The Kindness of Fishermen

by Rebecca on February 10, 2010

in Fly Fishing

Yellowstone Fly

~The Unknown Fly I named Kindness~

I’m not sure what the above fly is called, maybe the man who gave it to me told me, maybe he didn’t. The fly used to have little rubber legs and was a bit more fluffy and distinguished. Now it’s a piece of my vintage fly history and a testament to the kindness I’ve stumbled across while on the waterways.

The morning I was given that fly, I was sitting on the dirt bank of the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone Park. My fly rod was propped in the dirt leaning across my shoulder, my fly bag was tossed near my feet, open, ignored, and I was gazing out across the big Yellowstone watching risers that I couldn’t get close enough to. At the moment, I was feeling frustrated and defeated by my wading limitations.

Then he came along, a nameless man who just happened across my sovereign spot in the dirt. He stopped, asked me the normal fisherman pleasantries…how’s it going….have you caught any fish…I opted for honesty and told him that despite all attempts to love the Yellowstone River, she continued to toy with me, tease me and deny me reasonable (without the threat of death via drowning) wading entrance.

He pulled out a fly box and started sifting through it while he explained to me that although the Yellowstone liked to keep her treasured rising cutties out in the deep zones, the fish could be caught nearer to the bank if you know where to look for them. He pulled out the above fly, handed it to me and told me to walk along the bank and spot fish for underwater bank cruisers. Then he smiled, and was gone….

Honestly, I can’t remember if I caught a fish with that fly, but his kindness is something I’ve never forgotten. He’s not the only one who has given me flies on the riverbank over the years. I have a special little box I keep that holds the flies men (sadly, it’s all men, I rarely, if ever come across woman on the rivers) have graciously given me. I can be catching fish just fine, but I’ve noticed men like to stop, talk, and impress upon me their favorite, or secret fly for the day.

It isn’t just about the flies that have been given me, this kindness I write of, it’s the friendliness and willingness to offer conversation, wisdom or just a friendly smile to me…the anomaly on the river.  I’m not sure how it is for other men– the man to man interaction–on the water. But I have witnessed acts of kindness between guys that confirms this sort of graciousness isn’t just reserved for the pink elephant (me) wading in the water.

I believe in every persons life, it’s good to pause, look back and thank the people who made a good impression in your life. So today I’d like to publicly thank:

~The man on the Yellowstone River for a fly I would never have thought of. I don’t remember the fish of that day, but I remember your smile, your laughter and your kindness. The other men who have gifted me their secret flies over the years, if I didn’t lose them to fish, I’ve still got your flies.

~The two men (and dog) who rescued me from the wrong side of the South Fork of the Boise River with their drift boat after my death defying swim. I know I was frozen silent, embarrassed into stone, but I was grateful for the safe passage back to the other side. If it weren’t for you, I’d probably still be over there.

~I’d like to thank the man who came running up the river when he saw me fighting a huge fish on my little fly rod. Your passionate chase with your net did not go unnoticed, your gallant dive in the river was impressive and I’m sorry the fish ended up being a monster sucker fish. I told you it felt like I was hauling in a water logged tree that moved….not a steelie like you hoped.

~Thank you to all the guys who have offered marriage proposals over the years. I may never hold a big fish record, but I bet I’m in the running for the most proposals in a lifetime =)

~Thanks goes to the several different men who provided jumper cables, towing service and hitchhiker rides.

~Thanks goes to the fly shop manager who was beyond kind and helpful to me yesterday. You have renewed my faith in the local fly shop atmosphere…

~Thanks goes to all the people who have visited this site, commented, emailed and encouraged me along. I hope to run into you all on the river ~



{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom ReutebuchNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 12:44 pm

I’d call that fly…squished beetle with guts hanging out…hahaha…great read, as always.


fishingpoetNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Great post. I too have found people on the water are more often than not willing to share some time and insight. The beauty of kindred spirits.


JohnNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm

I would call that fly the “egg sucking bouncing caddis” Honestly I would fish it.

Thats a cool story, the best thing I see out there is that the stream makes us all equal, One day while sitting on a bench in the middle of no where, a fella came up and talked fish, flies and life. After an hour or so and after swapping our go to flies, he revealed he was a circut court judge. Just called him judge the rest of the day, it seemed fitting.

My best trade a fly episode was on the Cherokee Tribal waters trophy section. Chatting with a guy who was rather down because he wasn’t catching anything I offered him what I was using which at the time was producing rather well. Problem was, he was on the other side. No problem I casted over to him and told him to snip it off…lol

The flies I have gathered from others, I have a hard time fishing, kinda like throwing away a photo specially if it was from an old timer, just me but I like looking at them and remembering.

Great post as always!


trout whispererNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 1:13 pm

a nameless man who just happened across my sovereign spot in the dirt

its interesting how the waters we wade……mirror the folks who fish them…


ken morrowNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 1:21 pm

hey! none of you bastards have ever proposed to me. what’s up with that? oh wait…we’re all dudes. nevermind. but you never give me flies, either. sexists!


RebeccaNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 1:46 pm

@Tom ~ ya know, that name sorta fits the looks of my old fly!

@Fishing Poet ~ Kindred Spirits is a wonderful description of life meeting others on the river.

@John ~ great stories of kindness. When others give me flies or I’ve swapped flies with others, I have to admit, I have a hard time fishing them as well. It’s like instant sentimental value I hate to risk losing.

@Trout ~ thank you…I think =)

@Ken ~ What?! No one has ever proposed to you on the river? Thats just not right. If I run into you someday, I promise, I’ll gift you a fly AND propose. I hate to think that you’ve been left out of the fun. Come on guys, someone give Ken a fly, at the very least…..


WolfyNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 2:15 pm

It’s nice to sit back, reminisce, and thank those who have made indelible impressions on our livess. I do it far too infrequently, but really enjoyed reading your post. As I always do.



KirkNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Good read, Rebecca. You have some good karma, no doubt.

I think Ken nailed it. Sexism knows no bounds.

I must say that while I’ve encountered many a fisherMAN willing to engage in pleasantries and talk shop, I’ve never been offered a fly, or been helped with landing a fish, or been picked up hitchiking. And believe me, I’ve sat pouty-lipped in the dirt staring forelornly across the waters of a river that has just handed me my arse before. I hate to say it because it casts a generalization upon all men, but the fact that you’re a woman most definitely affords you some advantages over those of us who carry the other chromosome. I’m not saying these chance encounters with friendliness are ONLY because you’re a woman and a bit of an anomaly out on the waters, but guys are guys.

We tend to gravitate towards women whether we consciously acknowledge it or not. On a fly fishing forum which I frequent, it’s 99% guys, and while they can all get along for the most part, it’s pretty common to witness them jumping all over each other. When the occasional woman chimes in, their comments are always met with a certain “puppy dog civility”.

Woof ; )


Kentucky JimNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 3:08 pm

“I’ve always depended on the kiindness of fishermen…” :-)


ShoremanNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Hi Rebecca. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve given a lure or bait to another man or woman fishing in the same place where I caught fish and they didn’t. I like to see others catch too, which is the premise, as everyone knows, of my blog. I haven’t given you one, because I just haven’t run into you yet. As far as a proposal, I’ll have to pass. You see, I’ve found the love of my life. Even though she doesn’t fish, she’s a keeper. So I’ll let all those other guys keep proposing.
Cute fly……



AustinNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 4:53 pm

It was a nameless man at Geode Lake in the late 80′s that introduced me to fly fishing. They’re the best!


ClifNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 5:01 pm

My experience: Taking advice and hot tips from unknown anglers is like finding out what is in meatloaf surprise. You will get some pretty good hints, but no one will hand you a recipe. Even you “opted for honesty” when questioned by the nameless man.

