Many, many years ago I used to frequent a certain oil change business here in Bozeman, MT. There was an older gentleman that used to work there, and he was in charge of meeting customers and making small talk as they waited for their vehicles to be serviced. I can’t remember his name, so I’ll call him Tom. He was a super friendly guy and he always talked fishing with me as he noticed all my fishing gear I always kept in my truck. I never thought much about our conversations as I only frequented the business every 5000 miles.
One summer day, on a day off, I was out running errands and swung into this business to get my oil changed. As I went into the waiting area, I was greeted by Tom and he seemed extremely happy to see me. After exchanging brief greetings, he reached under the counter and handed me an old fly line box full of flies. He explained that he had these old flies and wanted to know if I would like them. I took the box and gave them a quick look. I was very intrigued and thanked him for the gift. We continued making light conversation, mostly about fishing, and 30 minutes later I paid for the service and headed off to resume my errands.
I knew some of the flies were not very desirable, but there were a few that really piqued my interest. I am sure many of you have seen the movie “A River Runs Through It,” the classic Robert Redford movie about Norman McLean’s story about his family and fly fishing in Montana. There is a scene in the movie when the two brothers are fishing across the stream from each other, and the older brother, Paul, is catching all the fish and his brother, the more serious fly fisherman, is getting a little annoyed. If you remember, he was using a Bunyan Bug. Well, in my box of newly acquired flies were a couple of Bunyan Bugs. I had never seen one before and was tickled to now have them. I really didn’t know what to do with the box of flies, so I put them in my closet and occasionally, I stumble across them. Every now and then, I pull them out and think about “Tom” and his generous gift. He must have had that box under the counter for weeks waiting for me. I have never used them; I was just proud to have some uncommon flies that have a rich Montana history. Maybe one day I will put them in a shadow box or display them properly. But I smile every time I come across this box, knowing there is some rich history and the man who passed them on to me.
There is a webpage I have found that has the history of the creator of the Bunyan Bugs and many great pictures of the variety of flies he tied. You can check it out here.