Doug's Bucket List

An angler shares their take on a day of fly fishing like no other in memory.

Written By Greg Keeler (Author's Bio)
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ILLUSTRATION BY DEREK DEYOUNG
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“IT’S THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME,” I SAID TO OUR CAT, DOUG, ONE MORNING LAST SUMMER AS I LURED HIM INTO HIS PLASTIC CARRIER, THEN SET IT ON THE PASSENGER’S SEAT OF MY PICKUP. “Time to go fishing.” Even though a woman down the block thinks it’s a sin to give pets human names, my wife and I call our massive, black shorthair “Doug” because we’re loathe to utter nicknames like Baron Van Snugglebug.

The negatives to this expedition might seem obvious to most readers, but I’ll enumerate a couple here for the sake of contrast. Like many cats, Doug is horrified at the prospect of water. At home, he’ll only drink from a small bowl that has a rug under it and is wedged safely in a corner. If I carry him anywhere near a sink, tub or toilet, his legs go like propellers until his claws latch firmly onto anything in proximity (arms, clothing, face, etc.) to avoid the possibility of a dampening. I was also apprehensive about such a sojourn owing to the possibility that, once I opened his carrier near the river, he would bolt for the top of a cottonwood and offer himself up as fodder for woodland critters.

On the proactive side, I don’t have a dog and have always envied anglers who take their dogs fishing, even though dogs will dash into the water to retrieve a hooked fish. Lord Fuzzy (OK, I lied about nicknames) has always been particularly dog-like in his loyalties, attempting to follow me on walks and romping through the front yard to greet me when I return from work, so maybe, I rationalized, he’d have a dog’s affinity for fishing. Lending to my sense of urgency on the matter, Dr. Chubbyromp was over 15 years old, and the previous spring he had suffered a brush with the grim reaper when the vet removed a ball of pus the size of an egg from his groin. All said, I was determined to put fishing on Doug’s bucket list.

So that afternoon I drove him to Williams’ Bridge on the Gallatin and lugged his carrier about 100 yards upstream, careful to stay below the high water mark and avoid the wrath of Ted Turner’s minions. When I set Doug on some rocks next to the river and opened his hatch, he didn’t budge, so I reached in and he nailed me good.

After telling him to go screw himself, I proceeded to cast, immediately side-hooking a pig of a whitefish and working it into the shallows before Fatso’s plastic box. All that quivering fish was too much for him, and he stuck his front half out onto a rock where he took a couple of bats at it so that it drenched him and went screaming for deep water.

These days, Doug seems to have acquired a second wind, pursuing his toy mouse around the living room with the avidity of a kitten, perhaps so he won’t appear so pathetic as to require a bucket list and another trip of a lifetime.
           
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