Shoot the Chutes McClain!

When I think of Montana, I think of “A River Runs Through It.”  The scenery, the exquisite narration by Robert Redford, and the cast.  Tom Skerritt played a father that every boy should have, the younger brother was the image of innocence, and Brad Pitt’s troubled character was well…Brad Pitt, at his prime (read: before all the crazy set in) and for many, that was the first introduction to him.

That movie also introduced millions of people to the art of fly fishing.

However, long before that movie came out, Ted learned how to fly fish.  When he left Miami to move in with his father in Montana, his dad was not too interested in entertaining a teenage boy – though his dad had no trouble finding ways to occupy him.  It was usually with arduous work that today’s parents wouldn’t dream of giving their kids…which is why we’re all soft.

When a family friend taught Ted how to fly fish, his world opened up and he began appreciating Montana more.  Vick taught him how to tie his own flies and how to clean the fish.  More than once, Ted had to use these new skills when he’d go off with one of the family dogs to camp for a night and needed to scrounge up something for dinner.

His dad’s home was built on a mountainside outside of town and the neighbors were far enough away that you couldn’t see them.  Ted would bike down to the Bitterroot River or one of the smaller streams and spend the morning casting his line just close enough to the water’s surface to lure a trout to strike.

He was usually the only one around, as was frequently the case in a state as unpopulated as Montana.  When he’d catch something large enough for dinner, he’d clean it on the bank, then tuck it in his creel where it’d keep while he continued to fish.


This time in Montana brings back so many good memories for him so when he realized he was going to be back in Montana some 30 years later, he knew fly fishing would be part of the itinerary.

We hired a guide through Gallatin River Guides and met at the shop at dawn to get fitted with our waders and boots.  The boots had felt soles to grip the slippery rocks – it’d be a bummer to lose your footing while wading across the river.  Glacier rivers tend to be brisk.


The guide took us a few miles up the Gallatin River and warned us about moose coming down the mountain close to the river bank, and therefore close to us.

Apparently moose are feared much more than bears because bears will smell you coming from a mile away and usually go the other direction.  Moose, however, have poor senses of smell, hearing, and vision, so by the time they see us, they’re spooked and sometimes do more fighting than flying.

Good to know.

Brian, the guide, got us set up with our flies and gave us the basics on casting.  We were just in Tennessee a couple of months ago, where we had the opportunity to take a float trip with a fly fishing guide, so the 10:00 and 2:00 casting pattern was somewhat fresh.

Brian then waded with Ted across the river to the other bank so they could access an eddy where the fish would frequently congregate. I wanted to go with them but I think Brian saw my height and considered the real possibility of getting swept downriver by the current.

And that’d be a tough way to begin a morning…

Probably not a bad idea for me to stay put seeing as they were waist deep through much of the crossing.


So we casted across from one another for quite some time: long enough for the sun to get up pretty high in the sky and for me to get my line snagged in the rocky bank behind me more times than I’d care to share.

I didn’t have the same luck as I did in Tennessee but Ted did and that was far more important.

Now if we could just find some old man’s boat and go shoot the chutes.

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