On Tuesday July 30th I departed Maine for a whirlwind tour of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming in support of my upcoming book 25 Best Towns to Fly Fish for Trout. Nine of the towns featured in the book are located in these three states.
My wife - and designated photographer - and I drove from central Maine to Boston with a 2-day stop in between in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We were chasing some small stream brook trout for another book project I am working on – 25 Best Places to Fly Fish for Brook Trout. Once in Boston we hopped an early a.m. flight to Bozeman, Montana.
After landing in Bozeman we headed toward Missoula, stopping at Rock Creek to meet an old friend - former owner of Lopstick Lodge in New Hampshire, and current owner of Savard Hospitality Consulting - Lisa Savard. After a much needed dinner at Ekstrom's Stage Station, we settled into Lisa and Tim Savard's semi-retirement cabin on Rock Creek. For the next 3 days we floated the Blackfoot, Bitterroot and Clark Fork with Blackfoot River Outfitters. We spent an enjoyable night around a campfire at a block party on Rock Creek. We also got to walk around Missoula a bit and enjoy some fine dining at Montana Club, Silk Road and Old Post Pub.
The next stop was Ennis, where we stayed at Rainbow Valley Lodge. The first morning we fished Ennis Lake with The Tackle Shop. We drove to Twin Bridges where we took pictures around town, ate lunch, and fished the Ruby with Four Rivers Fishing Company. The following day we returned to Twin to float the Beaverhead with Four Rivers Fishing Company. Between Twin Bridges and Ennis we stopped at Nevada City and Virginia City to walk around and take some pictures. While in Ennis we walked around town a bit and enjoyed two great meals at Alley Bistro and 20 Below.
Next we drove to West Yellowstone. While there we stayed at Stage Coach Inn. The first morning we fished Hebgen Lake with Madison River Outfitters and spent the afternoon shooting pictures around town. The next afternoon we met old friend Ron Sorenson - owner of Primetime Outfitters - at Raynolds Pass Bridge on the Madison. We launched a boat behind Kelly Galloup's Slide Inn and fished our way back to the bridge where we had a quick beer before parting ways. While in town we ate two fine dinners at newly expanded Bullwinkle's.
Our next stop was Island Park, Idaho, where we settled into our riverside room at TroutHunter Lodge. The first afternoon we floated the Box Canyon (Henry's Fork) with TroutHunter. The next morning we fished Henry's Lake with TroutHunter. On our way out of town we stopped by Harriman's Ranch (Henry's Fork) with our guides from the previous outings to fish for a few hours and take some more pictures. We enjoyed great breakfasts, lunch, and dinners at TroutHunter, and spent some relaxing time in the Last Chance Bar & Grill (TroutHunter) and out front of the lodge talking with owners Jon Stiehl and Rich Paini, their guides and shop staff.
On to Ketchum. We settled into Airport Inn in Hailey before heading into town to take some pictures. The first morning we went to the Nature Conservancy land on Silver Creek for the trico hatch. After that we waded the Big Wood. The next morning we headed to Mackay to fish a private beat on the Big Lost with Lost River Outfitters. After a break for dinner we regrouped and headed back to Silver Creek with Lost River Outfitters for an evening spinner fall and some twilight fishing. Coincidentally, our guide was Cody Catherall who I fished with at night several years ago on Silver Creek. While in town we ate great dinners at Sushi on Second, Ketchum Grill and Cellar Pub.
We headed to Jackson, Wyoming with a quick stop in Heise, Idaho to float the South Fork (Snake) with old friend James Osmond and Heise Expeditions. While in Jackson we stayed at Virginian Lodge. Upon arrival we headed straight for Flat Creek. The next day we floated the Snake with guide and author Boots Allen and Snake River Angler. The next day we headed to the Gros Ventre with Snake River Angler. While in town we spent a memorable hour conversing with renowned painter of Native Americans, J. D. Challenger. When he learned I was from Maine he made the odd - and oddly prophetic - observation that that is like him being from New York City. We enjoyed fantastic meals at Silver Dollar Grill and Snake River Brewing Company.
Next we pushed our way through Teton and Yellowstone National Parks on our way to Cody. While there we stayed at Buffalo Bill's Antler Inn. Before settling in we took in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West - the most impressive museum I have ever visited. We fished the South Fork (Shoshone) the first day and North Fork (Shoshone) the next day. Both days we were guided by Tim Wade and North Fork Anglers. I spent one of my most enjoyable evenings of the trip sitting in front of the Irma Hotel listening to live cowboy music, drinking locally brewed Stout, and smoking a fine Cohiba. The fact that Diana stayed until closing shows that she enjoyed it as much as I did. While in Cody we had some great meals at Wyoming Rib & Chop House, Geyser Brewing Company, Irma Hotel and Adriano's Italian Restaurant.
Our last stop was Livingston, Montana. To get there we pushed our way back into the park via the east entrance and drove north through Hayden Valley, Tower, and Mammoth. We took our time going through the park, stopping to take pictures and get lunch. As we made Paradise Valley we stopped to spend a few hours each on Armstrong's Spring Creek and Dupuy's Spring Creek. Once in Livingston we checked into the Murray Hotel for the last two nights of our trip. We spent our last full day floating the Yellowstone with John Bailey and Dan Bailey's. We enjoyed two more outstanding dinners - and some great Margaritas - at Montana Rib & Chop House.
The morning of Saturday August 24th found us kneeling in front of the United Airline counter at Bozeman Airport being forced to rearrange and repack our luggage to avoid paying an additional $200 in fees. Thanks to some help from one of the airport hosts we were able to get everything on the plane without incurring any additional costs. Ironically, even though we had increased our carry-on luggage by one bag - and taped 2 rod cases together so they would be counted as one - the extra bag ended up being checked at the gate for free due to a shortage of space in the overheads. Sometimes the good guys still win.
We arrived back home in Maine on Sunday after a late night flight into Boston and a brief overnight at a friend's house. As is always the case, the whole thing was over as fast as it started. More than three weeks spent fishing some of the finest trout waters in the country were now behind us. While there we had taken more than 40 gigabytes of pictures that we now needed to sift through. The task of unpacking and getting our home, yard, and fly shop back in order still lie ahead of us. We caught lots of fish - and some good ones - saw some awesome scenery and wildlife, spent some time with old friends, made some new friends, and otherwise lived the dream.
Special thanks to our fishing, lodging and dining hosts and those who helped us with logistics. This book is a trust fund project being done on a fly shop owner's budget. Without the help and generosity of our hosts, this trip - and by default this book - would not be possible. Please show them the support they have shown us, and indirectly those of you who buy the book and benefit by its content.
If there is a downside, it is that the trip removed any doubt - if in fact any still existed - as to where we belong. We hear the west calling. The voices are getting louder and louder until they have become a scream. The west just feels like home to us and always has. As fly fishing writer and author Thomas Ames Jr. once wrote: "(I am) a western fly fisherman stuck on an eastern fishery." Maybe 50 Best Places to Fly Fish the Northeast will mark the end of one chapter of my life, and 25 Best Towns to Fly Fish for Trout will mark the beginning of another chapter...
Kennebec River Outfitters