The tradition of the Fins & Feathers Yellow Jersey started back in 2005, maybe it was 2007. Somewhere along the way, I had developed a reputation as being the living, active “World’s Greatest Fly-Fisherman.” This may have been self-proclaimed, to be honest.
This was very much pre-Hank Patterson, but very much along those same lines – so don’t take this too serious – it was just something I was having fun with.
My employees, and even other anglers often disputed my claims as the one, true “WGFF.” They would bring up incidences likes sinking drift boats, getting hooks stuck in my head, missing fish, breaking off Permit, and being outcast by a 12-year-old fly-fishing prodigy. Humbug, I would say, and bring it on if you think you are better!
So, we started a one day tournament amongst ourselves to take place among all of our Bozeman fly shop and fly-fishing guide staff. We close the shop for a day, early summer, and everyone brings their “A-Game” with the hope of walking away with the famed Yellow Jersey for a year. The rules are simple - Montana fly fishing for the single biggest trout wins.
There have been many winners over the years, all deserving in their own right. I have always felt that it would be inappropriate for me to compete at a serious level – this is a team building event - so I typically row all day, pretend to be tangled in the back of the boat, or fish with a broken hook through the good stuff. No, I have never won the coveted Yellow Jersey.
I was asked once how is it possible for me to consider myself as the WGFF, if I have never won the tournament. My response was concise – I made the Jersey, it is of me.
If you tried to come to our Bozeman fly shop this past July 4, we were closed and on the lower Yellowstone River, locked in serious competition among our peers. The fishing was tough that day, most other boats were blanked or rowed out by 11 as they saw us rolling down the river and knew that their day was to be filled with disappointment and anxiety as the Fins & Feathers crew rolled by, double hook-ups from ramp to ramp…all day! Ok, maybe we were the only ones down there, the river was high, off-color and we squeaked out 4 fish between the 7 or 8 of us. I don’t remember exactly how it all went!
The result, however, was a new champion was crowned. Yankee Jim ruled the day and walked away with his head held high and that smirk of quiet satisfaction etched in his face as he puffed on his American Sprit and downed another cup of coffee at 4 pm in the 97-degree heat. I think he was wearing his waders.
Be sure to congratulate Jim and ask him to tell the riveting tale of his ride to success on the fateful Independence Day of 2017. Yankee Jim is the WGFF!
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