Million Word Project

Hunting & Fishing, Two Joys Of Life, Almo Gregor

Author Almo Gregor from ROF.


In a world that is becoming increasingly technological and urban, there is nothing like taking the time to return to nature.  Don’t get me wrong; I love the benefits of modern convenience.  At the same time however, I feel like it can have the power to separate us from the greater world we live in.  Consider food as an example.  Rarely do people consider what they eat and where it comes from.  With hunting and fishing being the two joys of life, I find it easier then ever to enjoy amazing sports in the great and boundless regions of American wilderness.



Two Different Perspectives, One Goal


Hunting and fishing are two activities that require different perspectives but come together towards a single goal.  Fishing requires an understanding of waterways, of the various fish that inhabit them, of their favorite spots, of when they are likely to be around, and countless other criteria.  There are an incredible variety of fishing styles and an opinion on just about everything there is regarding gear.  In many ways, hunting can be different.  It requires finding a place or staying on the move, in understanding how the prey things as well as it behaves, and working to stay one step ahead of it.  While both require having vastly different understandings and experience, they both come together in creating unique experiences that are like none other.  There is the thrill of the hunt, the understanding of killing something, the use of it for food, the cleaning and preparing, and much more.  Both are a meticulous and even meditative process that reminds us what it means to be human every time we leave the front door.



Equipment, Equipment, Equipment


Whether you have a favorite gun or rod, it doesn’t matter.  Both represent an important means to an end.  As a result, it is easy to think of this equipment, as well as everything else bought for this purpose as special.  Hunting and fishing equipment play their part in making each activity successful and rewarding.  In addition to having things you can trust when the moment comes, everything you take with you reflects your needs in this sport.  Along with being able to shop around and see all of the amazing things there are to buy, combining a love for hunting and fishing means being able to collect and use an incredible range of well-made and reliable gear.



A Schedule That Works


Just like with sports, hunting and fishing provides some overlap in the season while also allowing for yearlong enjoyment.  As an example, the spring, summer, and fall are excellent for fishing around me while the winter has downtime that can be spent hunting the elk that has come in.  By changing up these activities, I never risk either being boring, making every time I step out of the house an exciting and engaging process.  Having these two joys in my life means that there is always something to do in the beautiful outdoors.

One Small Fear, Patrick Morrow

Clearwater, Greg Keeler
Henry can’t decide whether he is shivering because he is wet or because he is afraid. The small indenture in the cliffs where Henry is hiding beside the Clearwater River is too shallow to be called a cave, though it is deep enough to keep him out of the night wind. Why doesn’t Henry leave his little nook? After all, highway twelve is only a few dozen yards across the river from him.

The previous evening, everything seemed to be going well for Henry. A gallery in Lewiston had exhibited his paintings, and after the opening, a student from the local university named Tiffany had accompanied him back to his motel room and blown him. This sat very well with Henry because he had not been blown in many years owing to his wife, Audrey’s, five pregnancies, a sudden escalation in her zeal for religion and a proportionate decline in her sexual desire.

Henry felt no guilt from the brief encounter, perhaps because of Tiffany’s cavalier approach to the incident. After swallowing what she termed his vital essences, she struck a Dracula pose and hissed, “Drained, in the twinkling of an eye.” And this morning, instead of quickly and silently creeping to her car, she had swept around the bathroom performing her ablutions and singing Getting to Blow You with many of the same moves and inflections as Deborah Kerr in The King and I. He still heard her whistling when he peeked through the curtains as she fox-trotted to her blue Grand Am.

At breakfast in a local pancake house, several of the art department faculty had congregated at his table, and, while he downed a massive pile of strawberry blintzes, they debated the significance of his work as a tie between the New York and California schools of painting, occasionally looking to him for approval and confirmation.

