Back in the day 10 or 12 years ago I wrote a blog called ‘the Continuous Trout Road trip’. I’m probably the only person who read it but it revealed the life of a fishing guide and one’s exploits. Well after rowing rafts and drift boats for 23 years I’m still on this road trip and the last 10 days are a true testament of grinding.
10 days ago I was guiding the Upper Bighole river for a friend. This is a special river that I hold dear to my heart. My late dad moved to the Bighole valley, more specifically Wise River 25 years ago. I spent many days hunting, fishing, exploring the mountains and lakes with my father in this amazing mountainous terrain. On this recent guide run there was no where to stay so after working on the river I set a bedroll in the back of my pickup truck and slept under the stars near one of my dad’s favorite drainages. The stars were bright with so many amazing constellations. I slept so soundly falling asleep to the gurgling of the Bighole river just yards from my pickup bed.
Immediately after the Bighole trip I headed to the Missouri river 250 miles away. This time I drove my Yukon and set up a more mosquito resistant bedroll in the back of the suburban. I had 3 or 4 rigged fly rods hanging above me to keep me company while trying not to get hooked by my own rods climbing in and out of the back of my suburban like an emerging mayfly. After guiding guests on this river for a few days I made the 240 mile drive back to Stevensville MT and took clients fishing on the upper Bitterroot for a couple of days. Then back to the Missouri for another 4 day shot and ending on the Blackfoot river. Living out of a vehicle get’s old, brushing your teeth on the boat ramp, like Johny Cash said “Looking for my cleanest dirty shirt”.
While camping at Wolf Creek campground on the Mighty MO I ran into 2 or 3 other outfitters who were sleeping in their rigs like I. We shared some guide stories over a few beers. These younger guides were funny as hell and still had the vigor of young men wanting to make a living on these beautiful, unforgiving, some times treacherous, some times peaceful waterways that we guides and outfitters call home. Most of these stories involved crazy trips gone bad, evil clients, or just plain weird shit that eventually happens when you are a fly fishing guide gypsy. One year I counted trout caught in my boat, we averaged 5,500 trout a year put in the net. This number is probably on the lower side considering I used to guide 160 days a season and caught 20 to 50 trout a day. My point is fishing stories aren’t really interesting to us after all these years, the crazy stuff that people do is though, and the things that fishing guides put up with are pretty entertaining.
Some of these stories I made mental notes of and hopefully on another day I will recall and write about a few of them.
This last week or so the wind blew pretty hard, we had big water on the MO and the Bitterroot. The Blackfoot was smaller and really enjoyable. The Mo and Blackfoot were bug infested. Salmon flies, green drakes, a couple different golden stones, pmd’s, caddis, and a few sallies made for some really exciting head hunting so the fishing the last 10 days has been excellent.
I’m 54 now and rowing these rivers after long grinding days has taken a toll on my shoulders, back, elbows, and definitely my psyche. I’m relinquishing rowing a boat this late summer/ fall to a trickle. We will be staffing trips with some awesome guides that have worked really well for us. For a little while I’ll be rowing still but I’m looking forward to hanging with my family and dogs while I still have enough mobility to enjoy this outdoor lifestyle here in our amazing state Montana.