Written by: Carolyn Long
[Editor’s Note: I guided (and shared a house) with Matt Long at Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge back in 1994, and we recently reconnected at an Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Bozeman. When I knew him at Hubbard’s, he was still in college, but he was a fish-catching machine even then. He’s now a well-respected fly-fishing guide, which was always his plan. His wife, Carolyn, sent us these great pictures and the story to go with them.]
Matt got stuck sitting on two Armstrong Spring Creek rods one Sunday last month. With the Yellowstone blown out (still) and folks canceling trips, we figured this would happen at some point. So, Matt said, “Let’s take Catherine and Elizabeth fishing.” I had doubts, concerns, and worries galore—mosquitoes, deer flies, 50-degree water, cold little legs and toes, boredom from not catching a fish every five minutes. I mean, this was one of the spring creeks, not exactly your first choice fishing destination for small children. I figured whatever happened, we’d be okay with a good supply of snacks. So, I packed snacks while Matt packed the gear and kids, and away we went.
Matt decided to bring some scaffolding we had in the garage for the kids to stand on in the creek so they wouldn’t get cold and so they could reach the fish. There was something quite beautiful that morning about watching Matt schlep scaffolding into the creek with two fishermen 30 yards above us looking like they were ready for the cover of Fly Fisherman. Not to mention that we didn’t show up until about 10:30, and they’d probably been standing in that spot since 8:00
Matt then packed the girls out onto the scaffolding, set me up with a rod, and within five minutes I’d hooked a nice rainbow. About five minutes later, Matt hooked another fish and let Catherine (age 7) land it. We then spent the next two hours hooking fish and letting the girls reel them in amidst giggles and shrieks from the scaffolding. (We did try to get them to be a little quiet.) I started feeling kind of bad because the guys above us never even hooked one. I wanted to shout words of encouragement or let them know our porter wasn’t just “Dad,” that he was also super-guide-extraordinaire. I didn’t need to bother, though, because they moved up to another spot about 100 yards away after about an hour. I didn’t blame them.
I think one of the best moments was standing next to our four-year-old, Lizzie, who was sitting on the scaffolding. She wrapped her little arm around my neck and stared out across the creek, chattering on and on about the birds and the fish and the deer and when was daddy going to get back with her grapes. In the midst of this happy asphyxiation, I hooked another 19-inch rainbow that jumped and ran all over the place. Lizzie squeezed her arm a little tighter and whispered “Good job, Mom” in my ear. As I handed the rod to Lizzie—who promptly shrieked and broke off the fish, followed by silly laughing and hugs—I couldn’t help but think how this moment would not have been possible without Matt.
I don’t know if you realize this, but your good guides don’t just find fish or tie on the right flies; they also provide experiences that you absolutely could not have without them. Who else would have thought of scaffolding or had the skills to prop up two kids on a 12-inch plank and hook wary trout? It made me quite jealous of all the people who get to be on the water with Matt every day during fishing season. We’re his family, and we had to wait for a record high-water year and a cancellation to book him. His clients don’t know how lucky they are.
Carolyn Long is the wife of guide Matthew Long, who is based in Livingston, Montana.