The anchor

The world continues to go to hell in a hand-basket. Anyone want to go fishing?
fly fishing missouri river
Photo: Mike Sepelak

I went fishing for a couple days last week. Not that my time on the water is news, or a big deal, but it was awfully important from a mental health perspective. We all need to take the occasional day off, and fishing—or in this particular case, rowing a couple of other anglers down the river for the better part of two days—was exactly the kind of therapy I needed.

There were a handful of us. Chris Hunt and Steve Zakur were in one boat, while Pat McCabe, Mike Sepelak and I were in another. We were floating the Missouri near Craig, Montana, and the river, which was awfully high and a little on the chilly side, was playing coy. If you’ve ever fished the Mo, you know that she can be generous to a fault, to the point where other rivers, even those with big names and fancy pedigrees, can seem downright stingy in comparison.

She wasn’t like that last week, though. In fact, she made us work hard for everything. The dry fly fishing was pretty much nonexistent, the nymphing, for those who chose to go that route, was mediocre at best, and the streamer fishing elicited the kind of colorful profanities that President Trump and his team of incompetents provoke on a regular basis.

You didn’t think this piece was going to be political? Hell, everything is political nowadays.

So yes, the streamer fishing was tough. Mike would sling a cast into a pretty little bank-side eddy or Pat would laser-beam his streamer of choice into the tiny pocket of darkness under an overhanging willow and we’d all wait in anticipation for the massive strike that never came.

I can’t help but think back to the days when attractive young women would occasionally walk up to me, smile, say “Hi!” and slip a little piece of paper with a phone number into my hand.

Unfortunately, our fishing was nothing like that.

Nothing at all.

It wasn’t even like the Missouri was flirting with us. She just turned her back and walked away.

The good news is that the catching is only a small part of it. Hanging with Pat, Mike, Steve and Chris was a blast. We talked and laughed; we bitched and moaned; we ate good food and kicked back at a sweetheart of a rental cottage; we stayed blissfully unaware of the world’s current travails due to the lack of cell service and wi-fi. More than anything else, that’s exactly what I needed. Some pulls on the oars. A little time with a fly rod in my hand. Companions who were, for lack of a better word, simpatico. And a break from the news of the day.

Then it all came together on the last afternoon. We went to the power strip, which, given the water temp, shouldn’t have been all that effective. But it was. Colder water usually requires a slower strip and a more nuanced retrieve. For whatever reason, though, those big Missouri River browns didn’t care. They wanted their streamers fast. The faster, the better. Seriously, I have no idea why, but we started slamming some really big fish, and life, which was already on the rebound, got a little bit better.

Fly fishing, done right, is a magnet, an attention sink, a rabbit hole. It pulls us in, further and further, until all the crap and the detritus and the angst that surf through our lives just melts away. Angling offers an escape from the fact that we live in a world that’s pretty much insane; a world where our leaders in Washington, D.C. have more in common with children playing with matches than with statesmen and visionaries. For reasons I don’t really understand, our society, or at least our politics, seems intent on pushing decent, honest people out to the ragged edge while it rewards deviants and morons and sycophants and sociopaths.

If there’s any upside to this “teetering on the edge of the abyss” existence, it’s that fishing with friends is a get out of jail free card; a blessed interlude when, for the space of a few hours, we don’t have to think about our politicians selling off our public lands or lying about global warming or trading our health care for magic beans. Not that we can ignore any of those things for long - they’re simply too important to put on the back burner - but fishing, at least for some of us, is the anchor. It helps keep us sane. It’s a life-line; a reset button; a warm shower after a day of rolling around in the mud.

I’ve been home for five days now, and while it’s truly good to be here, it’s already obvious that I need to get back out on the water. Trump is still in office. Congress is still committed to selling its soul to the highest bidder. The world continues to go to hell in a hand-basket. Anyone want to go fishing?


Another great article from hatch magazine. Just amazing. Author goes fishing because his fragile psyche can't deal with the socialist agenda being rolled back and decides that people want to read about it.

