Gary LaFontaine wrote about fly fishing since he was 15 years old. Author, lecturer, publisher, father, psychologist, scientist and perpetual student of the art and beauty of fly fishing, his best-selling books include Caddis flies, The Dry Fly, and Trout Flies- Proven Patterns.

Gary LaFontaine was representative of the other side of the coin with respect to fishing with canine companions. Anyone that fished with, or saw Gary fishing, in the last ten years knows that he was never without his faithful angling cohort, Chester, who was the epitome of the perfectly trained fishing dog! To quote Gary,” He would never bother anyone else…. and that’s good etiquette.”

However, Gary was quick to agree that one should never take an untrained dog fishing, if there is even the most remote possibility of disturbing someone else’s day. Therefore, he agreed to also share a tale of his daughter’s dog, Enuk, who’s fishing etiquette is not as perfect!

“Fishing Among the Barbarians”

By Gary LaFontaine

Even walking around Deer Lodge with my daughter’s dog, Enuk, is quite an experience. Brave men cross the street... women grab their babies and run screaming for the nearest storefront doorway.

Taking him fishing is a guaranteed disaster, but I truly love him (everyone knows I’m goofy about dogs) and there was at least one benefit to having him with me last summer.

He’s purebred Malamute...longhaired, very large, and very beautiful. I’m the only one he’ll listen to and that is conditional (he sets the conditions). His name means “pretty wolf” in Eskimo.

I went to the Missouri River and it was so crowded that I couldn’t even find a place to fish. I kept checking my secret haunts, and finally found a channel against a backwater island.

Enuk crossed the channel and ran over the top of the island and disappeared. Usually he runs in the water whenever I’m going to cast and looks for trout. This time I had a pod of sipping rainbows all to myself.

Before I could make my first cast, a drift boat pulled into the upper end of the channel, no more than 50 feet away from me. The guide climbed out and gave me a long dirty look that said, “We’re here and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

His clients looked like son and father. They sounded like foreigners (anyone east of Billings) to me. And they couldn’t even look me in the eye. They just waded in and started fishing right above me.

In a few minutes the old man, a little guy about five foot and a hop, hooked a nice jumping rainbow. At that moment Enuk came bounding over the hill. The same Enuk..but by now he had swum in the river, rolled in the mud, and run through brambles.

He came off that crest full speed and hit that little old man right behind the knees. He wanted that fish, but the guy was flat in the water and Enuk’s favorite game with my dog is to get on top of him and push him under the surface. He was just so happy at finding someone who wanted to play “Drown the Mutt” with him! The old man would try to get up, screaming and sputtering, and Enuk would knock him back down.

The younger fellow came running up and reached out for the animal. Enuk spun around, so happy he was grinning (which shows a lot of teeth) because his second favorite game is “Grab the Arm.”

The young guy starts backing away, wailing, “Is that a wolf? Is that a wolf?”  I’m downstream wailing, “My God, it’s a wolf! My God, it’s a wolf!”

Enuk turned back to the old guy, who had climbed halfway up, and hit him with a clean shot right between the shoulder blades, driving him out into the river and completely under water.

The guide came running down, took one look at Enuk and decided not to annoy him. He turned to me, huffed downstream, and asked loudly, ”Is that your dog?”

“Yes, it is. I keep him around to keep jerks like you out of my water. Why?”  He could argue with me (while his client was drowning) or be nice. He changed to nice. “Look, I’m sorry. The river is so crowded and I had to find a spot for them to fish. Could you please get your dog?”

I grabbed Enuk and they got the old man, crying, hyperventilating, and hysterical, into the boat. They never even said thanks...they never even waved goodbye.

(Gary wrote, “ This story was certainly embellished, for the fun of publishing it in my Newsletter, ” the Book Mailer.” The “victim” wrote a great letter, which appeared in the next issue of my newsletter.  He said I took him and his son fishing the next two days, which was, in fact, true.

Gary’s Solution?

The legend of the Ghost Wolf spread quickly. For the rest of the season I could show up anywhere on the river and within minutes I’d have a half mile of water in either direction all to myself. Who says that there’s no on-stream etiquette among the barbarians anymore? There’s always some way to skin a cat, but this one is on the far side of the manners spectrum of fly fishing with man’s best friend!

On Fishing with Dogs - an excerpt from “Rod Rage”
Gary la Fontaine
1946 - 2002