by Eli Fournier
In early November, we load up the truck. Fly rods, camping box, cooler, canoe. Eleven hours to Montana. Gas is pricey, but worth it. This year’s lineup is better than the last: Big Horn, Yellowstone, Madison, Missouri, Ruby. A direct path through Wyoming, and we’re in St. Xavier by late afternoon.
Napping on the banks of the Big Horn, we’re rudely awoken by a curious black bear. Licking his chops, he wanders off. Must be something tastier to eat. At last light, mayfly spinners fall down thick. A local gives us a “secret pattern” of his own invention. Big browns move several feet to eat the concoction. But there’s a schedule to keep. Onto the next.
Dead-drifting sculpins in Bear Trap Canyon, we hopscotch rattlesnakes thicker than all hell. But who cares? The fishing is too good. Then a thunderhead booms overhead. It just wasn’t meant to be. We race the four miles back to the car, waders soggy with sweat and rain.
The Missouri is hot. We camp at Holter and catch walleye off the dock—with nightcrawlers. They crackle in a cast iron with hot oil. We share stories with a couple older folks. They tell us about a gravel bar. Follow the high bank until the guardrail ends. Scramble down from there. Huge rainbows are in shallow, green backs arching across the gravel shelf. We cast dry flies until after dark, then it’s back in the truck.
The Ruby is an uncut jewel. The canoe flips, but we salvage everything. Low water and the browns are hungry. Shooting fish in a barrel. Lying on the bank, relishing the last of the fall rays, we wonder why we live three states away. Someday we’ll move to Montana, we think.
Eight years later, here we are. And the road-trips continue. What’ll it be this season? The Blackfoot, the Bitterroot, the Big Hole? Hell, let’s hit them all, in one fell swoop. Off we go—load ’em up and head ’em out.