Couple questions. Who's makes the decision on which articles get published ? And does the author get paid for his work? If so, can I submit articles for consideration? Because the bar ain't thst high.

Will continue not subscribing to hatch and will stop by periodically, maybe twice a year, to see if it improvements are made.

I'm sure you can submit an article, but if the copyediting of your post is any indication maybe you'd better get some remedial help first.

If the socialist agenda of public land access and conservation doesn't mean anything to you, then maybe you'd better get out of the fishing business.

Define socialist agenda? Is this Ted Kennedy or a an oil company? Bugger off if you are...


Your political views make me want the minutes of my life back I wasted reading them. I bet most of your clients are hard working conservatives who voted for Trump. They probably own small business and need their fishing time to decompress.

I have fished the mo out of Craig. It's a good ditch.

I can tell you that I would not hire a whiny liberal baby to row me down the crick to throw junk.

You two should slither back to the swamp. I think I hear the pussy grabber in Chief calling.

Wow can't say anything anymore without the trolls showing up

Here is a concept: Let's keep fishing stories all about fishing....would that be so terrible...

That was well written, humorous, and translated well with how I feel about the environmental roll backs, assaults on public lands, climate denial, and general political bull dust that permeates every day lately. "Damage report?"
You can't call yourself a fly fisherman if you cannot commit to the conservation of the resource. You are just a kid throwing coconuts in a stall, and should be chaperoned everywhere.
Thanks Hatch magazine for publishing a really good read. Kudos to the author for penning how a lot of real fly fishermen feel about the current times.

Yeah, this guy is an idiot! Shut up and fish!

Exactly- what a joke of an article! Heaven forbid the EPA actually serve its purpose, fisheries and clean water be protected, lobbyists be slowed in the pursuit to privatize public land, and climate change be addressed in accordance with 97% of the scientific community.

It seems this author is just another social justice warrior snowflake too busy with the crusade to push the liberal agenda to realize the worthlessness of these endeavors. Who needs clean water when coal is so obviously the future and farms can provide all of our fishing needs!

It's long been said, "The Mo giveth, and the MO taketh away." When she gives it can be absolutely incredible, but when she's stingy, the frustration is palpable.

HATCH Mag: thanks for the well written if not amusing article.

Spot On! Thanks for a great article.

Exactly my sentiments. Our time spent on the water is a precious & valuable resource. Fly fishing soothes the soul. I am a novice, and I rarely catch fish, so if I didnt enjoy being out there, I'd've given up long ago. Drown your sorrows in the river. Thank you.

This article is very well written, and reminds us that going fishing, and not necessarily the catching, is the important part. I haven't been able to go for a while, and I feel it weighing down on my being, both mentally and physically. When I do get to go, I get skunked a bunch, so reading the article almost felt like I was remembering a past outing I took myself. Thanks for that.

Also, don't let the comments from people discourage you from expressing your political beliefs and disappointments with the current or any administration. Freedom of speech should not be hampered with worthless threats of not subscribing to the magazine. More people agree with you than disagree. It's funny that we're called the snowflakes yet they're the ones up in arms (hopefully figuratively but who knows with this ilk) over calling out the current executive and legislative branches on just about every issue for which they stand. The environment, science, and our health have taken a far back seat to the highest bidding corporation or lobby. People who still think the president is doing a good job or that the right's path is correct or productive, are denialists that do not want, or can't admit being wrong. These people need to go fishing the most, and then ask themselves, "would this creek be more fun/productive/healthy to wade in with more or less coal waste runoff?" (Possibly one of the first executive orders he signed, along with selling of federal lands)

I understand the whole small government argument, and sometimes I agree with it, but one can't argue that big government spawns crony capitalism and then turn their eyes away from the exact same thing happening from their "smaller" government policies.

Conservation comes from the word conservative. Let's remind those on the right of that.

The author is obviously suffering from Trump derangement. Leave the political stuff out. We here to read about our passion for fishing. Try to stay focused.

thank you Hatch magazine. Words worth reading!