Later that morning, after he drove to a turnout, donned his waders, rigged up his fly rod and made his way through the golden foliage of willow and cottonwood, he saw a large steelhead break the surface of the Clearwater. Something in that image along with the cool air, blue sky, warm sun and clear water made Henry speak out loud. “It’s all so true, so true,” and then, thinking of his oldest son’s favorite phrase, “So saweeheeeeeeet.”

As Henry tied on a gaudy yet elegant Thunder and Lightening which he had made following the instructions fromFly Fishing magazine, he really didn’t expect to catch anything. This was his first effort at steelheading, and he had heard many times that catching one on a fly was a long and arduous process; thus, when on his second cast toward the spot where the fish had risen, he tied into what must have been the very same fish, he relegated the experience in its entirety to a dream. The dilemmas of his family became a distant hum behind the scream of his reel’s drag as the fish tore into his backing. The departmental bickering of his colleagues back at B.Y.U. drifted away like the leaves around him when the fish breached then came wholloping back to the surface. Only one small fear pierced Henry — that the fish was, indeed, too good to be true and would escape, leaving him with a limp line and a pounding heart, a situation with which Henry was all too familiar.

So to avoid this minor catastrophe, Henry began to walk downstream to shorten the distance between himself and the fish without putting too much of a strain on his tippet. This effort so engaged Henry that he didn’t notice the substantial aluminum craft drifting up behind him, a craft loaded with three large men and two brown Labrador Retrievers. Only when the burly gentleman in the bow said, “Ride ‘im cowboy” did Henry become aware of the small carnival which had coalesced on the periphery of his dream.

Shortly thereafter, the shirtless and hirsute fellow at the oars said “Fuck me runnin’,” drained his Rainier and tossed the can into the current near Henry so that he might secure a better grip and position the craft for his friends to fish the very hole in which Henry was standing.

“Excuse me, but …” said Henry.

“Yer excused,” said the gentleman in the stern, and then he said “Ain’t he” to the dog sitting in front of him. The dog seemed to gather the significance of the situation and set up a high pitched howl, to which the gentleman at the oars responded, “Shut that bitch up,” and then, “You too,” to the other lab who had joined in. “Dogs need more beer,” said the man in the bow, and he poured his beer over the head of the dog beside him so that it calmed down to a whimper as did the dog toward the stern.

“This is the best hole we’ll fish today,” said the man at the oars, “so smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.” Accordingly, the others lobbed contraptions of lead, surgical tubing and salmon eggs into the deepest part of the pool. Immediately, the man in the bow hooked a fish which shot downstream to one side of the run then the other, encircling Henry’s line then swimming upstream so that Henry’s line went limp. When he tightened it up, both he and the other man seemed momentarily hooked into one big fish; then both of their lines went slack.

“You fuck,” screamed Henry. “You fucking fuck.”

“You better put a lid on it, sport,” said the man at the oars.

“I’ll fucking show you a fucking lid,” said Henry charging toward the shore so that he slipped and filled his waders. The cold water only seemed to add another dimension to Henry’s intensity as he sloshed onto a gravel bar and picked up two lime-sized stones.

“Easy there, pretty boy, you’re gonna,” said the man in the bow but he didn’t finish because one of Henry’s stones grazed the side of his head and knocked off his cap that said Lucky Bug .

“Jesus,” said the man in the stern, and he winged a full can of Rainier at Henry but missed so that the can hit the rocks and bounced away spewing circles of foam. Henry started to assess his situation and regain his composure — but not enough to keep him from giving his remaining stone a halfhearted lob toward the boat. Henry didn’t really want the stone to hit anything, much less a dog, but it beaned the beer-drenched lab which consequently slid into the water.

Then everything went quiet until the man rowing said in a calm, deliberate voice, “I think we need to cut him.”

Now, from his little grotto, Henry can barely discern the sounds of glass breaking in the turnout where he parked his Suburu Forester. He has convinced himself that his pursuers will not search for him here where he swam under the cover of darkness after the beams of their flashlights began to probe the muddy depths where he hid in a long jam.

