By Montana Grant

Posted: July 16, 2023

Over the years I have guided boatloads of fishermen. Some were celebrities, many were newbies, and lots of kids. I enjoyed fishing with all these guests.

When guides reflect, they think about days when they caught lots of fish, had lots of fun, and maybe managed both on the same day. A great catch day may have been 20 fish or so to the net. If limits were involved, everyone would fill them. Surviving a long guide season is also satisfying.

Guides also reminisce about their favorite client. I guided President Carter on Big Hunting Creek, Steven Seagal, Hank Williams Jr. and many other famous folks. Lots of lawyers, Doctors, teachers, and veterans. These days were great fun but not my most special day.

Guiding Bertha was the BEST! Bertha Comfort was an Alaskan woman. Her husband, and son Norm, were also in the boat. We were just hoping to catch a few fish and have a fun float. The Lower Madison was our river for the day.

Mr. Comfort was a fly guy. He was a pilot that flew Bronco scout planes in the Vietnam war. They were the parents of my buddy, Norm Jr. He would be the photographer. I planned a nice lunch, prepared to find the fish, and hit the water.

Not everyone cares to fly fish. Bertha knew how, but also enjoyed spinning gear. She rigged up her favorite spinner and took her seat in the stern seat. Her HUGE HAT shaded the crew like a beach umbrella.

We were not 100 feet from the access ramp when Bertha hooked her first fish. I quickly netted a fine rainbow and rowed across the river. “Get the net” was shouted a few moments later. Mr. Comfort had yet to tie on a fly and Bertha had already brought 2 trout to the net. This is how the day went.

Eventually Mr. Comfort hooked up and was happy to get in the game. Bertha never let up. I am convinced that the stern seat of the drift boat is the fish catching seat. On this day, Bertha proved it. Browns, Bows, and even a couple whitefish fell to her silver spinner. She never lost a fish!

I had sharpened her hooks and directed some of her casts, but Bertha was a fish catching machine. Some of the trout were small and average in size but several were monsters. When we drifted near Doc’s Hole, Mr. Comfort tagged a big Brown. I anchored the boat and climbed out to net this beast.

As we fished, joked, and told stories, Norm Jr. filmed the day. Bertha sat in the seat and caught dozens of beautiful trout. Her laughing echoed through the canyon as she shouted for me to “get the net!” We all had fun and both anglers caught plenty. The proof is in the video that her son filmed.

I have never had a client catch more fish than Bertha. The net was never dry on this special day. When I row my drift boat, I swear that I can still hear Bertha’s laughing. When I turn around, I hope to see her sun hat, and smile.

Sadly, after returning to Alaska, Bertha’s health declined. At her funeral, Norm showed the video of the great day when Bertha caught every trout in the river!

Fishing is an amazing sport. The fish are just the excuse to take us to beautiful places, cool waters, and make wonderful friends. Montana is about as close to heaven as you can get. I am sure that Bertha is hooked up and calling for the net in that great trout river in the sky.


Montana Grant

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