A-Hole on the River

We had been hydrating with Coors Light all morning. To save money on boats, we had crammed four of us into a three-man drift boat coordinating back casts to avoid getting tangled. It mostly worked but we were cramped. The sun was out over Montana’s famed Bighorn River and we were rowing our Cottonwood Camp drift boat happily through clean clear water. The afternoon streamer hatch had been slow. I could hear the last beers banging around in the cooler under the captain’s chair.

My arm was weary, but unshakable optimism kept me casting. We floated into a flat water section which never produced many fish so we relaxed for a minute while the current eased us down river. Today this frog water was even less fishy than usual, and an impressive group of Canadian Geese were honking and floating over the only cut bank in this section of river. And we needed to fish it.

The geese didn’t budge as we approached looking like clowns in a VW bug, so I splashed a heavy streamer next to one goose’s tail feathers hoping they’d get the message and take wing. The bastards just honked louder and held their ground like they owned the place.

I have made quick decisions without thinking about the consequences before. This was about to be one of those moments. I made the cast. The streamer looped around the base of a long goose neck like a Batman grapple hook all hell broke loose. Why I was surprised baffles me still. Bu in that moment I knew a mistake had been made.

The graceful animal panicked and blasted off the water with all her friends like something off of Marty Stouffer’s Wild America. I watched my fly line leave the water and rise towards the heavens shaking violently. “Oh shit,” was all that came out. I hadn’t seen my backing backing all trip as the fish on the Bighorn seem to be getting smaller, but all of a sudden, there it was.

Fishing partner John bombing the photo.

Being a thinking man (obviously), I realized there was no winning this fight. It went through my mind how heavy an adult goose was. Forty pounds maybe? I had no choice but to land this goose back on the river and reel her in or break the line trying. At about fifty yards into my reel I yanked with teeth gritted, hoping I wouldn’t pull the innocent goose to her grave. Immediately, the line went slack and floated limply out of the sky and into the river below while the goose flew away, untethered.

The flock disappeared down river as I reeled in a mile of line looking and feeling like a true asshole. When I reached the end of the fly line I was elated and relieved to see the streamer trailing along happily in the current. The guilt of injuring a wild animal in a thoughtless moment was all I needed to rethink my life choices and take the oars, just to stay out of trouble.

Captain Asshole

Now that life was back to normal the episode was funny to all in the boat, but at the same time I lost a little trust in my judgement. I secretly wondered if my friends now casting in front and back had lost faith as well. Luckily their judgement has had moments as questionable as this one, so I concluded I would be forgiven, but I damn sure didn’t ask.

The take-out with a Cottonwood Camp boat waiting to be shuttled.

Published by willbarch78

I grew up in the middle of nowhere Texas. The nearest Walmart was a full two hours away. My family still runs a ranch back home that I grew up on, but at some point in my treasured youth I hung up the idea of becoming a cowboy, and pursued my passion for architecture. Today I still find myself trying to fit in to a life that has treated me with the average ups and downs one can expect after a certain number of years. My wife and I moved to Denver after attending Texas Tech School of Architecture in Lubbock as we needed a grade change from the Llano Estacado. We camp with our three growing girls all summer and into the fall while I write and create and fly fish to maintain sanity. Life is moving fast as our careers and children progress in all areas, so being outdoors with each other keeps us mostly grounded.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: