Amazon and back.

   The entire rear portion of the vehicle was covered with bumper stickers…Tie One On, Got Trout?, Trout Hunter, Trout Stalker, Trout Slayer, Trout Snagger, Fish Whisperer, Fly Guy, Fish On, Strip It, Rip It, Hump It, Twitch It, Tease It, The Best Way To A Man’s Heart Is Through His Fly, A Life Without Fly Fishing Is Not Worth Living and “Bite Me”.

   I thought, this dude has a strong desire to be noticed. As he rigged the rods he brought out a large, clear plastic box with rows of compartments, set it out on the tailgate of the truck and laid it open.

   Inside were bobbers, lots and lots of bobbers, hundreds of bobbers, bobbers of every color imaginable…red ones, white ones, red and white ones, yellow ones, green ones, orange ones, light blue, turquoise, sky blue, Carolina blue, hot pink, fuchsia, magenta, lavender, chartreuse, blaze orange, lime green, deep purple, candy striped, pin striped, tiger striped…round, egg shaped, quarter inch, half inch, three quarter inch, plastic, cork, balsa and bubinga.

    So many bobbers.

   The guide was explaining to the couple and to anyone else in earshot in a loud, excitable voice:

   “ This red one here, I use it when the fish are really biting, on cloudy days I go to the hot pink, blaze orange or magenta. To get the fish excited I use the lime green and candy stripe…I use deep purple for sunny days, barber pole for foggy days, turquoise for rainy days, and this sparkly one here I use just before a storm rolls in.”

   “I will usually start with the half inch and work my way up to the three quarter inch.”

   “I have experimented with the fuzzy bobbers made of sheep’s wool, goat wool, mohair, cat hair and cotton candy. I even tried using hair from my pet golden retriever Muffy, but a few of my clients are allergic to fur so I went all synthetic all the time.”

   “Because of the extensive research I have done, Fly Fisherman Magazine has asked me to write an article on bobber fishing but I said no way! Don’t want my secrets getting out there.”

   “Fly Fishing The Universe” wanted to do an hour TV Special on me and my bobbers but they couldn’t pay me the money I wanted. I have turned down a lot of offers.“

   “People ask me all the time if I have ever taken any famous people fishing, you know, celebrities. I am a modest guy and don’t like to brag, but I have taken…well I almost took Lindsey Lohan once but she had to cancel at the last minute. Of course she sent me a nice check. Justin Bieber’s people are talking to my people…next summer is looking REAL good for me and The Beebs. AND Mylie Cyrus is interested.”

   The white haired man and his wife’s eyes were beginning to glaze over.

 

   “ The word of mouth is definitely getting around about me and my bobber fishing. There is a loud buzz surrounding me in the fly fishing world. I am so busy, so tired, so popular, so in demand, booked solid...you guys are lucky to have me today."

 

   I noticed by now the lady angler had gotten back in front seat of the Toyota and was dozing off.

  

   "The thing about this bobber fishing is never give up, stick with it, keep trying...just follow my lead and I will show you the way. Well that’s about it, folks. Enough about me and my bobbers.”

  

    By this time the guide was pretty much talking to himself.

   “ Any questions”?

  

   The elderly gentleman cleared his throat,

“Yes, I have a question, can we go fishing now”?

  

   

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 13

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on Monday, 24 April 2017
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   Back up at The Outlet the next day the Montana sun shone wide and bright. The sheriff, game warden and a handful of local folks stood along the creek bed. A couple of Jenny Bishop’s high school kids were there along with the Town newspaper reporter. The Bozeman TV station sent a small news crew.

   The original tributary to the Madison had been restored and the water was flowing deep and clear. The main pool filled back up and once again took on its old shape with thin seams of current wandering through the dark center, easing over to caress the overhanging bear grass along the undercut bank, finally converging into a gravely riffle as it made its way downstream to the main river. The glassy surface revealed tiny midges fluttering on top, dancing, skittering, doing a delicate balancing act in the air, finally landing and floating tenuously with the S curves of the meandering current.

   At the very end of the pool, in the tail-out, the faintest dimple broke the surface of the water, a nose poked up and disappeared leaving a ring of the rise that slowly expanded into a concentric circle and vanished.

   A couple of school kids noticed and pointed.

A meadowlark balanced on an old fence post and sang, melodic notes drifting through the creek meadow, floating through the air, riding with the summer breeze on the way down to the Madison River.

   I stood in the back of the crowd and smiled.

 

SPRING_CK_1

 

 

 

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 12

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on Wednesday, 19 April 2017
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   If Corky Furillo knew anything, he knew about blowing up shit. Two tours in Iraq will do that for a guy… IEDs, RPGs, land mines, booby traps, suicide vests strapped on teen-aged girls…explosions were a way of life over there. So when it came to the task of blowing up a couple of dams made of dirt, gravel and rocks…no problem.

    It would be a night job. We met up at the old abandoned Gypsum Mine

 …me, Corky, Skeeter, Lonnie, One Fly and Huey.

 We would move around 11pm. Canoes would be used – quiet, fast, set up and get out. Doc would drop us off at the old boat launch above the cattails and pick us up two miles downstream at the cottonwood patch. Zero hour would be 2AM.