“Shhhhhh, Good boy,” says Henry as he pets the lumpy head of the lab which has just shaken itself dry next to him. “Nice boy.”

You can read more from Patrick Morrow from his website

The Razor, Andrew Steketee

Murray Hotel, Liz Steketee

I own a small house in Livingston, Montana, where I’m able to fish with friends and family, work on failed novels and unleash dysfunctional lines of Labrador retrievers into local watersheds without anyone having to bother me. Last summer, I entertained a divorced, grade school classmate, ostensibly to fish the giant stonefly hatch, but because of high water, his chronic trolling of and our shared wanderlust, the trip primarily consisted of driving county to county in a beat-up SUV, stopping for Rainiers and wireless connections and mindlessly throwing egg-sucking leeches into dingy back eddies. Other than an enormous brown trout we observed drafting a bridge piling for hours in the rain, our three-day fishing achievement was unremarkable at best.

The evening before my friend was to board a plane back home, I promised a subdued Livingston pub-crawl, hoping to unearth memorable character studies and a qualified female lead for my hormonal protégé. We ate dinner and listened to a mechanic bemoan Montana’s beleaguered walleye fishery at The Murray, made lifelong enemies at The Mint by repeatedly cueing Van Halen and Billy Squier, and finally settled on The Owl Lounge as a suitable playground for his mid-life crisis. I agreed to an hour-long window; he agreed to avoid charges of sexual harassment.

After securing a tallboy at The Owl, I wandered out to 2nd Street, away from the claustrophobic feed lines and into the star-filled evening. Almost immediately, I was approached by a muscular gentleman, flanked by his friends and their girlfriends, in what appeared an uncomfortable tête-à-tête. The young man gripped a mason jar full of beer in one hand, while intermittently massaging his pectoral muscles with the other. I quickly recycled the past three days’ events, hoping to recall an innocuous offense or misunderstanding, but was completely stumped. I decided to break the tension by flatly asking, “Can I help you?”

“I’m The Razor, if you didn’t know already, and I’ve seen you dragging your boat around town for the past week. It’s time we talk about where you’re fishing.”

“You must have me confused with someone else. We’ve just been here a few days, and I don’t even own a …”

“Dude, I’m serious. I’m asking you a question, and I want an answer, or someone’s gonna get their ass kicked!”

After deciding against the idea of placing my open-handed fist somewhere within The Razor’s headspace, I calmly leaned against his left ear and stated privately, “Be careful what you wish for …”

Nodding his head and rubbing a manicured, mustacheless beard, The Razor took a few seconds to consider the statement, then turned to his anxious fly fishing faction and announced with a wry smile, “Okay, this guy’s totally legit!”

And with that, everyone but The Razor dispersed into The Owl to secure more alcohol, or continue their abbreviated conversations. With the appearance of having negotiated some bizarre gang initiation, I now was able to engage The Razor without fear of physical retribution.

I regaled him with tales of stripers, redfish, tarpon, bonefish and Makos brought to skiffs with gaudy flies; he regaled me with tales of carp, paddlefish, midnight Beaverhead floats and a deadly multi-fly rig he referenced as “The Matador.” When I noted “The Matador” reminded me of an east coast umbrella rig, he replied sternly, “That’s the stupidest comparison I’ve eve heard.”

I made assumptions regarding his employment as a local fishing guide only to be lectured around the alleged capitalism and soullessness earmarking the profession. At one point, I even lay my hand on his bicep to gauge its circumference and was charged with latent homosexuality.

In many ways, interacting with The Razor was like interacting with a person strangled by insanity, which I assumed he was.

When my hormonal protégé finally wandered outside to see whom I was speaking, a palpable silence fell over the conversation. My friend introduced himself to the young man and was met with indifference. Openly annoyed, my friend asked, “Who the hell is this guy?”

I responded, “The Razor.”

