Dog Fishing
"The Fish Journal" Issaquah Press, Published October 22, 2008
By Dallas Cross

Picture of Geraldine fishing with Cozie
Gerry and Cozette Crossing Warm River

    September, having just past, brought remembrance of traditional fishing vacations to Idaho to try the trout streams near the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. Just after Labor Day my wife, Gerry, and I would load up the car with gear, supplies and our dog, Cozette, a large standard poodle of unlimited energy. We would make a two day drive to Ashton, Idaho where our cousins maintain their old homestead ranch house for recreation near the Wyoming border. The ranch is conveniently within a few minutes drive from Fall River and Henry’s Fork where we fly fish for rainbow and brown trout.

This year we didn’t make the trip, partly because Cozette recently passed away and partly because of gas prices and other distractions. I looked forward to the trips not only to catch the trout in the streams and rivers, but to also be a voyeur on the bank watching my wife cast her fly in the current under the poodle’s constant attention. Gerry is singular in her concentration while fishing, and so is the poodle moving its head with every cast and shivering in expectancy. Cozette would also survey the water surface, turn her head towards rising trout and then look back as if to guide her mistress where to cast to the quarry.

The real excitement came when a beguiled trout took Gerry’s fly and started jumping. With Gerry yelling and the poodle lunging in the water they would play the trout near to net. Then the competition of who would be first to grab the fish began. To screams of, “back Cozy,” both would try to seize the quarry with swishing net and snapping jaws competing. The result was that Gerry’s last three trout were knocked off the hook by the tussle and both came up empty. I was left with a creel full of mirth that I had to subdue in my consolation of the distraught competitor with the net. I also had to retrieve the poodle from the river who was continuing to paw the waters hoping to find the escapee trout.

One September we camped on the Western edge of Glacier National Park and using our senior U.S. Park passes fished the Flathead River that flows south from Canada through the wilds of Montana. Gerry was casting flies on the river with our poodle at her side. She has a penchant for wearing what I call her Miss Marples fishing hat and presents an image of a proper, British lady while fishing.

Watching the lady and her dog I noticed a canoe round the bend coming down from the untrammeled upper reaches of the river and carrying two adventurers on a wild river voyage with their camping gear in water tight bags. Although I could not hear them, their actions of animation signaled that they had sighted the strangely dressed lady and attending poodle standing in the middle of the river in what they thought was untamed wilderness.

The two men in the canoe became calm upon approach and with courtesy tipped their caps while drifting past the pair. A bit further downstream I could see them bent over and observed the canoe rocking in response to their laughter. Gerry, was nonplussed but a bit slower on her reactions and had to keep several mountain whitefish that had swallowed the prince nymph fly before she set the hook in their mouths. Our meal that evening was quite bony, but very tasty.

Both my wife and I learned to put aside the occasional inconvenience of loosing a fish from canine exuberance, untangling a fly from a curly coat of hair, and fielding glances of dog-disgust over a missed fish strike. They really mattered naught when put in the context of the unconditional love we received from our now greatly missed family member.