Thursday, July 17, 2014

11 Miles From Somewhere. (Take #5)

15 miles from downtown Bozeman MT.  Hard to believe you can have an Espresso or three at Rockford Coffee and  head out 19th Ave. South to a place like this within 30min..

This photo of my old fishing partner B.K. in his new FishCat  with the sun beginning to set and the moon in full view was just one of those magical days.  Calm waters on the back of the reservoir where the two feeder mt streams flow Ice Water into the man made lake.  Driving up the canyon, and around this reservoir felt like going back to the early 30's and looking at the cover of every field and stream magazine. The throw back feel was like a time warp sans the Boogie boards and new SUV's. amongst the old red canoes and sail boats moving across the lake in slow motion.

1/2 way down the mountain, we spent a week camping at Langhor deep in the woods on the banks of the hard rushing creek. No sound machine could duplicate what mother nature threw out that week at bed time. I thought the brookies there were nice eating size (10"), until  till some retired man walks by me at dusk on the dirt road with a 20" 3lb brown. Walking like Andy Griffith with his fish on a rope and a bounce in his old retired step he was a pretty proud ...... Pretty freekin, bait casting... worm throwing proud.  No challenge and no sense of stream etiquette say  the flyfishing snobs up and down the creek as he passed by whistling all the way to his fire pit. He did dine alone...

Now I'm not that foofoo but I do love flowers. There were a few mornings I picked some bouquets and deposited them inside a roll of toilet paper in the outhouse. Maybe not very manly, but the effect was appreciated by all.

In my camp site, there were two butterfly colonies that lived there next to the fire ring. Hundreds of violet and then orange one inch butterflies dried their wings each morning in the dirt and then landed on us as we made French Presses and Oatmeal.   Or Eggs and Trout, or Steak and Eggs, or Sausage and cheese, onion,garlic, provolone eggs... and more espresso.. Maybe they were hungry now that I think of it. Here's one that landed on my leg one morning. 
 And then there were the sunsets and stars by campfire.  Jane and I sat up one night with a fire during a 11/12th's full moon and watched a 3D cloud display pass by the moon with so many characters that we were laughing so hard we almost wet ourselves. And on this evening the very last image in the clouds that passed by was a cow. Yes a full cow in the clouds and I kid you not, as it passed over the moon, we both recited  "and the cow jumped over the moon".
Between those two big pines in this pic, the clouds just kept on providing God's little movie show with a light breeze.

Sadly we prob. woke up all our neighbors with our constant laughter but hey, laughter is much better then fighting, kids screaming and or the sound of RV generators...argggg.

The fishing on the creeks up there was cold and fast. I fished a bamboo sweet grass and jane watched as I caught my first Brookie on that 6 sided bamboo.  Throwing line in tight and small streams on tree lined banks is no easy task  but that 4/5wt sweetgrass 8'9" boo, was beautiful...
Jane filmed a bit of my fishing around site #7 one evening. Only kept one Brookie but it sure was and always is fun.

Waking up and sitting alone in the buck along a stream each  morning in the early sun and heat is something that just, well reminds me of what Adam must have felt like.  Everything is covered with dew and smells great and you kinda feel like at any time you could hear Gods voice outside of the creation around you. No obvious pics of any of that, but I did strap on a guitar and howell a few tunes in the morning dew.... which is nice..

So many things I did not get pic's of this trip. Friends along the way, Dogs, unique people, a lot of released fish, cool restaurants and hangs and more. I will tell you that although we carry a military shovel, the Montana DNR is pretty good about providing an old friend every so many miles along the rivers. God Bless Tax Dollars at work.
So I finished up my 18 days with my wife Jane who had flown in for the last 4 days to experience my camping style for the first time. Followed by an incredible dinner at the 2nd Street Bistro in Livingston as a guest of GM. Tiffany and owner/chef Brian followed by a gig in their old Murray Hotel Bar where we made new friends and established old ones.

At the end of this trip, I was reminded of what a good friend a good truck is. The Blood Mobile, as we call it,  my old 200k Expedition took another 3k journey on some fast and 4wd bumpy mountain back roads without a quart of oil and less noise from a lifter than my hip in the morning.  Thank you Ford.

