The local sudsers at Bayern Brewing recently redesigned the packaging of their Trout Slayer Ale, changing the name to “Dancing Trout” and adding a snazzy new label painted by Monte Dolack. And while the name change alone is intriguing, the image is downright curious: a man slow-dancing with a 5-foot trout, both characters miraculously suspended above the surface of a lake, a la the Gospel of St. Matthew. Some locals have called the image “suggestive,” by which they mean to suggest that it looks like a man well on his way to third base with a Westslope Cutthroat.
As a lifelong fly fisherman, I’ve found the new label to be a reliable conversation starter, or finisher, depending how the other person feels about the image. One friend, a consistent critic of the fishing outfitting industry, was thrilled. He thinks the new art aptly describes my odd and obsessive behavior. “Jurgen [Knoller, Bayern’s owner] is a genius,” he concluded, chuckling. Another friend said simply, “I hate it.” Mixed reviews.
One could hardly argue with the brewery’s intent. The label positions the ale as “the celebration of a lifestyle,” and a portion of profits is going to Montana Trout Unlimited.
But just as some fly fishermen are purists, some fly fisherman don’t consider their relationship with their quarry sexual. And any fly fisherman will tell you that they enjoy the experience of being on the water and on the hunt more than actually catching the fish. Most of us, after all, usually let the fish go. Given the psychic directive offered by the new Trout Dancer label (and recent warm-water fishing closures), I decided to test the theory. Could I have just as much fun not catching trout at all?
I decided to fish with my hooks cut off for a few days. Last week I hit a small local stream hook-less, and miraculously I still had a good time. Not as good a time as I have actually catching—not to say slaying—the little bastards, but a good time nonetheless.
So next time you’re rolling down the river casting to risers and kicking back with a cold Dancing Trout, ask yourself whether you really want to hook that lunker patrolling the eddy line, or just give him a big wet kiss instead.