(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a
series of columns on Stouff's recent trip
to Browning, Montana to fish for trout on
the Blackfeet Indian Reservation for an
upcoming episode of "Fly Fishing America"
to be aired next spring.)
Of course, Montana is nearly 2,000 miles away,
you realize. This means I had to fly. In a plane.
I had a few email contacts with Joe Kipp,
the Blackfeet Indian who would be my host
and fishing guide. His initial question to
me, "Can swamp Indians fish?" was followed
by the notation that he hoped I was afraid
of grizzly bears because he was afraid of
snakes and alligators. This would become
quite a banter between us later on.
I did my best to get around flying. I
looked at driving it but 36 hours in the
truck just seemed exhausting and I'd probably
burn more fuel that the stupid airplanes. I
considered train or bus, but both of those
are prone to accidents too. I figured if I
was gonna go out, might as well go out with a
bang. I have flown six times before, and my
discomfort and fear of it has grown steadily
with each trip, I don't know why.
Grumbling about the price of fame and the
logistics of flapping my arms fast enough,
I set about getting ready to go. The night
before, I packed my roll-on and carry-on bags.
I was told by those who know such things to
pack a couple changes of clothes and toiletries
and bring them with me in case Continental
Airlines lost my luggage. This was fine and
dandy, but my fly rod and tackle was in my
luggage, so if Continental Airlines lost it,
I'd be quite well-dressed to stand around
looking nice in Montana when I'm supposed
to be fishing.
I was flying out of Lafayette, with layovers
in Houston and Seattle before I reached Kalispell,
Montana which is west of Glacier National Park.
I needed to be east of the park, across the
mountain range so somebody from the film company
would be there to get me. I also looked up the
types of planes I would be flying on the 'Net.
This is a peculiar kind of morbidity for people
who are terrified of flying. It's kinda like,
if you're afraid of heights you look up pictures
of skyscrapers, or if you're afraid of dogs you
look up pictures of pit bulls, that sort of thing.
I was flying a 737 to Houston, a 757 to Seattle
and sadly enough, a prop-job from Seattle to
Kalispell. At this point I began to wonder again
if I had taken leave of my senses.
I read a lot about it, changed my mind
about a dozen times, and finally the day
came and with a little help from my friends,
got on that big ol' jet airliner in Lafayette
to ride the friendly skies.
First, however, I had to go through
security, where I was forced to empty
my pockets, take off my alligator tooth
necklace (a matter of great curiosity to
the Transportation Safety Administration
employees) belt and shoes, all of which
were put through security devices. Meanwhile,
the loudspeakers in the airport - every airport,
for that matter - are announcing that it's not
funny to joke about bombs, guns or nuclear
weapons, and not to leave your baggage
unintended as it could be confiscated and
destroyed. I was careful not to let this
happen, because then I'd be standing around
with no rods, tackle or clean clothes when I
am supposed to be getting filmed fishing. Then,
once through security, I had to return all my
personal belongings to my person and proceed
to the plane.
White knuckles does not begin to describe
the flight to Houston, which took less than
an hour but seemed to end somewhere near my
reaching social security age. I was also
extraordinarily motion sick, despite the
Dramamine I had taken. I always get motion
sick, even in cars, unless I'm driving. I
don't get motion sick when I'm driving, but
somehow I doubted the pilot would let me
behind the wheel of the 737, so I just sat
there feeling my stomach churn and gripping
the seat arm, staring at the back of the seat
ahead of me and reading how, if we crashed
into water, I could use the seat cushion for
a flotation device. Comforting, very comforting.
"Ladies and gentleman," the pilot announced,
"we have now reached our cruising altitude
of 21,000 feet and I have turned off the seat
This, you can imagine, was more information
than I needed to know and I promptly passed
out for the rest of the flight. Or at least
until the pilot started descending. "Stair-stepping"
down they call it, dropping a little at a time.
Each time the plane dropped my stomach remained
at the previous altitude and the pilot refused
to go back and get it for me. The guy sitting
next to me handed me a bag and I wasn't even
Then it was on to Seattle, and on that flight
they had a movie but I didn't want to pay the
$5 for the headphones because I was afraid I'd
need the cash for Pepto-Bismol. The nice
attendant offered me a chicken sandwich that
looked similar to a bagel that had been run
over by a herd of buffalo and smelled
suspiciously similar to something buffalo
herds leave behind, so I declined, got a
Diet Coke and concentrated on keeping my
stomach somewhere below my heart.
From Seattle it was time to get aboard
this narrow prop-job airplane to get to
Kalispell, Montana. I have nothing against
prop-job airplanes, and I'm sure they're
quite reliable, but I could not help glancing
out of the window now and then to make sure
those puppies were still spinning, you know?
That's the bad thing about jet engines, you
can't look outside to see if they're still
But at last the plane was on the ground in
Kalispell and the props were spinning down
to a standstill and I got off the plane and
you know, Montana could have been Baghdad
and I still would have been thankful to be
But it wasn't Baghdad. Montana was something
wonderful. I looked around, expecting to see
someone holding a handwritten sign reading
"STOUFF" or "ROGER" or "CHITIMACHA BOY" or
even "HEY, SCAREDY-CAT YOU MADE IT TO MONTANA!"
That's what they do at airports in the movies
when the people meeting there don't know each
other, right? I did get excited when I saw a
guy holding a handwritten sign with a name that
started with "S" but when I looked back it was
"Schwitzelgruber" or some-thing like that, not me.
So I'm standing there waiting for my luggage -
still fearful that I'll be without my clothes
and fly rod - and looking around, wondering if
they forgot to send someone, or if they called
the office right before I left canceling the
whole thing and nobody from the office let me
know, when I see this guy walking with a buncha
papers and a book under his arm. I glanced then
glanced away, then glanced back, and noticed that
the book was Native Waters by yours
truly. At first I thought, "Wow, what's the chances
of that? Someone flying into or out of Kalispell,
Montana brought my book along to read on
the flight!" Then I realized the chances of that
were actually infinitely improbable and that I
was getting a sign, after all.
So then I was in Montana, shaking hands
with Mick, the show's writer and my
transportation across Glacier National
Park to Browning, Montana and the Blackfeet
Reservation to fly fish for trout. Oh, and
yeah, my luggage made it, by the way, though
it was at least half a day before my stomach
caught up with me. ~ Roger
It's out! And available now! You can be one of the
first to own a copy of Roger's book. Native Waters: A
Few Moments in a Small Wooden Boat
Order it now from
or Barnes & Noble.com.
Roger will also be giving away three autographed copies to
readers. Stay tuned, for an announcement on the Bulletin
Board on that soon.