Many of you think I spend my free time ironing Joe’s fishing shirts and making guide lunches. Hardly. My home is the home of Big Sky Anglers, and its stuffed to capacity with rods, reels, flies, a shop’s worth of fly tying materials, boots, waders, hunting gear, and bird dogs. My worldly goods consist of a tiny, tiny closet, one coffee mug, and shelf of books. Can’t live without my books. I spend my mornings reading, mug in hand, with a variety of titles, from classics to contemporary fiction.
Recently, my good friend and West Yellowstone librarian Steve encouraged me to try a new release, The Royal Wulff Murders, by Montana author Keith McCafferty. Skeptical of reading a book about fly fishing (seems like I experience lots of it firsthand), I found myself quickly immersed in this book. Centered around the lower Madison, from Quake Lake to Ennis, McCafferty’s murder mystery is cast with fisherman. Main character Sean Stranahan is a divorced artist, avid angler, and semi-private investigator who gets involved with a dead body found just above Lyon’s Bridge. Sheriff Martha Ettinger determines this man died of foul play, partially because his eyeball is impaled on a stick downstream of the body, and a Royal Wulff is stuck in his lip. Stranahan and Ettinger are joined by a motley crew of Montana’s best locals: Rainbow Sam, a smelly fishing guide famous for exploits on and off the river; Vareda, a hot Southern redhead who literally tangles with Stranahan; and Doris, the sassy manager of the local bar. Locals will recognize lots of places, including the Grizzly Bar, the Sheep Creek trailhead, Ennis Cafe, and the Gallatin Gateway Inn. Stranahan even takes a jaunt up to the Missouri and catches a twenty-five inch brown near the Wolf Creek bridge. The plot thickens with details like whirling disease, cranky nonresident landowners, and of course, just a bit of sexual tension. Stranahan is quite a player.
I know just enough about fly fishing to get my line tangled, yet still found this book quite readable. He imparts a true sense of the conservation and profound love of the environment I see from so many in the angling community. A few lines stuck with me, like “Trout are the ghosts of moving waters, gone like the dreams one longs to remember.” I like the investment McCafferty makes in each character, detailing just enough about the personalities and physical appearances. Vareda’s sultry southern belle-ness grew a little tiresome after awhile, but what crusty old fisherman isn’t a sucker for deep cleavage and impractical female fishing attire (both scenarios do appear in the book). I laughed in a few spots as well, such as Stranahan and Rainbow Sam’s favorite drive-thru espresso stand, staffed by ladies in bikinis and lingerie, called “Lattes & Lookers.” Can’t wait until that place shows up at Four Corners.
So, give this book a few afternoons in the hammock. I bet you will like it.
– Molly Moore