Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Montana Man Spa

Several years ago Megan's father Tony and I decided to learn how to fly fish, taking lessons from a local fly fishing outfitter. We honed our skills in the trout streams of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, often with Tony's colleague (and frequent poster on this blog) Ron Shane. Last week, the three of us traveled to the Mecca of American fishing, Montana. Clara and Kate stayed with Susan, and while I would say they were spoiled silly by their Nana, it would be more accurate to say that Tony, Ron, and I were spoiled silly by the people who took care of us in Montana.

Understand that I would have been happy with just a few days without Desitin and The Wonder Pets. What I got was a few days in the ultimate man's spa. After arriving in Missoula, we were taken to the Blue Damsel Lodge along Rock Creek, a world famous trout stream. The lodge was a beautiful log house crafted with an artist's eye for details large and small. Keith, our host, made sure everything we would need was available to us and Josh, the chef, crafted gourmet breakfasts and dinners that kept us glued to the giant oak dining room table the majority of the time we were in the lodge. Keith's voice was so similar to Sam Elliot's that I asked him to call me "The Dude" during my stay (from "The Big Lebowski.")

Our days were spent floating on some of the most scenic rivers in the country. We were shuttled into town each morning to meet up with our guides from the Grizzly Hackle fly outfitters, who then took us to one of the many rivers around Missoula. We spent three days total on the rivers. The first two days we spent on the Clark Fork River and the last on the Bitterroot. During that time, with the help of three different guides, my skill improved enough that I was finally getting some confidence. I worked primarily on my casting on the first day, often against terrible wind, and worked on presenting my fly in way that would attract some fish. I caught enough fish to keep me happy. On the second day I had no problem hooking fish, but I struggled bringing them all the way into the boat. I think I set a record for number of fish lost on the line and was getting a bit frustrated. On the third day I put it all together and although it was raining a very cold drizzle all day, I had my best day fishing yet.

Each night we were greeted by amazing smells from the kitchen, a variety of appetizers, and growlers of beer from the local breweries. Conversation was, of course, about the day's fishing and the ones that got away (which were, naturally, unnaturally large fish.) I had a few stories to tell after the last day of fishing: I had two trout on one line; I caught four nice sized rainbows on four successive casts; I had one trout shake itself off of one fly only to be hooked by the dropper fly; and I actually lassoed a fish - you'll have to ask me about it some time (the guide called me a true Montana cowboy.) After a couple of hours of eating and telling stories, those not pouring themselves into bed enjoyed cocktails and cigars on the porch with the giant St. Bernard Zoe.

This really is how beautiful the streams were, though I spent so much time watching for any sign of a trout that I didn't spend much time looking around me. Each day we saw bald eagles and a variety of wildlife, including a waterlogged mink who ran along the shore following us for a bit.

If you have any plans to visit Montana, I highly recommend the Blue Damsel Lodge and Grizzly Hackle outfitters:




Anonymous said...

The place, coupled with the sport of fly fishing, seemed to trenscend any cultural, economic, gender, political, (or any other type for that matter) boundary in our society. I am convinced that fly fishing is the "great equalizer" when it comes to differences between each of us. I am certain that Tony, Joel or I will never see the people we shared the lodge and fly fishing experience with again but for just a brief moment in time we became, sort-of-like the best of friends. Talking about fine wines, local brews or tasty cigars. Telling fishing stories as well as other life experiences. And as each told a story, the others listened as intently as if we were old friends. If someone happens to read this and think me "out of my mind", GO FLY FISHING. You'll soon see what I mean and you may discover something about someone else that you never knew.
Joel, a couple days after we got back I had to go out to Tucson and on my way back watched "A River Runs Through It" on the plane ride. The movie will never be the same after this Missoula trip. I downloaded the pictures and will drop the CD off to Megan. You were smiling allot! There is one picture of Kurt that you will love...he has his mouth open (imagine that!). For those who won't know, Kurt was one of our guides who talked incessantly! (but an excellent guide)

Joel Bittle said...

Well said, Ron. Well said.