GUIDE PROFILE DAN "ROOSTER" LEAVENS: ON GETTING THROWN OFF-STAGE AT WILLIE/MERLE, PARENTING AND HERDING SHEEP IN THE NUDE
Here’s the deal: if you’re looking for a white-lightning, high adrenaline host at a fishing-focused lodge situated in the heart of the angling capital of the planet, Rooster Leavens is your man and the Stonefly Inn in Twin Bridges, Montana is your spot. Rooster is an accomplished hunter, featured angler in Confluence Films’ recently-premiered Waypoints, and former USCG rescue swimmer and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more charismatic, trout-savvy and high energy guide in the Lower 48. Yellow Dog's Sarah Grigg was able to catch Mr. Leavens at his fly shop in a rare moment of repose:
Your summary of the 2013 season?
It was challenging, low water and other factors, so we had to resort to being very sneaky. We’re spoiled in Montana because the fishing is so darn good. It’s easy to get down when the conditions change. But this is reality, even if we forget it most of the time. This is not a canned fishery. We have fires, we have low water, and like I told my guides, “You’re gonna get out there and figure out how to fish around it.” And they did.
Everyone thinks that fishing guides do nothing but fish in their spare time. What other hobbies do you have?
Bird hunting . . . actually, pretty much fishing. I have always said if I can’t fish for it, hunt for it or dance with it – I generally don’t mess with it. Part of living in Montana is living off the land and using what the Rockies provide for a family. In that, you find yourself doing a lot of fun stuff in the off-season. But yeah, mainly fishing.
What’s your theme song?
“The road goes on forever, and the party never ends”, by Joe Ely.
Best Concert You’ve Been to?
Probably Buffett. I’m not a big concert-goer. I always seem to get thrown out.
I got on stage with Willie and Merle in Vegas . . .
How lucky. They invited you on stage?
If you call crawling up on stage an invitation, then yes. My wife was really impressed.
Did you touch Willie’s beard?
I never really got that close. I tried.
Favorite figure in Western History?
Aldo Leopold. He did a lot for conservation and had an eye for what could go wrong with the human race and trying to manage wildlife.
You’re a dad, right?
I’ve got two daughters, ages 2 and 8.
What advice would you give to fathers with daughters?
Since I’m still reading the book myself, I would say embrace it and let them be who they’re gonna be. Be yourself around them. Children are drawn to people who are like their fathers and mentors. For example, my daughters live in a fishing lodge – wait a minute. Does that mean they will want to marry fishing guides?
Well, you know, they get exposed to all kinds of people and it’s good for them. If they want to dress up like a princess for dinner, let them do it. People enjoy it.
So you’re fully familiar with the entire squadron of Disney princesses?
I’m kinda’ in charge of everything that’s not pink, but yeah, I know my princesses.
Which Disney princess would be the most likely to fly fish?
Ariel, the mermaid, of course.
Speaking of mermaids, what’s the strangest/most disturbing thing you’ve seen on the river?
Perhaps the strangest thing one of my guests has seen is more appropriate . . . One time, I had two guys from New York in my truck. We weren’t technically on the river yet. They were pretty dry and I felt like I needed to loosen them up. There was a pasture with about 3,000 sheep in it. I pulled over, took off all my clothes, hopped the fence and started chasing the sheep. I yelled to them to hurry up and join in. That loosened them right up.