Stupid Is As a Stupid Fly Fisher Does

Forrest Gump gets credit for the line “stupid is as stupid does.” But I suspect this aphorism originated with a fly fisher. After all, fly fishing brings out the best and the worst in a person’s behavior. I can imagine one fly fisher laughing at another who has just fallen face first into a stream while trying to move too rapidly over the slick boulders beneath its surface and then saying, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

In this post I offer a few of my more stupid fly fisher moments:

Stupid Fly Fisher Hiking

One of my “stupid” moments happened a few years ago at 10,000 feet above sea level in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was fishing with my brother, Dave, and my Uncle Ivan. Dave I and were in our teens. Our Uncle Ivan was old enough to know better. The plan was to take a short-cut to the upper reaches of a mountain stream which had a healthy supply of brook trout.

You can guess what happened. We got lost.

A half hour after realizing we were lost, my Uncle Ivan feared that our quest would not lead us to the little stream. I simply feared for my life. We had been following a faint game trail. This trail must have been made by Bighorn sheep because it took us over a ridge line onto a steep hillside. Before we knew it, we were hanging onto small Aspen trees to keep from sliding into the canyon below us.

A snowfield loomed ahead. How did we end up here? Stupid is as stupid does.

We finally found a flat spot where we could sit without the fear of sliding down the steep hillside. My Uncle Ivan decided to eat his lunch. I was too scared to eat. Just then, we heard a helicopter and saw it flying up the drainage in between our hillside and the opposite one. We all started waving and shouting, “We need help.” But it never changed direction or speed, and soon it was gone. What were we thinking? Was the helicopter pilot really going to see or hear us? If so, would the pilot really assume we were in trouble and begin some sort of rescue mission? Stupid is as stupid does.

Although my Uncle Ivan resembles a character right out of a Patrick McManus tale, he is an astute woodsman. He scanned the steep hillside and noticed another trail on a bench above us that would take us on a much gentler grade. It took some work to scramble safely up the hillside to that bench. But we did it. We hiked for another thirty minutes until we found the object of our pursuit.

For the next two hours, we caught so many brookies that we forgot about our peril. We fished far enough downstream to find a more substantial game trail, which led us to one of the trails maintained by the National Park Service.

The fishing success seemed to repress the memory of those scary moments on the side of the mountain.

I didn’t think much about it until a year later when I tried to take my younger brother, Kevin, around Upper Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park to get to the “better water” on the other side of lake. Before we knew it, the bank had ended and we were on a steep stone cliff with intermittent seeps of water. We ended up hanging onto scrub brush so that we would not slide down into the glacially cooled lake. I wondered what I had done. With one slip, my parents would lose two sons. Since I’m writing this, you know that I made it around the lake safely.

So did my brother. What else can I say, but … stupid is as stupid does.