The Snag Hole

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by administrator
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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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by administrator
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on Thursday, 13 April 2017
The Snag Hole 1 Comment

   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!!


by administrator
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on Monday, 10 April 2017
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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”


   “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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by administrator
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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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by Randy
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on Sunday, 02 April 2017
The Snag Hole 0 Comment


Ed "Mystery Trip" Curnow

John " If It Flies or Crawls I'll Eat It" Seaman

Bill "No Effing Backing" Owen

Photo journalism: Randall "Better To Burn Out Than Fade Away" Brown

And a bunch of men...Madison R. August, 1983

eds_tacckle_shop_dec_79 shore_lunch_8-83





















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