What next?  Well, big trout in Wisconsin I hear on the "Rush". Ole Mark Dopkins from "The Good Guys" audio repair shop keeps sending messages like "I'm breaking off fish until I decide to quit and go home. Hurry over by 8:30PM"

Then of course there are my normal friends who want to play racket ball every afternoon or 18 holes of golf with any spare time.  I'm thinking about my next dinner to create, song to write, gig to book, event to plan, script to edit and verse of scripture to meditate on and get centered again...

Till then, breathe deep my friends. Everyone is truly a gift.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bridges of Madison County (Take #4)

There is absolutely nothing in this blog about the movie Bridges of Madison County excpet the ideas of the choices of Love, Saddness, Life and Death.
Looking at this photo of a fly coming to see what time it was on my TagHeuer watchband, I casually pulled out my phone and took this pic. There was a day when a 3 inch bug of any sort would send me into sheer panic and jumping around screaming in a high voice.  The only photo then would be of a squished bug.  Well, I watched a video years back by Madison River guru Craig Mathews on the Madison river. ( I still watch it in the dead of winter).  In a section this giant bug lands on him and crawls up his shirt across his face and plants itself in the shade under the brim of his hat.  Craig is fishing and filming and saying how these Salmon flies have no teeth and can not harm you. They are like a good dog. They just want to be next to you all the time. Ok, that would take some getting used to I said, and yes, it did and I'm ok with that.

Being at the Madison or anywhere in MT when this hatch takes place is an act of God. No timing, no planning ahead. Usually only the locals and very rich with lear-jets make it out for this short hatch.  I reckon it to the fishing version or storm chasers.. Instead of tornado's, they're looking for the Salmon Fly.   One day they crawl out of the earth or rocks and river and voila' it's Christmas for trout. More protein in one bite than a few hundred other bugs.  Yes sir the big boys who hide deep and in the shade all day till night time, come out and play during this frenzy by day...

Now here's a stretch of the W. Madison I walked to one evening. I sat here on the bank for a half hour enjoying the sunset and waiting for the fish to get active, and used to me sitting in that space doing nothing.  Fish are very away of everything above them in the river and any movement sends them down and "silent". It's why you try to fish from beneath and behind them. In wind and current it's just easier to fish above them and drift flys into their windows, but you have to sit and get them used to you in that space.  
Well I had looked at the salmon flys carefully around and crawling all over me. Under that brown top is a special color of orange  and a certain length of fly.  I had matched size and color perfectly at the local fly shop the night before and by God I wasn't gonna miss my chance because my flys' weren't a match on the only time I may ever fish this hatch.
I had been fishing  a 1/4 mile of bank that afternoon in the heat with little success, and had run into a bran new drift boat parked in my path on the rivers edge as I walked and fished . Well, it was three guys from MN.  Golden Valley, Uptown and Shakopee.  And yes they each dressed appropriately for their suburb of choice.  :)  They bought that beautiful drift  boat the day before in Billings and I was wondering where they were gonna store it.. You see most Midwestern fly fisherman travel by Air and hire guides on these waters..  Now the one from Uptown was using a 13ft Tenkara rod. PERFECT.... Only a few folks will get the irony in that one and I'm still laughing. Tenkara are the new "zen" flyfishing Japanese style rods. One piece with no reel...  Yup, like the old 15ft canepole you used for sunfish as a kid with a red and white bobber except now you spend 1,000. for one in the latest customized graphite.:)

Well I sat on the river edge there when an older fella looking like Burl Ives comes out of the high grass and says hello.  Unlike the busy streets of the world, where you're afraid to say hello to anyone in fear they might wanna fight you, on a river, every ones your brother "in rods".
  "How long you been fishing these waters" I say.  "Oh, bout 40 years here i guess".. (Geesh this guy even sounds like Burl Ives in this cool night with the sun starting to turn orange hues in the west).. "Since I quit my job in California and came here in '74 and never looked back.  You know the salmon flies are coming but nothing yet the last two nights here. I'll be coming here till the run is over."

