Fly Fish Southwest Montana – Newsletter

Fly Fishing in the Time of Covid-19

Tennessee Williams, in his play
Night of the Iguana, broke down life into two levels: the Realistic and the Fantastic. Make no mistake for better or for worse, in 2020 we are living in the realm of the Fantastic.
We are extremely lucky and grateful that we escaped the 2020 season without a Covid incident at Healing Waters Lodge from either our customers or staff. We appreciate our guests in assisting us with their flexibility as well as their suggestions on how to combat the spread of the virus. Special thanks to our staff that were 100% behind our program of social distancing, wearing masks and making every effort to disinfect everything in sight.
There were days on some rivers where we able to hook well over 100 fish and not see a soul. When this happens you are living, fishing and dreaming on the level of the fantastic.
There were also days when the smoke rolled in from California, Oregon and Washington; darkening skies causing a smoker’s cough in songbirds where they sounded more like Tom Waits than Sarah Vaughan. The good thing about heavy smoke is it creates an artificial cover that lends itself to some Homeric dry fly fishing. We adapt.
The American Director William “Wild Bill” Wellmen (1896-1975), who was the first American pilot to serve in Escadrille Lafayette Flying Corps in World War I; along with directing: A Star is Born, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Story of GI Joe and Battleground.  When asked about actors (feel free to insert politicians) said, “This is rather silly maybe, but it’s a true thing. An actor looks into a mirror all the time. Says his lines to the guy (in the mirror). Makes himself up in front of this guy. He looks and studies his face to see which is the best side to photographed, and he does this day after day. And one of two things happen. Either he learns to hate that son of a bitch he’s looking at or he falls in love with him. He usually falls in love with him.” Actors, like politicians, all live on the level of the Fantastic. Someone said, “Every time a politician looks in the mirror, he/she will see a President.” The end result if you keep looking in the mirror you walk away a little screwy.
David H., HWL Guest & PHWFF Volunteer
One last thought on the living in year of the Fantastic. The national debt is 27 trillion dollars. I posted suggestions on Facebook on how to resolve the problem. The only viable solution came from Fly Fishing Guru and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Veteran, Dave Herberer. Dave recommended paying down the debt through bake sales, pancake breakfasts and spaghetti feeds. The idea is so precise, simple and doable. I believe Dave might be on the short list for a Nobel Prize in Economics.
Living in the Realistic. I listen to composer Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” thinking of and thanking the countless Americans pulling together getting us through life in the time of Covid. Grocery clerks, custodians and postal employees became essential workers. Health care providers in nursing homes, hospitals and urgent care facilities are fighting the fight every day for Covid-19 victims, injured and wounded. Truck drivers hauling supplies 24/7 along the white line that supplies a nation. Teachers masked up to lift the life of one student at a time. The virus might be a gut check of who and what we are at our core. I am betting on our angels who are down here on the ground leading the way. I also believe they’re carrying fly rods, quietly going to streams casting into waters reinforcing our hopes and dreams.
I learned this year, for some, fly fishing is more than a hobby it is more of a pilgrimage to touch and feel something holy.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of fire.”  W.B. Yeats (Poet and want-to-be fly fisherman)
We ended this season with a full lodge for our October fly fishing school, “Fish Like a Guide, But, Live Like a Client“. Great people, good weather and a good film crew from Arrowroot Productions.
Healing Waters Fly Fishing Schools
Healing Waters Fly Fishing Schools
Our fly fishing schools have been highly successful and great fun for us. The success of the schools is due to the instructors/guides taking great pride in elevating everyone’s fishing abilities and knowledge.
Butch Wicks, a long time Healing Waters Lodge guide is the Dean. Butch’s experience as a teacher/coach along with his attention to detail have made our schools credible as well as fun.
TJ Migneault, another long time Healing Waters guide is a graceful and talented instructor continually rewarded with praise and affection from every angler he guides. TJ’s last name is misspelled in the video. We are correcting it and apologize for it.
Terry Throckmorton’s fly fishing education comes from wading, floating and fishing every river, creek, pond or anything that contains water in Southwest Montana for the last 60 years.
Eli McIntosh conveys an earned confidence for everything touched by a fly rod. He has an intimate understanding of the “how’s and why’s” of trout and their environs.
Tim Flynn is gregarious, jocular and a fervent instructor and guide, offering solid coaching along with piscatorial visions and mind quests.
Tristan Connell is a solid, hardworking man who takes considerable pride in his abilities as a guide. He is young but fortunately has the patience of Job.
