Updated: Apr 17, 2021
If you are a fly fisherman...or any kind of fisherman for that matter, you most probably have a fishing hat. If you are anything like me, you have multiple fishing hats. I have six fishing hats. One is just for the saltwater and five are “general purpose”. They all have a thing or two in common like a “sweat line” where the cap and the bill meet and they all have multiple flies stuck here and there as little “trophies”...reminders if you will of the fish caught while wearing that hat. I know many who have a “lucky” hat. I even know a guy that has names for at least several of his hats and one of them is “Fred”. I know because he once left his hat in my truck and when he realized he had left it, he asked for my keys so he could “go get Fred”.
Well, I have “The Hat”. It is a Bailey straw cowboy hat. It is now retired, like me, but many years before me. Why I bought a straw hat in the first place is a mystery to me...straw is not the best choice in the rain and I seem to fish in the rain quite a lot.
"The Hat" was purchased in the summer of 1977 in West Yellowstone, Montana at Eagle's Store. It was sold to me by Walter "Wally" Eagle himself. For those of you that have spent any time in West Yellowstone, you know Eagle's Store. If you have ever driven into or out of the West entrance to Yellowstone NP, you drove right past Eagle's Store. It is located on the corner of Canyon St. and Yellowstone Ave. Yellowstone Ave. is the street that leads into YNP and Canyon St. is the "main drag" of West Yellowstone. The store opened in 1908 and was one of the first three business in West Yellowstone. It is now on the National Registry of Historical Places. Perhaps more on my West Yellowstone experiences later...
Eagle's Store sold all of the very best brands of "cowboy" hats and boots and western attire. I also have had two pairs of their boots. In 1984, I was strongly urged to replace “The Hat” (it was a Bailey) with a Stetson 4X Beaver by my relatively new wife. Replace is not exactly the right word as I continued to wear “The Hat” when my wife was not present. For many years she accompanied me on many fishing trips to Idaho and Montana. In her view, “The Hat” was an embarrassment as the result of use and abuse it had suffered in the six years before our marriage. She called it ugly...I called it character. She is now an ex wife...not over “The Hat”! Again, I still have it and may well ask to be buried with it.