 I wanted to ask him if he'd seen Rudolph and the other reindeer but instead I said thanks as he continues to point his finger. "Yea those three rocks there (in the above pic). I get some monster Rainbows from behind those rocks every year. Never on #4 Salmon Flies but only small #18 Caddis" he says. Hey, I said, if this is your spot sir, I'll move down stream.  Nah, and with a ho, ho, ho laugh he turns away. "I'm walking up stream tonight to sight fish, and he slipped off through the high grass.
I look back at the riffle in front of the first rock and then look at my salmon fly and begin a conversation.  Ok I said, this guy says its caddis and I should cut this off and put one on but I'm gonna throw you three or four times down that seam and then put you away. Folks, I may pray and talk to myself alot on rivers, but I don't actually talk to my flies. Well not unless the wind moves them sideways in a forward cast and they embed themselves in my head or arms or fingers. Then I call them suckers. More like "YOU SUCKER", followed by a deep breath and the pulling out of pliers to push them through and cut the barb off if possible. 
Long time blog followers may remember a blog over 10 years ago when I put a hopper in the back of my head on the SodaButte river and had to go the hospital in Yellowstone to get it yanked out cause we just couldn't get the light wire to come back out of my head skin. And I mean yanked with a capital Y.. at the hospital. 

Now back to the Madison.  On river banks, there is always trees and brush and grass and and and.. to get your back casts caught on, and ruin your moments of brilliant casting:)  This is the best way to learn to hate fly fishing. Novices should only fish where there is a clear back throw and no wind.. It's the only way to develop any confidence. We develop right and left hand casts, roll casts, side arm casts, bow and arrow, straight up and down, and then there's the mending of the line based upon current to achieve a 2sec. good drift over your spot...  There are days a spinning rig would be a whole lot easier, catch a lot more fish, and allow you to put a beverage in your other hand.. Never! That's for the trolling midwestern Lund laden electronic fitted alumicraft sportsman.

So I strip the line out of the reel I think I need,  and begin roll casting away from my target to get it in length and on the river with no room for a back cast.  Ready now I roll cast into the lane I wanted and I had a good drift of about two seconds when pow...  fish on.  Funny thing is, you know that your first cast is your best chance over any fish window,  but it usually takes a few casts to get it there and you're never really ready on that first cast. I had tied on a shorter leader with 4x tippet (5lb test) instead of the usual 4 or 3lb test we use that is so hard to keep a fish from breaking but necessary to thread small flies and not be seen by the fish. 

Not until the Rainbow jumped did I get a flash of Holy Crap and a wave of panic through my body. Any fish over 19" and 3lbs scares me. Honestly I've only caught one fish over 19" out here in all these years. I'd like to get them, but it seems the 12 to 17" trout are my mainstay and I'm quite happy with that.   Ok, now Craig,  where are the submerged tree limbs he's gonna try to pull down to, to dislodge. or deep rocks hide under and make me snap the line.   I jump in the river and start heading down stream trying to keep him from the trees and into a place I can land him.  I had a new net from a couple in Wisc. and I was gonna find out if he fit in it..  Well, not easily without curving.
 Trying to land fish and then take photos that don't look stupid while tryin to save a fish but not lose them by holding them gently with one hand and trying to take a pic with the other hand is way complicated. Oh yea, be sure you have a waterproof case on your phone in case you slip or it slips out of your hand into the water and you hopefully get it before it floats away...
 So this rainbow is under 20".  19 and 3/4 to be exact,  but was the fattest heaviest trout I'd ever caught. Remember friends that you can click on any photo in these blogs and pull up full size versions in a lightbox setting. It is one of the things about "blogspot" that I appreciate.   Now as you can see, this old boy took that salmon fly with such a vengeance that he pulled it fully through the bone on his upper jaw. If you click on the photo you can see the underside orange of the fly pattern I was talking about. 

So I landed this fish and took some pics and that's all I'll say about this fish ;)
I sat on the bank, put my rod away and took the slow walk back to my truck and then slow drive back to the home base tent camp.  