   Corky had rigged two packages: each held two full sticks of dynamite rigged with wires. He used a countdown timer in a black box with a digital face.        We loaded up the canoes with the packs of explosives and slid silently into the Madison River. With no moon and tough viz, we zigged and zagged, bobbed and weaved around rocks and arrived at The Outlet right at midnight. Canoes were beached. Me and Corky snuck up the dry channel to the main dam… Skeeter and Lonnie proceeded down to the second dam, while Huey and Lonnie stayed with the canoes.

   Using a trowel, me and Corky quietly dug two holes about four feet apart and sunk in the dynamite. We checked the detonator switch which was taken from a remote control model airplane and set the dial on the digital timer at 2 AM.

    Down at the second dam, Skeeter and Lonnie did the same. We all met back at the canoes, double checked that everything was in sync, and set off down the river.

    Doc was waiting for us at the cottonwoods. We loaded the canoes in the long box of the pick-up, strapped them in, and headed back home.

    We were pretty sure nobody saw us.

   At two AM on the button…KABOOM, BOOM! Even though the blasts were miles upstream, everybody in town including the passed out drunks heard it. The bars had just emptied out and the late night partiers froze in their tracks. WTF was that? A few thought: meteorite, terrorist attack, the end of the world.

    They would have to wait until morning.

 

 

 

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 11

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on Monday, 17 April 2017
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   Jenny Bishop’s Ladies Fly Fishing school this month was for local girls…high school kids that wanted to learn fly casting, trout habits, stream habitat, bugs & stuff. She was doing it for free to give back to the community and help the kids. It was an annual event the whole school looked forward to, a highlight of the summer.

       She asked me, Corky and T-Bird to help her with the group of eight students. The plan was to spend the morning showing the kids the basic fly cast and then float fish downstream on the Madison until we got to The Outlet, stop there for some wade fishing and lunch. There was usually some fish rising in the main pool at The Outlet and it was also a good spot to turn over some rocks and find some insect life to show the kids.

   We had a fun morning catching some trout on dry flies…the weather was pleasant, partly sunny, high 60s at mid-day. I was lead boat down. I eased over to the East bank and headed for the mouth of the Outlet. As I got nearer, something did not look right. The landscape looked different. A blue heron and some magpies flushed. I left my two girls in the boat, walked up the bank, wriggled through some scrub willows and looked over the edge to check for rising trout.

   There weren’t any. In fact there was no water!

   The stream was bone dry except for a shallow puddle a couple of inches deep where the main pool used to be. I walked over to see a dozen dead trout belly up, with a couple more barely twitching in their death throes. Raccoon and bird tracks were everywhere as I continued up the channel. Around a bend and up 60 yards to where the former tributary forked off I saw an electric fence…and a sign “No Trespassing, Keep Out”.

   And a dam.

   Not a beaver dam, a man-made dam. It was about sixteen feet long and four feet high. Someone had brought a back hoe in and carved out the bank of the spring creek, filling in the Outlet channel and blocking it from flowing to the Madison River. The dam included rocks and gravel, the kind you see in driveways or parking lots.  I followed the electric fence downstream and found another dam where the second channel formerly entered the river.

   By this time Jenny, Corky and Skeeter and the rest of the high school girls had caught up to us. They were scattered up and down the creek bed checking out the dead and rotting fish.

“What happened? The fish are dead…the creek is dry.”

   We were all struck with dismay and disbelief. Who would commit such a disgusting, disrespectful act? And why?

   I had an idea.DSCN4626

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 10

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on Thursday, 13 April 2017
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   Otis Wilson was down on his luck. His cattle ranch had gone sour - he borrowed against his mortage, refinanced, doubled down and finally went broke. The bank came and took over the whole shootin’ match, then his wife got fed up and ran off with one of the local fishing guides

   Things got so bad he had to take a handyman job at the Lone Vista Dude Ranch cleaning rooms, scrubbing toilets and raking horse manure. His drinking had gotten worse - now he carried a flask of Jack Daniels with him wherever he went. He had the job at the Water Board but it didn’t pay much. Because he’d been around so long they gave him the title of Director meaning all the requests for permits had to be approved and signed by him.

   And now he sat in the parking lot of the Sundance Campground in his beat up old Ford pick-up waiting for his meeting with Dexter Prescott.

 

   A secret meeting.

 

   Prescott had phoned Otis with a request. He needed a Code 12 permit to dam up and block off two channels of his spring creek that fed directly into the Madison River. Otis said, “no way, you can’t do that, they are natural feeders, no way you can get a permit to do that”

 

Prescott told him it was a natural disaster, he was losing water, there was ice damage, stream erosion, act of God, a horrible situation, very stressful. He pleaded with Otis, if he somehow could get him the permits…he asked to meet him at the campground.

 

   The black Hummer pulled into the campground and rolled up next to the Ford pick-up. Prescott motioned for Otis to get in the vehicle with him. Once again he told his story. Once again Otis was reluctant.

 

   Prescott said, “look I’ll level with you Otis, the main problem is people accessing my property, they are fishing the creek and I know it’s legal and all that but I want to lease the water for a fee. Just the other day I saw some local fishing guides stop their boat and fish the creek. It’s a big thorn in my side.”

 

   “Fishing guides”? asked Otis. He took a swig of Jack from his flask

 

   “Yessir, you know, some of those dudes you see hanging around the Wagon Wheel all the time.”

 

   Otis’ expression changed.

 

   “What’s in it for me”?

 

   “I thought you’d never ask” smiled Prescott. He pulled a thick manila envelope out from under the front seat and handed it to Otis.

