I remember the morning like it was yesterday. Actually, it was yesterday. I had hiked down from 3-Mile Access early in the morning because the evening before I had left my fishing vest on the grassy bluff at the bottom end of the Snag Hole. “What an idiot,” I thought to myself. It’s probably gone. Some fisherman has already hauled it off.
The water was low and I was able to wade across various channels to get to the other side of the river. The cool of the April morning was invigorating. Some of the invigoration was due to the fact that I had a hole in my breathable waders just below the right knee. I was scheduled to work in the fly shop later that morning, but I figured I had time to find the vest, plus pick off some rising trout before the crowds showed up. The fish are up on midges early this time of year and it was still 30 minutes before sunup.
As I climbed up the bank near the area where my vest was, I notice several rise forms downstream. This was going to be epic, but first the vest. I topped the rise just a few feet from where it should be laying. My heart sank. No vest. Crap! Probably some guy from Laurel had hauled it off, or some flat-billed “dude” from Denver. Or Bozeman—Bozeangeles. Those guys from Bozeangeles have been getting on my nerves lately. Don’t they have enough water over there? They have to come over here and steal my vest. I’ll have to watch for it on Craig’s List.
Then I noticed some movement to my left. Someone was emerging out of the draw about 300 yards away, heading toward the hills to the northwest. He was a big guy, huge actually, and he was carrying my vest in his left hand as he devoured the countryside with stride after huge stride. Must be one of the Grapevine Ranch’s hands, but I didn’t see a pickup. He looked back and I could have sworn he grinned. The bastard was taunting me. This was too much. I set my fly rod down and began running after him. He shifted gears into a trot and even though I was nearly sprinting, I was losing ground.
Something was strange about this guy. He wasn’t wearing any clothes and he was covered with hair from head to toe. Okay … Missoula. I’ve seen people like this from Missoula. There was a group of them playing hacky sack down at the campground not long ago. Then it hit me: this guy was just too big and hairy. Could it be … a Sasquatch? A Sasquatch was stealing my fishing vest! But this wasn’t Squatch country. I had watched several episodes of “Finding Bigfoot” and Bo Bo always said that Squatches like heavy timber, brush, or thick swampland. But this Squatch was trotting through a prairie dog town on his way to grass-covered hills.
I kicked it into high gear but I had to watch out for the prairie dog holes. Finally, exhausted I topped a hill about a quarter mile from the river. As I did, I looked down and noticed the Squatch disappear into a thicket of buffalo brush in a draw almost half a mile away. This was crazy but I was going after him. Besides, I had my Iphone with me so maybe I could sneak in there and get a picture of him, the blurrier the better judging from other Squatch photos I’d seen on the web. Maybe I could get interviewed on one of the Bigfoot shows.
I finally made my way to the thicket’s opening where I followed a well-worn path into the thorns. I know it was crazy but there was over a thousand dollars’ worth of trout flies in that vest.
I wound my way through the thicket for a couple hundred yards and then burst out into what looked like a cave. It was actually an undercut bank with a canopy of brush overhead. And then I saw him, sitting there on an old recliner that was fairly well crushed by his bulk. My fishing vest sat on the ground near the chair. I was still breathing hard but this guy … err … creature, was sitting there quite calmly, staring at me and sitting in a chair no less.
“Have a seat,” the Squatch said in a deep voice, motioning toward a cottonwood stump on the other side of the room. He sounded a little like James Earl Jones but with more gravel in his voice. I must be losing my mind I thought. A Sasquatch is talking to me. Then the Squatch lit up a cigarette and I knew I was.
“C’mon, have a seat,” he said. I decided to forget the logic of all this and do as he said.
“That’s my vest,” I said, pointing toward it shakily.
“You left your vest near my river, so I was just doing a little clean up.” He blew smoke from his flared nostrils while he scratched the matted hair on his conical head. Unfiltered Pall Malls I noted.
“Look,” I said, “I’m not sure if you’re real or if I’m having an allergic reaction to Advil, but do you mind me asking as to just what or who you are?”
He crossed his legs and took another drag on the cigarette. “Well, I guess you humans calls us Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, or any number of names. What did you think I was?”