Todd Throckmorton is a native Montana if you combine Terry (his Dad) and Todd they have almost 100 years of fishing experience. Fishing is about fun and Todd brings enthusiasm and natural joie de vivre to everyone he guides. Nothing thrills a fishing guide in Dillon, Montana more that being described as possessing joie de vivre.
Bart Doig has been at Healing Waters Lodge since it began. He is the reason for so many returning customers. He is a resource as a guide enhancing everything he touches. He didn’t make the short video as we are negotiating a full future film of Bart Doig, the man, the myth, the guide and hapless Minnesota Viking fan.
2021 fly fishing schools: Include six nights lodging, all meals, five days of classroom instruction and guided fly fishing, and use of loaner equipment.
Arrive April 25 depart May 1
Arrive May 1 depart May 6
Arrive October 1 depart October 7
Cost: $3350
Smith River
Smith River IG Sneak Peek
Smith River IG Sneak Peek
For 30 years, I’ve never done a newsletter without mentioning the Smith River. The Smith becomes deservedly more iconic each year. Four days and five nights of fishing, floating and camping covering 60 river miles. If you enjoy the outdoors this trip is like going to heaven without dying. The following testimony is from author, entrepreneur, angler, adventurer and long shot player Neil Senturia.
Neil Senturia
I’m There for You Baby 
(column, July 6, 2020)
Rain. Cold. Wind.
They said it was ok to un-shelter, and so I went to Montana on a four-day fly fishing float trip down the Smith River. The Smith is unique in one particular aspect – it has only one public put-in and one public take-out. In other words, to bastardize Jean-Paul Sartre, there is only one exit and it is 59 miles after you leave the ramp. You can’t just hop off the drift boat and get home for that conference call. Oh, and did I mention that there is no cell phone coverage and no internet. I am convinced that this trip should be used in the psychoanalytic practice of Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs, who believe (incorrectly) that the world will stop spinning if they miss an email or a Zoom call.
We all say that we want to cut the cord at times, but the dark truth is that most of us still cradle that damn device close to our heart and soul. Sitting in a drift boat, you are keenly aware that you are not the smartest guy in the room – but even more telling is that the other room at home doesn’t seem to even know you’re missing.
While I was away, one of my favorite companies closed a series A term sheet for $20 million dollars. When I got home, I emailed the other members of the board and the CEO. I thanked them and remarked at how well things went in my absence. The email back from the Chairman was “keep fishing.”
During COVID-19 times, it seems the safest place to be is outdoors in the middle of nowhere to hide and nowhere to run, getting rained on. (I need to review the medical literature on when the cure is worse than the disease)
Because the Smith joins the Missouri River nine miles southwest of Great Falls, Montana, the marketing materials call attention to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who traveled up the Missouri in 1804. This creates inference bias by association. In other words, it allows me for a delusional moment to believe that like the earlier great explorers, I am the bold entrepreneur challenging the environment.
Let me tell you Lewis and Clark did not have pop-up tents and a gear boat that goes ahead and has hors d’oeuvres waiting when you pull in. I would not call this trip glamping, but there was a table cloth and silverware at dinner. I poke fun at myself in part because I continue to think about founders and grit. Will the next great companies come from what David Brooks, New York Times columnist, calls a coddled generation? The entrepreneur/founder will tell you that he is passionate and promises that he can scale the wall, but it would be nice if you could see it before you wrote the check (call this rational due diligence).
What I saw from the six guide/workers who got us down the river was a dance that was pure poetry in efficiency. There were five young men and one rock star woman. These are hard work summer jobs on the river and then for some back to Montana State for graduate school in pharmacology or a masters in political science. I wanted to help with the tents, the fire, the food, and what I learned quickly is that I would only be in the way. They had a system. And in the pouring rain, you did not want to mess up this ballet.
They also had to manage the care and feeding of seven clients with their very diverse personalities, gastronomic requirements and political persuasions. This cohort gave a master class in customer service and management by objective, just like what you want in your start-up.
So, when I look at young companies, I want to see if I can find that same quality of determination that demonstrates an achievement against imposing odds, that demands massive effort when the sun is not shining with the soft breeze of privilege.
Rule No. 666: Lewis and Clark did not have propane.
What are the characteristics that the investor looks for when placing his bet.
There were six “workers” for seven customers.
But some of the marketing for this experience makes reference to the entrepreneurial efforts of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803-1806.
Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter.
Sincerely, Mike Geary