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