I just returned from four days of fly fishing on the Bighorn River in Montana, arguably the best trout fishing in America and certainly better than the Potomac where I’ve pounded the water for hours raising only a blister – but that’s another column.
Montana’s 19-inch brown trout and its Barbra Streisand beauty – brooding and complex, but not for everybody – aren’t the only reasons I schlepp to the West whenever I can.
I go to Montana to feel special.
Special is really a child’s game. On birthdays, we give them gold crowns and name them “star of the day.” We ballyhoo all achievements as if the spotlight were as vital as the sun.
“You zipped your jacket! Hooray for you!”
“High scorer on the soccer field! Way to go!”
My kid’s backpack once contained a cheat sheet containing 101 Ways To Praise: Wow. Super. Remarkable. You’re incredible. Now you’re flying.
We tell our kids they’re special – not just special to us – to sow the seeds of self-love, which we pray will eventually fuel romantic love, and mother love, and love for parents so they’ll stick us in a retirement home with clean floors and decent food.
Special lasts a long time -- through college, first weddings and pregnancies.
But in time, the fuss dies down. Trophies and “Now you’re flying!” banners are reserved for extraordinary achievements, like winning a Pulitzer or lowering your cholesterol.
Mostly, blending like a fawn in a forest is OK with me. I go about my business as another middle-aged, McLean woman, ordering Lattes how I want them -- tall, skim, no foam, 140 degrees -- pushing food carts down Safeway aisles, waiting in line for $20 car washes.
But every now and then I yearn to be the center of the wheel, not just another spoke.
That's my cue to dig into my free miles and book a flight to Billings, Mont., where even under a big sky, a solo fisherwoman stands out among the land’s stubble of pitch pines and cottonwoods.
I started fishing in Montana 30 years ago by accident. I pulled into the Parade Rest ranch in West Yellowstone to ride horses, and pulled out a fishing junkie in thrall to watching a rainbow trout gulp my dry fly then launch itself into the air, as much to show off its beauty as shake that damn fly from its lip.
I am super, remarkable, a star in Montana, not because of my drag-free cast (I wish), but because there are so few of me there.
When I stow my fly rods in the plane’s carry-on compartment, my seatmate asks where I’m headed and what river runs through it. Rental car attendants light up when they find I’m driving solo 90 miles to the Bighorn on the Crow reservation -- where Custer made his last stand.
Lodgers want to know everything about me when we chew the fat at the Fort Smith Fly Shop and Cabins, where I stay because owner Ellyn would drag the river if I didn’t show up for dinner.
When did I begin fishing? At age four: I caught a sand shark bigger than me.
Who taught me to cast a fly rod? Several fly fishing schools and dour guides.
Did my father fish? Nope, my grandmother.
Does my husband fish? Hell, no: On a river, Greg is even more tortured than the trout.
In Montana, I’m a rare bird, exotic and inimitable.
Now, isn’t that special.
Lisa Kaplan Gordon writes every Wednesday about her real house-life.