The next night before dark I decided to try out some replacement oars I'd found n Butte for my drift boat. Bigger waters on the Madison, I thought this would be a good chance to see how they did. Well I made the 2mile float in 45min and hardly fished at all.  So many submerged boulders that could send you flying or worse that the whole time was mostly spend trying move into position to avoid the rocks and river turns.  And the oars... I was amazed they made it 45min.  I'm guessing they are all made for use on lakes. So back to Bob Wards in Bozeman for a return and on to Sportsmans Paradise to hopefully get a set that would work better.  And I did and they did and in the next segment we'll head up to Langhor Camp on the way up Highlite Canyon South of Bozeman in the Gallatin Forrest where we'll float our boats on a high mt. Reservoir lake for the first time.  

Oh yea, and in case you're wondering if we eat fish... Here's and fantastic tasting brookie from the Big Hole I grilled on the fire in those rocks. And the grape juice was great with it:)

Headed back to Langhor now this afternoon. to prep camp for my bride who's flying in tomorrow for the next 6 days and my partner Bruce heads south into West Yellowstone and the Madison Valley again, in search of those "Ahhhhhhhh" moments with the God who hangs out in Montana.

Till I get some photos taken and write (Take #5) installment, pass this on to your fishing friends who wonder a bit about what the west is like out here.  PS. we went to an old historic theatre last night to watch a new B&W digital version of Gary Cooper in "High Noon" with Grace Kelly, Loyd Bridges and a host of young famous actors.  What fun. And the crowd may have been alot of blue hairs, but they at least new when to clap and when to be quiet:)

The greatest part of waking up is Espresso / French press in your ....jetboil....  cup.
 At 50 degrees, alot of dew, 6,000. feet and after bathing in a river at 40 some degrees like Adam, this is about as good as it gets friends.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Between the BigHole and Deep Blue Sky (Take #3)

The Big Hole is a river in Montana with quite a reputation for big fish and amazing views. It runs through some incredible canyon views and  flows North or N.East to join two other rivers to create the Missouri River.   We were not able to float the famous canyon due to bridge issues, but ole Bob Mac took us for 7hours down the BigHole in large winds and high temps this day.  With those winds in our face, I'm not sure he ever really stopped rowing and it's a big river to navigate, so kudos to BoBo for his upper body strength and a few carbonated cans of Malt.    You see our little float boats would not have fared well on the stretch we floated today and after my last Kon-Tiki experience, I'm thinkin lakes might be my best use of that boat. Ok, maybe I'll try it on the Madison in a few days.   This day we saw alot of fish and landed mainly larger Brook trout over 12". The colors in Brook trout are so amazingly different than other trout.  
They are like the painted cabin along the northern lakes of Minnesota/Wisconson.  Forrest Green with orange brown and yellow spots. I'm telling you, no mens tie could ever look more stunning with a brown corduroy jacket and a jean shirt the those colors on a brook trout. Just sayin.....
And the taste is in my humble opinion the best delicate flavors in all of the "Salmo" family for trouts.
 Well back on the BigHorn I had one Rainbow in the 20" range  but ole Bob took the hook out and thew it overboard before we could measure, let alone take a nice pic.  That's what happens when you're with friends.. ha! Catch and release is our motto unless were eatin dinner.  This is ole Bob after a long day rowing. Can't tell you what Tale or joke  he's tellin you right now but trust me, you'll laugh.

Now the heat that day was brutal and sadly my parther got sun poisoning and that kept him out of the sun the next few days where he had to just get in the car and ride around in the airconditioning till the sun began to cool around 8:30 PM...  

Like I said earlier, this camp spot was free and not on the map.. Bob had told me " go around a bend in the Mt. and you'll see a break in the guard rail. I'll have my blinker on for a second. You can take the hard right and go straight down that dirt road to the river. You have 4WD so you'll be ok... Well he wasnt kidding. it was mucho steep and the dirt paths to the field where we camped was, well, OFF ROAD.. and high grass up to the top of the hood in spots. But, other than mousquitos, it was fabulous and what a view.
Here's a pic of my parters tent and jeep parked along the river which was about 60ft from this spot and a great place to have morning "alone time with God".  
Ok, well i've blown my time in Bozeman today here at another coffee shop writing and uploading photos of this journey. We're going to see an old Gary Cooper movie at the old theatre tonight. Our one adventure into the old west on screen while we're here.    
Next stop i'll talk about the West Fork of the Madison River. I'll try to see if my new oars will make it or ?? And every fly fisherperson dreams of one day being able to hit the trifecta of hatches.   The infamous Salmon Fly Hatch..  In 30 years of flyfishing, none of my poor mortal friends could ever afford to jump a plane and head to these waters the day those suckers come out of the ground to mate and feed big trout.  

