Blackfoot Country Fly

I have written before about the history of fishing in Niitawahssin — the historical territory in Montana and Alberta of the Niitsitapiiksi or Blackfoot People (the name actually means “Real People”).  Recently, I came across mention of a fly that seems to have originated there.

Not long ago, I acquired the hardbound version of the late George Grant’s book, Montana Trout Flies (Champoeg Press, 1981). This book is an amazing source of information about Montana fly fishing, written by one of the true masters of Montana’s unique fly tying styles.  This makes the book’s rarity very frustrating.  The interested person can purchase a reprint of Grant’s first edition (1971), which was self-published, from the Big Hole River Foundation.  Unfortunately, only the long out-of-print hardback copy includes colored plates of the historical flies described by Grant.

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Among these is the “Duck Luck Woolly Worm.”  As most people know, Duck Lake is on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, and during certain periods (including now, I am told) it has been an amazing rainbow trout fishery.  Grant writes that the Duck Lake Woolly Worm was particularly popular among white sportfishers visiting the reservation in the 1950’s, but he does not address its origin.  As far as I can tell, fly fishing was practiced in the area as early as the 1870’s and was probably picked up by a few Blackfeet not long after.  It is entirely possible that the Duck Lake Woolly Worm was first tied by a tribal member.  Either way, it is exciting to see that a particular fly can be traced to Blackfoot Country.

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After inspecting Grant’s color image of the Duck Lake Woolly Worm (unfortunately, he does not identify the maker of this particular fly), I remembered seeing several of them among my grandfather’s flies.  This makes perfect sense, since my grandfather spent a great deal of time on and near the Blackfeet Reservation.  He passed away when I was still young, however.  So, I obviously won’t be learning anything more about the fly from family sources.  If any one else has some information, please share it.  And if you are interested in fishing at Duck Lake, contact tribal member Joe Kipp, who runs Morning Star Outfitters.

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