Spring 2017

In this issue: Baja by Sea, Spring Stones, Fish & Cut Bait and more!

Fish Staring at camera
Photograph by Jim Klug
Editor’s Note
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Our sixth-grade girls basketball team is 3-0 in the Bozeman Hardwood Classic and headed to the championship game. All good, but I screwed up and checked into a room at the wrong hotel.

Comfort Inn. Comfort Suites. What’s the difference?

According to my 12-year-old daughter, it’s everything—it’s the team hotel, darn it, and we need to be there, she says. So after paying a $25 cleaning fee at the Inn, we’re booked into the Suites, with a fresh room and a pack of teammates to play with. If you’re an adult headed for a soak or swim, you might want to abort your mission right now.

The following day is a disaster. We go up 11-2 in the championship game, but the other coaches come unglued. The assistant challenges every dribble we take. “That’s a travel! That’s a travel!” she screams. But it doesn’t stop there. Their head coach, who wears a giant, mountain-man-style beard and rattles the walls with a booming voice, implores his girls to win at all cost. Hard fouls ensue. Soon we have two girls crying on our bench. Three years together, and that’s a first.

When our point guard gets a breakaway and starts up for a layup, a girl puts both hands on the small of our player’s back and shoves her into the bleachers. My fellow coach points to a ref and yells, “That’s a flagrant foul.”

The mountain man smirks and cries, “That’s a flagrant foul.”

My fellow coach shouts, “Is that all you got?” It’s an honest question.

The other team’s assistant is nested four feet away to my right. She sounds like a seagull fighting for a french fry on the waterfront. It’s as grating as nails on a chalkboard. And it’s relentless. I turn to our girls on the bench, thrust a thumb over my shoulder in the direction of the seagull and say, “That woman is crazy as a loon.” The girls laugh. One rolls her eyes and says, “Crazier than a loon.”

The seagull starts in again. “She lifted her pivot foot! She lifted her pivot foot!” I squint at her in disgust and see a yellow beak growing out of her face. This is AAU basketball at its worst. I must have missed the note promising college scouts handing out four-year scholarships to the winning team. We call off the troops, play it safe, accept our loss and escape major injuries.

After the game my daughter heads for Missoula with her mother, and suddenly I have time to fish. I pull off at an access to the upper Clark Fork. I peer off a bridge and spot two giant trout below.

I drop the tailgate and grab waders, boots and a hip pack that is fully dialed in for spring trout fishing: 4X and 5X tippet spools, small nymphs galore, egg imitations in abundance, even a dozen size-20 midge dries. But where’s the rod?

Sitting on the bank of the Clark Fork in the sun isn’t the worst place to be. But not being able to fish for two giant trout that I can see is painful.

I think back to last August on the Bitterroot River with my daughters. Trico mayflies coated the surface, and a half-dozen rainbows were podded up and chowing down on the bugs. My 12-year-old said, “You don’t have a rod with us? Are you kidding me? Look at those fish, Dad. I want to catch one.”

On the way home she said, “You need to keep a rod in this truck at all times.” I told her that watching those fish killed me too.

This is worse. I sit on the tailgate for a half-hour trying to keep my mind off that game. But I can’t—the seagull keeps pecking into my brain. It reminds me why I love being in the water, with the challenge of catching trout just in front. There’s a zone I enter while casting that doesn’t occur any other way. It’s a brief time when life’s little miseries disappear and my focus is crystal clear.

I can’t help considering all of our sensibilities. “We need to be at the team hotel.” Correct. “Crazier than a loon.” Correct. “Keep a rod in the truck at all times.” Indeed. It makes me wonder: Are kids more sensible than their parents and coaches? Probably. But like that seagull’s screech, I don’t want to hear it.

—Greg Thomas


Fresh Recruits

A batch of lightweight rods—single-handers and trout speys—are set to impress.
— By Ted Leeson

Novice on the Flats

Great communication between an angler and guide is the surest way to bonefish success. Here is a vocabulary primer ahead of your Caribbean trip.
— By Jim Dean

Baja by Sea, Uncharted, Alone

Alone, without charts, in a hand-built boat, searching for corvina, bonefish, grouper and anything else that swims.
— By Scott Sadil

Spring Stones

A bevy of bachelorettes,a murder and spring stonefly madness in Big Sky Country.
— By Greg Thomas

Fish & Cut Bait

How desperate might you become if you traveled to Kiribati and the giant trevally wouldn’t eat flies?
— By Chris Santella

lots of fies


Upfront Notes

On the river, without a rod.
— By Greg Thomas


Barracuda are overlooked by flats anglers, and that is a mistake. Check out this six-foot-long creature that took a flats fisherman for a wild ride.
— By Jim Klug

Short Casts

Tales of the Merkin, three spring tarpon flies, finding madness in a waterspout, time to eat mahi, sculptor Eric Knowlton, Jonathan Olch’s A Passion For Permit.

Practical & Useful

Make high flows and spring mud your friends.
— By Dave Hughes


Pirate fishing and the efforts to combat it.
— By Ted Williams

Sporting Life

Chasing Colorado’s spring hatches.
— By John Gierach

Reader Service

Father’s Day Favorites

Personal History

Office Stink

— By Dave Powell

Whiskey Jacks

— By Jeff Day

In High Country

— By Robert Robinson

On the cover:

It’s tarpon time in the Florida Keys and beyond. On the flats this spring you might find giant ’poons daisy-chaining like mad, or you might push into the backcountry and discover laid-up juveniles holding tight to the mangroves. Either way, you’re in for a blast once you hook up. Photo by Pat Ford.

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