After my friend registered a deeply perplexed look, The Razor looked at us both and announced, “The name? It means I refuse to marry, refuse to take a paycheck and refuse to get off the river until I die … do you think that sounds crazy?”

The Duckies of Doom, Greg Keeler


Downstream Salmon, Greg Keeler


Twenty Ways To Consider Fly Shop Guy, Andrew Steketee

One: Fly shop guy is staunchly heterosexual, twenty-something, and uncertain of his politics.

Two: Fly shop guy spent six or seven years at a southern university.

Three: Fly shop guy goes by the names Justin, Jeremy, Jonathan, Gifford, Trevor, Tripp, or Tristan, though he does not resemble Brad Pitt from Legends of the Fall.

Four: Fly shop guy will say things across the river when the fishing is poor like, “Holy shit dude, even the choice runs are total bunkweed schwagg water!” No one knows what the hell he’s saying.

Five: Fly shop guy swears he’s caught a hundred fish in a day on the Railroad Ranch of the Henry’s Fork.

Six: Fly shop guy lost last month’s rent on a roulette wheel in Reno.

Seven: Fly shop guy has guided a “half season” on the Bighorn, though “half seasons” do not exist.

Eight: If you reveal select and very important details — like locations of surface feeding carp, Hungarian partridge, morels, hidden spring creeks, or steelhead runs — to fly shop guy, understand that information is lost to the public forever. Breaking the personal confidences of others is an important way for fly shop guy to retain critical pole positioning among other fly shop guys.

Nine: The recipe for fly shop guy’s fly shop sales attitude is: 1/4 marijuana attention deficit, 1/4 morose indifference, 1/4 chronic exaggeration, 1/4 wassup dude?

Ten: Fly shop guy ties the most horrible looking flies on record: Bitch Creeks that have clawed their way from train accidents, Coffin Flies physically and verbally assaulted at the vise, Platte River Specials requiring hours and hours of grief counseling.

Eleven: Fly shop guy often will pin his sparkling new dory against concrete bridge pilings of large western rivers. He will swim ashore, thumb a ride back to town, then hours — sometimes days — later, attempt to remove said dory with lengths of climbing rope and a luxury Suburban. Generally, he is unsuccessful.

Twelve: Fly shop guy thinks self-lubricating polymer coatings and filleting have more to do with service station profilactics and acts of oral outrage than they do with fly lines and fish cleaning.

Thirteen: Fly shop guy does not drink Budweiser or bourbon at the Bunkhouse in Toston, because he drinks Fat Tire or flavored coolers at the sports bar in Bozeman.

Fourteen: After fly shop guy has run you through a litany of his on-river heroics — ripping lips, pounding banks, stripping buggers, raking shelves, dredging pools, shuffling tail-outs, busting casts, crushing rapids, mining hawgs, back-breaking tugs-of-war — you are certain he is describing a war or industrial effort.

Fifteen: Fly shop guy thinks every foul-hooked whitefish is a twenty-inch brown trout.

Sixteen: Fly shop guy thinks Black Beauties, Green Machines, and Desert Storms are pharmaceuticals he dropped at an Allman Brothers concert at Deer Creek last spring, not San Juan River midge imitations.

Seventeen: At the bar, fly shop guy is arguing vigorously that a run of jacks is four of a kind in All-American Poker, not sexually immature salmon or an important book by Richard Hugo.

Eighteen: Fly shop guy is organizing $8.99 Rainier 18-packs, TJ’s Exxon Station goodies, two dozen dogs, and a pile of other fly shop guys for a party float on the Madison River during your favorite stonefly hatch.

Nineteen: If fly shop guy were a city, he’d be Wilmington, Delaware. If he were a car, he’d be a mid-eighties burgundy Cutlass Sierra. If he were a football team, he’d be the Crimson Tide.

