Tonight I abuse my editorial discretion and put in my annual plug for Project Healing Waters Flyfishing, a organization that uses fly fishing, rod building, and fly-tying as a vehicle to rehabilitate wounded veterans. The rod building and fly-tying are used for fine motor rehabilitation, learning to cast boosts gross motor skills, and a day on the water is the ultimate in psychological therapy for both those whose wounds are visible, and those whose wounds lie within.
Today was the annual Smoky Mountain Grand Slam Tournament, and I was again a volunteer guide for the day. The Saturday tournament is obviously the highlight of the weekend, but there is also a fundraising banquet Friday night. Like most events of its ilk, the banquet featured a silent auction and it turned out that Kim Breed had donated another knife this year. It was an 80CrV2 version of his H1 hunter, with Bocote wood scales. It is more of a workingman’s knife than the Damascus Model 15 I won/bought last year, but a really cool knife nonetheless.
As I said, it wasn’t my intention to buy the knife, in fact I knew nothing about its being donated. However, when no one made the minimum bid of $200, I ponied up $225 as a reasonable donation to take it home with me.
It really wasn’t my intention to win a trip to Montana to fish the Madison (and 2 nights at the Kelly Galloup’s Slide Inn right on the river) at the live auction either. However, when my buddy and fellow guide said, “want to go in halves with me?” my awesome wife responded “Sure!”, and made the bids herself. So apparently I am headed out to Montana the week after BLADE Show next year. Huh. I wasn’t expecting that.
Kelly Galloup is a bit of a legend in the flyfishing community. Maybe not quite Ethan Becker level (that would be Lefty Kreh), but certainly of comparable stature to a Ken Onion. Kelly is also a funny guy, who played a prank on my boat that I am going hold squarely to blame for our lackluster fishing today.
If you are not a fisherman, you are probably unaware that there is a big-time superstition about bringing bananas on a fishing boat. While they are a tasty and nutritious snack on a hike or other land-based excursion, if you attempt to bring one on a fishing boat you will be lucky if the guide only throws the banana and not you overboard.
Unbeknownst to me, Kelly had given one of my veterans a banana with instructions to give it her guide. She comes up to me while we are waiting for group pictures, reaches into her pocket, and says that she was told to give me something. I dodged the proffered fruit, and in no uncertain words instructed her to toss it in the river. She obliged, but it was too late. The maloik was on us, and unlike my 2nd-place finish last year, this year it was all I could do to keep us from being skunked. We managed to catch one fish, finishing in last place. It was honestly a slow day for most of the dozen boats participating, with only a couple of boats tallying a full slate of 10 measured-and released fish. But I am going to blame it on the banana.
In the end it was a wonderful, if somewhat warm day on the river. The competition was as always friendly and good-natured fun. The event is about much more than just catching fish. It is a chance for wounded veterans to enjoy each other’s company, and to leave behind the mental and physical pain and just enjoy themselves. I am happy that I can play a small part. It is always among my most rewarding trips of the year.
I make a speaking appearance in the above video at the 2:57 mark.