Fishing with Goats

by Steve on March 21, 2010

There is a distinct danger to my wallet involved with the display of my canoe at Deep South Outfitters.  My last visit resulted in a new fly box to reorganize my collection which hasn’t seen water in two years, a recommendation on an out-of-print book that I subsequently found on Amazon, and yet another book that the manager highly recommended – Fly Fishing the Mountain Lakes by Gary LaFontaine.

Gary died back in 2002 of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 56 after a lifetime of fishing and the study of the same.  From Connecticut he attended the University of Montana in 1963 for the fishing to be had and never left.  He got his degree in behavioral psychology and did his thesis on the feeding habits of trout.  This was not just a college kid that wanted to fish his way through school.  His studies of trout habits often involved scuba gear.  The end result of his passion was a prolific career as an author and still-water fly fisherman.

The store manager saw me flipping through Gary’s book of the above title and asked if I’d ever read any of his work.  Told him I’d never heard of Gary before.  “You’ve got to read it.”

This particular book alternates between technique and story telling.  The stories are hilarious and the techniques unique (using dental floss instead of fly line to float a fly in the breeze on a windy lake, letting it tap the surface).

Gary spent much of his fishing at various alpine lakes and as he got older the hiking and climbing with all the gear became too much.  He eventually used all manner of pack animals including college students, horses, mules, llamas, alpacas, and goats.

The difference with a goat is that if it is raised by a person, preferably bottle fed and kept close to its owner, it doesn’t think like a “herd animal.”  It becomes a true pet, not just a beast of burden.  A horse always thinks it’s a horse; a llama always thinks it’s a llama, but a goat thinks it’s a person.  The psychology is much closer to that of a pack society – a wolf pack – than it is to a herd mentality.

One of his frequent fishing partners had a goat named Rufus who was, by all accounts, a marvelous pack animal and a joy around camp. Several of Gary’s friends were also convinced and wanting the same characteristics displayed by Rufus they all went to the same breeder who had the peculiarly simplistic habit of naming all his males Rufus.

We celebrated with a dinner of pork chops, fresh corn, and wine – thanks to the Rufus gang because I don’t carry bags full of groceries in my arms anymore. The goats strolled around the campsite, the little bells tinkling in the dark, and the dogs, six of them among the four of us, waited for scraps. All of them waited except Zeb, who was tied up to a tree because Rottweilers don’t beg, they demand.

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