Episode #3 will be Madison Valley and I'll just tell you that we arrived at Ruby Campgrounds and I walked to the river to check it out. Guess who happen to come by and land on my watch to find out what time it was....

Mans Best Friend out west other than his dog..
The Giant Salmon Fly!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Leave it to Beaver (Take #2)

Montana 2014 #2 .. cont. 
I sit alone in my fav. coffee shop in Bozeman after getting supplies today. Great wi-fi and great coffee. I think back to a week ago on Sunday and I hear this voice... 

Hey Wally, dont tell Mrs. Cleaver but I was living somewhere between the Kon-Tiki and Castaway on Sunday. North of the Clark Canyon  Dam we had scoped out a section of the Beaverhead to float and fish that day.
   It was hot and the water was high and fast.  Not knowing what any of the float looked like beyond the first bent,  there was quite a bit of anticipation.  For me, since I had only floated lakes with my cheap float boat Cabella special, I was unsure how it would navigate in current sitting high on the water.  Doing floats means driving to your "out point" and dropping a vehicle there so when you reach that destination in "nowhereville", you can drive back to get your other vehicle, then drive back to your out spot and load up the boats. We raced to do it hoping we'd not pass the spot as we floated later in the day. Passing your out spot is not a good option with a boat.  You can not turn around in these currents.

12:30 MST we went from under the bridge and the current was fast and it felt pretty unsettling in this pretty narrow river. I set my rod up in a holder thinking 9ft of rod sticking out in front of me would be easy fishing. Oh contraire mr. smartie pants..    So getting my bearings on the seat and oars,   i headed for the first turn in the narrow river. I was amazed how hard it was in a little float to move across the river with oars that are movable in the bridles.  You see unlike a large 4man drift boat with 1,000 pounds, there is very little oar in the water and fast currents make your planning something you have to do much in advance in a 45lb spinning tube. . Moving away from big rocks all over in the river is much less work but sitting at river level they are hard to see,  and if you're concentrating on your fishing, casting or landing a fish..... well... seeya.... Your gonna crash it and get hurt or worse or, hit it on your bottom which is sitting inches from the water. Hmmm, not sure which would be best.  I remember as a teen hittig my butt on the bottom of the lazy Apple River in WI and even at that slow pace it can do major damage to the spine.

Well, I went to make the first sweeping left.  So I faced the turn and oared backward to slow me down and take the inside turn so I didn't get swept into the trees and brush for a rod snapping potentially puncturing or flipping experience in the covered banks.   I was still being pulled forward into and towards the outward bank and began to get a bit of fear. . so in fear of snapping a rod or boat in the trees, I pulled hard... (hard) on the oars to turn and avoid them ..... SNAP. went my alum. left oar.  I look and it's bent 45 degrees and I can't touch it for fear of breaking off. I start spinning and again in a panic I stark kicking my feet in the water and sea-sawing my right oar to move left to the shallows before the next turn that would for sure do me in.  Now mind you I'm wearing a coastguard approved  $100. PFD around my waist that  i can pull for flotation in the event I'm kicked out and down river but I can tell you that NEVER entered my mind.