He, undoubtedly, had caught “a few.”


KenNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 5:48 pm

The comradery of an interest of hobby is awesome, glad you have some great memories.


RebeccaNo Gravatar February 10, 2010 at 8:50 pm

@Wolfy ~ I imagine you’ll be thinking about it today ;)

@Kirk ~ You know I’d give you a fly if I saw you crying into your flybox on the side of a river. I also believe there are lots of guys out there that would do the same =) I’ve seen pink waders available these days, maybe if you upped your game and appearence, you’d get more action…..

@Kentucky Jim ~ Thats a good motto…

@Mark ~ I could see you giving away your lures on the water. Someday we’ll meet out there and do an exchange. As for the proposal, I know 98% of the ones made to me out on the river are in jest (followed by a lot of laughter) and I’d much rather hear a guy has a lady they are devoted too. I am softy at heart!

@Austin ~ those nameless souls, can make a huge difference in our lives. Sometimes I do wish I was better about remembering names though!

@Clif ~ thats the truth, isn’t it. The fishermans life, a version of the fishermans truth is always subjective.

@Ken ~ There is quite a comradery between fishermen. Most of it’s great too! ;)


KirkNo Gravatar February 11, 2010 at 12:43 am

Rebecca, while I appreciate the insight, think I’ll pass on the pink wader recommendation. Now, a wading kilt…there’s an idea ;)


ken morrowNo Gravatar February 11, 2010 at 4:55 am

i did have a guy offer to net my personal best trout. i caught her on a size 16 elk hair caddis on a 4wt using 5x tippet and she was a 31″ brown trout. so she had played me for some time. i was just staying connected and trying not to really torque her off so she’d stay in the slower water. the guy worked his way over to me and asked if he could help. i handed him my net and told him where to stand. he did a good job and we got her landed and released quickly.

a woman taught me to tie soft hackles.

a guide with clients in his boat rescued a fishing buddy and me from a similar wrong-side-of-the-river incident when the norfork tailwater came up suddenly. that saved us about a 10 mile walk.

i could go on and on. but i made my tongue-in-cheek post to bring out the point that you alluded to when you mentioned all the marriage proposals. as another commenter said: guys are guys. we’re more in danger of becoming patronizing or just plain creepy than we are of being mean when we happen accross a streamside damsel in distress – unlike fish, which eat damsels in distress. but that’s another story altogether. ;)


BrianNo Gravatar February 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Hi Becca,
I ain’t going to propose, my girlfriend just wouldn’t understand, you understand? Besides, the travelling would be a killer.
There’s a quote I cart around with me, well there’s dozens really, but it’s appropriate for this thread:
“An angler, like an Arab, regards hospitality as a religious duty. There seems to be something in the craft which inclines the heart to kindness and good-fellowship. Few anglers have I seen who were not pleasant to meet, and ready to do a good turn to a fellow-fisherman with the gift of a killing fly or the loan of a rod. – Henry van Dyke”
take care from the UK


DanNo Gravatar February 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Great article. Fishing is like everything else, its the experience (people) that make your day (good or bad).


RebeccaNo Gravatar February 14, 2010 at 11:21 am

@Kirk ~ the wading kilt…I’ve got the music

@Ken ~ I liked your follow up. The proposals I receive are always joking and I think just a knee jerk reaction guys toss out when they come across me on the river. I’d like to hear about fish eating the damsels in distress, sounds entertaining ;)

@Brian ~ Thats ok, I understand! Love that quote and it fits my feelings perfectly. Although your in the U.K. maybe someday we’ll stand in the same waters exchanging stories and flies

@Dan ~thats the truth. I have a hard time remembering the fish I caught, but I always remember the people I meet (sadly, not their names though!)


BigerrfishNo Gravatar March 4, 2010 at 11:17 am

I read your blog from time to time. figured Kindness of fishermen was a good place to comment.. Addicted to fishing huh? thats funny I’m still waiting to find another human who knows what that really means…….


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