SMOOTH SAILIN’: Fishing for answers about fishing

In the past, I have made it abundantly clear that I am a big fan of the fishing column in the St. Augustine Record as well as its author. That is why I hate to put Jim Sutton on the spot.


But I have been fishing on and off now for a couple weeks and I have a question: Isn’t “fishing” really just a euphemism for going outside and having fun? My fear is that “fishing,” as we have been using that term, is really just a hoax, a facade if you will.

It dawned on me when I had a few extra minutes in Gunnison, Colorado, recently. I went into one of those fancy fly fishing stores on Main Street. It was early and there was just one guy in his 20s chewing tobacco and playing with his hunting dog.

I said good morning and asked about his fishing waders. You see, when I go fishing I just inch into the river in my shorts and hiking boots and start casting my fly around. But I see all these other guys in waders looking like they just walked out of LL Bean, so I thought I would ask. Well, guess what, if this kid was being straight with me, they all paid around $300 for waders. I guess he is in on the joke, because he acted like it was normal. The truth is you don’t need waders or a fancy shirt to go fishing; you need a hook and a line and the time to go down to the river or ocean.

I caught on to all of this at a little dive bar called the Rock Creek Lodge and Casino in Clinton, Montana. Rock Creek is truly a blue ribbon stream and a hot spot for catching some very beautiful rainbow, native cutthroat and brown trout. Each summer, all sorts of fishermen from all over the country drive their BMWs up to the creek to try out their luck. It is possible that they were all inspired by the movie or the book “A River Runs Through It,” which was set up the road in Missoula. In any case, the local guys who frequent the bar at the lodge are not impressed. The lodge used to sell gas but they got tired of answering all sorts of questions from the fishermen. The pumps are still there so when someone walks in the bar with all their fancy fly fishing gear on the bartender just points his thumb and says, “Six miles up the road in Clinton.”

The funny thing is that all these guys at the bar all go fishing. The promise of a fresh trout fried on an iron skillet in butter and garlic is not lost on any of them. They all have their spots and they could lead you to a place where you could cast a fly in some gin clear water and a perfect rainbow trout would immediately jump at it — but then they would have to kill you. Those spots are their treasure, often family secrets and not talked about.

There is a bumper sticker at the bar that might sum it up best. It is above the old school box television that is always showing a baseball game. It reads, “We really don’t care that you fly fish.”

This is America and I would hate to cast a shadow (pun intended) on the industry that has flown the Royal Coachman to Wall Street. But fishing should be an excuse to get out of the house, not an excuse to spend money.

I learn a lot about life and fishing every time I travel out to Montana. I have been blessed to catch a few nice trout on this trip. These trout are electric when they come out of the stream and speckled with dots and stripes. They are almost too beautiful to eat. There are also some nights when I don’t catch a thing. It is still a honor to stand in a beautiful river and cast a fly into it.

I may not know everything about the “sport” of angling, but I have learned that it certainly has a lot less to do with catching fish than I ever thought.

Bob Tis is a former Record reporter.



Bob Tis is a former Record reporter.