   It contained $50,000 cash in hundred dollar bills.rb_shadow_2

 

 

 

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  • My man
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    My man says
    Otis You are on fire. Go RB go!!

UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 9

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   First thing in the morning Dexter Prescott put in a call to his attorney, Dewey Cheatum. The lawyer was a long time friend, fraternity brother and confidant. His expertise was litigation…he sued people and corporations and he won. He started out chasing ambulances doing the fake-whiplash-shady-doctor thing, and worked his way up to the big time, suing major pharmaceutical companies over defective penal implants and poorly designed trans vaginal mesh products. In fact, he would sue anybody anywhere for anything as long as he could make a buck. Some said he would sue his own mother if he thought he could pocket some cash. Dewey made so much money suing people he got bored and took up fly fishing. He even got himself on the Board of Directors of the Big Riffle Foundation.

 

   But Dexter Prescott needed some legal advice.
“How can I keep people out of my water”?

 

   “Got some bad news for ya, buddy, you can’t keep ‘em out, it ain’t your water, only the land surrounding it.” Cheatum replied. “The public has the right to access your stream from the Madison River as long as they stay below the high water mark. Not only that, it’s a tributary of the Madison and has been since Popeye was a punk. No bueno, amigo.”

   “But, but, but…what if I blocked access? What if I put up signs, electric fences, used attack dogs, had my man Shorty scare ‘em off? Intimidate ‘em”?

   “No can do pard,” answered Dewey. “ That stuff is illegal as long as the stream is flowing. Plus there is that “traditional use” thingy. There’s a history there, folks been using it for years…Native Americans used it. They even camped here.”

   “But there might be a way…”

“Tell me, help me.”

   Dewey Cheatum thought for a moment…

   “You could build dams”

   “Dams”?

   “Yeah, it would be a tough sell, but if you could convince the Water Board to issue you Code 12 Permits stating an undue Act Of God caused this creek to feed into the Madison and it was causing undue stress, anguish, loss of income, irreconcilable pain, etc., etc…”

   Dewey Cheatum was on a roll now, his scheming mind was drifting back to his ambulance chasing days.

   “You might be able to talk them into to it.”

   Prescott perked up. He remembered something. The place he stayed at recently, that dude ranch, the guy that worked there, the juicer, Otis I think his name was, wasn’t he on the Water Board?

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 8

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on Tuesday, 04 April 2017
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   Jenny Bishop lined up her target and zeroed in. A large brown trout was rising steadily to tiny midges along a grassy, undercut bank. The Outlet was one of her favorite places to fish…there was almost always something rising and she stopped here to fish frequently during her float trips.

   She timed the rise rings and began her casting sequence in rhythm with the fish. The size 20 Griffith Gnat landed gently four feet upstream of the feeder, drifted slowly down the glassy surface and disappeared with a dimpled, soft sucking sound.

   Jenny lifted her fly rod, came tight and cleared her line as the large fish careened away from her and raced downstream. She carefully pressured the trout, opposing its direction, eventually subduing it in the shallows just upstream from where the Outlet entered the Madison River. She gently and expertly unhooked the fine trout and watched it swim away unharmed.

   She had arrived in Montana from Colorado a few years ago, finally getting far away from her abusive, meth-addicted boy friend. Attractive, athletic, 5’6”, sandy blonde, with looks that reminded one of Carrie Underwood and with an outgoing personality that drew people toward her, Jenny had found a new home and a new start in Montana.

   Her fly tying business had done well; she tied for Wally’s Fly Shop and as part of her deal with owner Wally Livingston, she set up her table and vise in the front display window of the shop from 4-6pm every Tuesday and Thursday while the sidewalk shoppers on Main St. watched her through the plate glass. She also booked her ladies fly casting schools through the shop.

   She baked scrumptious strawberry pies which she sold locally and bred keen nosed, super birdy black Labrador retrievers.

   This day she was fishing with her good friends Doc and Huey. She never abused the Outlet…a quick stop, a few casts, then off in the boat downstream for new adventure. It was one of the many tributary creeks that fed the Madison and a one of her favorites.

   The spring creek was part of the large Evans cattle ranch that had been in family hands of since the 1930s. Fishing was allowed in the Outlet because it was public water below the high water mark the same as the West Fork, Beaver Creek or any of the many other Madison tributaries.

   The twin brothers who ran the place, Noah and Newt, were well known and well liked around Town, often stopping in to the Wagon Wheel to toss down a few. Rumor had it though, that money was getting tight and the brothers might consider selling.

   Jenny and her friends hopped back into the boat, popped cold beers, and floated on down the river. Just as they passed a bend at the side channel, they noticed a black Hummer parked in the bushes.undercover_angler_2

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 7

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   Dexter Prescott looked out over the vast creek bottom and didn’t like what he saw. Sure, it was 5000 acres of Montana meadow with braids of prime spring creek full of fat trout winding through grassy banks, bear grass and scrub willow. It had natural beauty. But something was not quite right.

   Prescott had just purchased the property from an old-time Montana rancher for 10.6 million dollars. He snickered to himself when the deal closed…in his home state of California the place would be worth twice as much. But his dream of owning a ranch in Montana had finally come true and he vowed to make the most of it.

 

   The first thing was to get rid of all those stinking cows. After all, everyone knew cows and spring creeks don’t mix…cattle knock down the banks and silt up the stream beds. Plus he really didn’t like cows. Never did, just pretended. Yes, he would sell the cows.

