Fly fishing as a group

(Mike Manhardt, author, is shown in the far left of the above photo)

I recently was invited to join a two-day Adaptive fly fishing camp outside of Bozeman, Montana by the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). After a relatively recent spinal cord injury, I have not had the opportunity to get back into fly fishing, and certainly not a fully guided expedition like this. My new abilities post-injury always makes things challenging the first time I try it, but I had no doubt that the people at CAF had the skills to help me through the learning.

Even though the invite came at a short notice, I jumped at the opportunity because I know that Adaptive recreation opportunities in Montana are few and far between. Recently, I had been yearning for more adventure in my life, so when CAF offered to put me up at a hotel in Big Sky, Montana I “jumped” at the opportunity. Thursday night after work I packed a bag, loaded into my van, and Headed to Big Sky from Missoula Montana.

Friday morning, I met up with the group and was literally carried into a boat and given a fancy Rod with flies tied on the line. I was told where to cast, when to cast, and how to fish better to have an action filled day. Cast after cast, fish would rise and take our flies. Some running down stream, others trying to go under the boat, but all eventually into the skillful hands of our guide Mike. A true prodigy on the sticks and a wizard with a one-handed net. I was enamored by the amount of action the fish presented considering there might have been more boats on the lower Madison than I’ve ever seen on any one river. Personally, the afternoon left me exhausted because of all the action and huge bagged lunch prepared by Mama Mac’s café at Four Corners.

Longing for some rest, I retired early to my hotel in Big Sky, and I slept soundly until my alarm went off Saturday morning to alert me of the coming day on the river. Again, the team at Gallatin Guides carried me to and from the boat, packed me my lunch, tied all my flies and insured that I was catching fish all day. I don’t know that I have ever caught as many fish in one day of my life prior to that. I know it has nothing to do with my technique, and everything to do with the team around me. Once again, all I’m left with is gratitude for the effort that goes into creating opportunities like this for persons with disabilities.

No matter what a person’s ability is, the boat levels the playing field for all. While casting a rod, everybody looks the same and has the same disadvantage of trying to convince a tiny little fish to eat something that looks like a bug.

A special thank you to Nancy and Wilson of CAF, Mike, and the other guys at Gallatin guides. My heart is full because of your generosity.

Best regards,

Mike Manhardt