Twenty: Eventually, all things — even fly shop guy — merge into one, and a river filled with his empties and discarded fishing equipment runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless fiberglass markings from fly shop guy’s rowing mishaps. Under the rocks are the frequently stoned, inarticulate, nutrient leaching words, and some of the words are his. I am haunted by fly shop guy.

Tying Inappropriate Flies, Andrew Steketee

Appreciating images of Dan Fink’s fly-tying nihilism (rattlesnake anatomy, hunting rounds, political hyperbole, etc. appended to fish hooks), I’ve concluded the fly-tying universe has missed the point around imagination. Not some compromised blend of utility, biology, and inspiration, but tying for tying’s sake — flies that sound less like the Fray, and more like Wilco or The Cold War Kids when played … DanBob’s Diamondback, Worm Ball, the Greedy George.

I recall a depressing conversation last year at the Commerce City fishing show. A local tyer was unveiling some wondrous creations, and hoped to solicit my unbiased opinion. I told him he received an A for craftsmanship, C for imagination. He seemed offended, in addition to requiring an explanation. I told him he tied a lot like another gentleman up on the Henry’s Fork. He suggested the resemblance was flattery. I suggested it was plagiarism. He doled out unmentionables, before I wandered off to engage other depressing conversations.

* * *

Maybe a certain irascible, south Florida captain might focus this conversation around why we lash animal parts and craft supplies to sharp objects, but do it with so little originality and humor. The problem here, however, is my inability to steer conversation, and his penchant for borderline content.

On the phone, I explain how I’m not really interested in understanding why fisherman tie flies for utilitarian or monetary reasons … I’m wondering about right brain activity. He becomes irritated, wants to know what, exactly, I’m asking. I say, do you ever just tie for fun? It’s tarpon season — there isn’t time. But what if there were? Right now, there isn’t.

A few more uncomfortable minutes, some prodding, until, finally, he opens up. He says during the off-season, tying flies might save a marriage. It’s not complicated: At night, in his basement, tying baitfish patterns, he’s not spending time at clubs. So, this is an alcohol issue? No, it’s an issue of brass poles and strippers. You tie as sexual addiction therapy? Yes. Is it working? So far, it seems to be.

* * *

I write the gentleman up on the Henry’s Fork who’s spent most his life creating elegant, original trout patterns in relative anonymity. If he can’t offer some valid perspective around this subject, no one can.

Why do you think we, as fishermen, tie flies — theoretically, not practically, speaking?

A few days later, he responds:

Speaking for myself, I consider fly-tying to be the most efficient method of understanding and appreciating the organisms that make our sport possible. An intimacy with key insect forms and their behavior developed over a lifetime on the water has shown me not only how to best duplicate their image, but how, when, and why to fish them. The result, I believe, is greater efficiency in dealing with the multitude of variables that confront all anglers during the course of any encounter with a desirable trout.

Over time, my respect and gratitude for the simple creatures that exist at the core of fly-fishing has reached the point that they possess equal, if not more, personal value than the fish themselves. I would tie flies even if I never made another cast.

Rene’ Harrop

* * *

Disagreeing publicly with a Railroad Ranch icon won’t make many friends on or off the spring creek, so I’ll refrain. And for the record, I think it’s perfectly okay to “match the hatch” for countless, surgical hours — hell, for seasons, I did it myself as a guide on the Frying Pan and South Platte.

But recently, I’ve noticed my river seines, bug bottles, and stacks of entomology collecting dust above garage; trusted tying materials supplanted by industrial supplies, rotting animals, armpit hair, and clippings from a yellow Lab’s undercarriage; the sound of laughter, not exasperation, echoing through my cut of the watershed …

Thomas McGuane once described fly-tying of this ilk as “defiant” and “autobiographical,” and I think what he meant, besides the obvious, is that we were put here to tell stories, and with some luck, create our own legends. I like to think that even at the vise we have unlimited opportunities to redefine outdated aspects of ourselves, impersonate children instead of scientists, write chapters that haven’t been written.