 

   Next, he would bulldoze the creek beds and build ponds. Ponds! He always dreamed of owning his own, private ponds. Ponds, ponds and more ponds! He would stock them with trophy trout and feed ‘em pellets to make ‘em fat!

 

   In his mind he was already picturing how to bring in back hoes and dozers to carve up the landscape. This Mother Nature thingy only went so far. He had his own idea of how nature should look.

 

   And a house! Not just any house…an 18,000 sq. ft. mansion positioned on the bench, looking out over his empire, with pillars! And flag poles! And a swimming pool, bowling alley, movie theater, and a huge room for his stuffed animals. And a helicopter pad!

 

 

   Rumor had it there were some old Indian camps on the site that might have to be dug up. So what? The Indians ain’t around no more.

 

   Yes, Dexter Prescott’s California dream was becoming a Montana reality.

 

   Research, he had done a lot of it. Found out he could do just about anything he wanted to the spring creek as long as he called it “restoring wetlands”…”creating new habitat”…or “conservation easement.” Yep, he could tear the place up all he wanted and not only that, SOMEBODY ELSE WOULD PAY FOR IT.

 

     Government institutions, conservation groups, land reliances, trusts, endowments, foundations, environmentalists…they would pay for it…all of it…he would see to that.

   He had a plan. He would carve out his empire here…re-work the creek to his liking, stock the ponds with huge trout that people would pay big bucks to catch.

 

 

   The natural world would become Dexter’s world.

 

   As he rode the perimeter of the new project in his big, new, all black custom Hummer H2, his mind was churning. He knew high tech business and corporate associates back in California that would pay handsomely to fly fish on a place like this. How would he charge? By the day? Week? How about a yearly lease? Yes that was it, just like an exclusive country club. Charge a hefty initiation fee then annual dues. Electric gates would be installed with secret codes. $100,000 to join with a $10,000 yearly fee. Limit to maybe 30 memberships. As he rode the ranch property he did the math. He could make millions!
   And he could re-arrange nature for free!

   The rutty ranch road wound around the creek and wandered toward the Madison River. The  water broke into a Y… one channel leading off into an S curve with several inviting undercut banks, deep pools and bouncy runs, eventually meandering down and emptying into the Madison. Down further, another smaller, similar channel broke off into a gravelly riffle and likewise led to the river. Dexter Prescott slowed the Hummer to a stop under the shade of a willow.

 

 

   As he watched upstream, he saw a drift boat with three figures floating down the Madison. As they grew closer they pulled over to the near bank. A man and a woman got out of the boat, fly rods in hand and they worked slowly up the side channel, one casting, one watching. The third figure stayed in the boat. Prescott watched as the woman laid long, graceful casts out over the glassy spring creek, landing her fly delicately, poetically…it was mesmerizing.
   Her partner watched as she crouched low and stripped in line, then a splash, a bent rod and a wild trout of size came rocketing out of the creek. The woman deftly turned her body 180 degrees as the fish burned line and headed straight downstream toward the Madison. She followed methodically and worked the fish back to the bank, sliding it up on the shallows, reaching down, gently removing the fly, releasing the trout without touching it and watched it swim away unharmed. The man and woman put an arm around each other’s shoulders and walked back to the boat. The figures reached into coolers extracting cold beverages, popped caps, made a three-way toast, and continued on downstream.

 

 

   Dexter Prescott watched the whole scene with great interest. He was well aware of Montana Stream Access laws. He knew these anglers had legally accessed the spring creek he now owned via the main river and everything they did was totally within the law. They never set foot on his property, never ventured above the high water mark and never trespassed.

   This disturbed him greatly.

   As the three anglers drifted slowly downstream, disappearing below a bend in the Madison River, Dexter Prescott hatched another plan.

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 6

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on Sunday, 26 March 2017
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   The dusty road to the Lone Vista Dude Ranch was a winding, gravelly , washboard affair, twisting up the canyon about 10 miles from town. Smitty told me the couple from San Francisco, Dexter and Harriet Prescott, had booked two months at the ranch, along with some friends (bartenders know everything). I had called them on the phone, introduced myself as a fly fishing guide and asked to talk to them about guiding them this summer.

   I drove through the ranch gate and met Otis, the handyman.

   “Can you tell me where the Prescott’s are staying?

 

   “Yessir, cabin four.”

 

   I drove up to the cabin. The white drift boat with the rainbow peace sign was parked in the driveway. Even before I got out of the truck, Dexter Prescott came out to greet me.

 

   He was a tallish, sun-tanned man in his late 40s. He was dressed in khakis, tassel loafers, no socks and was wearing a robin’s egg blue polo shirt with Yellowstone Club embroidered on the pocket. He had a gold chain around his neck but the pendant was hidden.

 

   Word was he had made a fortune in Silicon Valley building up his high tech company from scratch and selling out to Google for zillions. He extended a bony hand:

 

“What can I do for you?”

 

   I told him the real reason I was here was because of the fire along the river and I was there that day and I saw his drift boat and his party leaving the scene and I checked out the fire and I found this laying on the ground:

 

   I opened my back pack and showed him the mangled hunk of charred metal.

 

   “This is what’s left of a Phantom 4 Pro Quadcopter Aerial Drone we found at the fire scene. We traced the serial number back to a Fry’s Electronics Store in San Jose, Ca. It was purchased in March of this year. The price was $1499.00. The buyer was a Mr. Dexter Prescott.”

