Sacrilege On The Big Hole?

Ask a hardcore, elite fly angler to cite the two most profane words in the English language and he’s likely to say, “bait-fishing.” With that understanding, one can only imagine what those wader-wearing fly-flingers are saying about the proposal to open a portion of Montana’s Big Hole River—one of the most revered temples in all of trout angling—to the Neanderthal nightcrawler pole-and-liners next year.Grayling_3

A story in today’s Montana Standard reports that the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is proposing a regulation change that will eliminate trout slot limits and allow fishing with bait on the Big Hole from Divide to Melrose.

The agency says the intent of the proposal is to protect the stream’s resident arctic grayling—the only population of the species found in the lower 48 states--by decreasing the number of competing non-native fish like rainbow and brown trout.

According to the Butte newspaper, the usual suspects--like fly fishing guides and flyshop owners--are claiming the proposal is akin to heresy, and will lead to throngs of knuckle-dragging, cane pole-toting yahoos crowding the banks of their sacred stream.

If implemented, the change would be effective from next year until 2011. The department is accepting public comment on the proposal until the middle of September.

Dave Dunmire of Butte told the paper that fly anglers’ stereotypes of bait fisherman are totally unfounded.

“They don’t keep all their fish,” the longtime bait fisherman said, adding that he keeps fewer than a dozen fish each year. “They have closed a lot of access off to people who like to sit on the bank with a worm. It would be nice to see that opened up.”

Hey, it’s time for the proud red wriggler aficionados to stand up and be counted!