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.
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.