So, go ahead, make a Wooly Bugger from duct tape, a Mushmouth from unused condoms … what’s the worst that might happen? Dirty fishing hole looks or a fifteen-pound striper? I think most of us could live with that.

Happy Carp, Greg Keeler


Stalking carp across the shallow flats
of the upper Missouri is like stalking carp across
the shallow flats of the upper Missouri and that’s
that. The happy ones waggle their tails and toss
up a trail of moss and mud. The depressed carp
sit behind rocks and sulk. Cast to the happy
ones. They might look funny, but they’re pretty sharp,
so stalk slow and low. Tie a snappy
little crayfish number on a tough tippet
(a carp’s spine is a file), sneak upstream,
cast up and let the fly bounce down. Don’t strip it.
Just let it drift toward the hoovering lips. Dream
of the Bahamas and bonefish if you must, but that’s
nothing like stalking carp on the Missouri’s flats.

About this entry


Stink Meat, Greg Keeler

The depravity of fishing the ponds by Bozeman’s shopping mall pales next to an indignity I forced upon myself on the lower Yellowstone at a community so aptly named Intake, Montana. The travesty commenced one spring in the early Nineties when I beheld a photo in a regional Fish and Wildlife tabloid of a gentleman in a Harley Davidson baseball cap hoisting a gargantuan shark-like fish with a proboscis longer than its head. In the crook of his arm nestled a deep-sea fishing rod and reel with a spark plug and a giant treble hook dangling from the line. Enthralled, I read on.

I discovered that it was a paddlefish and the motorcycle aficionado was using a spark plug and a treble hook because the behemoths only feed by filtering plankton through their gills; thus, to catch one on fishing tackle, one must snag it. As instructed by the article, I proceeded to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to buy my paddle fish snagging license and tag. In the accompanying instruction pamphlet, I gleaned that a fossil of one of these fish had been excavated from within the ribs of duckbilled dinosaur.

That weekend, I was supposed to meet my friends Ed and Jenny Dorn and Dobro Dick at The Wild Horse Pavilion, a whore house in Miles City, Montana. From there, we were to launch forth into the phantasm of The Miles City Bucking Horse Sale, but with my new deep-sea fishing rig gleaming in the back of my pickup, I only stopped long enough in Miles City to silently mouth, “Nope, they’re not here,” then sped on to the irrigation dam at Intake.

Arriving at such a place, one might at first think that one had come upon a grotesque backwoods religious ritual. For approximately two hundred feet stretched a line of men, women and children dressed in costumes ranging from rompers to leisure suits to bikinis, all holding the requisite deep sea fishing rig, spark plug, and treble hook, awaiting their turn at the head of the line to snag a paddle fish then proceed to the back of the line, passing their rod over the heads of those who would follow them.

Without wasting a second, I secured my place among their ranks and awaited my turn. On the bank not far behind us sat families with blankets and picnic baskets, and between those waiting and casting and those picnicking raced children and dogs. Occasionally I would hear a screech or a whoop as a spark plug beaned a child or a treble hook snagged a dog. The paddlefish were so plentiful, backed up where they could continue no further because of the irrigation dam, it was no time at all before I was at the front of the line snagging my own, then working my way over the heads of fellow anglers to the back.

As I battled the anachronism, I could tell that it was large, but it tuckered quickly, and I dragged it to shore next to an adolescent girl, sunburned in her pink terry cloth short shorts and a tee shirt that said Daddy’s Little Girl. Her daddy, a huge darkly tanned fellow in an AC/DC tee-shirt with the sleeves torn off, was weighing her fish, still hooked to her line. “Twenty-five pounds,” he bellowed.

“Mine’s twenty-five pounds. How big is yours?” said the girl.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Daddy,” said the girl, “Come here and weigh this guy’s fish.”

As I pulled it quivering up on the rocks, the man said, “Hell, it’s just a dink, sixteen pounds at the most. I ain’t even gonna weigh it.”

