I ended my 70th year as I started it, fly fishing. That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
I started the year of celebration fly fishing in Canada. With me were the Wild Bunch, my children, their spouses and She Who Must be Obeyed. It was a great start. I turned 71 fly fishing in Montana with my son, a friend of his, a famous fly fisherman and two guides who are veterans. It was a great end to a fun year.
For my birthday this year, we fished the Yellowstone River. The boats were launched south of Livingston, Montana, and put back on the trailers six hours later. As typical for this area, the wind was blowing fairly hard at the start of the day. The morning high wind made dry fly fishing non-productive, so we had to use nymphs and bobbers. This setup produced some rainbows and whitefish that were larger than the rainbows and fun to catch. However, the afternoon warmed up and the wind died down. It was time to tie on the dry flies.
I’m not sure what dry fly everyone else was using, but I was drifting my favorite dry: a Royal Wulff. It fooled lots of rainbows, some even big enough for a photo op.
End of column.
Well, not really. I want to tell you about the famous fly fisherman with us and how he came to spend the day in our boats.
The trip was purchased at a fundraiser for Warriors and Quiet Waters. WQW is a non-profit created to help post 9/11 veterans dealing with personal issues through fly fishing. I suggest you go to their website – warriorsandquietwaters.org – to learn more about this organization. The famous fly fisherman that donated a day of his time was Tom Brokaw.
Most of you probably know him as a famous newsman and author; I know him as a famous fly fisherman. While I had never met Tom, I had certainly seen him on the evening news and thoroughly enjoyed his book “The Greatest Generation.” But where I really came to like him was from the fly fishing show “Buccaneers and Bones.” If you’ve never seen this show, I recommend you do some kind of search on your TV and watch it. You’ll like it. You’ll learn what a dedicated fly fisherman Tom is. You’ll also see he can really handle a fly rod.
We took turns fishing with Tom, and while I imagine he would have rather have spent the day fly fishing with one of his buddies from “Buccaneers and Bones,” he was most gracious in spending a day with us. Between changing flies, cutting wind knots out and an occasional fish netted, Tom would tell stories from his career as a newsman.
Similar to all fly fishermen, he had great tales of his travels. Unlike my travels, his took him to the four corners of the earth into some very dangerous situations. While he did visit with us about some of those dangerous places, Tom always put some humor into the story. And, in between those stories, Tom talked about fly fishing. He also wanted to know what he could do to help WQW in future outings. When I asked him if he had done much fly fishing this summer, he shook his head, looked a little sad and told us he had spent most of the summer finishing his newest book. It’s about the Nixon White House years.
I have met other famous people, some nice, some not. So, I’ll go out on a limb and say, I think those who were nice and humble were men and women who fly fished. And, if they didn’t already fly fish, they were great candidates for some lessons and equipment.
This birthday was truly a great way to finish the 70th.
Reach Don Oliver at email@example.com.