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Dan Bailey By Larry Myhre

Entered by Gary Howey

Former tournament angler, hunting and fishing guide. Inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing "Hall of Fame" in 2017. Active member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), Past Executive Director (AGLOW). Howey has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 with his award winning syndicated "Of the Outdoors" columns appearing in magazine, newspapers, and tabloids throughout he upper Midwest and nationally.

August 20, 2020

During the mid-1970s when I made my first trips out West to fish the blue-ribbon waters of Montana and Yellowstone National Park, Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop was definitely a destination. I liked to fish the Yellowstone River where it swept through the appropriately-named Paradise Valley. Just downstream a ways from the valley was Livingston, Mont., home of Dan Bailey’s. I still remember my first trip there. It was like visiting a shrine, this one devoted to fly fishing. There were more fly rods than I had ever seen before, most of them fiberglass but there were a few bamboos. I remember one barrel nearly filled with used bamboo fly rods. On the walls hung cutouts of big trout, all over four pounds with the angler’s name, date and where caught penned on them. In a back room there were rows and rows of tables where women sat and tied flies for sale in the store and by mail order. Dan designed a lot of new flies which were dynamite on Montana waters and elsewhere. The Marabou Muddler was one of them. Another was a woven stonefly nymph pattern named the Mossback Nymph. Dan introduced that fly in the 1940s and by the time I was there they were woven with brown monofilament for the backs. I probably still have a couple of them somewhere around here. My cousin Denny lived in Billings, Mont., at the time, and we visited the fly shop together. Dan was never there the few times we stopped in. He was probably fishing. A couple months after Fran and I got home, a small package from Denny came in the mail. It was Dan Bailey’s catalog, and it was autographed: “To Larry, Dan Bailey.” I’ve kept this catalog in pristine shape since that time. I treasure it not only because of Dan’s autograph, but for the photograph on the cover. The photo is a Dan Bailey’s Royal Wulff sitting in the water with an out-of-focus angler in the background. It was taken by Erwin A. Bauer, a legendary outdoor writer and photographer. When it came to writing and photography, Bauer was my hero. I studied his work, and I think my style of outdoors writing emulated his. He was, by far, the most prolific outdoor writer ever. He wrote under many pseudonyms, but my favorite was Ken. S. Bourbon, which he said stood for Kentucky Straight Bourbon. He published over 2,250 feature stories, mainly for the big three Sports Afield, Outdoor Life and Field and Stream. His son writes that the Oct. 1963 issue of Sports Afield carried six feature articles by his father with only two under his own name. His magazine writing was primarily through the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Then he focused on books and published nearly 50 of them. I got to meet Erwin several years ago at an outdoor writer’s convention in Duluth, Minn. I was amazed by the fact he was about 6-foot, 6-inches tall and very friendly. He was a veteran of World War II, where he was wounded and received the purple heart, and the Korean war. There will never be another like him. Oh, Dan Bailey’s was bought from Dan’s son this spring. It will continue to carry on the fly-fishing tradition its new owners say, but somehow, I don’t think it will be the same.

 

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