Well, there was my partner over on the left bank of the next turn relaxing and waiting for me. I'm sure he was wondering why I was kicking and paddling like a school of gators was under me.  
I made it shallow enough to use my feet and kick and stumble to the edge.
Pulling up to Bruce he looked at me like "what's up"?  I showed him my oar and we both had that frozen half panic look of "what now" on our faces.
No way to be towed for 4miles behind another float boat. That would just whip me into every corner of trees and brush the entire way.  I looked at the woods and old movies and cable shows began floating thru my mind. (jury rig a 6 or 8 branch splint around the break...) yea that's it!   Well the oars are not hollow but sealed and questionwas, could I make it strong enough to pull on and yet still be able to fit into the oar guides and still be long enough to row.   I pulled out my military multi tool and went to the woods to look for 1' tree limbs. The next hour or more wal alot of silence and talking to my self as I tried developing a multi splint wrap around the oar using 100' of cord that I'd just loaded right before launching.  So somewhere around 2pm I headed back out into the Beaverhead with one oar a foot shorter than the other in the guides. (two strokes for every one on the other side....). No fishing today, it would be survival only. Guide boat after guide boat would pass me by and see my oar and yell out "niiiiiice MacGuiver dude" with a big smile and a good luck perplexed stare". Those comments were the highlight of that day for sure.  Bruce, well he's no novice at flyfishing and even on a new tube he caught good fish and his new FishCat floated like a dream as he led and then followed me down river to hopefully a good ending...

 Somewhere around 7 or 8pm i came around the bend you see above,. to be surprised at our "out spot" right there. I flailed at the oars to try to cross over and kick my legs while trying not to curse and miss the out spot. .. Well I missed it by 20ft and ended in fast water against bushes hanging over the river and a deep pool just  feet ahead of me,  where if i don't get footing... well,  it's down the river to the next spot to pull out and hopefully have space to carry my boat back on my back..
So I grab branches in a frenzy and got my footing enough to get against the bank and tip toe to the edge and onto the shore as behind me Bruce lazily floats into the out spot laughing hysterically at my landing... Can you hear the song "that's what friends are for"

The photo above was right after pulling the boat up the bank to pack up.  
I walked out of the river and couldn't stop panting and breathing hard. Bruce says "you ok"?. I was fine but all that fear of the last 5hrs was over now and my system finally let down and I realized how hard I had constantly  rowed and now, i couldn't catch my breath for about 5min. Fear can be used to create energy instead of the flight factor and this day, that was the only option.
I wish I  could show you some fish pictures or nature photos, but a splint and a blog today was a good as it was gonna get.  A cold hops and reliving it all around a billion stars, a good fire and an old friend was gonna be the best way to end this day.  Now I'll say that at the end of the day God did not rescue me from my problem, but He did give me the ability to figure it out and survive it with only hand cuts and a good day of exercise..


Montana 2014 #3..
In all the world there is only one Bob Mac...
After running into him along Paradise Valley 4 years ago, I've grown to love this unique character.

A native of the famous Rock Creek area of Montana he has more stories than readers digest and is not afraid to share them all with enough orange juice and whatever he's mixing with it.. 
In episode three we head to the Big Hole river to meet up with Bob Mac. Bruce had never met him although he'd heard many a tale from my mouth and although I can embellish a story pretty good, old Bob need NO embellishment my friends.  We were to camp a few days together and float the Big Hole on Bobs fav. water in his ClackaCraft low side drift boat.   He delivered us down a very steep dirt road without markings that went almost straight down the mountain after a curve. It ended in a 4WD laden dirt road into a field along the river and there was our free base camp shared only with a zillion skeeters..
  I cooked a nearly 3" thick cowboy ribeye bone in steak cut into rare bites with Blue cheese dressing all over them, Giant Portabellas with Merlot and melted Swiss  and much more that night with real wine glasses and a fire. The night ended with a cowboy guitar session under the stars and I'll leave it at that. It was a night to remember. And when we ran out of wood, Bob would just walk in to the pitch dark woods and literally rip a tree out of the ground or limb off another tree and drag it back, stumbling and singing all the way.   Welcome to native Montanan's folks. They are not imports.....

The next day was over 90degrees and the winds were hard upstream to make rowing and casting very difficult..  We were throwing purple cripples and yellow sallies and caddis in 14 to 18 and yup there was alot of fish  and almost exclusively Brookies. But in the end the heat hit Bruce and he got sun poisoning that evening. That would change the next few days...