 

   Prescott’s tanned face turned a whiter shade of pale.

 

   “Look, it was an accident. Me and Harriett along with our friends, Jack, Muffy, Gilbert and Claire…we stopped for a shore lunch. We popped open a few bottles of wine, spread out the charcoal and soaked it with lighter fluid. I emptied the whole can because, you know, we wanted it to start FAST."

 

   "I touched it off and POOF! A big ball of flame blew up and the wind was blowing real hard and the dry grass caught on fire and it spread really FAST. Harriet and I were stomping out the flames while Gilbert and Claire were taking phone camera video and posing for selfies. Jack and Muffy thought what a great chance to start up the drone and take aerial video. So we had the drone flying and the camera phone going and wind was blowing and the fire was spreading and then more flames and more smoke and somebody ran and got the Coleman cooler full of water and dumped it on the fire but too late the blaze was out of control and then the drone crashed and we all kind of panicked and dashed to the boats and got out of there as fast as we could.”

 

   “Mr. Prescott, you should have fessed up on the spot. The sheriff is pissed…he thought my crew started the fire. The mess cost the Town $28,680.”

 

   “You know, I am truly sorry about this. Me and my wife and my friends, we are all avid outdoors people. We support Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Turkeys Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Save The Whales, Save The Rain Forest, Save The Dolphins, Save The Sea Otters, Save The Spotted Owls, Save The Penguins, Save The Pandas, Save The Puppies, the Gorillas, the Orangutans, the Tree Frogs, the Yangtze Finless Porpoise, the Black Footed Ferret, the Black Spider Monkey, Save The Starving Little Kid In Africa with the Fly on His Nose and we give generously each year to The Big Riffle Foundation. What more can we do?”

 

   “Mr. Prescott, write the Town a check for $28,680, that’s what you can do.”

 

     Back at the Wagon Wheel, me and Skeeter and T-Bird had beers with Butch the Game Warden and the sheriff and the Volunteer Fire Chief. We had a good chat and a few grins and I handed over a check for $28,680.

 

   Skeeter looked at me kinda funny.

 “No tip?”

  

   “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon was playing on the jukebox.

 

  

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE

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   bobbers_2       Ran a trip with T-Bird the other day. We were at the boat launch at the wrong time ‘cause everybody else was there, too. Must have been fifteen rigs gettin’ ready. People everywhere, forty or fifty of 'em.

   The guide next to me in the parking lot was setting up fly rods for his anglers. He was youngish, trim, early twenties, groomed facial hair, hoop earring in the left ear with a tiny gold fly reel dangling, had the paisley face mask around his neck even though it was cloudy and gray. Had the bonefish up-downer hat on even though the nearest bonefish was 3000 miles away.

   He was yakking it up to his clients, an elderly couple in their seventies, a white-haired gentleman and his attractive wife. They were watching their young guide rig fly rods standing next to the boat on trailer behind a brand new black Toyota Land Cruiser SUVwith enough rod racks on the roof to outfit a 30 day fishing safari up the Amazon and back.

   The entire rear portion of the truck was covered with bumper stickers…Tie One On, Got Trout?, Trout Hunter, Trout Stalker, Trout Slayer, Trout Snagger, Fish Whisperer, Fly Guy, Fish On, Strip It, Rip It, Hump It, Twitch It, Tease It, The Best Way To A Man’s Heart Is Through His Fly, A Life Without Fly Fishing Is Not Worth Living and "Bite Me."

   I thought, this dude has a strong desire to be noticed.

   As he rigged the rods he brought out a large, clear plastic box with rows of compartments, set it out on the boat seat and laid it open.

   Inside were bobbers, lots and lots of bobbers, hundreds of bobbers, bobbers of every color imaginable…red ones, white ones, red and white ones, yellow ones, green ones, orange ones, light blue, turquoise, sky blue, Carolina blue, hot pink, fuschia, lavender, chartreuse, blaze orange, lime green, deep purple, candy striped, pin striped, tiger striped…round, egg shaped, quarter inch, half inch, three quarter inch, plastic, cork, balsa and bubinga.

   I had never seen so many bobbers in all my life.

   The guide was explaining to the couple and to anyone else in earshot:

   “ This bright red one here, I use it when the fish are really biting, on cloudy days I go to the hot pink, blaze orange or fuschia. To get the fish excited I use the lime green and candy stripe…I use deep purple for sunny days, barber pole for foggy days, turquoise for rainy days, and this sparkly one here I use just before a storm rolls in.”

   “I will usually start with the half inch and work my way up to the three quarter inch.”

   “I have experimented with the fuzzy bobbers made of sheep’s wool, goat wool, mohair, cat hair and the hair from my Golden Retriever. But a few of my clients are allergic to fur so I went all synthetic all the time.”

   “Because of the extensive research I have done, Fly Fisherman Magazine has asked me to write an article on bobber fishing but I said no way! Don’t want my secrets getting out there.”

   “Fly Fishing The Universe” wanted to do an hour TV Special on me and my bobbers but they couldn’t pay me the money I wanted. I have turned down a lot of offers.“

   “People ask me all the time if I have ever taken any famous people fishing, you know, celebrities. I am a modest guy and don’t like to brag, but I have taken…well I almost took Lindsey Lohan once but she had to cancel at the last minute. Of course she sent me a nice check. Justin Bieber’s people are talking to my people…next summer is looking REAL good for me and The Beebs. Oh, and Mylie Cyrus is interested.”