“Yours is just a dink,” said the girl.

“And look,” said Daddy, “it’s been caught before. See that hole there where somebody took their tag out? I guess they must of upgraded. You’d best keep that there dink ‘cause it ain’t gonna live much longer nohow.”

“I was planning on it,” I said.

“You’d best,” said Daddy, “and you’d best gut it out quick ‘cause they don’t last long in this heat. That there’s the guttin’ shack.” He pointed to a building that was hardly more than a booth in a nearby clump of cottonwoods.

Standing in the gutting shack, nursing an ice-cold Bubble-Up and inspecting my catch where it lay gleaming on a slab by the cleaning sink before me, I began to have reservations. This creature wasn’t grotesque, it was cartoon-like. For want of a better word, it was cute with its beady little eyes, its long flat nose and its blimp-like body. It somehow reminded me of the Hudson my parents owned when I was a toddler. Its ancestors had swum with the dinosaurs and I had dragged it into my world to be labeled a dink and lugged to the gutting shack.

I looked out the window, which was more of a big rectangular hole in the wall with its cover propped open on a stick. Just outside was a large dumpster filled with the heads and guts of paddlefish. An Asiatic fellow was furtively going through the guts, sorting out the strips of caviar and slipping them into a large red cooler beside him. I don’t think such a practice had yet been banned, but, by his discrete behavior, I assumed that it was discouraged.

My heart sank as I gazed upon all of those severed heads with their beady little eyes and comic bills, so I quickly plopped my own contribution on top of the pile, gutted the body, slabbed it into steaks, carved off the strong smelling meat on the periphery of each one, tossed the refined product into my cooler on some ice among my remaining Bubble-Ups and toted it to my pickup. As I loaded it in the back, Daddy’s Little Girl approached me.

“Got your dink in there?”

“What’s left of it,” I said.

“ Djew cut the stink-meat off it?” she said, tugging at her shorts where they had sunk into her crotch.

“Yes I did.” I said.

“Lemme see.” She reached in and started to lift the lid of the cooler.

“Sorry, but I have to go now,” I said, swinging up the tailgate.

“Daddy,” yelled the girl toward a camper across the parking lot. “This guy didn’t cut the stink meat off his dink.”

“He what?” yelled Daddy, hefting his bulk from the back of the camper.

I didn’t hear what else he said because, by the time he was across the parking lot, I was on my way back to Bozeman where, upon viewing the remains of my paddlefish, my wife said, “Where’s the rest of Debbie?”

Tarpon Shepherd, Andrew Steketee

Captain says the poons are laid up near the Shark River, eating Cockroaches and Jungle Bunnies if you’re man enough to make a ninety-foot cast without dirtying your laundry. The twenty-mile run involves repeated wrong turns, appearances of his free-ranging testicles and a patchwork of memories around tarpon wads flooding past Homosassa and Elliott Key. Shit, there were so many fish, it would’ve been impossible for one of them not to have eaten your fly. At our intended locale some new young asshole guide runs wide open through the fishing, precipitating thick strings of profanity, followed by awkward silence. We bow our heads until captain doubles his faded yellow skiff through a river of mangroves, herons and raining bait, clutching a chrome wheel and throttle with scalded, skinless hands. When he cuts the engine alongside a second tarpon flat, fish are a goddamn certainty. Above the deck on a poling platform, he angles a long black crook between sea and God, then slowly herds the ancient iron schools like a bowlegged shepherd from Hangnail, Oklahoma. In the distance, we watch an eighty-pound free-jumper throw its machinery across the horizon, until it’s time to work. Tarpon at eleven o’clock, coming to ten. Make the cast! Strip, give it some life, not mechanical, yeah, like that. Okay, that’s good. Let’s see if we can’t jump one of these six-footers. Chrissake! Check your goddamn line! Make sure it’s clear! He’s on it, he’s on it. Eat the fly tarpon …

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