In episode 3 we head to the Madison Valley and Ruby Campground to see if once in our lifetimes we could actually be there when the most famous hatch in America for trout takes place. The holy grail salmon fly hatch.

Well... :) :) :) Thank you Jesus.... cont.
Friends,  If you enjoy these blogs, please comment, and forward them, and join my blogspot blog today. Let's do life together....

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Twists and Turns. (Mont.2014 Take #1)

Left MN 7 days ago with my truck full of gear and my old float boat pontoon on the roof. Driving across NoDak I had to pull off the interstate between Fargo and Bismark in an amazing thunderstorm with high winds and sideways driving rain at 60mph. My boat was fully strapped in 3 locations, but the winds were moving my boat sideways on the truck. Moving my power mirror I looked on the roof to say, time to pull over or lose the boat. With Semi's pulled over and lined up at a truck stop I pulled off in the storm to put a third ratchet tie down on. I remember cars of people staring at me like I was crazy as I climbed onto of the truck with rain flying off my clothes in streams. Of course I had packed my rain vest...... Duhh.... 3 feet deep under 1,000 lbs of Musical gear and cases.

Well, I got back in the truck stripped to the buck, put my Stetson back on, lit a cedar stick,  wrung out my clothes to dry in the wind with the windows down, as I cruise controlled my way up the slow incline to MT all through the night. Oh please no troopers tonight i said in a selfish prayer while looking at soaked clothes.  The sunset as usual across the plains was quite the light show as all through the night I played Mike Reids new record. Then movie soundtracks, then Sons of the SanJoaquin and Silver Screen Hits from the old west.. Yup mixing music with nature is a religious experience of sorts, and every time the river theme from River Runs Through It plays or the Tressle bridge theme at sunset, well, i'm there and I'm complete.

17hrs later I pulled into Livingston MT. at 4AM from the North side  smiling like a Cheshire cat. I drove by the old train trestle and into town past Chop House, The Murray, Dan Baily's and the old rail station. An old historic building where the Great Northerns, Millwakee Road and other iron horses made their way out west from St. Paul in the 1800's. through these towns and on to Gallatin Gateway on part of the Gallatin River. Sadly the beautiful Gallatin Gateway Inn of historic lore closed again over a year ago. And another couple with dreams of restoring it to its former glory, lose their entire nest egg retirement and end up broke trying.  That couple will pass someday knowing they tried what few could do without the success of inherited uberwealth.

I tried to sleep in the front seat with a dew rag over the eyes for a few hours as I awaited a Montana Sunrise.

Early that morning, I met my new old friend Bo "who I married in Feb. at the Murray Hotel" and had a few espressos at Gill's with him . If you've read my past years of Fishing Montana blogs you'll see pictures of where we met in Paradise Valley a few years ago and became friends with he and his new wife Tiffany. Bo kindly helped me unload musical gear into his storage for a few weeks before I headed off toward Twin Bridges for a 3PM meeting with Glen Brackett at Sweetgrass Rods to do some fishy business.

Glen and his wife were alone there that Saturday. Glen was out front pulling weeds along the main street and Christine was watering flowers out front of the shop. "There's Craig"  I hear her yell to Glen as I make my way to the shop. Christine, I find, had been a "Stewardess" for Delta in the 60's and now looked forward to talking with my wife Jane (35yrs N.West/Delta) on July14 at my gig at the Murray bar in Livingston. That will be a future blog. 

  Well Glenn took me back to the bamboo drying room like it was a secret hideaway. I Said "wow this smells like Carmel, butterscotch and burnt sugar back here." Very good Craig" as Glen smiled and we discussed the love of good wines, good food and their characters and smells, as they relate to creating things from the earth. He opened a custom 15foot drying tube and opened it to show me dozens of sections of drying bamboo cut in quad, hex and pent configurations, that will be used to create some of the finest rods anywhere and be on rivers and streams in the hands of men and women who dream of that day of throwing a piece of butterscotch colored cane with sylk line on it. 

