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On Fishing Dogs

Updated: Feb 8


Fishing dogs.
Porter. A very good fishing dog.

As I sit here in Ennis, it’s -30 degrees outside. Did you see the minus there? Just checking. I’m really sorry (not really), but I have zero interest in venturing out to go fishing. So I thought about what I could add to the fishing reports/blog that wouldn’t be the same depressing account from all of us guides about how cold and snowy it is, and how we’re looking forward to seeing colors besides white and black sometime in the future, hopefully. We all feel this way right now. And dwelling on it more is not helping me.


That’s when I took another drink of coffee, that may or may not have baileys in it, and I looked at my 13 year old Wirehair pup who’s been with me on countless fishing trips. In that moment, I reminisced about all the times we’ve had together on the water. Fishing dogs are awesome. Well, the ones who can keep their paws out of the fishy holes are cool. The other ones are cool too I guess, in a piss you off one minute then looking super cute the next minute kind of way.

Photo of fishing dog and angler casting
Scout. A good dog. But a good fishing dog? Well...

We all know who you are (no names mentioned, Scout). Look at that fool in the photo. No, not the angler. Although he can be foolish too. The brown dog. The swamp poodle. Scout there. It’s taking every fiber of strength in that dogs shivering body to not launch in after his owner’s sculpin streamer. You may say, “but look how good he’s being in that photo,” and you would be correct for that exact moment in time but look at that thing again. He’s soaking wet. He inevitably jumps in EVERY SINGLE TIME. But Scout is a very good dog. He just can't resist the urge to cannonball into the water. I can respect that.


Then there are those dogs who couldn’t give a shit about the fishing, but that skunk hole or beaver den back down the river – now that’s a different story. They peace out and you spend the rest of the day yelling for them aimlessly walking around in tall grass fields with a fly rod, nowhere near a trout. You’re yelling obscenities and strange command phrases and generally drawing peculiar looks from other anglers (Looking at you, Mr. Bud). But aside from fishing. Mr. bud is a very good dog. He's quite possibly the ugliest dog I've ever known, but he's been my companion on the water for over a decade.

Fishing dog in a drift boat.
Mr. Bud. A disheveled looking pup, and gives zero f***ks about fishing, but a real sweetheart.

Very cute lab in a drift boat.
"What are you looking at? This is my boat, bitch."

Another favorite of mine is the, “shotgun” fishing dogs. They always gotta have that front seat in the drift boat don’t they? Freaking EVERY TIME. And why are these dogs always the biggest ones – all proud and soaking wet in the bow of the boat catching your fly line on their feet and pacing from one side of the boat to the other - LOOGIT, A DUCK! – then bam just like that they’re gone. Jumped out of the boat, pulling drag off your reel from the tangle around their paws now churning in the river and you have to pull over and spend the next 30 minutes reeling your backing up and yelling at them. Most of the time these dogs are labs. Very good dogs in general. And very useful dogs, at times..., when hunting. But they're also very stubborn and very strong.


But every now and again, a good fishing dog comes around and as the owner of a bad fishing dog, I look upon them in astonishment and bewilderment. How is this possible? A good fishing dog? He doesn’t jump in the river in your favorite hole you’ve hiked a mile to fish. He doesn’t force you to spend you’re entire afternoon soaking him in hydrogen peroxide solution to remove the skunk smell. Nor does he spontaneously leap from the boat at any given moment ruining a line you’ve been setting up for half a mile. He does what he’s told. Jumps off the boat only on command. Goes and does his own thing leaving you alone while you fish and then whaddya know, when you call him he comes back, jumps in the boat and goes to his “place.” He even does funny cool dog things like dig rocks out of the river on command. See Porter there up at the top? He’s a good fishing dog. He belongs to Warren Berg, fellow fishing guide and general badass. Maybe Warren has all the secrets?

Drift boat and fishing dog on the Madison River.
Mr. Bud, being a very good dog.