Let the Man Fish

If there is a fishing trip involved, my husband can wake up at 4am without an alarm like a he’s been lying awake all night thinking of those elusive fish slithering through the river. This is not a passion we share, mostly because my kind of fishing and his kind are vastly different. He taught himself to fly fish as a kid and could spend hours tying flies. He fishes alone, with friends, off a boat, on the banks of the river, in spring, summer, and snow. He chose working with fish as a profession. It is a lifestyle, and he is into it. Settling in Bozeman was by no account coincidental.

I grew up spending time on lakes, not rivers—speed out to the middle of the lake, turn off the engine, let my dad try to talk me into baiting my hook, cast as far out as possible, jam the pole under my leg, kick back, and read a book. Or take a nap. I am no stranger to the thrill of catching fish. I have caught striped bass, sunfish, trout, and catfish. But the actual fishing part, the waiting... the trying... it seems like the perfect time for me to do, well, something else.

We used to camp at Lake Powell every summer, and once when I was seven or eight, I had a project where I was supposed to invent something. My invention was somewhat of a bucket full of sand and rocks that would hold your pole. Where you could cast out in the lake, stick your pole deep in the bucket, put some bells and a bobber on the line and walk away. When you caught something, the bell would ring, the bucket and sand and rocks would hold your pole, and you could go reel in the fish. Fishing was not a lesson in patience, it was a lesson in innovation. Well no—actually, as it turns out, catfish are wicked strong. When I tried this new invention, I heard the bell shortly before I turned to see my pole come flying out of the bucket and go whizzing into the lake. I know it was a catfish because as I stood on that red sand and bid the pole farewell—we’d had many good years—my dad dove in and swam around until he grabbed my bobber and brought the whole ridiculous mess to the surface, fish still on the line.

I think it is safe for my husband, or any fly fisherman to say that I don’t get it. So here are the top five reasons I appreciate my husband’s love of fishing:

1. It makes him happy. He is balanced, refreshed, upbeat, motivated, and relaxed after a day of fishing. If you have a significant other or a friend with a passion like that, just do everyone a favor and encourage it. Within reason. He also likes poker, but I’m not moving to Vegas.

2. It connects people—especially where we live. Strangers don’t ask each other about the weather in Montana, they ask what fly you’ve been using. Talking fish crosses barriers I never knew possible; across political parties, between age gaps, and economic statuses. I have a picture on my fridge of the president fly-fishing in Belgrade that I cut out of a gossip magazine.

3. It’s good “me” time, for him and for me. I have all day to do whatever I feel like doing. It’s like we’re working together as a team. I get to do that something I always wanted to do and he’s out there holding my fishing pole, representing us both.

4. Fishing is something I did with my dad. It was good bonding time and spending my summers on the lake kept me out of trouble. I learned how to back a trailer, drive a boat, waterski, and enjoy the outdoors. I have three little girls that get that same opportunity to spend time with their dad. And that is priceless.

5. It makes for good laugh-out-loud stories. Everyone has a good fishing story. Watch people smile when they start to think of the hilarious things that have happened while fishing. The time the trailer wasn’t hitched to the truck when he launched the boat. The time they missed their take-out and had to walk in the dark with poles in hand. The time they fell out of the boat backing up to get their picture taken with a fish. The bachelor-party fishing trip. ‘Nuff said.