“That about covers it,” I said. I just wasn’t aware you … creatures … could speak. I have a lot of questions.” I looked around the room again. “I guess my first one is, do you plan on hurting me.”
A wry smile creased his broad face and he stared at me intensely. Then he said, “Depends.” He reached behind the recliner for something and I was momentarily panic stricken. Was he reaching for a weapon? Wait a minute. Why would this 400 pound creature need a weapon? He then extracted an aluminum fly rod case and handed it to me. “I was hoping you could send this in for me on the warranty program. Been broken for over a year. My favorite rod.” He handed me the case. Inside was a Sage 590-4 ZXL.
“Not a problem,” I said. “Got one of these myself. Great rod.”
“Absolutely,” he smiled.
Maybe things were going to work out, but I had to be dreaming or hallucinating. But a knot on the cottonwood stump I was sitting on told me otherwise.
“Okay,” I said, “glancing again around the brush-walled room. “Mind if I ask you a few questions?”
Not many people have interviewed Sasquatches, but I highly recommend it if you get the chance. Come to find out they’re very intelligent, speak perfect English, at least here in the States, come out mostly at night, and even bury their dead. I guess that explains why nobody ever finds a carcass. This one came from a family in Idaho, but decided to strike out on his own after a disagreement with his father. His father wanted him to marry a second cousin from British Columbia. “She was uglier than a mangy Yeti from the Kumbu,” the Squatch told me.
I’m not sure what constitutes an attractive female Sasquatch, don’t even want to know, but I guess this validates the existence of Yetis in Asia. I changed the subject.
“So, uh, what’s your name?” I asked, wondering if this was a legitimate question.
He stared at me as he grabbed a Bic lighter and fired up another Pall Mall. “Clarence,” he said. I rubbed my chin in an attempt to suppress a smile.
“This is bad,” I thought to myself. If I laugh this Squatch might stride over here and break my neck. “But Clarence?” That’s got to be the all-time worst Squatch name.
Clarence was watching me intently. “Go ahead and laugh,” he said. “I’ve heard it before. My father has a sick sense of humor.”
Clarence had heard about the fishing on the Bighorn River from family members who lived in the Pryor Mountains. His Pryor Mountain Squatch brethren made trips over here now and then for food. The news spread quickly—the river was full of fish. Clarence had walked, and sometimes jogged, over here from Idaho. It’s no big deal for Squatches to cover 50 miles in a night. Apparently these primates have been fishing from time immemorial, but only recently have they adopted fly fishing. It’s now extremely popular among the Sasquatch upper class. It injects a little fun into the mundane job of acquiring food. They gather gear and tackle that scatter-brained anglers leave behind, and sometimes they’ll lift something from an unsuspecting camper. There are even a few outdoorsmen and pawn shop owners who are “in the know” about the Squatch community and help the hairy critters acquire all sorts of stuff, cigarettes for example.
I glanced at my watch and realized I was going to have to cut the interview short. There were still so many unanswered questions. How had they remained hidden from humanity all these years? Do they have written history? And were they ever planning on revealing themselves to the human race at large? But I guess these answers would have to wait.
“Clarence, it will probably take three to four weeks to get this rod back from Sage. You want me to walk it up here when it comes in?”
“That would be great,” he said. “Come visit and I’ll feed you some prairie dog stew. I probably don’t have to tell you that the location of my hideout is our little secret.”
“Of course.” What else was I going to say? I’d have to figure out how to decline that meal later on. Prairie dog stew. Yikes! I got up from the uncomfortable stump chair.
“Anything else I can do for you?” I asked.
“Maybe we can float the river together one of these nights?
“Nights?” Oh, of course.
“Great.” Clarence stood up, handed me my vest, then shook my hand, crushing my knuckles with a loud popping sound.”
“See you soon,” I croaked, trying to sound casual despite the pain.
“Later,” he said.
I hiked back to the river rubbing my hand, wondering if any bones were broken. What an experience! Then I remembered my fly rod, the one I had laid down when I went in pursuit of Clarence. It was right over there.