A raft with three men illegally pulled into the unusually not busy boat ramp with two laughing anglers at 4:47. The third man on the oars was bellowing right along with them.  I was eating lunch leftovers of cold hard boiled eggs in the shade.  The voyeurism was welcome.

The broad chested man on the oars was chiding them for their lack of faith with impressions of themselves.  “Oh why did we come to Montana when the fishing is so bad?  I should have stayed in Pennsylvania to poorly cast tailing loops to stocked pellet heads at the municipal fishing pond.  My cousin Billy’s secret spun deer head pellet fly is soo deadly!” The oarsman’s tone was a whining caricature of a heavy New Jersey accent.  I wondered why some men can insult with impunity and others cannot.

The oarsman leapt from the boat as he beached the raft. He fired one more shot over the bow as he headed up to the parking lot to get his truck and trailer. “At two o’clock I got pretty smart didn’t I Bob?” Both anglers nodded and started passing their phones showing off the day’s catch.  The oarsman was moving quickly up the incline with his head down, but when he crested the hill to the parking lot his pace slowed to an intense crawl. He became nervously erect and scanned in a wide arc. There were only two trucks with trailers in the lot. Mine had a boat loaded on it and his was empty. He was going to find me in the shade soon.

Without saying a word he wheeled back down the ramp and spoke quietly to the anglers. They handed him the rods and he quickly cut off the flies and broke the two rods down to eight sections.  I couldn’t hear anymore of their conversation except one exclamation of “Why?”. He shot that man a viscous glare before he crept back up ramp.  As he cleared the ramp his shifted to an innocent carefree stroll, but his eyes still kept intensely searching for me. He found me under the cottonwood and started to laugh.

“I thought it was you, no one’s boat is uglier.”  he said. I thought maybe he got away with the derogatory because it is his native language. Somehow his fluidity with that tone made it lyrical. Or maybe it was the best he could do, so his friends tolerated it out of pity.

“Did you have a good full day?” I asked.

“You tell me.” he said

“I would guess it picked up for Jersey Bob after 2 p.m.” I said

“When you have the right flies, fish get caught. You should try it.” he said

“I’ve seen your 4H junior high fly tying class project flies, so that can’t be it.  More like fishing a closed river might have overcome your hack fishing abilities.”   Some men that communicate in insultish can take it too. He could.

“You mean that stupid Hoot Owl thing. I had my son sacrifice a big Hoot yesterday. Feathers everywhere. I hate those things. I’m free of the fascist FWP.” he grinned

“Nice for you and Jersey Bob everyone else plays be the rules. Empty rivers help the catching cause quite a bit.” I said

“They do.  Nice to be away from you off-early-cowards who can’t stand up to the government. Besides I’m legal.” he grinned

“Killing an owl is also a crime.” I said

“Only if you get caught and they are out of season.”

“They are never in season and have nothing to do with Hoot Owl restrictions”

“In your little Mr. Dudley Do right book.  I am an free spirited western man. You should get off your knees and try it” he said.

“Being a strong individual has nothing to do with picking on protected fish on hot afternoons. “

“Fake news” he retorted.

Jersey Bob started shouting about beers and getting going. That popped the oarsman into high gear to jog to his rig and load up his boat.

He flipped me off with an eye roll and said “Tough to prove anything when the only witness is a beer drinking egg sucking boat ramp creeper.” He tossed me a cold beer as he backed down the ramp. Before he drove off he threw me two more beers.

You can tolerate much from a man with free beer.

To say that I was friends with the oarsman would be a stretch.

The State of Montana reduces legal fishing hours when water temps rise over 73 degrees for three consecutive days. The nick name of the restriction is “Hoot Owls.”  Anglers are required to be off the water at 2 p.m. when these regulations are put in place. Dead owls don’t effect its duration.