   The white haired man and his wife’s eyes were beginning to glaze over.

   “ The word of mouth is definitely getting around about me and my bobber fishing. There is a loud buzz surrounding me in the fly fishing world. I am

so busy, so tired, so in demand, so popular, so special, booked solid...you guys are lucky to have me today."

   I noticed by now the lady angler had gotten back in front seat of the Toyota and was dozing off.

   "The thing about this bobber fishing, you can't give up, don't quit, stick with it -  if the red isn't working go green - if the green can't cut it go yellow - keep changing it up - just follow my lead, I'll show you how it's done."

   By this time the guide was pretty much talking to himself.

   “ Well that's about it folks. Enough about me and my bobbers. Any questions”?

   The elderly gentleman cleared his throat,

 

“Yes, I have a question, can we go fishing now”?

 

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 5

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    It was one of those rare Montana summer days, bright sunshine, warm temps, no wind. Me and One Fly and Lonnie were guiding a group of retired business execs from St. Louis. Fishing was pretty good in the morning…me and Lonnie were doing well using trudes and yellow Sallys, while One Fly’s angler caught a couple of beauties using a #8 Prince Nymph, 2X, no dropper, no bobber, tumbled not twitched.

 

   We floated past the Rail Fence Hole and tucked back in a side channel is a white drift boat with a man and woman sitting there having a snack. I get closer and they wave. I wave back. It is the couple from San Francisco who were in the Wagon Wheel the day of the fight.

 

   Their boat had a rainbow peace sign stenciled on the bow.

   I finished the trip and headed for the Wagon Wheel and called Butch the Game Warden-asked him to come down for a cold one.

   The Shewmaker fire was still the hot topic around Town. The final tab came to $28,680… the landowner, sheriff and the county wanted answers and wanted someone to pay. Butch the Game Warden met with me and Skeeter at a back table in the bar. He told us the sheriff was convinced that we set the fire and he was ready to come down with charges and lock us up for arson. They had evidence; the fire starter can, the cooler lid and they knew we were on the river that day. Also, supposedly they had “eye witnesses.”

 

   I told Butch, “Look, our crew had nothing to do with this. Give me 24 hours. I have an idea.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 4

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   One August day me and Skeeter and T-bird were guidin’ a party of three husband-wife couples from Chicago. Nice folks. We had a decent morning of fishing…everybody caught something except for one of the husbands, Chuck. He wasn’t real chipper ‘cause his wife outfished him five to zip.

 

   Anyway, we cruised on down below McAtee and pulled over in a shady spot for lunch. Dang, it had been a hot summer! 90 degrees every day and the country was drier than a popcorn fart. And windy! Had a nice lunch talking about the Cubs and Da Bears. T-Bird brought his guitar and sang “Big City” by Merle Haggard and then did his own version of “Doo Wah Diddy” by Manfred Man’s Earth Band.

 

     Looking down river by the Shewmaker Ditch and off to the east I saw smoke…lots of smoke. Smoke billowing up in cream colored clouds, thick smoke, smoke fanned by a stiff south breeze and wafting down valley in a huge ball of white haze.

   I looked at Skeeter and he was like “WTF”? I looked at T-Bird and he was like “OMG”! We decide to pack up and fish down and check it out.

   A couple bends downstream we came around a corner and spotted several stick figures running in the distance…running fast, carrying large objects, headed for drift boats that were anchored up along shore, jumping in, thrashing oars, rowing downstream in a big hurry, gettin’ outta Dodge.

   We pulled over, got out, and wandered up the bank, worked our way through the bushes. The smoke was so thick it was hard to see, eyes watered and burned. We looked out across the wide area, the entire field was ablaze…a huge grass fire the shape of a gigantic circle was burning and spreading fast, headed toward the highway or anywhere else it felt like. No dwellings were in the area except for an old sheep shack and acres and acres of burning prairie grass and black rocks. As I walked I saw a large campfire ring with charcoal glowing in the center. A large can of Kingsford lighter fluid sat crumpled off to the side. The lid off a Coleman cooler lay nearby, burned black and partially melted. I wandered around through the burned area and over near a charred cottonwood stump I noticed something odd. I saw a crumpled hunk of charred metal with struts and gizmos and gadgets in a tangled mess, looked kinda like a wrecked kids Erector Set toy. I called Skeeter over.

“Hey, Skeeter, check this out. Careful, it’s still hot. Bring a water bottle, douse it, bag it and throw it in the boat.”

 

 

   Watching the several-acre fire burn out of control left us helpless. What could we do? As we left the scene, we could hear the sirens… the first fire engine was coming off the highway and on its way. We jumped in our boats and finished the charter.

   Back in Town, the fire was already the buzz topic at the Wagon Wheel. It had consumed 1300 acres, no injuries, just a bunch of burnt grass and toasted rocks. The volunteer fire department did a great job with limited resources… they only had two out-dated fire engines and a pumper.

   No one seemed to know how it started.
A couple guides from the other fly shop were giving me and Skeeter the stink-eye from across the bar. I walked over to them,

“Whats’ up?” I asked.

“Did you float today?”

“Yessir.”

“Did you see the fire?”

“Yessir.”

“How did it start?”

“Not sure.”

“Did you guys start it?”

“No… it wasn’t us, bro, but I think I know.”