   I also dropped off an old custom bamboo rod from the 50's that was a gift from years ago. I figured there would be no one better than  Glen to advise, rate and fix it if possible.. No markings on this old rod so I had no Idea what it was. For those into rods the tip felt like a 3/4 wt. the middle a 5/6 and the butt section 8/10wt. I guess that's how they made rods back then when you used them for multiple types of fishing. So Glen eyed it up and down like a gunsmith looking at a rifle. " Yea, I'll replace the ferrules and some guides and she'll be ready to fish in no time and it'll cost you next to nothing...

You gotta love artisans. They're all in.     So I picked up my first Manta boo, that I've waited for many years to have after selling other rods to obtain it. 
And what do ya know, my first boo is even named after my first born child. :)     If I live long enough and fish enough types of waters, i hope to have one named for each of my children someday. After all, there is a sentimental side to everyone that tries to marry passions with life in one way or another.

No Minnesota goodbyes here, it was hand shakes and talk of meeting in Livingston soon. So I left that Saturday to the sweet smell of carmel and new friends as I headed out again on the road to "hopefully" meet my old friend and fishing partner of nearly 40 years. He was somewhere on the open high sagebrush banks and plains of the Clark Fork Reservoir in a Jeep with a one man tent. Remember that without cellphone service, it's darn impossible to find someone out there unless you say "check for a note under the rock at mile marker 38....

So like a good scout I was scanning the distant hills, looking for a white speck in an open plain along the edge of the lake, I followed the dirt roads to the north end of Clarke Canyon to find him and there he was. And me, I'm   Honkin the horn as I advanced like some schoolboy on the first day of summer vacation.  Well,  we set camp and celebrated into the night, the union of two souls who love the open plains in search of trout and exploring more of God; in his creation, and how it speaks to us.

The photo above was during devotions Sunday morning on the Rez. from inside the old REI quarterdome. Devotions consisted of French Press and staring at that view for an hour. :)

Ok, I cooked breakfast after that and it was in the words of Rachael Ray. Deeeee-lish. Scrambled Eggs, sauteed Onions and Portabella Mushrooms, Emmentaler cheese and fried Italian Sausage. Oh yea, I had a real cook stove this time since I drove out. I didn't have to fly with my Single Mountain pack and 16oz cooking utility by jetboil.

Well, my buddy Bruce had gotten his new float tube and that night we were dreaming about floating the Beavered from below the Reservation on Monday. It would be our first personal float in our own small boats in (forever).

How would they respond, could we row and fish, would the anchors hold on the banks, would we get caught in eddies, would we be swept into the banks and snap our rods on the trees and brush as we spun around trying to row, would we be drawn into a boulder and flip to our demise? Well, Monday would be our first test on the high water twisting and turning Beaverhead river.

Mont.2014 #2

Monday 12oclock Noon. A 1/4mile down stream 15min into a fast 5hr float today with no way back I snapped my left oar on my boat. A wave of fear swept over my whole body as I tried to touch bottom and use the boulders and rocks to push my way to the inside edge of a sweeping turn or get tossed to the brush and trees in the current. Bruce was already pulled up on that corner and waiting for me. What's wrong his said whilst looking at my Holy.... face as i jumped and kicked my way to the bank. I showed him my oar and there was a moment of silence. What the heck are you gonna do. What the heck are we gonna do. We can't go back. We had no Idea how dangerous and twisting this section was that lay ahead of us and I sat on the shore thinking "what would MacGuyver do? What would Survivor man do? .

There was no way back and at least 5hrs to float. No way I could be towed and for sure I'd be carried into some eddy's and deep brush or rocks without two oars... I prayed and took a breath. What do you have and what can you use to get home from here..

Right before launching the boat I had gone back to the truck to get something for Bruce. There under my front seat was 100ft of orange braided det cord. I picked it up and said. Heck good to have some extra rope if i need to tie something down in the middle of the river. And that's where listening to that small voice that says "take that along" can be a lifesaver. With my Survival Military uni-tool and rope i entered the woods...... to be cont.

Coming up, life or death, Big Hole and Bob Mac, Brook trout mecca, Monster Rainbows, Wicked storms, Stars and the Milky Way and The 4th of July in Ennis MT and who knows what will happen today..

Signin off from a small espresso shop in Ennis MT.... stay tuned.