This past summer The Professor and I were floating the Big Hole, leapfrogging section after section with another couple in a bright blue skiff. Sun was hot and fishing slowish. We cruised close enough at point for a brief exchange. He was a guide with a rare day off. We were from Texas & Alabama. Good fishing…and so on and so forth.
A few hours later we rowed around a bend to discover some anglers in a driftboat wedged on a boulder and taking on water. Not the first on the scene, a gaggle of boats were anchored up river right trying to help and/or watch the drama unfold.
The guide from the blue skiff was leading the rescue charge with another guy who was friends with the anglers in peril. We offered to help but were quickly dismissed. They were far along into their strategy – plus, the fact that we’d previously allowed we were from Texas & Alabama gained us little credibility in this setting with this crowd.
So we stayed out of the way cheering and watching as the guide from the blue skiff jumped in someone else’s higher sided driftboat, rowed across the river, and held the boat in a hydraulic behind a boulder in what was otherwise fast moving water. He was able to hold it long enough for a critical two-way exchange of gear and bailing mechanisms.
Whoa! Our jaws were on the ground. The Professor and I were blown away by his rowing skills. The anglers were able to bail just enough water to dislodge and row like hell to the slower current river right. All was well.
We saw Super Guide down river and effusively praised his rowing prowess, commended him on being the super hero for the day. He was humble and cool about it.
We were sorta hoping to catch him and his girlfriend at the takeout and treat him to a drink, but they were long gone when we pulled out.
Who was that masked man? Who was that Super Guide dressed as a regular fishing guy?
We spent the next few days asking around flyshops, describing his boat, trying to find out who he was. But we never caught up with him.
On our recent Labor Day trip to Montana we were determined to float the Jefferson, something we’d not previously done. Admittedly we had trouble cracking the code. Trying a million things. Hoppers, streamers, crawfish. We threw all kinds of things. What was the deal? Wrong color? wrong size? Wrong stretch? Wrong day?
We were stubborn. We fished the Jeff for 3 days. The first day we were skunked. Second day we caught some on hoppers but while we were trending the right direction, it was still a very low hours-on-the-water to fish ratio. But our third day? Our third day we had the power. It unlocked for us. We were moving fish, netting fish, missing fish, losing fish, catching fish. It was a blast. Lots of action.
What changed for us? Well…..
So on that first day on the Jeff – the day we were skunked – we were floating along scratching our heads when what should appear but a guide boat. Hmm. Something was starting to seem familiar about this setup. Skiff….bright blue….young guide.
Wait a minute. The Professor poked me, you know who that was? That’s Super Guide from The Big Hole! He was right. Somewhere in our detective work we had learned his name was….what was it…his name…Joe, I think.
But where was he? Where’d they go? He vaporized like superheroes often do. Damn.
Next day we were kicking around Twin Bridges getting ready to fish and sure enough, we saw his truck and boat. Super Guide sighting again! Damn….where was he??? We kept our eye on the truck but no sighting. The river called.
After a long day we were heading home, barreling through Twin again when who should step out of the Blue Anchor bar just as we were gunning by but Super Guide and his girlfriend!! The Professor honked and waved, and somehow pulled a U-turn on the main street of Twin Bridges with a boat & trailer.
I kept a bead on Super Guide. Hey! They are turning around and walking toward us!
The Professor practically popped up on that curb and I was already hoisting myself out the passenger window to flag them down. Not worrying about the fact I was about to seem like a lunatic stalker I enthusiastically shouted, “Hey it’s you! Super Guide! Joe…..right?”
At that nanosecond it hit me. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot he is going to think we are complete freaks. I bet he is wondering who in the hell we are and why we keep popping up in his world. He opened his mouth to speak and I braced myself for him to dismiss us or ask what the….
Joe lit up and exclaimed, “You’re The Fly Fish Chick!”
Yay! Hugs for everyone!!! Lovefest on the streets of Twin. We met his girlfriend Kayla who was adorable. Lots of laughs about the multiple random encounters. Once again profuse praise for his supergalactic rowing feat on the Big Hole. The four us went to the Blue Anchor for a few drinks and lots of laughs.
Joe Willauer guides out of Stonefly Inn & Outfitters where Kalya works in the shop. We shared stories about fishing the Jefferson – mostly we told them about our challenges. Joe had some really solid insight and suggested we drop in the shop the next day.
We arrived at Stonefly the next morning – our final day of the trip – determined to make something happen on the Jeff. Joe was already long gone with clients but left Kayla with specific intel for us, including some super secret special bugs that we were not to share with anyone. We were so dutiful, we even plucked them off the cliff pad at the end of the float and off the rods so no one at the boat ramp would lay their eyeballs on them.
Kayla outlined a specific stretch of water where Joe suggested we float. She had just fished the same stretch days before and added her own data on specific rocks and banks to hit. Lottery. Needless to say they set us up bigtime.
We had a wonderful adventure on the Jefferson. The float was gorgeous, the fish were hungry, the bugs worked like a charm. Apparently Joe & Kayla aren’t trying to keep their super hero identities all that much of a secret. So if you’re in the Twin Bridges area, stop in Stonefly and meet our new friends.
MANY THANKS Joe & Kayla! Look forward to more laughs, cocktails & time on the water…