 

   I remembered seeing one boat leaving the fire scene that caught my eye …it had a large rainbow peace sign logo on the bow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 3

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   Corky Furillo and I run a lot of guide trips together. He is a solid dude, 5’10”, 210, all muscle and spends a lot of time in the gym. His hair is dark and he wears it in a pony tail which he sometimes braids. He sports a Metallica tat on his left bicep. He is a flannel shirt and jeans kind of guy.

 

   After Iraq, Corky decided to become a fishing guide. We run trips together over to the Yellowstone and few on the spring creeks and lakes but mostly around the Madison. All in all, Corky is a loyal friend and a great guy to fish with but he has a couple problems.

 

   He has flashbacks.

   And he likes to fight.

   One afternoon, after a half day charter, me and Corky stopped by the Wagon Wheel for a few brewskys and some pool. As usual, there were a few drift boats parked out front on trailers behind pick-ups…blue, green, red, yellow and one all white with a large rainbow colored peace sign logo stenciled on the bow.

   Some of the other fishing guides were already getting tuned up inside…T-Bird, Skeeter and One Fly were in the bar…and over at the pool table was Rachel shooting eight ball with Shawn.

   “Legs” by ZZ Top was blasting out over the speakers

   Rachel Kenworthy is a knockout 5’9” raven haired beauty…tall and curvy and delicious. Long, straight, coal black hair, either parted in the middle or pulled straight back (it doesn’t matter), perfectly framing her dark bedroom eyes and full lips the color of Flathead cherries. How she squeezes into those skin tight Levi’s nobody knows but everybody wants to find out. She favors Hopi silver and turquoise jewelry…the expensive, Santa Fe, NM type…gifts from her fans. This day she was rockin’ a black lace bustier top that said it all.

 

   Shawn is a tall, handsome Alan Jackson look- alike with long blonde hair and a bushy stash. He runs a successful cow/calf/hay operation south of Town.

Shawn is a friend of ours.

   At the end of the bar by the pool table me and Corky noticed two of the newer fishing guides yakking it up over craft beers. They were both dressed alike; same hipster “Rip Lips” fishing caps worn backwards, exact same earth tone, long sleeve t-shirts with “Fly Fishermen Have Longer Rods” silk screened on the back. Both were in their early twenties, male-model slim, facial hair perfectly groomed and trimmed. Justin Timberlake would be jealous.    

   We learned from Smitty the bartender their names were Niles and Jeremy (nickname “J-Dawg”) and they were from “back east”. It was their first summer on the river and they had been spending a lot of time at the Wagon Wheel, drinking brews and tequila shots, hitting on chicks and weaseling fishing information from the guides.

   It was obvious the lads had been in the bar a while. Me and Corky watched them whoop and holler after every pool shot, and when Rachel bent low to try the five ball in the corner pocket, they both high-fived her cleavage.

   When “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple came on over the speakers, the one kid, Jeremy, who was drunk and getting drunker, stumbled over to Rachel and asked her to dance.

   She didn’t want to.

   “J-Dawg” insisted.

   When he grabbed her arm and twisted it, Rachel had had enough and she threw a haymaker bitch-slap catching Jeremy on the left ear and spun him around. “J-Dawg” yelled “owie” and his buddy Niles jumped on Rachel’s back, grabbing her by the hair. Cowboy Shawn had seen enough and jerked the kid off Rachel and threw him to the floor. Shawn never saw Jeremy coming at him from the blind side as he sucker punched him with a dead soldier bottle of Trout Slayer beer over the cowboy’s head with a loud CRACK!

   Then Niles picked up a pool cue and took a vicious swipe at Rachel just nicking her right ear, sending a turquoise earring flying across the barroom.

   By this time Corky had seen enough and moved in for the kill. First he grabbed Niles by the back of the neck, pinned him to the pool table, and pounded his head into the felt six or eight times, bouncing his dome off the slate till his eyeballs crossed and his cheeks turned green. Niles passed out with his head near the side pocket.

   A couple from San Francisco sitting at the bar fumbled with their camera phone getting ready to video the fight so they could post it on “Snapchat.” T-Bird and One Fly moved over to discourage them.

   Then Corky found Jeremy cowering under the pool table, picked him up by the belt buckle, took off one of his Tevas and slapped him upside the head with the sole of the sandal till “J-Dawg” started to cry. His face turned the color of a strawberry daquiri.

 

 

   Corky waved me over and I grabbed Jeremy by one leg, drug him across the floor, out the front door of the Wagon Wheel and deposited him on the sidewalk. Niles wasn’t so lucky, Corky had him in a head lock and was squeezing so hard his eyeballs began to pop. And then Corky launched ole Niles out through the front door to join his buddy.

 

   “Do yourselves a favor, boys and don’t come back in here acting all “back east”, said Corky. “This ain’t a college frat party, this is Montana. When a woman says no she means no! Have a nice day.”

  

   Smitty got a cold bar rag with some ice for Shawn’s noggin.

   After the place settled down, me and Corky and Shawn and Rachel sat down at the bar and joined T-Bird and One Fly and Skeeter. I bought a round for the whole crew while the jukebox was playing “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

 

   It was a good day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 2

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on Monday, 13 March 2017
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The Crew…

 

   Undercover Fishing Guide…6’2”, 210…light brown hair, Acme cowboy boots, Stetson cowboy hat, Carhartt vest, Lee jeans. Born and raised in Two Dot, Montana...been fishing everywhere, guided fisherman everywhere, has caught every species of North American game fish that matters including musky, northern pike, walleye, chain pickerel, largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, Atlantic and Pacific salmon, both sailfish, tuna, wahoo, rainbow, brown, brook, golden, cutthroat, lake and bull trout, steelhead, grayling, bonefish, tarpon, permit, redfish, snook, black, blue, white and striped marlin and assorted other species including frogs, toads, turtles, catfish, bottom fish, carp, suckers and lots of other trash fish…he can cast a fly, lure, spoon, spinner, plug, jig, live bait, dead bait, stink bait, cut bait, jerk bait, deep drop, shallow troll, surface skitter, walk the dog, spank the monkey, dead drift, fast strip, slow twitch, tumble, tease or just plain sit there and let ‘er eat.

 

   He went undercover in the early 1990s.

 

Skeeter… the top guide, first call on all the guide trips, strong on the oars, gets all the plum clients, loved by everybody.

  

Corky Furillo… tough as nails, Iraq war vet, became a fishing guide to help deal with PTSD, wears camo fly fishing vest, sometimes packs heat, eats glass.

 

Windex…neat freak, clothes, boat, trailer truck are all immaculate, only river guide who waxes his drift boat with Carnuba.

 

T-Bird… little short guy with beer belly, candy apple red pick-up, hand painted palm trees on his drift boat, wears Jimmy Buffet shirts, plays guitar, sings badly, good guide for group float trips and shore lunch entertainment.

 

Junior…smokes dope 24/7, been to rehab multiple times, skinny little dude, nose ring, wears bandana for head band, blank stare, decent fishing guide if he can remember what river he is on.

 

One Fly… only uses #8 Prince nymph, medium weighted, 2X, no bead, no dropper, no bobber, rows homemade wood boat.

 

Lonnie McMaster… tall, thin, bad teeth, bad skin, rolls his own, curly red hair, knows the Latin name of every insect eaten by trout.

 

Jenny… ties flies, sells strawberry pies, breeds labs, runs fly fishing school for lady anglers.

 

Huey Short…good old boy, chubby, happy, gets along with everybody, in a bowling league during winter, redneck.

 

Doc… crusty old guide, has one client left, claims to have slept with Madonna back when they were kids in Detroit, wears suspenders, neoprene Hodgemans, drinks Crown & Seven.

 

Wally Livingston…owns Wally’s Fly Shop… odd duck, has a tick, tells stories.

 

 

Smitty…bartender at the Wagon Wheel Bar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE 1

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   Me and my crew have fished all over, guided sports for pay, got in bar fights, banged babes in the back seat, smoked some not-so-good weed, fought against the bad guys and fought for the trout.

    We’ve hung with bikers and hippies and loggers and cowboys, rowed rubber and cedar and metal and glass. We would’ve blown up a few dams if we could, but there’s still time. We killed a lot of time in fly shops, mostly Wally’s Fly Shop. And a lot of time in bars, mostly the Wagon Wheel…and campgrounds and boat ramps and RV parks and grocery stores. We’re partial to bartenders and shuttle drivers and fly fishing chicks.

 

   My main guy was Skeeter, we been pards since way back, run a lot of trips together, a solid dude, my best bud. He was a little guy but wiry…partial to Patagonia baggy pants, King Ropes Sheridan, Wyo. caps, Birkies and leather side shields on his Costas. Strong on the oars; only guy I know to take a hard boat down through the Alberton Gorge and the Kitchen Sink and lived to tell.

 

   He also had kind of a drinking problem.

  

   One time Skeeter and me was coming back from a week long charter on the Bighorn…four doctors from Denver who paid the whole guide fee in hundred dollar bills. We decided to take the back roads home through the sagebrush, balls out, pedal to the metal, after splitting a twelver of Coors Lite.

   We’re rollin’ along doing about 90, watching the sagebrush and antelope herds whiz by, and my man Skeeter, he took a curve too fast somewhere on a ranch road near Laurel and didn’t make it. The Clacka fish tailed, bullwhipped and spun out, snapped the trailer tongue off the two inch ball behind his old red Chevy pick-up. The drift boat and trailer strapped together lifted up and flipped over three times, bounced off the embankment and finished tits up in the borrow pit.

   Skeeter lost control and rolled the pick-up ass over tea kettle, end over end… it careened into the barbed wire fence and bashed his head into the windshield.

   I saw the whole thing in my rear view mirror.

  

   By the time I made it back to Skeeter he was slumped over the steering wheel with his chest crushed and a nasty gash in his skull and a face full of broken glass and blood. The King Ropes Sheridan, Wyo. cap was mashed up between the dashboard, the steering wheel and the windshield. His Costas were mangled around his neck dangling from a blood-soaked Croakie.

  

   He was deader than a cob.

  

   We had a nice service for Skeeter back in Town at the Wagon Wheel, me and the crew. We cracked a few frostys…Corky and One Fly and T- Bird was there…Lonnie was there, Junior was there, Windex was waxin’ his boat, Doc couldn’t make it, he was sleepin’ it off at the house.

   Oh yeah, Rachel was there too, how could I forget her?

   But wait...I better back up a bit.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE

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  The Undercover Fishing Guide will be a guest contributor to this site adding commentary and observations on fishing, the environment, the good, the bad, the ugly. He prefers to remain anonymous and his identity will not be revealed. black_ski_mask

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